The most common advice
In a recent interview of Pepa Palazon with Chicho, he mentioned that the milongueros in the milongas used to tell him that he needed to find his own Tango. In general, this is one of the most common pieces of advice you hear from experienced dancers. However, when you ask them what you mean by that, nobody is really able to tell with a specific definition of what is “your own Tango”. One of the most common complaints or observations also done by professionals is that people today seem to mostly imitate and clone the style of one or the other teacher ending up clones of their teachers. So what is your own Tango and how do you find it? I am no expert but in this post, I will attempt an explanation based on my own experiences so far.
In a very interesting lecture video, Jordan Peterson explains how someone can understand if they are authentic or not. He explains that oftentimes times people say things and support opinions that they don’t really believe 100% just because they want to be part of a group or be liked by specific people etc.
What he asks people to do is to observe their feelings when they talk with other people. Usually, when you try to support something you do not believe in, you feel something is wrong internally. You have a gut feeling that something is wrong. You feel uneasy. Whenever you have a conversation and feel this it means that you are not yourself. You are not authentic.
In order to really believe in something you need to know why you believe in it. Be able to support your position with arguments that make sense to you. This means you accept your beliefs whatever they might be. Therefore, you accept yourself as it is.
In a recent Tango banter episode, Yelizaveta was discussing what is the value that each dancer is bringing to the floor and why some dancers are more valuable and therefore desirable too. At some point, she explains that when a dancer has accepted who they are and how they dance… when a dancer knows and accepts their strengths and weaknesses in their dance then this person is able to accept other dancers for what they are, given their strengths and weaknesses. They are willing to accept their partner as they are and through this, they create an embrace and an experience that is pleasurable for their partner. This is how they become desirable.
Now compare this description with the one of Jordan Peterson about authenticity. Does it seem similar? Yes. When you accept yourself for what you are, you know who you are. You don’t try to become someone else. You are authentic. So you accept the way you embody the dance you learned from your teachers given the specific strengths and weaknesses of your body and current abilities. You don’t strive to match them. You accept how they come out on your body and there is no uneasiness in your guts when you try to dance what you learned.
In short… when you manage to accept yourself and the way you move and express yourself in the framework of the dance… then you are authentic… and authentic dancers are always desirable regardless of level. So is this how you find your own Tango? Isn’t it a matter of discovering or searching for your own unique moves or for your own signature type and style of dance? Is your Tango right there with you already from your first steps in this journey? More or less yes… The only thing you need to do is to accept your Tango for what it is and by doing that you discover that “your own Tango” is nothing more than… yourself!
But do you really know who you are? A few weeks ago YouTube’s algorithm brought to my attention a guy who is doing some coaching seminars and in some cases uses people from the audience as examples to showcase some of his points. In many of his presentations, he pictures our emotions like our children. We usually love and nurture our happy emotions, the ones we are comfortable with. On the other hand, we learn to hide and beat up our dark and sad emotions. As he says that leads to a chase of happiness that sooner or later becomes pointless as we realize that we miss something. This something is the dark side of ourselves that we beat up all this time and it’s then very hard to re-own and embrace it.
Dancers who really stay memorable when you dance with them, do so because they manage to express and evoke emotions. The easy part is to be happy, express joy, love, and affection. But is this our whole self? The hard part is to be able to express pain, hurt, sadness, despair, anger, and all those dark emotions we are often told to keep inside us and never express. Tango can be a unique outlet for expressing those emotions in a visceral way that really relieves you. When you manage to reach into your dark sides and let them loose in your dance then you discover the whole part of your own Tango. You finish those deeply dark Tandas with a deep sigh of relief like a huge weight was lifted from your chest and this is how you slowly discover your complete own Tango.
Chicho’s latest interview also points to that. As he says it took him years to understand what Tango meant for him. He discovered it when he looked back on the traditional songs. Songs that are not often happy songs. They are dark, sad, and painful songs. If you really want to express them you need to have accepted those dark emotions within you. You need to own them… be friends with them… and learn how to express them.
This is the catch. This is the difficult part. Only when you recognize accept and own your own darkness, can you also accept the darkness of other people. Only then you can accept your partner’s dark sides and let them be expressed. Only then your dance is complete. Because it comes from the whole of you and not just a part.
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
If there is an orchestra that can express dark emotions in a really captivating way, this must be Troilo. Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is a song speaking about being abandoned and lonely with imagery that really strikes directly in your heart.
So how about you? Have you ever danced to such a song and finished with a deep sigh of relief like you just had the biggest confession in your life? Have experienced similar tandas? Do you think you have found your own Tango? Is it complete? Is it you? The whole of you? Let me know with a comment below, an email, or a PM on Facebook… oh… and if you liked it… don’t forget to share it with your friends.