“Have you been to tango heaven, he asked”?
“What’s tango heaven?”
He knew that if I had to ask, then I have not been there. He was right.
Manfred, one of my early Argentine tango dance partners, had experienced this “tango heaven” phenomenon in Europe many times. He says the milongas there are different than the tango parties here.
There, the dancers there embrace each other and walk. Just walk.
In the West most newcomers to tango want to see how many fancy steps they can put into one song; a molinette here a sacada there. We bump along in class and get antsy if the instructor seems to be fixating on technique. We want the next step. We want to dazzle our friends and family.
The embrace in Argentine tango can come in several forms and combinations of close embrace and salon style. In salon style you have more distance from your partner.
Argentine tango and ballroom tango are different: Argentine tango has a chest lead whereas ballroom tango has a lower body lead. In Argentine tango you are almost directly in front of your dance partner and maintain upper torso alignment with your partner throughout the dance.
In ballroom the dancer’s torsos lean away from each other in an offset position. Their line of site is not their partner; they are looking away from their dance mate all of the time.
In my humble opinion, there is no heart connection in ballroom tango.
Over the years I struggled with my interest in dance and how it appeared to conflict with my having a non-dancing life mate. Why had I been given this passion to dance when I had no one to dance with?
The answer came with such clarity one day that the hair on the back of my neck stood up. “For the joy.” (the passion for dance is to bring you the life lesson of joy).
I loved dancing right from when I was a little girl. I used to dance with my dad while standing on his feet. Then I grew up and married a Mennonite. According to my husband, Mennonites have anti-dance muscles. There was an unspoken truth in my old-school upbringing that you did not go dancing without your spouse.
My husband never once said he didn’t want me to dance; in fact, he encouraged me when I finally allowed myself this pleasure. With the prodding of a friend and colleague I started ballroom dance lessons two years before my retirement. After four years of ballroom dancing, I crossed over to Argentine tango.
I have been dancing Argentine tango now for seven years and have had several regular dance partners all of whom have been gracious and kind.
My tango instructor lives and breathes tango. He is tango. I am grateful to share in his passion.
As in most dances the body is talking. With the close embrace in Argentine tango it is often thought of as sensuous. It is. Argentine tango is sensuous because it involves the senses. Is it sexy? For some it is I suppose, especially if you are dancing with your lover. Otherwise, it is not.
There is a connection in Argentine tango that has nothing to do with being sexy. Describing Argentine tango as sexy in my opinion, misses the point. Trying to describe a tango connection is like trying to describe the spiritual experience of heaven.
When dancing tango I sometimes get this inexorable feeling of being “home”. Sometimes I can see my dad out of the corner of my eye during one of my tango lessons. He died when I was 18.
When I dance Argentine tango I am in another dimension; I am in tango heaven.
And my dad is watching me.
You can find information on tango in Edmonton at www.tangoedmonton.ca