Often when reading or listening to discussions about tango, I hear from more experienced dancers that beginner/intermediate leaders are always on the hunt to learn the next figure or the next movement, when in fact they should just be focusing on their caminada (walk) and abrazo (embrace). I have mixed feelings about this sentiment, because ultimately I feel that they are right – the hug and the walk are the defining traits of tango so that should always be the main focus of every dancer, however they are only able to say that after they’ve experienced everything else.
An equivalent analogy would be if I wanted to write a good poem, but I have a very limited vocab (perhaps it is my 1st grade self, or perhaps I’m trying to write a poem in another language I’m not familiar with). It’s going to be tough to construct the feelings or the imagery I’m trying to convey when I don’t know the words or possibilities that are available to me. If I was a grand master poet, of course I can craft a beautiful poem with maybe just a handful of words, however if I was only naturally restricted to those set of words due to my lack of knowledge I may not be able to pen that same beautiful piece since my own scope would be so narrow and limited.
This can even be applied to the language itself, for example there are a variety of words that exist in other languages that do not have an English equivalent:
- Waba Sabi (Japanese) – a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
- Gigil (Tagalog) – the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished
- Saudade (Portugese) – the feeling of longing for an absent something or someone that you love but might never return
You might think “wow, that’s neat but so what?” – the importance is that the way we use language or even having the necessary vocabulary to express ourselves actually dictate how we live our life. The nuances in one’s language enforces habits that may not otherwise be as drastic or present in other languages.
So circling back to tango – I consider dance to be one of my main sources of creative expression. If however, I feel like my creativity is restricted due to my lack of vocabulary of the dance, then of course I’m going to be working on expanding that! I do understand the rationale behind experienced dancers being wary of the mindset of a leader just copying countless figures and never actualizing their own style of dance, and that can be rather upsetting for such a free flowing dance that is tango. Yet, I feel it’s similar in how one might approach learning an instrument by practicing classic songs before they’re able compose their own; in tango one must go through that process of regurgitating figures taught from classes and videos until one can discover their own unique dance.