What Tango is for Me

I'm still catching up. Job changes, recovering from the flu, and so many other things going on have put me way behind in answering comments on the blog, and in email. So please be patient with me as I try to catch up. Meanwhile, I'll be publishing a few things here and there that have been sitting in drafts too long . . .

Diary entries

03/07/2011 - Is tango fun?

From the free dictionary online: "Fun (noun): A source of enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure."

Jantango said in a comment that she does not dance tango because it's fun.

"This may come as a surprise, but tango isn't fun for me. It's so much more. Lots of things can be fun for a moment, but then it passes and you want something else to satisfy. Tango does that for me."

I am glad that tango does that for Jan, but the implication seems to be that if I'm having fun, somehow I'm not really getting it - not really experiencing true tango. Or maybe I'm not serious enough. If I'm misunderstanding this Jan, then please let me know.

Quite often I dance tango because it is fun. But why would saying that tango is fun exclude it from being anything else? Or from it being a lasting or satisfying enjoyment?

I don't judge anyone else's reason for dancing tango. We all come to it for different reasons, and those reasons are subject to change over time.

I know a man who came to tango, as many do, for the love of a woman. She left. He stayed. Is tango fun for him? He frequently says so. Is it more? Undoubtedly.

I came to tango to heal my body and found that it also heals the soul. Is tango fun for me? Yes. Is it more than that? It is beyond anything I could have imagined. My blog might be quite a bit more sparse if it weren't.

What does it matter? Who am I, or is anyone else, to analyze or criticize someone's reasons for dancing tango? Or what they get from it? Why would I even presume I could know someone else's experience of tango?

03/14/11 - What tango is for me tonight . . .

I'm reading the news before bed again. I know I shouldn't because it will probably keep me up for hours (not that blogging is likely to send me to bed any sooner.) I have been catching snippets and comments, watching the news as if from my peripheral vision. Trying not to take it all in fully.

As if I could take it all in.

There's too much.

DH is frustrated because I cry over the news. Crying accomplishes nothing and keeps me awake, so why spend the energy? He asks this of me, yet he knows I cry over tango songs, sad movies, and even a few melodramatic television commercials. That I'm crying over the devastation in Japan, over the political (and human rights) crises that have erupted all over the Middle East, and over the venom being spewed by politicians here in the US in place of the true work that needs to be done - should really come as no surprise. I'm overly emotional about all sorts of things. Maybe for that reason, I have found such a perfect home in tango. I can be as emotional as I need to be.

So I read the news. Have a good cry. Then I put on my vals CDs to make the world seem okay again. Or at least okay enough for now so I can get some sleep.


The three of us were in Daniela's kitchen - Daniel "El Latigo" Ponce, Daniela Arcuri and me. The lesson was over and there was a pause in our chatting. The transition was happening - from tango life to the non-tango life. Like leaving through an airlock - a change in pressure. My outside life was returning to my shoulders. I was suddenly very tired. We all seemed to breathe out at once.

I looked at Daniel and answered a question he had asked me earlier. "I dance tango because when the world falls apart, I can still, for now at least, get up, find a milonga and dance."


Christine--RHP said...

glad you're feeling better-

That comment made me wonder too. I had a friend quit tango last week after only 6 months. She said it was for several reasons, but mainly because she wasn't having fun.
Tango is so many things to so many people who dance...fun is definitely in there for me. But it is also a doorway to something else. You are able to put that 'something else' into words more than I ever could--that's why I come over here.

Elizabeth Brinton said...

Mari, I've been thinking about this too. I do have fun, and feel joy when I dance. Sweetness, sometimes a sadness which is a catharsis, leading to feeling better. Somtimes I don't know where I go inside with the feelings, they are so deep. And it seems that some "experts" disapprove of fun and joy in tango. Oh well! Getting really tired of these experts, and finished listening to them go on an on about what tango is. They need to get out more into the wide world of tango, a living, breathing, and evolving form.
Thanks for writing about it. But for Chistine, re her friend...It takes time, and six months is not long in tango time. The body has it's own tango time. Some of the learning, for me, has been hard, not too fun, but leading to fun..

DQ said...

It might be a simple difference in cultural conditioning - America is generally a hedonistic society where being happy, and personal 'fun', is important. This drives innovation, capitalism etc. in many ways, and which probably also leads to innovation in general (including in Tango) and an effort to create something better than what it was in the years past.

Other cultures - mostly socialistic and communal ones (not necessarily politically socialistic, but I'm referring to culturally socialistic ones as well - many in E and SE Asia come to mind) prefer to downplay the necessity for personal fun, and hedonism is considered 'bad'. I can imagine how in those orthodox or traditionalist cultures, the desire to characterize something as 'not fun, but much more' exists.

I've lived about half of my life in both types of societies, and I can perfectly understand jantango's comment - I don't think it was intended to be a putdown, I think it was intended to elevate tango as a means for something tranient and trivial as 'fun' to something more lasting and transcendent. I think the key difference in philosophies might have been the assumption that 'fun' is transient and trivial - which is a common assumption in community-oriented cultures.

Joy in Motion said...

I think the word “fun” in our society has connotations of triviality and flippancy due to overuse. But just because someone uses the word doesn’t necessarily mean its connotations completely capture a person’s inner experience. Although those who find it to be a deeper experience – or at least want to make sure they communicate it that way – usually avoid using such words and phrases but not always (I sometimes accidentally use “fun” and then think I’ve given the wrong impression).

There has been a lot of research done on the concept of “play” (which relates to sports, games, art, etc.), and the general consensus is that play activities wouldn’t be so “fun” if they weren’t taken so seriously. When you are in the middle of a game or a sport, you are so absorbed in what you are doing that it becomes a whole world unto itself. If you don’t care much about it, you won’t be serious and you also won’t get to the true fun and play in its pure form. Think of a soccer or basketball game: Do you really think people goofing off and daisy picking and coming in and out of the game are having nearly as much fun as the players who are absorbed in the game, pushing themselves to their absolute limit, and being attentive to the rules and the other participants? I think people who do something for fun in the trivial sense usually come in and out of the activity (and eventually may leave entirely), don’t think very deeply about it, and typically don’t reach a very high level or receive any kind of deeper spirituality from it. Then there are the people who think “fun” doesn’t cut it or at the very least doesn’t do justice to how multidimensional the play really is.

Tango Therapist said...

Mari... it is more than fun for me, this tango stuff. It is extraordinary fun. Certain philosophers said that there were only two elements to human experience: Seeking fun (pleasure) and eschewing not fun (pain). The balance is not to have SO MUCH fun that there is SO MUCH pain later. So take it easy on your feet, okay? :-)