The yoga of tango

Yoga, is a sanskrit word meaning discipline; contrary to popular belief, it does not mean practising exercises that twist your body like a pretzel, that maybe a consequence of a form of yoga. I am not a yogini, and will certainly not attempt here to present an exegisis on the subject, but just what is adequate and relevant as a foundational knowledge for the subject at hand, which is tango.

I have studied tango (note that I have used the term ‘studied,’ not ‘danced’) for some three and a half years now, and have made some observations about its practise. It is, to me, similar to yogic practise in many ways; but the main subject of discussion here is its similarity in being a discipline of the mind, and not simply an exercise of the body. Meaning, it is a discipline that is more endogenous than just learning figures and forms creating muscle memory, and duplicating them by rote.

Couples entangle themselves on the dance floor, instructors run displays at every milonga showing you things that 90 % on the spectators will never achieve, and to prove that point, immediately after their exhibition, the couples huddle together again to execute their banal, steps that they have been dancing for years. In every class and workshop, I observe couples struggle to comprehend and execute the steps they are learning, only to revert back to their old habits immediately after the lesson. I sit through workshops where the instructors work feverishly to instill the figures into the participants, only to watch the folks afterwards shuffle around the dance floor in their usual, pre-class gait and repertoire. So why tango? Well for the same reason we go to church and we have a belief in a certain religion; for the same reason we buy the lottery tickets. Because if there is nothing to aspire to, no goals and no archetype to emulate, then there is nothing to do.

But what the instructors perhaps should include with their group classes is a disclaimer stating that there are certain technique classes which are the necessary foundation for accomplishing a certain level and improvement in one’s dance, and packing your schedule with workshops and group classes without spending time to understand the mechanisms and how your body functions in relation to these requirements, is analogous to studying yoga by taking classes during the week and having drinking binges on the weekend. Tango, like yoga is a discipline of the mind, which trains the body into conformity, it is not a training of the body to make patterns, then forcing the mind to accept and execute them.