Tango: this beautifully addictive way to connect total strangers, transforming them into artists who paint a story with their emotions on a canvas called the dance floor. This is more than just a simple society dance. It can easily turn into a way of life. It can literally bring you to life, while also bringing joy into the mundane. What better way to disconnect from the Typical You? What better way of Letting Go? What easier way of being True to Yourself? Simply put it, tango is life.
I challenge you to read this article and I challenge you to try out tango at least for a month. Challenge Accepted?
Tango at a Glance, or Should I Say Mirada?
Mirada comes from the Spanish term of “look” or “gaze”. In tango, it implies making eye-contact with a potential dance partner in the same room and kindly inviting her (if you are a man) or accepting him (if you are a woman). Then, the two unite and start telling a story through their body movements and facial expressions. Traditional “mirada” is also referred to as “cabeceo”. This is the old-school way of asking a woman to dance. It is still widely used in milongas, tango parties where people dress nice, take off their masks and just enjoy the music and the company of others, while dancing. But let’s take it all, step by step, ocho by ocho.
My first encounter with tango was a couple of months ago. Dragos Roua, who is also a top contributor here on LifeHack wouldn’t stop talking about tango and how he became a tango teacher. He introduced me to the magic of tango in a time in which I had lost my sense of direction in life. I think we all go through that. I was 24 back then. I could have been 30, 40 or 50 – it still had the same effect – the tango. I felt transformed with each lesson. I felt joy and bliss in the beginning of the class and great sadness when the class ended.
My First Tango Lessons. My First Milonga. My First Life Lesson
As opposed to other schools, these classes were developing fast: in two months I learned what others teach in one year. If there is excitement and time, why not fasten the process? I didn’t regret a thing: it opened up a whole new experience.
First Tango Lessons
By the end of first month, I could already do a couple of Tango Nuevo moves (open embrace, ganchos and flirty moves), which is more acrobatic than Argentine Tango (the closed embrace dance). My tango partner back then was as new as me in this. He was also my life partner. We had classes two days per week, two hours per class. Four hours of tango per week is merely enough to keep you connected with the idea of tango. It wasn’t enough to make you fall in love with tango or to determine you to want more than what you already had. And we only did four hours per week because that’s what my partner could do. I was dependent on his time and willingness to tango. And I wanted more. I always wanted more than what I currently had. Story of my life.
The first lesson tango has taught me was that you can’t have all you want from the beginning: it’s a step-by-step process, it improves as time passes by. As long as you really want to and as long as you practice. I did all I could that time. And so…
My First Milonga
I started in September 2013. I attended my first Milonga, traditionally an event or place where the tango is danced, by the end of October. It was a beautiful autumn night, warm and delightful, like a typical Bucharest October night. I dressed up nicely in a black dress, did my make-up and went out. My life and tango partner did not want to attend the Milonga. I didn’t want to give up, so I went on my own. I had a close friend attend the party with me, but he didn’t know how to dance tango.
The milonga took place in an old building in Bucharest, probably from the early 1900s. Everyone was dressed up like in an exceptional ’60s movies. The air was mesmerizing. Guys wearing tuxedos and manly bows, women wearing stylish dresses, vulnerably waiting to be invited by a good looking stranger. An orchestra played the best tango music I’ve ever heard. Piano tunes would interfere, softly, from time to time and make a switch from tango to waltz.
I was a beginner, but I could feel the tango all around me. I danced with two people that night, both beginners just like me. I felt alive. I felt like I had sense of direction. And then it came:
My First Life Lesson
Tango transforms you on all levels: personally, mentally, emotionally, professionally. My first life lesson came in shortly after I finished the beginner courses: I started to fall in love with tango and out of love with the person who supposedly was the “love of my life”. When we first started dancing tango, I thought,”it will make our relationship more solid.” I did not expect to drift me away from him. Tango showed me how incompatible we were.
That is why Tango isn’t for anyone: you must be prepared to embrace the reality this dance reveals, even if it doesn’t fit “your reality”.
As he decided not to continue with the intermediate class. I decided to go for it. I found myself surrounded by friends, by music, by the magic of tango, by people who shared similar perspectives and a deep passion for this dance. They became a vivid part of my present.
I wasn’t shattered to pieces by the tango’s reality like I thought I would be. I had tango and friends to support me.
(lovely image from Storenvy.com)
An Introspection Into 10 Months of Tango
Tango is not just about personal development, but also about professional development and a lifting of self-set boundaries and limitations. For women, it is a chance to get in touch with your inner femininity; for men, a chance to learn how to connect with women and build moments together.
Personal Development in Other Dances and in Tango
Does this sound like a cliché? Most certainly not. Tango is personal development in its purest form. Before tango, I did ballet for many years. I wanted to achieve professional level. Eventually I gave up to reasons independent of me.
The common link between tango and ballet or other dances is that it teaches you to accept yourself. The differences? Well, in other dances, when you’re in the Moment, you’re mostly alone. The partner has to let go of you at a certain point. It happens in ballet, in salsa, in ice skating etc.
But with tango, it’s different. It won’t change you in a way in which you can’t recognize the person staring at you through the mirror. It will transform you. Tango is like a friend who you love from the bottom of your heart, but you can’t find the words to express it. You just accept it as it is, because having it in your life makes you a better person.
With tango, the person you see in the glass is still you, only more beautiful, more sensitive, more human, more emotional. You suddenly realize that you didn’t change, you just improved significantly. With tango, you learn to (sometimes, literally) close an eye and forget about the past or the future: only the Moment matters.
No one will applaud you because everyone is busy enjoying their own Moment. You share the happiness with another human being, be it a total stranger or a friend. The dance floor is this magical place where time stops. It’s not an empty stage: everyone is painting their story of love and vulnerability, of shared ancestral emotions. Your heart doesn’t bleed. Your heart smiles.
Tango teaches you to feel the present with every muscle in your body. It teaches you that you can be graceful, you can accept other people in your personal space, you can let go and be in the moment. And the best thing? You’re not alone in that moment. You share the moment with someone else.
When the moment is gone, you are not lost: you are found by the next partner, by the next 3-minute love story. And there’s always someone to take you by the hand, to thank you for being part of their moment, too and take you back to your seat.
Best thing in tango? Free genuine hugs.
Professional Development in Tango
I believe that tango can teach us important lessons in professional development, too. Here is what I learned after 10 months:
1. Competitive much? – When you “work” with someone and share the Moment, you learn to be less competitive with the other party. There is no reason to be competitive with the person who is a complementary presence in your life. It could be a mere tango partner, or it could easily be a business partner. There’s no point in being competitive with others, really. You just have to compete with yourself. Remember: You are your closest friend and Your worst enemy!
Tango has taught me how to save time, money and energy. And even friendships.
2. It takes two to tango – yes, the idea that you need support and cannot do it all alone is another important lesson learned. At some point, even if you start on your own, you need a teammate, you need a second opinion. Even if you’re a one-man-show, you still need friends and family by your side.
Tango has taught me to be nicer to my family and to value my friends: those people who love me unconditionally, even when they don’t know how to show it. Tango has taught me to feel the warmth of others!
3. It’s not all about business – Human interaction is needed. You can’t do business without social. Social is important especially out of your professional circles. Why? Because after all, your business is done with regular people, so you don’t have to surround yourself with influencers. Regular people who do not share the same professional background as you can do you justice, too. You’ll learn how to interact with any type of people.
Tango has taught me how to let people in and how to better communicate with others.
4. Diversity is good – meaning just like it helps become a better dancer if you dance with different people, it also helps become a better businessman (or woman, for that matter) if you diversify your professional life. If you have one business and it is going great, try adding a different product, service or even starting a second business in another niche/industry.
Tango also taught me that diversity will not let you fall into boredom.
5. Step out of your comfort zone – This is the most important lesson of them all. Yes, tango teaches you to do that. I believe there’s no such thing as two followers following the same or two leaders leading the same. There are as much tango styles out there as there are dancers. And each time you dance with a new partner, you step out of your comfort zone. Each time you try a new move or a new embrace, you step out of your comfort zone.
As an entrepreneur, you have to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. This is what evolution is all about. We all have the seeds of evolution planted in us, why kill the plant before even giving it a chance to grow? Reinvention and transformation happen on a continuum which is filled with challenges. There’s no comfort zone on the road between point A and point B, there is always something unpredictable out there, even if you make the journey 100 times, over and over again.
What Happens When You Take a Break From Tango?
This is a tough one. It’s never easy taking a break from the things you love, but it does happen to all of us. I took three breaks over the course of 10 months: 3 weeks after beginner courses ended until advanced courses started; 3 months break during spring and 3 weeks now, during summer holidays.
It’s a feeling of loneliness not easy to describe. Don’t imagine I tango 40 hrs per week. Now I currently dance around 10 hours per week, in practicas (tango practice places, more casual format than milonga) and one milonga/week. I have a dancing routine I practice at home or in the park of around 60 minutes/day, combining tango steps (the ones I can do on my own), ballet and gymnastics. The minute you take a break from a dance routine, it will immediately show on your body and emotional state.
Dancing, and specifically tango has to be done regularly. I think the same applies with business and with life in general: to be successful in the things you do, you need to have a certain ethics and principles you maintain on a regular basis. No exceptions. Plus, practice and a regular schedule makes it for growth.
Setting Goals and Reshaping Your Life
These two are among the most valuable life lessons a dance has ever taught me. Setting goals has never been my thing and I’ve noticed people usually have trouble with breaking their personal and professional path into achievable milestones.
Tango taught me how to reshape my life and add value to it, how to keep what matters and let go of all the unnecessary luggage (that we tend to bring in every new relationship we start – personal or professional). I started to set goals for myself in the reality provided by tango: that of human interaction. Here is what happened:
1. I realized I cannot live alone, I enjoy saying good morning or good night to someone. Living in a flat all by myself was not beneficial. Instead of getting out more and socializing more, I started isolating myself in all aspects. My business suffered just as much as my social life. It started to become painful to dance tango and interact with people instead of being happy and enjoying the moment. Following the lessons provided by tango, I moved into the center of the city in a shared apartment. With a flatmate.
2. I realized I wasn’t in touch too much with my feminine side. I would only activate it from time to time during tango. This happened due to my business mode, in which I was alone. It was hard to separate the business side from the vulnerable side in tango. At some point, I couldn’t even properly dance and this turned into great frustration. Then I understood I needed a break to sort my life in order: get business associates, form a team, not do everything by myself. The idea of “taking two to tango” became a clear business solution to my struggles.
3. I realized I was too drawn to perfection. I remember a blogger – friend of mine – told me once that “Perfect is the enemy of getting stuff done”. Just like in Tango, you just need to let yourself go and enjoy the moment: you don’t dance to make it perfect, you dance to feel free and express your true self. I stopped trying to shape my life into being perfect and set my goals to be as imperfect as possible.
Tango changed my life in personal and professional ways, probably more than any other type of dance or art. It challenged and keeps challenging me to become a better person, to open up, to not be afraid and to do things in my own pace. It has taught me how everything is adaptable and re-validated the idea that things done with passion on a regular basis can create wonderful moments and can open enjoyable journeys. All you need to do is stay true to yourself and conquer all challenges with an open heart.
What are my challenges, you ask?
1. Learn Argentine Tango the right way (in closed embrace – a more intimate connection between partners), now that I have what it takes to dance Tango Nuevo
2. Find myself a stable tango partner and travel the world to tango together, teaching people what tango is all about (My 5year plan)
What are yours?
P.S. If you’re ever in Bucharest, Romania and want to try out tango, get in touch with me and I’ll connect you with the right people.
Featured photo credit: Tango via s3.hipertextual.com