What is tango? The word conjures many connotations: sensual, romantic, intricate, captivating, intense. It was the intricacy of the dance that first drew me to it. Seeing Argentine tango on many dance shows I became fascinated by the footwork, the closeness of the dancers, and the way two dancers moved as if they were one person. I had been involved with various dances over the course of my life, and was completely intrigued by this one. I have to admit, I was a bit intimidated at the start; it looked too hard, too close to another person, but once I took my first class, I was bit. I was completely obsessed, dancing every chance I could, 5 or 6 times a week for eight hours a day at times. The more I danced and the more I learned, the more intrigued I became.
What I love about tango is that it brings people from all walks of life and generations together. It allows people to communicate without words, and to express their sorrows and joys through movement. For me, tango is ultimately about love, acceptance, and surrender.
Affectionately known as the PhD of dances, tango can be intimidating at first. This dance challenges you to get out of your comfort zone, demands and develops confidence, and allows you to discover parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed. It forces you to examine what it means to be a leader, a followers, a man or a woman, and a partner. The answers appear to you in snippets of song lyrics, aching feet, the absolute state of nirvana that some dances bring, the patience you learn to have with others and yourself.
In spite of its complex appearance, tango is based on one of the simplest forms of human movement, walking. There are no set patterns or movements, allowing one total self expression and creativity. In order to dance tango well, one learns how to truly listen and connect with their partner, a skill that is easily transferred into everyday life. Dancing tango, one can leave their problems at the door, let their mind focus on beautiful music, and connect with friends new and old.
Lest one think that this dance is all serious, one must know that tango was born on the outskirts of Buenos Aires in working class and immigrant communities. It was a way to relax at the end of the day, blow off steam, and hopefully impress some ladies or guys. Dancing tango lifted people’s spirits and allowed people to dance their cares away. It also built and established relationships in the community between the dancers, each helping the newer ones out, and encouraging new ways of dancing, providing support to one another.
This is still alive and well in tango communities today. What I love about tango is that it brings people from all walks of life and generations together. It allows people to communicate without words, and to express their sorrows and joys through movement. For me, tango is ultimately about love, acceptance, and surrender.
What is tango? The answer will surely bring almost as many different definitions as people you ask. I hope that you will follow me on this exploration of tango.
–Michelle Colucci, a longtime Berwyn resident, has enjoyed dancing since she could walk. She teaches tango classes at Awake. You can read more about her under our Education & Administrative Team page.