A few years ago someone, in a moment of weakness, asked me to participate in a community fund-raiser based on the popular, “Dancing With the Stars” show. I was supposed to be one of the celebrities…which means I was the one being judged and no one expected me to be very good.
My wonderful, professional, partner and I chose to do a tango. I was instantly hooked. I enjoyed the experience quite a bit…but, most of all, I have to say that learning the history, style, art, passion and essence of Argentine Tango is what I am truly thankful for. Expecting to walk into the studio and “learn some new steps” was a major underestimation on my part, I had no idea what all Tango encompasses.
For the body, Tango requires one to learn, memorize and get “into one’s limbs” certain, specific steps, stretches or “lines”, embraces and cues from the other partner. Once learned, these steps are improvised, joined together in seamless phrases, depending on the music.
For the musician, Tango is an amazing thing, because the Lead listens to what is being played and decides/improvises the combination of steps and hesitations depending on what he hears. His partner, the follower, responds to his lead and, in essence, becomes an instrument on which the Lead plays. Through all this there is the technique, much like instrument-playing, of specific turn of body and foot, hand and arm placement…particular to Tango.
For the communicator it is a lesson in subtlety and “listening”. Once the dance has begun, the partners don’t talk to each other. So how does the Follower know what the Lead is going to do? How does the Lead know that the Follower will respond in a complimentary (sometimes unexpected but always complimentary) manner? They must “touch”, be close and anticipate each other’s moves. It is a very intimate dance, and for some it is just too close for comfort. At most melongas (Tango Parties) the dancers are strangers to each other, most are there as singles, and so it is without introduction that one is immediately with someone they don’t know, who must communicate to them clearly, and they in turn with the other…it is a constant act of listening and breathing with one’s partner.
For the Christian, Tango is continuing physical illustration of spiritual Truth. If LIFE IS A DANCE, then for MY money at least, life with God is a Tango. Sometimes the beauty in a tango is the “opposite” nature of the dancers, they pull apart from each other to give them the energy to suddenly be flung together Their bodies are sometimes mirrors and sometimes in opposition, depending on the phrase. Sometimes the steps are simply a “walk”, sometimes their legs are intertwined, sometimes quick, sometimes slow. There are times when the Follower seems to fall and is caught, held and brought back up by the Lead. And there are even times when the Lead rests and simply spins as the Follower pulls Him around…but there is rarely, if ever, a time when they aren’t touching and aren’t looking at each other. It is a dance of connection, like life with God. There is no such thing as “solo” Tango (remember the old Ella Fitzgerald song, “It takes TWO to tango”?)…and the Follower is dependent upon the Lead. Even when stepping away from the expected and adding something extra to the line, the Follower can only do that within the complete trust of the Lead, after following him enough to know that trust.
You can see why I fell in love with Tango, and why I’ll continue to make it a part of my life.
In our effort to know God in this life, it is obvious that He is constantly finding ways to reintroduce Himself to us, in our language, and through our passions…my prayer is that each of us will RECOGNIZE when God is giving us this opportunity…and in the “tango” is life, that we will be sensitive and intimate Followers to His Lead.