18 October 2011


Argentine tango is to partner dance what a trip down the Grand Canyon is to whitewater kayakers ~ the ultimate challenge, a blend of training, skill, intuition, sensuality, and surrender of self ~ nirvana. In The Tango, the Quark, and the Allegory of Love, Eden Gallanter helps us to understand why this is. Gallanter is "a painter and writer. She also works on sustainable urban planning and restoration ecology in landscape architecture. In addition to these talents, Eden is an accomplished tango dancer." In her words ~

"Tango isn't hard because of all the moves you must learn, it is hard because it relies on the partner connection more than any other dance .... without a physical understanding of the position and direction of your partner, there is no dance. In Tango's closed position, the two of you are leaned against one another, the centers of your chests aligned. You are sharing a single gravitational axis, and, for better or worse, you move as one. This is precisely what makes the dance both terrifyingly difficult and, at the same time, perilously, wonderfully, heart-stoppingly intimate.

" .... The partner connection isn't the only relationship that matters on the dance floor, though it is of the most vital importance. The best instructors in Buenos Aires teach that there are in fact no fewer than five 'partners' in a single dance ~ the partner, the floor, the other couples, the music, and yourself. Tango dancers (called tangueros) must constantly pay attention to all of these .... If tangueros look overly serious when dancing, it is only because their attention is engaged fully in the demands of the dance.

" .... At a certain point [after months or years of training], the subconscious takes over, learned behaviors go on autopilot, and muscle memory fills in the details. Experienced Tango dancers say that the best dances happen with a bare minimum of thought. The less they think, the less the leaders plan what move they're going to do next, the less the followers try to react in the right way, and the better the dance goes. Those watching a Milonga in progress curiously observe followers dancing with closed eyes and leaders gliding across the floor with their eyelids at half-mast, deep in the embrace of their partners. This lack of conscious attention in Tango dancers can be described as a leap of faith. The dancers don't expect anything. Instead, they trust in their training, their experience, and their intuition. The leap of faith is made blind. Tangueros must improvise everything, and trust without any grounds at all that their partner can read their minds through the most delicate and subtle movements. They are aglow with an unconquerable belief in themselves and in their partners to move together across the floor, along with the beat and the harmony of the music.

"Tango demands courage, and it demands imagination, and in sacrificing our expectations, we find an invulnerable faith in ourselves, waiting for us at the end of desire."

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