I may have said to a friend that I was not on a tango journey. This was not true. I was trying to play off how much the dance had come to matter to me.
Everyone says, ‘Tango is so sexy,” but that’s not my usual experience. More frequently, the awkward combustion of two strangers fitting their bodies together requires expansive compassion, sophisticated somatic knowledge and a healthy respect for newtonian physics.
Then there’s loneliness. There were evenings when those tango hugs from warm bear-like men saved me. Sometimes, “You want to go/Where everybody knows your name,” but without all the bar chatter, and where speech is a silent rhythmic vocabulary.
Tango answers a need for elevation in life. The black dresses with open backs, long limbs, high heels, the Argentine men with lustrous thick black hair tied back in casual pony tails…Oh, I see, it is sexy after all.
And every once in a while, you have a tanda (a set of 3 – 5 dances) where it feels as if you had wings.
The concentration needed to follow is the sort of in-depth mindfulness training that will knock you out of depression – that is, if tango itself is not the source of your depression. How could tango be the source of your depression? Even the most beautiful and skilled followers have the occasional evening of social decimation, sitting out and watching everyone else dance. No a follow cannot ask a lead to dance…don’t get me started. Of course, if it’s gender parity you are seeking, you can always go to an alternative milonga, or practice switch tango, or better yet, blues dancing, but for me, without sharp dichotomies, the dance looses its poesy. But I digress. How can tango lead to depression? The ongoing discomfort of high heels, bunion toes, an aching back, late sleepless nights and groggy work the next day, or the endless politics of the dance floor, the people you haven’t slept with and wish you had, or the people you have slept with and wish you hadn’t…
But if the tango journey is really about beauty and sensuality, love and loss, gravity and flight, doing and non-doing, yin and yang, and any other dramatic polarity that you can imagine, it can be a good place to park your restlessness for a very long time.