HOW THE ARGENTINE TANGO CONNECTS TO SPIRITUALITY
Spirituality is something that’s often debated and commonly misunderstood. Many people confuse spirituality with religion and so bring pre–existing beliefs about the impact of religion to discussions about spirituality. Though all religions emphasize spirituality as being an important part of faith, it’s possible to be ‘spiritual’ without necessarily being a part of an organized religious community.
Spirituality is more of an individual practice and has to do with having a sense of peace and purpose. It also relates to the process of developing beliefs around the meaning of life and connection with others.
Aside from being engraved in the history of the Catholic Church, the Argentine Tango is connected to one’s spirituality. In fact, dancing the Argentine Tango can teach many spiritual lessons that can improve one’s relationship and belief towards the Higher Forces, and oneself.
To think that the Argentine Tango has a spiritual implication might seem strange for those not in the know. However, for those in the know, there is indeed an immediately clear connection between the two. With an open mind, it is really quite easy to see the relationship and learn spiritually from the Argentine Tango.
To paint a clearer picture of how the Argentine Tango is connected to spirituality, take note of the points below:
1. Invitation, embrace, connection
One of the most important frameworks of the Argentine Tango is the embrace. Properly embracing one’s partner is essential to set the tone throughout the entire performance and connect with each other. The embrace is what unites the couple and transforms them into a union, one perfectly connected being.
From the tango technique point of view, a poorly executed embrace will make it challenging for the tango leader to guide the follower. Conversely, it’ll be hard for the follower to read the directions if the leader’s embrace is too weak or too strong. The right embrace will invite the follower to come into a shared space that allows the two partners to move with ease. With the right embrace, the follower will feel safe during the dance because he or she will have the confidence that someone is taking on the responsibility.
Spirituality and many religions express the connection in a similar way – God invites his people to embrace him in order to build a deeper and meaningful connection with them. As long as people will continue embracing God, they won’t have to worry about the direction that they’re going because the Higher Force will always seek out what’s best — just like what the tango leader does on the dance floor.
From the religious perspective – as long a person trusts God, they can continue embracing him and not worry about a thing in the world. Regardless of how often a person trips in life, God will always be there to take care of them and ensure that their life still goes on.
Comparing Tango leaders to God or a Higher Force might be a bit too far-fetched unless… you actually experience(d) the dance with such a leader. It does not happen that often, but it does happen. After such a tanda the follower usually leaves the Milonga. Not because s/he is unhappy, but simply to preserve the experience, keep it intact.
In Argentine Tango, the leader proposes and initiates the steps to ensure that the couple can navigate around the Ronda. The leaders in the Argentine Tango, those who are capable of leading in the Milonga, usually have years of experience in dancing. It is extremely difficult for an absolute newbie to lead through the meanders of a crowded dance floor.
The follower, on the other hand, might be a novice to the Argentine Tango, as the experienced Leader shall still be able to create a dance.
There is a whole theory behind how the lead is created in tango. A tango leader, to request specific steps and achieve specific movements on the dance floor, need to clearly convey his intentions to the follower. For example, if the leader wants the follower to execute a boleo or gancho he needs to create favorable circumstances and then lead the follower to execute it. Although the follower has the ability to move on her own and she is the one who actually swings her leg in the requested direction (as opposed to the leader moving her leg, which is a common misconception about the lead), she waits for the leader to initiate, and lead the movement, before actually moving. It is a choice, and simultaneously, quite a challenge and big responsibility of the follower, to receive the lead and then, in sense, submit to the leadership of the other person and commit to the movement.
Religion, ‘in God we trust’ – Catholics are expected to give their attention to God and avoid wandering or looking over their shoulders to see what’s happening around them. Everyone should focus on paying attention to God and his orders alone. Just like sharing the dance floor with other people, allowing the other person to direct you, or taking the responsibility for the other person – are both challenging.
Tango address both ways. The best partnerships are really those who get to the level of both people being involved and elevated into the highest highs of communications and involvement.
3. Elimination of External Noises
Regardless of how experienced the tango leader or tango follower is, if they don’t pay attention to each other intentions and movements, the couple won’t be able to perform successfully.
Focusing on each other in tango is vital to ensure that the couple connects and communicates well on the dance floor.
External noises and distractions need to be eliminated. When dancing on a crowded dance floor, one shouldn’t heed the conversation of other couples or the spectators watching the performances. On the contrary, the partners should only focus on each other, music, and the movement.
Eliminating external noises is also just as important in spirituality. One must quiet themselves to easily hear what the world, the spirits, the God are trying to convey to them. It is only through a state of recollection when a person will notice God’s plan on their lives and how their own responses might have led them in the wrong direction.
It’s quite common for followers to anticipate the steps or movements of a tango leader. Followers who are still novices to the Argentine Tango will spend a lot of time and effort to solely focus on the movement of their leaders to avoid committing mistakes. They often forget to enjoy the dance and witness the creativity of their leaders. They also miss the spot where the conversation can be started through adornos and embellishments to engage in an infinite dialog of two bodies.
Anticipation can be related to spirituality. When one is too focused on anticipating what will happen in the future or their lives, they tend to forget to enjoy the moment and the lessons that life it’s teaching every single one of us every single day. Anticipation can also cause unnecessary stress and tension to the point where one fails to see the direction towards which destiny is pointing them.
Instead of anticipating what can go wrong when dancing the Argentine Tango or in life in general, it’s best to remain undemanding and patient, and have the confidence that everything will work out fine. We will be taken to where we need to be. A great tango leader will never lead his or her follower to paths that can cause harm or danger.
In fact, in Tango anticipation can be perceived in at least two different lenses. Initially, the follower focus on avoiding anticipation. The goal is to truly open to really feel what the leader is proposing, let the music channel through the couple, and translate itself into beautiful movements. Later though, we learn to anticipate, and simply not act on it, or – choose to act when appropriate or event expected through for example adornos.
The anticipation understood as predictability and responsiveness help both leader and follower. The difficulty being – that we achieve it not through any specific signals, but through continuous, tactile communication seemingly telepathy-like.
It takes time to realize that each movement proposed by the leader requires follower’s acceptance. Nothing happens without mutual acceptance and understanding.
The follower’s initial submission to the lead is one of the toughest to understand concepts of Argentine Tango. The sooner though it is found, the faster we‘re able to recognize the freedom that comes with it.
Submission and listening are important when dancing the Argentine Tango because they enable the couple to connect with each other and dance in perfect harmony. When the leader masters the clarity of presenting the lead and the follower openly and readily accepts the traces of invitation to togetherness in movement given by the leader, the two can perform in unison.
In religion, people are often hesitant to submit themselves to the word of God. Instead of following his words, many will question his being and even his plan for their lives. This is especially true for individuals who have gone through the most challenging times of their lives.
Just like the tango leaders navigate through the dance floor, the higher spirits will also help anyone get through trying times, as long as the submission and trust are achieved.
Many religions emphasize the concept of surrender and total submission to the Higher Being as a way of bettering one’s life. There might not be a total immunity to hardships, but when the Higher Force, the spirit, the God are allowed to lead, the chances of surviving increase. Apparently, there is a plan written for our life and so we are freed from the cumbersomeness of the decision-making. Seems like our choices might not really matter. Well – in Tango they certainly do matter. So let the Tango find you!