I feel I should explain my reaction to your comments about Tim Ferriss. It touched a nerve and I didn't really explain my apparent hostility. It was certainly not meant for you.
Several people have brought Tim Ferriss to my attention over this past year. I can usually make it a month before his name pops up again. For readers who are unfamiliar with him, he's the author of "The 4 Hour Work Week". He set a Guinness record for the most consecutive tango turns and has competed with his partner, Alicia Monti, at the Tango World Championship. As a social dancer the idea of a tango competition seems absurd. I don't think I will ever understand how something like tango could be judged - or why anyone would want it to be. But I digress.
I think the most crucial detail of Ferriss's history, as I relate it to tango, is his winning Wired magazine's "Greatest Self-Promoter of All Time". If there is any concept more out of synch with social tango, I can't think of one. Self-promotion may be an admirable quality in the business world, but at the milonga, it should have no place.
For Ferriss, and many like him, tango is one more thing to master. Yet another "skill set". To start at that place, on that path, is to miss the point completely. There is no mastering tango. You may someday master yourself, and find your dance, your tango, but trying to master tango is tilting at windmills.
Tango is elusive. The moment you think you've got it in your hands, it slips away like smoke. Tango is in the imperfections. It's for all of the things we don't have words for - and for the things we wouldn't dare talk about even if we had the words. Tango finds you in your failures, not your triumphs. In tango we can dance our secrets, tell our tales, hear our stories in the music.
When we danced, I could feel your heart beat, your breath on my skin, your intention before your first step. Why would we want anyone to judge that experience? Or have it be just one more thing we know how to do?
For me, Ferriss represents everything that tango is not. If tango is anything, it is close to this:
"When you find pools of pure, sweet light, bathe in their waters, balm for your lacerations. For the whiplash scars the bandoneon is leaving on your soul. If this were the old milonga of the slums, or those popular songs about painted faces and purloined love, you could let distance sketch a smile on your lips. Cheap irony. You won't get away that easy. This music is for you. It always had you in mind, your habits, your twitches, the tiny blood vessels bursting inside you when you hide what you feel."
Tanguero, this dance could change your life if you let it. Of course it won't be pretty. It's a hard road. It's the road Ferris never took. But you can.
I encourage you to read the entire quote, from Piazzolla's Zero Hour liner notes, here.
And for another take on Ferris, visit Penelope Trunk's blog.