Friday, 28 October 2011

It's only a dance...

Melina Sedo said it of tango, but I wonder...

'Only a dance': isn't dance important? At some point in time humans found they could make marks that resembled things they saw around them, and they also found they could communicate with movement, playful movement without the urgency of fleeing rabid wolves, and we've done these things ever since. Birds, bees and some mammals dance to communicate. Dance brings order and regularity and mindfulness into the chaos of movement, and we value it for that.

A good friend I dance with whenever I can works in a bank, of which she says that anyone who works in a bank, herself excepted of course, must be either stupid or crazy. 'I read an article that said there are many psychopaths working in the City: it's true! My office is full of them! I told them all one day, 'You should all learn to dance tango!' and they looked at me as if I was crazy!' I'd guess she's not the only tanguero out there to think their office would be better off if everyone went out to milongas in the evenings. (Not sure the milongas would be better, but give it time.) & that quote from Moliere: 'All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing'. Maybe spoken by a dance teacher and intended as a comic exaggeration, but there's a kind of exasperated truth about it. The world certainly wouldn't be worse if everyone danced more. Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozi after a day's heated debate on the Euro... Yes! Give it a whirl: why not?

But tango adds the embrace to the great enjoyment of moving to music. People pay to go to hugging workshops because enjoying the touch of other humans makes them feel better. Hugs lower blood pressure and reduce stress, while oxytocin, a hormone that triggers caring and bonding responses in men and women, is released. It's why some think of tango as healing. And of course Ricardo Vidort said that 'Tango is a therapy for the soul', a grand statement, but he'd lived with tango much longer than any of us are likely to.

This apparently chance discovery by the good citizens of Buenos Aires, partly as a result of dance floors that were too small, and driven by an irresistible music, still has plenty in it to make us all feel good and more human. Did their 20-year tango fiesta/party help them? Politically things fell apart badly after 1955, but I think the problem was just that not enough people were dancing.

It's not that dance is unimportant; the problem is that not enough people think that dance is important.


Kitsune said...

That you hold Melina up as a example of someone who doesn't think dance is important, is fairly absurd.

Her point was not that dance was unimportant, but that there is a danger in festivals of becoming disconnected with everything else.

What is the cost to your humanity if in loosing yourself in the dance so completely you lose your connection with the rest of the world? Where is your compassion for the war orphans and widows? Those whose lives have been devastated by disaster? Where is your awe for those who have triumphed or created marvellous things for the betterment of all? If you choose to stay forever lost in the embrace or staring at Youtube videos, are you any better than the drug addict staring at things only they can see, oblivious to the world?

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, Kitsune, but I am reflecting on why I think dance is important, not on Melina's views. I linked her post because I liked what she said.

Tango Therapist said...

Tango commuter... great post. It reminded me of a single dance with a difficult person in my life. I once sponsored a dance at a salsa club for a going away party with work colleagues. I organized a buffet and got a friend to teach my colleagues a basic salsa step. My boss suggested a going-away dance party because she knew how much I loved to dance. She was once a dance instructor. We had endured a long difficult relationship, but after everyone had left and I was about to get in my car to leave on a 3-day drive, she suggested we dance a salsa, but I suggested a tango. We danced well, although she had never danced tango. And a lot of animosity melted at that moment. It's only air. It's only water. It's only food, sleep and shelter. It's only dance.

@ Kitsune: It's only a blog.

Be kind.

Chris said...

Well said, TC. May I repeat the Melina-deleted comment I made on that article itself:

For many of us Melina, music and dance are not an alternate reality. They're essential parts of real life. "Tango is only a dance" is what you get when tango is only a job.

Also Kitsune, before disagreeing too much about what Melina wrote, note that she altered the article since it first appeared, so different people have read different things.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Tangocommuter,

An observant and interesting post, as always. That comment from Kitsune was kind of inappropriate and extremist for a tango blog discussion, no?

Irene and Man Yung

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

"That comment from Kitsune was kind of inappropriate and extremist for a tango blog discussion, no?"

Let's make allowance for the fact that Melina fans have had a really rough time lately... :)

Tangocommuter said...

Thanks, Chris, Irene, Man Yung, yes, I wasn't commenting on Melina's post, or I would have left a comment on her blog, but she set me thinking about dance, so I wrote my own post. There are still some things to think about there: yes, if a lot of Argentines hadn't been so tango-involved, maybe the 60s and 70s wouldn't have been so disastrous for their country. On the other hand, it was cold war time, and the US was paranoid and greedy... & it's been pointed out that the Argentine military supported stage tango but supressed the real thing, the embrace.

Beautiful story, Tango Therapist. Thanks for that one.

Mikko said...

Interesting post, thank you!

I searched for ten years best ways to make a world a better place. The search took me to many places and activities.

What I found was myself. Or rather, I found that I was lacking. What had driven me to "make the world a better place" was my ego.

I thought I knew how the world should be like. I thought I really had something to give to others. I thought if I could just make others to act better, then the world would improve.

But in reality I did not even know myself. And if I did not know myself, how could I know what others should do? As one very profound ancient saying goes: "know thyself".

So I took the task of learning about myself. That lead me to tango. Tango is, among other things, excellent way to learn about yourself. But in order to do that, I must be open to the experiences that tango provides me.

I have also found in this process that tango is actually one of the best ways to make the world a better place.

In the end, it is only our actions, right now in the moment, that have an impact on the world.

We may think that when we dance, it is only one tanda with one partner, and it has practically no impact on other people.

But as was discussed in these comments, that tanda will affect how he or she will dance with the next person. And their dance together will then affect how that next person will dance with the next partner, and so on. So effects of that one single tanda will probably propagate to everybody else in the milonga.

And it does not end there. If the person is in high energy when she leaves the milonga, she will act differently towards everybody she happens to encounter during that night, even the next day. So effects of just one milonga ripples through hundreds or even thousands of people.

When I think that the quality of my dancing has a impact on lives of hundreds of people that night, that keeps me motivated to keep doing my by best, and also keep learning in the future.

But still, I believe it is not very helpful to attribute fault to those people who are not dancing tango. Because it many localities it is very difficult to get from being interested in tango to a phase where you can really dance it comfortably. And I could certainly make it even easier for them.

In some very real sense it is easier for them to find tango the more open heart I have towards them. If everybody who dances tango would have completely open heart, I believe everybody else would already be dancing tango.

So having an open heart when dancing tango is a very radical action, much more so than reading the newspaper.

Tangocommuter said...

Mikko, thanks very much for sharing your thoughts at length. It's very clear and very profound. I've often thought how the effects of our acts ripple out into the world, and how also our acts must have been affected by the acts of people since the dawn of time...

'So having an open heart when dancing tango is a very radical action, much more so than reading the newspaper.' I couldn't agree more! Thanks again.