The milongas are closed in Buenos Aires and around the world. I fear it will be a long, long time before they open again. Before The Quarantine, I was dipping my toe into a milonga most every day… and soaking up those luscious embraces.
Today it is a distant if vivid memory.
I was chatting with my sister about social media strategies. She’s far more popular than I on social media — and in life in general. And anyway she’s my older sister: I take what she says as gospel.
“What works on social media is food, sex and pets. That’s what people are really interested in,” she explained. Then, in deference to me, she added, “And tango. I guess you could include that too. Afterall, it’s just so sexy.”
It was kind of her to include me, but judging by social media hits, it really seems that the first three far outrank everything else. The next best thing to eating is making plans to eat — or hunting for a new recipe. Likewise sex: if you’re not getting it at least you can fantasize about getting it — or watch someone else get it. And pets! What could be more comforting than a picture of someone’s favorite pet?
These three subjects clearly crowd out the competition.
But once your basic animal needs are met and you’ve had your fill of food, sex and pets, what comes next? I’d say it’s time to move on to self-actualization.
I’d say it’s time to move on to tango.
Before you scoff at me and acuse me of suffering from tango-on-the-brain, give me a chance to explain.
This is, of course, my own retro-fitting of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to the modern day. It was time for an update; as a lot has changed since 1954 when he first laid it out.
As our more basic needs are satisfied we can move up Maslow’s pyramid toward our higher self. Everyone knows that only after you’ve eaten, satisfied your physiological need for sex and looked after the well-being of your pets can you then progress to that higher level of self-actualization called TANGO.
Tango may not be able to compete with food or pets but, as has been amply demonstrated by Sasha Cagen, tango is clearly better than sex. (See her scholarly paper on the subject here: https://www.sashacagen.com/tango/tango-better-sex)
It’s a good thing that we don’t live in a binary world where you must choose between one or the other; you can have both. But I venture that most tango dancers, if forced to choose between sex or tango would come down on the side of tango. Despite it’s much-touted charms, sex comes up the loser when compared to the pleasures of tango.
When a stranger opens their arms to us in a tango embrace, it is an invitation. When we bare our chest to receive our partner, it is trust in its purest form. When our arms wrap around each other in romantic or fraternal love, it is a homecoming, a possibility.
(This feels a bit as if I were writing soft porn: experiencing the embraces vicariously as I write about them.)
Tango taught me to stand on my own two feet even as it taught me to surrender. It taught me to inhabit my body fully and to chuckle at the wiles of my mind. It taught me not to flinch when a stranger comes very close and to let our souls permeate each other. It taught me a lot of things that had nothing to do with footwork.
We will come out of this time transformed, individually and as societies. Our world has gotten smaller and more virtual locked in our homes. But our appreciation of simple, real things will grow: a falling leaf, going out for a walk when we can go outside again; the orgiastic ceremony of riding a crowded bus, or going to a café and gladly rubbing shoulders with countless unknown bodies. Imagine what it will feel like to tender our embraces to each other again. Imagine holding a stranger close!
My heart goes out to all of you. Keep safe. Stay home unless you are one of those providing healthcare and essential services to the rest of us. In that case, keep safe… and THANK YOU.
And if you are a tango dancer suffering through withdrawals, know that we are in this together and that one day we will come together again in one universal embrace.
Update: My band, the Blue Tango Project, will be hosting a live 30-minute concert/get together for our Patrons on Monday, March 30 by video conference. If you’d like to be a part of this and future gatherings, you can become a Patron of the Blue Tango Project right here: https://www.patreon.com/bluetangoproject