Wednesday, August 28, 2019

I'd like to teach the world to dance in perfect harmony

Photo @Blanche
Walk into a milonga and you know you share a passion with everyone there. Dance a tanda and share a piece of yourself.

The world might be a better place if we all danced tango.

Recently I was teaching a private lesson to a beginner leader and after some explanation or other about the lead-follow exchange he exclaimed: "This is like anti-selfishness therapy!"

I laughed out loud, because it was a rare and surprising thing for a beginner to say, but also because it was so insightful and true.

In the past I have written posts about the importance of being nice, kind and generous. Besides essentials like good posture, strong technique and a nice sense of rhythm, learning to put one's partner first is an essential part of becoming a skilled dancer.

A selfish person is concerned excessively with him or herself and disregards the well-being of others. Selfish dancers, then, would be those who are more interested in impressing their partners and everyone else in the room with their big moves and fancy footwork than making sure their partners can keep up with them, all regardless of how much space they are taking up on the dance floor. While to the untrained eye they might seem cool at first, they are not really much fun to dance with and tend to annoy the other dancers on the floor.

Look up antonyms for "selfish" in the dictionary and you find words like "considerate," "generous" and "sharing." Considerate, generous dancers are those who put their partners first, dancing to their level with a caring embrace and respectful attention to traffic and flow. They are the ones who are a true joy to dance with because they care about showing their partners a good time rather than just showing off. And it's pretty hard to dance tango without sharing. Walk into any milonga and you already know you share a passion with everyone else in the room. Dance a tanda with someone and you inevitably share a piece of yourself.

I regularly feel that the world could use an injection of kindness. In the news and on social media I see the despicable behaviour of boastful, boorish leaders who seem to be taking office everywhere I look while anti-immigrant, overall anti-"other" sentiment is once again on the rise.

Meanwhile on the tango dance floor I continue to encounter a wonderful mix of interesting people and fun dancers. As we embrace each other on the floor one after another we mostly don't know or care where the person comes from or what their religion or politics are. Tango connects us to something in each other that is deeper than our thoughts or beliefs, rendering them irrelevant at least for the time we hold our abrazo, sharing our passion and a part of ourselves.

I realize how lucky I am that every time a newscast or my Facebook feed makes me feel disillusioned with the state of humanity and the world today a tango lesson or milonga is my daily antidote.

Tango makes us analyze and discover ourselves while making us hyper-aware of the experience of the person right in front of us and how every one of our actions, no matter how small, has an effect on them. And if we want to be "good" tango dancers, we have to try to make that effect as positive and enjoyable as possible.

So indeed, a tango lesson can very much double as a therapeutic session in unselfishness, while every tango encounter on or off the dance floor is a reminder of the pleasure and importance of flesh-and-blood human contact.


  1. Absolutely relevant, thank you so much to have taken the time to write this and to share it with us. And special congrat to expose yourself to critics : as we all know there are always people ready to attack and depreciate other's opinion if they don't comply with their own ones. Keep on the good work and thanks again.