Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tango and Platonic Eros

Do you have enough Éros in your tango?

How about ágápē, philía, and storgē-love?

The Ancient Greeks,
 who had more distinct ways of speaking about "love," would find it incomprehensible if they had to learn English, French or Spanish.  They surely would be perplexed how we use "to love" or "aimer" or "querer" as verbs for many different things:  "to like," "to bond to," "to lust for," "to want," or "to love."  I think the inhabitants of ancient Greece would demand more exactitude for language.  "I love you," "je t'aime" and "te quiero" all need a big dose of context.  In what context do you love tango?  Let's use the language of some of the greatest philosophers of all time to talk about our Philosophy of Dance (PhD)!  In Ancient Greek we can experience four distinct ways for loving our tango and the people with whom we dance by using the words: éros, ágápē, philía, and storgē.  What is your strongest expression for the love of and your love in tango?

Sculpture of Éros reviving
Psyche by Antonio Canova
  • Éros (ἔρως) is probably the most misunderstood word in Greek.  Without éros tango is nothing. Éros mostly is known for passionate, sensual love. But there is much more to ἔρως.  Something in you tango is missing if the god of Éros has not struck your tango with one of his godly arrows. Feeling the music in your body makes you dance and embrace in a warm, melting way.  Unlike how English sees this word, éros is not the enemy of logic and true love. You even may have heard that éros is not true love. N'importe quoi!  Of course it is true!* The love story of the god Éros and the mortal woman, Psyche, is an amazing heart-warming love story, which inspired The Beauty and the Beast. Writing in Greek, Plato says in the Symposium, that éros helps the soul (psyche) recall knowledge of beauty. Éros contributes to one's understanding of spiritual truth in Plato's writings. So having a "Platonic" relationship even includes éros--the opposite of what people believe about éros being somehow dirty!  Feeling the draw to physical beauty is the bridge to that which is spiritual and immortal, according to those who were fluent and thoughtful in Ancient Greek. Also through éros we experience the very human-specific emotion of awe that takes over our bodies. Standing in awe of a sunset or beautiful music is éros whispering in your ear. If Plato were your tango teacher, he undoubtedly would say that a great tanda feels authentically erotic even without being sexual. In most modern languages we don't even have ways of putting words together to describe this to our friends who do not dance. Nonetheless, which tango dancer hasn't felt this sort of wonderful platonic eros-connection while dancing tango?
This was important to say--that éros is only one element of the larger picture of love. We have three other Ancient Greek words to look at.   In part II, The 4 ways to say "I love tango," we'll cover the balancing of the other three loves:  ágápē, philía, and storgē.  Although the other three give a balance to our éros-love and passion for tango and those with whom we dance, 

I would argue if Éros's godly influence has not touched your tango, your tango dancing will never reach the heavens.  

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Photo credits:

Quick Preview of part II:  The four ways to say "I love tango"

The three remaining ways to express love in Ancient Greek (in brief):

I would appreciate your comments on Facebook, Google+ or via email mark.word1@gmail.com for any stories that go along with any of the four loves of tango.

  • Agápē (ἀγάπη)  in Ancient Greek, often refers to an altruistic, spiritual or unconditional love.  Examples of this are those who give unconditionally to the community, such as some DJ's and organizers, who are helping the entire community is a selfless way--often with no or little remuneration.  But can you dance this way too?  Yes!
  • Philía (φιλία) was used to describe friendship.   This kind of love is often "less than" agape-love and better than eros.  Not true.  It's just different. Philía is the type of love that enjoys the back-and-forth of any good friendship.
  • Storgē (στοργή) is the "affection" we feel for bloodlines, especially family.  In tango we sometime adopt our "family."   Sometimes even an embrace feels like home.  
In the end, I hope you, dear reader, will see that you love tango in very special and specific ways.  Let some Ancient Greek help you in your "PhD"--Philosophy of Dance.