More than six months ago now, I wrote a post called An Intimate Mixture. I still occasionally get emails about it, which I admit surprises me. Time has gone by so fast, I decided it might be good to revisit the post and update a few thoughts.
Intimate 1600–10; intim(us) a close friend (n. use of the adj.) - characterized by or involving warm friendship or a personally close or familiar association or feeling, - (of an association, knowledge, understanding, etc.) arising from close personal connection or familiar experience, - worn next to the skin, - showing a close union or combination of particles or elements: an intimate mixture, - inmost; deep within, - of, pertaining to, or characteristic of the inmost or essential nature; intrinsic, - of, pertaining to, or existing in the inmost depths of the mind,
In the US, the word "intimate" is a loaded word. When I say I have close, intimate friends - the meaning could be innocent (itself a misleading, and loaded, word.) But if I say feel an intimate connection with my partner when we dance (especially when we talk about tango), suddenly we're talking about something else. When people watch tango from sidelines, it certainly looks like something else. The tango is about passion after all. But the passion of tango is both personal and transcendent. It's about everyone, and no one in particular.
We try so hard to make things black and white in this country. Maybe in this entire modern world. The answer is either A or B, yes or no. You are either in the "lover" category or the "not lover" category. If you are in the "lover" category, then we are intimate and we can't be (just) friends. If you are in the "friend" category, we aren't lovers and we can't be intimate. We can be this close, but not that close. This feeling is okay, that feeling is not.
Tango, the tango of Rio de la Plata, the tango that sweats, sighs into our neck, whispers in our ears, sings in our blood, and aches through our limbs - is intimate. It is "worn next to our skin." Under our skin. How can it be anything else to do what it does? We long for intimacy. Our world, this modern Western marvel of civilization (particularly in America) isolates us, and strips us of pieces of our humanity. Forcing us to turn off inappropriate emotions, avert our eyes from uncomfortable scenes, push each other away, build walls.
If we are lucky enough to encounter tango - to fall into the culture of the milonga - the transition from "outside world" to the milonga is palpable. Like changing our clothes... or our skin.. "Let me slip into something more comfortable . . ."
Back in September I wrote, "My addiction to tango was born and lives in the milonga." Now thanks to a fellow blogger/tanguero, I no longer think of that it in quite those terms. My reliance on the milonga culture for my sense of community and well being, is the same however, if not stronger. It's also still true that if I had to, I could give up the classes, the workshops, the festivals, everything else - but I could never give up the milonga.
Before I dance my first tanda, I can feel the effect of the milonga over my skin. Warmth. Sometimes it's sad, sometimes it's euphoric. Each milonga, each night, has a personality. Sometimes, more than sometimes, it's nostalgic. It longs for something lost. The energy is intimate - familiar, essential, deep within.
Tango, and the milonga, gives permission to be human - to feel things, to be overwhelmed, to be nostalgic for our humanity and our connection to each other, to be intimate with strangers. To hold and be held. (Which reminds me... One of the first classes I attended, at UT's free Argentine tango classes, our wonderful instructor asked each of us to hug our previous partner before rotating in the line of dance to our next partner. So I hugged my leader warmly and as I was about to move on, he said, "wow, you give real hugs!" My first thought was, "of course - what do you give?" I think all I managed was to blink at him with my confused expression. Sadly, though possibly not surprisingly, he didn't stay in tango. Life is too short, and time too precious, to be doling out pretend hugs.) But I digress . . .
"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." Enrique Fernandez, Zero Hour/Astor Piazzolla liner notes.
At the milonga, we may not learn each other's names. But in a tanda we learn and share more than we intend to. The dance demands it. The music makes it feel safe. To connect, really and truly connect for this dance - we must stop lying. To ourselves mostly. All of those things that are so important on the outside - our jobs, our status, our possessions - mean nothing in here. If we face the truth, that these things don't matter and our connection, our intimacy, with other human beings is what really matters - how can we leave unchanged by that?
It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental. German Social Scientist, Max Weber