Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Tango Intercourse?

Tango is more than a "conversation."
 
The majority of those who read my blog read my blog are not native English speakers.  Because of this, many may have looked up the word "intercourse," not knowing what it could mean. 

For native speakers, this word often does not mean "conversation."  "Intercourse" means in your dictionary, dear native speakers, "conversation."  In the middle of the 1800's someone coined the term "sexual intercourse."  Cute. It took a century, but by the 1950s, "intercourse" without "sexual" being added started to mean "sex."  Why?  Because most people probably knew that the analogy was a poor choice of words to express sexual intimacy. Sure, sex may be like a conversation to some folks--even a great conversation.  But I feel sorry for these people.

Tango can seem like a conversation to some (tango intercourse)--even a great conversation.  I feel sorry for those people too.

I'm not going to say anything more about sex here.  

I just want to say that tango is in no way a conversation for anybody--in spite of what your tango teacher says. Tango is an ecstatic dance between people that is so complex, that it is diminished greatly by calling it a conversation.  As complex as a conversation can be, tango is far more complex.

Words often limit how we understand our experience. This is what has happened by likening tango to being a "conversation" or event, let's say, "intercourse."

Wouldn't you agree that a good conversation happens when one or more people actively listen while a single person other actively talks/expresses her or himself? Taking turns is key for good conversationalists. That doesn't describe tango.  Tango is not trading off roles of listening and expressing. Moreover, this description of tango as "conversation" mostly by tango teachers confuses their students.

However, if you still say tango is a conversation between two people . . . . . . Ask yourself about the last time you sat down and conversed with someone during which you felt ecstatically united and connected with their feelings. It does happen in conversations, but I am afraid it is all too rare. Yet, an ecstatic connection happens all the time in tango.

. . . Ask yourself about the last time you had progressive conversations at a party that seemed to build on each other. But at milongas, progressive interactions build on each other. One tanda after another can be magical at events that balance the genders or roles.

. . . Finally, ask yourself the last time you turned up the music so you could converse better. And this last question brings us to the most salient reason why tango is not a "conversation":


We dance while music is playing. Music is never "distracting" the dancers simply because it's La Musica who is the one talking. We respond in silence. My partner and I are both listening to the one talking--the music. All the diads on the dancefloor are doing the same. Our bodies are reacting mostly without any thought. To me, it feels like the music is making us all dance.


Indeed, I do "listen" to how my partner hears the music, and there is a type of millisecond back-and-forth. However, unlike conversations, one is never in a special role of listening for one moment and expressing the next moment. These are concurrent energies. If you still insist that tango is a conversation or even like a conversation, please write a book about your ecstatic conversations and how to regularly have them! We are all waiting for your best-seller book!


My connection in tango is a tandem experience of the music overcoming me and my partner for the most sustained ecstatic moments in my life. Even being a musician in ecstasy on stage, a windsurfer in ecstasy on the water, a snowboarder in ecstasy on the slope, a meditator in ecstasy before the divine, or a lover in ecstasy with my partner--these were never "conversations"; so why would tango be? If tango is a conversation or even like a conversation for others, I can accept that. 


That's just not my experience.




Photo credit: Christian Beyreuther, photographer and organizer, at his encuentro near Regensburg, Germany, May 2022.



1 comment:

  1. Fully agree. I think part of the confusion is the otherwise helpful comparison of tango or dancing in general with language. I remember well, in my first year of learning tango, I came to understand that first I learned "sentences" ( the figures!), later realised that it's rather "words" I could combine by myself; today, I think of the tango steps of "syllables". When improvising as a leader I produce new "sentences", some of which I "spoke" before, even often, some are completely new. However, a real language is much, much richer, as you would have thousands of syllables to combine and can express almost everything. What I want to contribute to Mark's above thoughts is, finally, that even if we call tango a language with followers "responding", the possibilities are so restricted that it would be a very boring conversation indeed. But that's no tanguero/a's experience. It is not boring at all! And the simple reason is that it is so much more than a language and a very simple conversation, see Mark's remarks above.

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