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December 21, 2009

How We End Up at Tango, Little Heartbreak, Big Dance

Everyone comes to tango with an unspoken reason.

Tango is about dance and music and learning a new skill but the alter reason; the founding, unspoken reason is heartbreak. It is heartbreak in all its forms: greater or lesser, new or long-standing, faded or chronic ache, but heartbreak, pure and simple and as useful as your appendix.
Except - your appendix calm or ruptured will not get you to tango and heartbreak, bless it's horrid little soul...will.

For those who seek refuge in tango or longing fulfilled, that 'it' or id - is there, neatly tucked beneath the clothes, somewhere behind the eyes and non committal smile. But there, at tango, in someone else's unknowing, unjudgmental arms, is the possibility of exorcism of said heartache.

It’s not overt heartbreak - but whatever the pain was, it generally comes out over time, at least to the person you are dancing with. Between steps and changes of shoes, in missed beats and word slips, inevitably, a half story, with half truths, half (and haltingly, and with many interruptions) emerges.

There are seasons versus reasons, that would also have one discover tango – a season of rediscovering your mate, or your love of dance or remembering yourself. But the majority of people come to tango toting a bit of heartbreak, poignant and hidden. I've never seen a case where it wasn't lurking no matter what the disclaimer.

I suppose there are also a contingent of people who are not in overt or too-recent heartbreak and are simply solo and figure: I always liked to dance and maybe, perhaps, maybe….I will meet someone at tango. But that also generally means they’ve been on their own quite awhile and are, if not abjectly pining, a wee bit lonely and therefore primed for tango’s promise. The heartbreak was, in those cases, long ago and far away or perhaps it is simply loneliness, which is protracted heartache which segues to loneliness - the word and state we try so hard to banish, albeit a part of the human condition. For shame. On all counts.

At any rate, the heartbroken gravitate to what they think is tango’s promise in the imagined promised land of seduction. Isn’t tango what the billboard advertised: romance, heat and passion? Admit it, we are not drawn to tango because sushi class was full and we think tango is where we will meet our new platonic friend. Or it was either tango or ceramics or the Pilates school that just opened up in the strip mall. We go because what we think we lost might be found there.

But what I really like about the bobbing tango tales of woe, as they move about the dance floor sewn inside each dancer, is that you really cannot discern the heartbreak. It’s everyone’s back story but one doesn’t wear it on their sleeves. This should immediately alert you to how cool tango people are – even before they really morph into tango people. They are poised and sedate with their heartache. But more than this and this is core about tango: they have to focus on the dance. It is a learning thing and once it is underway, the heartbreak takes a back seat and you re-inherit your pride and anonymity of person-hood. You are again, a civilian.
Now, cast in the great, blessed sea of tango, it no longer really matters who you are or who you were and what brought you to tango. It’s a whole new you in a whole new land. You don't need paperwork for right of passage and you can even throw that old identity behind.

And then you relax. Which means at some point, without thinking too much about it you share your heartache or you listen to someone sharing theirs. And the nicest part about it is, in telling it, there, in someone else’s arms, them leading you or them holding you, it begins to fade. It hardly matters how you came to this strange dark world with its lightness of being and generous, human heart. It no longer carries disproportional weight in the Story of You. Instead, it becomes just one of the many stories of you and one that is not permanently bookmarked at that page.

Tango seductive? Tango romantic? Of course it is. But to start, tango is open-armed. Tango kindly whispers, ‘Come to me with your stories of he-done-you-wrong and she-left- you-again; instead, we will dance. I will find you an imperfect, perfect stranger who appreciates you for all he/she didn’t see’. And in that stranger's arms, sporting their own wounds, you find you hear a new music that surprisingly, as foreign as it is, you can move to it. Soon, you rediscover that you are once again pretty or handsome or charming or interesting but you are no longer forgotten. Your certain specialness that heartbreak efficiently mangled, re-blooms in sweet, gulping little gasps and sighs. Tango sexy? If gratitude is an aphrodisiac, then yes.

But then, on the other side of that generosity, tango does take up the seduction slack. It owns your soul and is loathe to toss you back to the lovers you might have given a second glance. But now you don’t. Because you have a mistress and a lover that won’t quit. True, this lover only sometimes gives back whilst keeping you for itself, but it also never leaves you. And that is something. In a world that changes music and dances every other day – that is something.

Everyone comes to tango with a heartbreak. The wounds you don’t see, are there, healing, bar by bar, beat by beat. Any given place place, any given night, you see are men and women gliding on a dance floor in shadows and echoes until they are like the smoke from a fire, disappearing in the air. All you feel is the residual heat but cannot seem to remember where it came from to begin with.

By the time you meet someone and often times, someone on the dance floor - you can barely remember the heartbreak that first drew you to tango. You are in fact, a whole new animal in another sort of jungle.

Shall We Dance?

Shall We Dance?
Tango Confidential, Marcy Goldman

Eau De Tango en Montreal