Argentine Tango School

Argentine Tango dancing by Marcelo Solis and Mimi

Considerations on the value of Argentine Tango

Considerations on the value of Argentine Tango

Argentine Tango dancing by Marcelo Solis and Mimi at Milonga Parakultural, Salón Canning, Buenos Aires, October 2022.

I am pleased to share with you some reflections on the value we give to Tango and dancing at the milongas, the place it acquires (or we allow it to acquire) in our lives as milongueros, professionals, teachers, students, etc.

These thoughts took the aphoristic form and different approaches: direct, metaphorical, philosophical, in the form of dialogues with a more or less imaginary or real interlocutor, as a game, and as poetry.

1

You can only dance Tango well if you prioritize it. Many believe that they prioritize dancing Tango, but mostly stay on the edge of it. Proposing to oneself the task of dancing Tango would perhaps imply a profound critique of our way of life, our prejudices concerning what we consider valuable: efficient, productive time, which enriches us in a way that can be “objectively” measured, accounted for through money, through which is appreciated by the most significant number of people and could be counted by the number of “likes” received, by the number of votes obtained, for prizes won, by the number of participants in a class or a milonga, or any event, or the number of tandas danced at a milonga; as opposed to a beautiful time, deep in complex and subtle emotions, subtleties and depths not accessible to all sensibilities, but only to those with enough courage and a taste for adventure, for powerfully transformative discoveries, of which we would perhaps be the only protagonists and witnesses. Of course, it is understandable that for the majority, for whom the subtle and complex is somewhat problematic, the objective amounts and monetary gains are reassuring confirmations of one’s beliefs and prejudices.

However, I am encouraged to express my doubts about whether it is possible to dance in general and to dance Tango in particular –considering Tango as the only way we still have to dance fully– without conducting an investigation and a critique of our assumptions and prejudices concerning how we conceive our lives. For example, the bias that what does not produce important economic gains is something of little value.

2

Most feel guilty for enjoying themselves. Considering that what does not imply suffering has no value, or its value is negative, is another prejudice.

The deep joy that Tango produces for those who enjoy it is not, however, the ultimate goal that makes us dance it. Instead, that joy is a by-product. It is the sensation that produces everything that allows us to become stronger and wiser, more sure of ourselves and our originality.

3

In our daily lives, we are always trying to fit more and more actions in the shortest time. This is probably where the habit of trying to put too many steps and embellishments in our dance comes from.

4

An academic studies his subject, and a religious studies his holly book.

The one who dances Tango studies his body, the music, and the culture of Tango and interviews the most expert milongueros in a framework of friendship to investigate the subjective experience of those who danced it long before and dedicated their lives to it.

5

With Tango, it would be demonstrated that the music, to be danceable, does not need to be superficial.

6

Dancing Tango is dancing well, which cannot be achieved by dancing with just anyone. At most, when the person I dance with doesn’t allow me to dance well, I can propose to “dance the best possible”. In this case, the experience of dancing is degraded; it does not become dancing Tango.

7

The dance is a truth proposition that can always be refuted, contradicted, improved, or partially modified by another dance. Truth here means a way of living, an answer to the question “How to live?”

8

Your dance can present to yourself your way of wanting and living, your ideals, your values as if you were another person who was watching you –something like the impression that seeing yourself in a video for the first time gave you– and if you agree with it if you are proud or ashamed of it, and consequently, if you are proud or ashamed of your life. Then, it would allow you to review your values, change them if you sincerely consider it necessary, or change your feelings concerning your values. It may even allow you to review and restore your honesty about yourself.

9

Learning to live would perhaps be learning to dance with the world. Manage times in a non-mechanical way: with emotion. Don’t rush. Don’t lose patience. Don’t stress. Always be able to move with elasticity, smoothness, and control. Balance in all aspects. Don’t run out. Arrive at the end of the day or any activity with an elegant finale.

10

Being a good dancer implies a search for greater balance, control, and ease in your movements, both physically and spiritually. Dancing could lead to a greater awareness of your own body. This would result in a concern to develop increasingly healthy habits and thus develop a more balanced relationship with the people around you and yourself. Dancing could mean getting to know yourself and people in general better. Dancing Tango would then be continually learning to see life from the perspective of a person who dances. Dancing Tango would be something like dancing your life.

11

Everything we incorporate –what we allow to reach us–: food, the people we allow to participate in our lives, what we read, the music we listen to, our acquired habits, etc., constitutes us and would shape everything we do, including our way of dancing.

12

Agility makes spontaneity possible.

13

Just as being happy is not the representation of being happy, dancing Tango is not the representation of dancing Tango.

14

What is dancing well? There are no objective answers that determine it. We can only refer to the emotions that it produces in us.

15

Sense of reality generated thanks to the Tango dance through the inevitability of the body. This is the opposite of virtual reality. However, there are possibilities to be deceived in Tango as well. For example, the memorized steps, focusing on the adjacent of Tango (the sexual, the emotional, the irrational, or the rational, etc.), leaving the actual body – the body that can endure a fight – eclipsed, hidden, postponed, avoided, eliminated.

16

The problem that appears when we do not have internal strength and elasticity is that we tense our external musculature, lose elasticity, take our bone structure towards a fragile rigidity, and become spiritually insecure and vulnerable. Bodily rigidity is also spiritual rigidity.

17

Dancing is a continuous improvement. Dancing –in its most profound sense– would perhaps be becoming the being of becoming, wishing, and acting so that our dance is better, more beautiful, more convincing, and more profound at every moment.

18

About looking at the dance floor. Watching to dance. At first, we see nothing. Being able to dance -knowing how to dance- would increase with that ability to see and understand what happens there. To look, one would also have to know how to be alone. Fear and/or the inability to be alone may not allow us to look. Not looking is not seeing oneself. Because of fear?

19

We may get lost in the infinite surfaces that Tango offers us, and we never explore its depth. When we discover Tango, we discover at the same time that there is something beautiful, deep, mysterious, and exciting in us. However, it could be very easy to stay there, in that initial dazzle, and not encourage ourselves to continue further, towards the interior of Tango itself, and of ourselves, perhaps because we find these two abysses terrifying, these labyrinths in which the most it is likely that we will get lost and never come out again. The truth is that once there, the labyrinth reveals that the essence of our human life is perhaps a labyrinth, an abyss.

20

We should pursue not objective but subjective purposes concerning dance.

We do not dance in the same way. For each of us, dancing means different things. I would say that for me, dancing may be a way of enhancing my humanity.

I would not say that I’m right about dancing Tango (or any dance), only that since we disagree, I prefer not to argue with you about this because, from what I can see in the way you dance, I do not think you have anything to say against my opinion.

However, I would happily share my understanding of what dancing is.

I cannot explain this with words alone because words can’t grasp more than a superficial portion of it.

I do not claim here to have any truth, only that I had achieved something regarding my dance which I can claim as successful, something that is not an achievement done and secured, but something that needs to be achieved every day, every time.

I may have a more profound understanding of what dancing means, or perhaps not. You may want to know more about my approach, or you may not care. The only thing we could claim as certain is our dances, every single one of them, at the moment we are dancing.

You may be a profound person. What is happening here is that you are not assigning the dance the depth state I see in it.

Does my approach contradict my joy, smiles, laughter, and lightness while dancing? I argue not. Laughing and dancing are really serious things in human life. Dancing and laughing are where seriousness begins.

You should never ask why someone doesn’t dance with you. It is not in good taste. There are no objective reasons. Taste and dance belong to the realm of the subjective.

You could agree with me on words, but more credible would be your agreement manifested in your commitment to your dance.

I do not claim to possess the truth here. Dancing is an absolute stranger to the truth.

I can’t convince you. You will agree with me only in what you already agree with yourself.

21

Perhaps most make the moves but still do not dance Tango.

Emotions: the subjectivity in the dance.

The moves: the objective.

Something you can’t fake. It is visible in your whole being, your posture, your moves. It is not what you are trying to show through your face.

Some emotions may be in conflict with dancing: anxiety, angriness, fear, shame…

Emotions do not come from yourself alone. Emotions, at least in Tango, which is what concerns us here, have roots not only in yourself but also in your relationships and your position concerning them; that is the milonga as a society, your teacher/s, your students, your peers, the ones you hang out with in the milongas, etc.

It is not the same to be a total stranger in a group, like Tango, as having friends that care about you, teachers that encourage you and help you to be a great dancer –because this is precisely what a good teacher wants from his/her students. I am talking here about the community of Tango as a whole, not in a localized sense, like the Tango community of the Bay Area. If the teacher you take lessons from in Buenos Aires is not at that milonga or local community you are part of, still his/her encouragement and love for Tango shape the emotions of your dance.

Your teacher cares about you as a human being. It is not about you making moves “perfectly”. It is about being able to express and explore your humanity.

22

Ultimately, all the subjective approaches to dance would be judged when we all are dancing or not and how, in two, five, ten, or more years.

23

Time plays in my favor. I get to be a better dancer. Does not matter how much I wait to dance with someone I want to dance with.

24

Don’t you dance? So you can take on enormous amounts of stress; you can deprive yourself of sleep; you can eat poorly, very poorly… In short, if you’re not going to dance, what do your body and health matter to you? What do your spirituality and depth matter to you?

25

In contrast to commercialized art, a humble, honest, and intimate art that spiritualizes and celebrates the body.

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Why do we choose to dance Argentine Tango with some people and not with others?

Why do we choose to dance with some people and not with others?

Argentine Tango dancing by Marcelo Solis and Mimi in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The first thing we should clarify is that possibly nothing in dance is absolutely conscious and voluntary and that chance always plays the leading role; I would even dare to generalize this introduction to all the processes of life and to everything that exists; but I am going to conform and remain in a rather humble place (which, coming from an Argentine, may arouse some incredulity), speaking only about the dance, restricting myself to a particular case of human life – although I would like you to know that I think that the dance (in this case the dance of the Tango, which I consider the kind of dance that is more dance than any other dance) is human life par excellence.
 
When we grow older and wise – if we weren’t fortunate enough to be born wise – our most practical, sound wisdom turns out to be that we shouldn’t spend our energies trying to control what is beyond our possibilities.
We can’t handle much more than ourselves, and what little we can control other than ourselves, we achieve anyway through great control of our actions and attitudes.
As we learn to apply this general principle in the particular cases that the development of time brings to us, Tango dancers, that is, we milongueros, find ourselves facing a problem that is not small: dancing Tango implies a strong dependence on other people, which, we continually learn, we cannot control.
 
Since the only thing we can access some control is ourselves, we learn to be more and more careful and meticulous in choosing the people to whom we grant the privilege of becoming dependent on them, of giving ourselves.
 
So we could talk here about establishing a contract with these people, a pact that has the beauty of not being manifest, not written, not spoken, and that can be freely terminated and renewed by any of the parties, a relationship of privilege and freedom that we might as well call friendship; which could not be objectively defined, with for example a list of principles and requirements. This contract, this friendship, will be constantly defined and re-defined by the subjectivities involved.
 
I am referring not only to the people with whom we dance; but also to the people with whom we like to chat, laugh, share or sit close; because in the milonga, what is our manifest objective, intuitive or involuntary, is to inspire ourselves, which is sometimes explained in words like “being happy,” and at the same time inspire and cause happiness in our colleagues.
 
On occasions we have danced with someone with whom we have felt such a connection, such an openness to express ourselves, such an encouragement to reveal our maximum capacities in the dance, that everything that was not dancing disappeared, and the world and the other couples on the dance floor were there in an almost imperceptible way; everything found its meaning and even the mistakes became necessary to that dance, so much so that, now we know, they were not mistakes but capricious choreographic creations, daughters of chance and of our strength, intelligence and preparation to integrate everything that happens in the thread of our choreography, of our improvisation, like pearls and precious stones, and exotic and unknown flowers and creatures, that nature made appear there, for us, for our enjoyment.

Will it happen again? And with the same person?

There are no guarantees for this. Neither people nor any code establishes it. Only the freedom inherent in a friendship that could come from a joyous and satisfying common experience.
 
However, even if we want that moment, that experience, and that state to return, we already know very well, if we are realistic, that nothing happens in the same way again. So, the dancer proposes a new goal each time: to wish and act following that wish, that the next time the dance, our dance, will be better.
 
And here we find that paradoxical problem: will the other person, the other people, want the same thing, something called better dancing, and that would mean at least approximately the same thing, or would it be complementary to what I call with those exact words?
 
This is a significant problem, and it appears here because dancing Tango is not at all something superficial. On the contrary, it requires we have the courage and the predisposition to face it, dedicate time to it, learn, study, observe, investigate, question, practice, create, do, recreate, and do countless times again, without worrying about quantities, because we could not dance Tango without being generous, starting with being generous with ourselves, with our living bodies, with our joy of being alive.

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Marcelo dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi

To dance, to live like a dancer.

To dance, to live like a dancer.

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi

To really dance, maybe what is needed is to live like a dancer.

I don’t mean to say that to dance, you need to dedicate yourself to dancing as a profession. What I want to say here is something that I will explain below with a comparison.
 
If I liked, for example, riding a bicycle, I would need a bicycle. This bike would be built in a bike factory. It would be ready, with its tires inflated and its chain perfectly oiled when I got on it and started pedaling.
 
The body and soul of the dancer are like that bicycle. Just as it would be really cumbersome to manufacture a bike to be able to mount it and pedal it, I could not dance with a body that has not been conditioned, trained, and prepared, that is, “manufactured” previously to be able to dance.
 
Since I could not dance with a body that is not that of a dancer, and since my body is the only one I have at my disposal from the moment I get up in the morning, I already take into account at that time that my body and my whole being have to be ready to dance when it comes to stepping on the dance floor of the milonga.
 
Of course, anyone can dance, at any time, without much preparation because, in my opinion, being a human being is already being a being that dances.

However, I think we will agree that dancing Tango requires more, much more in subtleties, skills, perception, and awareness than that minimum that is what makes us dancers just because we are human.
 
Dancing a dance like Tango is, I feel, like philosophizing about what is essential in life, in matters such as the value of life itself, that is: if it is worth living or not, and why, that is: whether or not there are reasons for that answer; if language is of any use to us here, if perhaps it is not a more appropriate response to shut up and dance.
 
Now, this silence is not a resignation, so to speak, but a celebration, since we discover that the absence of the common language, the one we use every day, does not represent any problem but could even help us in the deepest of these intimate questions in the solitude of the individual.
 
Tango, as music, as dance, as culture and philosophy of life, and as something different from all that, which includes all of it, but which generates something more significant and further, a way of existing, of living life, is something that excites us, makes us fall in love, gives us meaning, and leads us to a fullness that we always dreamed of living, that which we intuited as children that life was. Perhaps it should not be believed that with an exhaustive and methodical study of its technical aspects, training, and putting objective principles into practice, we will obtain Tango. With that, which is essential, we would only prepare a ground that might one day be fertile enough to make us dancers.

What do we dancers want?

Maybe stop being babies concerning our bodies.
 
Happiness might not be an end but a tool for a life that would find its meaning.
 
Happiness would be something akin to getting organized.
 
Why does a baby stop being a baby?
 
Possibly because she feels pressure from the environment and has to react and change, modify herself and develop responses and adaptations to those pressures. She fights, opposes, submits, adapts, or imposes herself.
 
Marketing would seem to be proposed as a philosophy of life according to which we must consume in the present and urgently everything we want now, what we have ever wanted, and what we may wish to in the future (because it may no longer be available in the market in the future.) There are no alternatives that make themselves heard clearly. The ones that exist are timid and weak, stubborn, blind and deaf, wasting vital energy in violent, undignified, ineffective explosions, or with worthless talk, calming or justifying. Such philosophy, called marketing, is presented as if it were the only one possible. So, living seems to become living within the market, something like selling your life to consume things. Even experiences seem to have been reified.
 
For example: traveling –the “experience” of the trip– has been reified. I heard someone very wise say (I don’t remember who now): “the only possible journey is the journey we make within ourselves.”
 
So perhaps we would do well to train and know our bodies and gauge the value of the spiritual consequences of that training and knowledge; we could take then that wisdom to the field of our social and intimate relationships, that is, recognize ourselves in others, get to know ourselves more in “making ourselves known.” That would make us dancers.
 
This is why I think marketing (as understood by professional marketers) cannot help me to find new students, or more dancers to come to the milongas for milonga organizers, or to promote Tango in general.
 
As I feel Tango, it is for me Friendship. How could friendship be marketed? And since it does not fit in the market, should we conclude it has no value?
My students and I are good friends because we all have a friend in common, a friend we love so much, a friend called Argentine Tango ❤️

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To dance well in Argentine Tango

To dance well in Argentine Tango

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Mimi in the San Francisco Bay Area

To dance well, that is to say: to DANCE, we will have to organize our lives in that direction; I will not be able to dance well if my life develops away from that goal.
Indeed, if what I long for is, for example, to make money, then my life will be oriented in that direction, in the direction of abstractions (money is an abstraction), very far from my actual body.
 

Put any project on this scale and consider how far the primary goal of that project will be from performing a good dance.

No one is forced to dance well. Truths, life projects, and desires cannot be the same for everyone.
 
I am inclined to think this way: when I reach the end of my life, what would I like to see in the wake left by that life?
 
Imagine all the possible lives we could lead. Let’s try to think and feel them, weigh them, smell them, look at their colors, and measure the scope of their luminous skyscrapers of triumphs and black abysses of awful flavors.

Perhaps we all live in different worlds, with the things and people we surround ourselves with. A life could thus develop in the direction of a choice of one’s own world in which to inhabit.
 
I think that perhaps a good way of living would develop in the direction of becoming more and more capable of directing and selecting what goes into the process of our existence.
 
In particular, as far as I am concerned, I prefer what increases the power of my physiology, makes my body more versatile, adaptable, and happy, my mind more lucid, and my spirit lighter and dancing.
 
Here is the foundational question that is answered with living itself: How to live?
That would be dancing!
Should I ask myself “what for” and/or “for whom”?
 
We could also perhaps answer ourselves: “there are immediate, urgent things to resolve; we live at a precise moment in history which conditions us, that is, it enslaves us and forces us to do things that we would not do otherwise. Let us, then, postpone our plan, our life, until we have resolved the present and responded to all the obligations implicit in its calls”.
 
In particular, my truth concerning this is that we will eternally be bound by the present. We were born like this: OBLIGATED.
 
My opinion on this is the following: it is a matter of perspective; It depends a lot on where we look at life from and where we place ourselves –physically and spiritually– to look at it.
 
Let’s listen to the tango “Me quedé mirandola” by Anibal Troilo with Alberto Marino on vocals. (I ask you… Is there another version of this song that we can dance to?)
 
Sometimes people leave the dance; that is, they abandon the dancing project because they run into a barrier they don’t dare to cross. Although they always give themselves other excuses.
 
I have abandoned many of my previous lives to lighten up enough to be able to continue dancing.
 
And do not think that you will not find doubts about yourselves and the value of dancing!
 
There are many possible worlds, many parallel realities that cannot be accessed in any “objective” way, such as the achievements of science and technology.
 
Don’t you think you should dare?
 
But this is a matter of taste.
 
When I see someone who dances, who DANCES, I see someone free. His body is no longer “ergastulum“, as the Catholic Church used to say in the Middle Ages, meaning “prison of the spirit”, a spirit that must wait until death to be released.

When I see someone DANCING, I see his soul already free in life, no longer waiting, postponing, procrastinating life to perhaps one day meet that fundamental question not only unanswered but never asked.

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Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Lola at Milonga Parakultural, Salón Canning, Buenos Aires 2022. Photo Monteleone.

What is dancing Argentine Tango?

What is dancing Argentine Tango?

Marcelo Solis dancing Argentine Tango with Lola at Milonga Parakultural, Salón Canning, Buenos Aires 2022. Photo Monteleone.

Dancing Argentine Tango is to exist in completeness.

Taking ownership of your body, developing awareness and control of all that is generated from your body: your moves, your breath, your energy, your emotions, and your whole life.

Sharing with one another the greatness and imperfections of being alive.

Give and receive warmth, consolation, affection, and encouragement.

Partake in the joy of being mutually complicit in wittiness.

It is being part of a community of friends who share the celebration of this same joy.

Marcelo Solis with friend from the Argentine Tango community at Milonga Parakultural, Salon Canning, Buenos Aires 2022. Photo Monteleone. From left to right: Nestor Pellicciaro (director of Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires), student, Fernando Hoffmann (milonguero and actor), Marcelo Solis, Blas Catrenau (great milonguero dancer and maestro), friend.

Marcelo Solis at Milonga Parakultural, Salon Canning, Buenos Aires 2022. Photo Monteleone.

Feeling fully alive because it challenges you to become better, since all the fresh sensations of the first encounter need to be continually re-enacted  by a deeper understanding of all human things.

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