Tango is Life

This article continues a previous article.

Dancing Tango is not only about you and you-and-your-partner. It is also a social event and being part of a culture. It involves more than the two who (it takes to) tango: it is about all those present at the milonga (tango dance party,) as well as all those who are intimately related to Tango, in the past, present and future, other dancers, the composers of the songs that you dance to, the musicians who recorded the songs, all the people who were passionate about Tango throughout the history of this dance where our very unique nature as humans manifest, and those who, in the future, will enjoy it after inheriting it from us.

The milonga is a dance party where you go to dance, and become a member of a society with its own set of codes. Its structure and mere existence inspires - even multiplies - creativity, and supports the blissful coexistence of all the milongueros, all the artists on the dance floor, who respect all the incarnations of this Art; not in words, but through actions; the dance.

Our post-modern Western civilization seems to be organized by making us expend all our life fueling the production machinery, to fill our lives and the whole world with more things, instead of EXISTING, where we could be making our life a work of Art; we could live and be generous, disregarding the fact that it will all fade away when we are gone, like our dance does, when we leave the dance floor.
It is the same civilization that made us become accustomed to understanding art as a “representation”, just a superficial image, that is alien to what is beyond its surface, a phenomenon that needs to be analyzed to deliver a meaning, that always puts us on the other side, as critics, that consider art as an afterthought, as a leftover, something of a secondary importance.

If we come to believe that art is separate from us and our bodies, that is perhaps why we are so afraid to dance, to fail to give “the right impression” about ourselves; we are horrified to be “the clown”, but at the same time we do not see a contradiction in believing that Tango is “that dance” in which you put a rose in your mouth, shake your head left and right, and push and pull the partner with force bordering on abuse.

Is Life a “representation”? A performance we do in order to get support from an audience, receive many “likes” on our Facebook page, regardless of what we really think, believe, sense or stand for?
Is your Life meant to be a “presentation” to “sell” a product? Is your Life a product that you abstract from yourself and sell on the “markets”?

A true milonguero or milonguera works patiently to achieve being able to dance focused on the dance itself, paying careful attention to his or her partner, listening studiously to the music, being connected with his/her true self, not faking it, not pretending, not conceited, not shy, but instead secure and gentle, proud and humble. A particular kind of relationship is established with all others present at the milonga: those dancing and those sitting around the dance floor, the hosts of the milonga, the waiters and all other participants at the event, and also with the natural forces that rule the physical world, which make dance possible. The goal you pursue becoming involved in this particular cosmos of the milonga, is to allow things to fall in place, without forcing it, without trying hard, without intending to grab the attention of others, because we, milongueros, dance for ourselves; actually, we dance thanks to the existence of that greater self composed of our partner, the other couples dancing, the people sitting, the hosts, the DJ choosing the music, the musicians who recorded it with so much care… and the entire universe.
This “being present”, accomplished through intense and meticulous preparation -although not exempt of joy-, keeps alive in us the forever new amazement of a child in relation to Life, adding to it the clear knowledge of the possibility of Life’s end always looming at the horizon of the next present moment. Dancing Tango in the milongas is then an elegant way to go through Life, with our whole being, which -we realize- includes our body, giving our body purpose beyond that of just a tool for production, a medium to create an impression on others, a bridge to the exterior, a fortress to keep us safe. Through dancing tango you become an entire being that learns to move through a world reshaped by our ancestors and reshaped again today, demanding proportions, balance, beauty; the dancer becomes a being for whom the passing of time is raw material to create Art with.

Time is precious. Tango is always there, waiting for you. What is precious to you?

Do not leave this task of becoming a milonguero for later, missing the opportunity to make the best use of your time in life, thinking that later… but later everything becomes more difficult; it is more difficult to learn; our body and mind are less powerful; we are entangled in more compromises; we already schedule too many calls to answer… We already gave up a lot of our time… but for what? Invariably, it was perhaps for that something we considered to be precious.

Our world is already shaped by many strong forces we cannot bend or redirect so easily. What to do then? How can you achieve a way of Life that seems to contradict most of all that already exists? Should we move to a different world and populate the already planned colonies on Mars? How can we be sure that a civilization shaped so that we treat ourselves and each other as machines, useful only to build more machines that can develop the power to take us to the unimaginable, to take our feeble and exhausted body there, which is kept alive by pedaling machines with the only goal of delivering our DNA into the future; how can you be sure this kind of civilization is not already crooked by the weight of the innumerable things that we believe we need, crooked by chronic dissatisfaction, which is kept in place by the continuous production and consumption cycle?

Milongueros have another world. It is the milonga.

We, humans, are all martyrs. It is inevitable. We will soon be gone and we are deeply anxious to find a reason to die; to die for love, for our children, for our country, for our beliefs, for our convictions, for an ideal.

“There is an old legend that king Midas for a long time hunted the wise Silenus, the companion of Dionysus, in the forests, without catching him. When Silenus finally fell into the king’s hands, the king asked what was the best thing of all for men, the very finest. The daemon remained silent, motionless and inflexible, until, compelled by the king, he finally broke out into shrill laughter and said these words, ‘Suffering creature, born for a day, child of accident and toil, why are you forcing me to say what would give you the greatest pleasure not to hear? The very best thing for you is totally unreachable: not to have been born, not to exist, to be nothing. The second best thing for you, however, is this — to die soon.” “The Birth of Tragedy: From the Spirit of Music”. By Friedrich Nietzsche. Chapter 3.

A suicide bomber expresses anger in the face of such knowledge, killing as many as possible in sync with his own self-immolation, destroying Life, producing a phenomenon shaped by horror, un-beautiful, denied of aesthetics.
When we live a fulfilling Life, a Life in which every instant contains meaning, like every word in a poem, like a work of Art, we live so engaged that we are living in the present at all times. Our whole lives last as long as the present moment.

“Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits.” “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” 6.4311. By Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Aesthetics is an absolute respect for Life. Tango is shaped by this respect.

The language of the human being was constructed simultaneously with the world of the human being. It was constructed by the human being itself. It is made of realities constructed by our species and by realities discovered by us. Language includes then the materiality of our world and the relationship between humans and this materiality, and the relationship among the diverse elements of the materiality of our world, seen from the point of view of the human being.

Language is inherited as we inherit the world of the human being.

How much love there was in those mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, uncles, cousins and friends who wanted that, yes, you succeed in Life, in your career, in your profession, in making your own family, but also wanted you to dance Tango well!!!

We inherited a magnificent world and an amazing culture. Is there any better way to express gratitude to our ancestors that asuming their legacy into our beings and dance with it?

Listen to “La vida es una milonga” by Pedro Laurenz y su Orquesta Típica, singing Martín Podestá. Click here.

This article continues...


Martin Heidegger
Gilles Deleuze
Michel Foucault
Michel Onfray
Jean Baudrillard
Friedrich Nietzsche
“Encyclopedia of Tango”, by Gabriel Valiente
“Historia del baile”, by Sergio Pujol

About me: I am a milonguero who enjoys sharing with you my passion and knowledge of Tango. I co-direct the Escuela de Tango de Buenos Aires.