Updated 6/5/00

El Firulete 
The Argentine Tango Magazine

Tango, a state of the soul
by Jean-Pierre Sighe
Copyright (c) 2000, Planet Tango. All Rights Reserved

A year ago, in a concurrence of circumstances, I was introduced to the world of Argentine Tango. I had no idea at the time, that I was in fact being introduced into a significant experience destined to ultimately have a profound effect on my whole being. Intuitively though, after making the decision to learn how to dance Tango, I felt it would be important to learn it "the right way", that is, under the supervision of a teacher, native of Argentina; given the distinctive coloration that the Argentine culture has engraved in Tango, it seemed only natural to look for someone native of that culture.

I was already involved with dancing, focusing more on Ballroom dancing. My interest for the Latin dances was indeed awakened and Salsa and Rumba were my favorites. In the context of the Ballroom dancing, I was also experimenting with Waltz and what is known as " International Tango". The discovery of Argentine Tango came like a sweeping tide that was going to absolutely erase from my mind the existence of that "International Tango".

Very quickly, I was lucky to find my teacher. A gentleman from Argentina, Alberto Paz, with his partner, Valorie Hart, from the United States. I explained to Alberto that my goal was to learn how to dance Tango; but not just in terms of the dance-steps, but rather more deeply, with the elements of the Argentine culture. As an African and a musician, it was clear to me that one needs to connect spiritually with the emotions of a dance in order to perform it properly. My teacher kindly laughed as he listened and accepted to take me as a student.

After my first lessons, a persisting question knocked at the door of my neophyte's mind. It was not the kind of question that one asks, knowing that an answer can be given by someone to whom it would be asked; rather, it came as some suggested direction of an intellectual and spiritual quest. The rethorical question was: " What is Tango? "

Tango seemed to have such an important impact on the emotions of the dancer that it was only logical to speculate that if there was an impact on the emotional body, there would have to also be something similar on the psychological, thus, the spiritual and probably the physiological bodies as well.

Usually, in order to comprehend our human constitution, we must separate, classify and label different functions and abilities of our human nature; we try to distinguish between the physical, the psychological, the emotional, the spiritual bodies. In reality, all these bodies are one. The interaction between them is instantaneous; anything affecting one has a reverberation on the others, in an harmonic response. Just as a vibrating string on a guitar will induce the other strings (although untouched), to vibrate in turn. However, each string will vibrate in its own musical note or vibration speed. By analogy, one can begin to sense that the different bodies or "states", will provide the Tango dancer with different types of experiences. These "states" will become the different successive "doors" through which the dancer will ultimately enter the very subtle world of the imponderable… the spiritual world (not in the religious sense, rather in its etymological meaning).

The other obvious component in the Tango dancing is the music. It has probably been stated already an infinite number of times that music is one of the most mysterious and powerful things that exists. In fact it is a very useful tool to those who understand its nature a little better. Music is the perfect vessel that one can use to explore the different "states" afore mentioned. As a musician, I discovered that there are two kinds of charts that are being played, while performing: one is written for the musician to follow; the other is unwritten… actually, it is BEING WRITTEN as the performance develops. It's a very special chart made of the combination of the musician-and-dancer's performance… a little explanation will be useful here.

The chart that the musician uses is made of musical notes, pauses, with all the crescendos, diminuendos, fortes… and so forth. The musician knows that all these nuances must be respected in order to render a good performance. On the other hand, every step, pause, spin, jump, slide… etc. that the dancer does IS, indeed, in combination with the musician's chart, ANOTHER CHART being written. This means that, without being conscious of it the dancer, the Tango dancer, is indeed composing and writing, as does the musician; it becomes crucial to realize that the experience of going through the successive "doors", to which the musician is accustomed, is equally shared by the dancer.

But, at this point, other parameters will need to be considered: has the dancer been properly trained to understand the connection between the dancing and the music? Is the dancer prepared to consciously appreciate the journey through the "states" and "doors" ? Has the dancer been trained to feel the music and dance WITH the music, rather than simply performing some impressive footwork? The training, in other words, the "initiation" process, is absolutely, a determining factor to the inner experience of the dancer. Therefore, choosing the right teacher must be a carefully conducted task, for, the rest of the dancing experience will surely be affected, either positively, or regrettably, in a negative way. It is the sine qua non condition to the enjoyable experience one is looking and hoping for!

Dancing becomes a profound and exciting undertaking. It becomes almost, in the Tango realm, a… ritual! It becomes very beautiful to visualize two people plunging deep into their souls and writing together in a ritual… a story; maybe the story of their friendship or the story of their attraction to one another; maybe the story of their lost lovers or the story of their loneliness; maybe the story of their joy for life or the story of their sadness about life… in other words, the story of life and love!

They will have to "assume", as in the African ritualistic dances, different "states" of mind, and project them outwardly, using their physical bodies… isn't that beautiful ?

There is one thing about Tango that commonly, dancers express, jokingly: its "addictiveness." Certainly, the more, one experiences the inner contact with the self, through the practice of Tango, the more agreeable it gets as the dancing talent is refined. The process is comparable to the spiritual quest that allows a gradual and increasingly enjoyable connection with the inner self, the inner being… with the soul. It should not be, therefore, an extrapolation to define Tango as another mystical ritual for the human soul. The fact that Tango was born in the slums and was deeply connected to the brothels, as historians teach us, should not diminish at all its magnificence. To the contrary. Isn't it a wonder that a tree as thorny as the rose tree can produce such a beautiful flower as the rose? Isn't it marvellous that the beauty of the lotus is given to us in the swamp?

Tango will continue to capture the imagination of humans throughout the world. It is by no accident that indeed Tango has so many lovers all around the world. I clearly remember saying to my teacher that I was having a sense of an important window being opened within, even though I had no precise idea of its significance. A certain impression of universality was felt; a certain sense of being with my close ones was undoubtedly present. Tango is, de facto, a wonderful link between different people of different origins and different cultures, for, it appeals to the essential part of us all. To those who would have approached it with a profound sense of amazement, Tango will become the threshold, the "door" to the inner poetry… contemplation… the "door" to the State of the Soul.

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