Fulfilling Fantasies

Photo Courtesy of Emma Bogren

Photo Courtesy of Emma Bogren

Tangasm we call it. That’s what we are all after. That ephemeral, indescribable place of pure perfection. Nowhere is the search more intense than at the milongas of Buenos Aires. Foreigners and locals chase after it night after night, sometimes boasting and sometimes complaining. But however much luck one might have on any given night, it’s never enough. The next day the hunger returns, the chase continues.

That included me on my first night at Cachirulo milonga (the one on Saturdays). One of the only milongas still adhering to the convention of seating men separate from the women, it is more or less an institution, a rite of passage of sorts for any dancer coming to BA for the first time. So here I was seated in a row of brightly clothed women along the wall. I remember thinking that we resembled a collection of butterflies, lined up for display (or consumption). Every time a tanda started I could feel every woman sit a little taller, a bit more on the edge of their seats, their hands nervously fidgeting, feverishly scanning the room for that nod of the head, that next tangasm. Within the first twenty seconds the floor is full and the ones left behind quietly sink back into their chairs with a blank look of disappointment. 

It wasn’t a particularly fulfilling night for me. Being an unknown dancer, I was not able to attract the attention I wanted. After a couple of hours of failed attempts I found myself succumbing to the growing feeling of disappointment, my will to sit up quietly seeping from my body. I am certain my inner fuming was producing an angry cloud over my head. It was then that I became aware of a well groomed older gentleman quietly gazing at me from  the opposite corner of the room. I hadn’t seen him dance and had no idea if he was any good. And frankly, I really couldn’t emotionally handle another dissatisfying tanda. It had been so long since I had a good tangasm and I just couldn’t afford to waste my time.

So I continue to fume, arrogantly looking away from him, deriving some iota of satisfaction for being able to reject someone. But as the next tanda starts, he tries again, standing in that same spot, not advancing any closer, but not receding either. I notice his patience and there is something surprisingly pleasant about his persistence, but I have no intention of dancing with him. I am too busy practicing my resting bitch face. Another tanda passes and I am still itching, still craving, but yet again, I have no luck in catching anyone’s attention. As I slink back in my seat I realize that the mystery gentleman in the suit has traveled to my side of the room, a bit closer, but still far enough to not invade. He is close enough for me to see his expression - something between a Mona Lisa smile and a Sean Connery (as James Bond) smirk. By this point the man had spent four tandas patiently staring in my direction. Usually that annoyed me, but he managed to do it in a way that was alluring, elegant even. So my mind softens and I put a pause on all the inner bitching. I meet his gaze and nod my head. With a forced reservation he briskly makes his way towards me and we embrace. It’s not as bad as I had feared, it’s actually quite decent. It’s not the tangasm I’m after but it’s better than sitting. As the first song ends, we separate and as I look at his face I see him beaming with the most radiant smile. That smile of total fulfillment and satisfaction, gratitude and pleasure.

In that moment I knew that I was making his dreams come true, I was the source of his tangasm. As we embraced again I was struck by an unexpected feeling of satisfaction and power. I had the power in that moment to make someone really happy. As I allowed this feeling to occupy my mind and spread through my body, I began to dance with a different purpose. It felt so new, so unfamiliar and yet so empowering... to just give

As he walks me back to my table I have a feeling of having had a long term friendship with this stranger, as if in some alternate universe we had spent years adoring each other. We never danced again, he didn’t even seem to recognize me the next time we were at the same milonga (which happens a lot in Buenos Aires). However, that single tanda still stands out in my consciousness as a blinding beam of light - a tangasm that keeps on giving.

Why We Are SOTANGO About It, Part 4/4: Let's Make Art

Tango comes into existence every time each individual dancer steps onto the dance floor and takes the embrace. Tango is a result of a collective act of dancing together. Tango is perpetuated into evolution by the pure joy experienced by each dancer. The more joy a dancer experiences, the more they want to dance, the more tango is created, forever, into eternity. The external form of tango will alter over time as each dancer individually undergoes personal and physical evolution. New trends, new music, new inspiration will surely influence how people dance social tango in a century or so. But in the end, it is not about how tango evolves, it is about how we can use tango to evolve ourselves. How creative, beautiful, empowered, confident can we become through tango?

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Social tango is a collective art. It is an urban phenomenon that arose among people who were desperate for connection. Everything within tango - the figures, the etiquette, the music - developed over time as a collective expression, a conversation among dancers, musicians, poets, writers, artists… The result is a form of creative social practice that has successfully spread throughout communities around the world.

When considering why social tango has been so successful, I believe it is because it answers to a deep longing within ourselves to connect, to express, to belong, and to create. It fulfills an essential human need for healthy physical touch and intimacy. It integrates communities, bridging the gaps between ages, cultures, and belief systems. It provides continuity that fosters building of supportive relationships. In essence, social tango functions in our culture the way dancing around a fire functions in tribal cultures - it is a social glue. As such, it is capable of tremendous personal and collective transformation that we so need at this time.

To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.
— Agnes de Mille