"...And finally to stand up, perhaps, with a completely unfamiliar partner, stop thinking about your legs and open yourself to another person and discover him/her for yourself..."
This article is written by Iri Strelkova, a wonderful tanguera living in Moscow.
Originally written in Russian, later translated into English.
Original post here.
Opinions of guest writers might not necessarily correspond with our own, but this is tango! There is no one and only correct way! Have a fun read!
Some of my not-Russian speaking friends asked me to translate tango-articles I write for local school. Especially the one with the most interesting title ;)
Finally i did it. Enjoy ;)
Spring in tango: few words about sex, erotic and intimacy
Once, about 5-6 years ago, at the milonga "Attic" the organizers conducted a written survey "What is tango". No, the guests didn’t have to write a short essay on a piece of paper, there was just a board with marker pens, and everyone could write their own definition after the word “tango” and dash. I read it. Were there cliches? Well, of course. "Tango is the vertical expression of horizontal desires," "Tango is passion," "Tango is love," "Tango is sex" ... I do not know who wrote it, dancers or just normal café visitors, but I guess, the first.
That time I was already disagree with all those definitions, but I could hardly explain why, but today I'll try.
All these formulas, I think, try to hit one idea but fail: tango is an intimate dance, sometimes eerily painfully intimate. And our poor vocabulary does not find other comparisons, except love and sex.
We all come to tango for different things, but if we are lucky with the teachers, in a few years we find out that with knowledge where to put our feet and our hands, we obtain a habit to hug with our souls and to open up with our bodies. Tango is a very honest dance. It’s almost impossible to lie while feeling the other person so close, listening, offering, creating something together. This is what distinguishes tango from love. But makes it similar with sex.
When we love, we very often create fake personality for the object of our feelings, and sometimes we have to wear such a mask ourselves, trying to match someone's idealistic ideas about us. And only in sex, when both physiology and psychology are working, when controlling mechanisms are sleeping, we can understand a lot about our partner. For example, is (s)he real, and is (s)he yours.
In a very same way tango does not let us lie about ourselves. But not everyone can live comfortably without a mask. So, to this extreme degree of intimacy, tango owes its glory of “dance of sex".
Sex is a sum of intimacy and erotic. But is there erotic in tango? Despite the “uniform” with high heels, slit skirts and other attributes, I would rather say no, or almost not (the same bachata or, sorry, twerking, are much more erotic outwardly). It’s tango dancers who decide to add or not eroticism in their dance, and how much to add. But I believe, when sometimes while watching couple dancing we feel shy as if we spy through the keyhole, it because of the intimacy of dance, because they are so close, because they dance like they are alone, and not because the dance is erotic.
The roots of tango hearken back to Argentine brothels, only the lazy one did not write or read about it. Therefore, yes, once the tango and sex were not separable, but their ways diverged long time ago. Today the element "gancho", which a hundred years ago symbolized the consent of a woman to continue the evening in a private room, does not mean exactly anything, except "look, I know how to do it." We do not grasp each other in indecent or even confusing way, and if anyone is triggered by physiological mechanisms, it's normal, but in tango it is not a purpose, but rather a side effect. Still, we live in a free world and you can dance as erotic as you want but you should be ready to face the consequences – f.e. do not be surprised if you’ll be rejected again and again.
Tango community is a paradise for kinesthetics, for those who discovers the world through the skin. The habit of kissing when meeting and freezing in a hug for 5 minutes or more we’d better leave on milongas, - colleagues from work will not understand. But while we're here... Pat your friend, get a neck massage from whoever is behind you, hug a person just because you want to - here is the place.
Do you know why cats are afraid of water? They have too sensitive fur hairs. Imagine the cat falls into the bathtub: it feels water pressure with every millimeter of skin, and that's too much, it's unbearable. And now imagine, a cat-kinesthetic falls into the bathtub, and feels water pressure as the highest pleasure. This hypothetical cat would never get out of the bathtub. That's exactly the way how works the fall of human-kinesthetic in the “bathtub” of social tango, - milongas, festival, marathon. This is dependence, binge, fireworks in the head and endless fatigue in the body, which, however, does not stop from dancing until you can breath.
This kinesthetic grooming behavior can be also easily misread as sexual one. But it’s completely different physiological and evolutional mechanisms. Just google grooming at primates. Consolidation of the group, care, attention - yes. Sex? Oh please, no one in tango could survive having sex with everyone (s)he caresses.
Let’s come back to the beginning, to milonga “Attic" and a survey. Do you know what I myself wrote then? "Tango is a legal promiscuity." That is not so far from common cliches, I also compared tango with sex, just clarified - completely legal, safe, and ... with everybody. Young I was, silly, naive. I didn’t know that time, how rare are these magical matches, how difficult it is to find "your" people in tango which you have “sex” with. But when you find, you rarely let them go.
Tango, this "dance of passion" is danced not only by lonely people in search, but also by happily married and deeply pregnant. Why? Because the dance, deep contact gives a rare opportunity to experience a sharp splash of endorphins, adrenaline, oxytocin, the entire hormone range, without the slightest risk. On the dance floor there could be drama, there could be love, there could be sports and there could be flirting. But whatever you had on the dance floor remains on the dance floor. You open your eyes and realize that the just-lived fairy tale is impossible in real life with this person: (s)he can be three times older/younger, slimmer/fatter, uglier/more beautiful, sillier/smarter than you, but it did not really matter during those 12- 24-36 minutes, while you were holding each other in your arms.
In tango it is very easy to fall in love. Just keep in mind that this is a game of hormones, kinesthetics, intimacy. Remember, and ... do not call her/him, well, at least a couple of days. And then, when the wave flows off, look at her/him again and asks yourself - does this person still attract you? You will not believe how radically the opinion can change.
Although you know ... If you are lonely, adventurous and not afraid of disappointments, then why not. Free world, remember? Everything is up to you.
If you do not understand what I'm talking about here at all
... then, probably, you dance not so long ago. Or you have chosen for yourself sports aspect of dance.
While we are learning tango, the brain is working too hard - how should I turn, where/how/why should I go now? What "sex", what intimacy can we talk about ... We are rather engaged in synchronized dancing than creating a deep joint project. This is okay. But it will pass. Once the brain will roll over for the body, neurons for hormones, and... (Someone calls this "tangasm", although I personally dislike this word). But to reach this you need to live through "tango-puberty", to learn the language which we speak, to accumulate what you want to say. To stop being afraid. And finally to stand up, perhaps, with a completely unfamiliar partner, stop thinking about your legs and open yourself to another person and discover him/her for yourself.
And then ... hold on tight.
By Iri Strelkova