When I started to learn tango, almost two years ago, I had no idea it will have such a big impact on my life. Needless to say, I had no idea that I will end up teaching tango too, but that’s another story.
One of the most sensitive areas touched by tango was the one dealing with relationships. Especially close, one to one, male to female relationships. As you see, I’m not using the word “romantic” here, but mostly “close” and “one to one”. There’s a reason for that. The entanglements that tango can create (the words themselves are pretty close to one another: “tango” – “entanglement”) are very delicate, fragile, but able to release huge amounts of emotional energy out in the open.
And, what’s even more important, these entanglements are very hard to identify, or to define, in the beginning, when you just start to be exposed to tango. If you’re not paying attention, you may get seriously burned. And I mean it.
Basic Exposure In A Controlled Environment
In the beginning, tango was more like a physical challenge. I had to work out my body – in the sense of practicing a certain way of using it – and that was purely at the physical level. I also had to synchronize my movements with the music and start finding ways to link together various steps or figures I learned. It didn’t challenge me much on other levels. It was kinda boring, to be honest.
I learned how to walk, how to lead certain steps – from simple to more and more complex – and how to position myself during the dance. I did this mostly during classes, with a few tango partners with whom I shared my time there. It was a supervised environment. We were bound to a certain type of activity and the relationship between the tango partners was goal related, not pleasure related (or, at least, I wasn’t there for the pleasure). So, all I had to do was to learn a certain way to move my body, rather than enjoying it.
Introducing The Pleasure
Things changed drastically the moment I started to attend to milongas – which are tango parties, in case you didn’t know that.
I will go over the initial stages, when I was so emotional that basically I couldn’t invite anybody to dance. It wasn’t only shyness – although I am kind of shy (you wouldn’t say, I know). It was also something related to the atmosphere you experience during a tango party. Maybe I will write another article on this one, because this part is pretty interesting too.
Anyway, fast forward 3-4 months after I started to go to the milongas: now I’m able to confidently invite a woman, connect with her, finish a tanda decently and share an enjoyable experience. Well, that’s a very important moment. That’s basically the moment when I experienced my first tango crush.
What’s A Tango Crush?
It’s a romance started after you danced tango with someone. Or, to be more precise, it’s a romance started because you danced tango with someone.
There is something in the closeness, in the aligned movement, in the music, in sensing the breathing of the other person, in the magic that unfolds between you two as you advance, tanda after tanda on the dance floor, that suddenly opens your heart. Because the connection is most of the time at the heart level, literally: in tango you lead with your chest, not with your hands.
There is a certain feeling that blossoms between the two of you and that grows bigger and deeper as you continue to tango. The more you dance, the more you feel it. And the more you’re trying to explain it, the more elusive it becomes. There is a certain predictability that makes you understand what the other person will do next second, and that is precisely because you’re leading, you’re creating the dance, step by step. It’s the small, impossible to measure satisfaction of sensing how your partner is following your lead. Her softness. Her warmth. Her gentle touch.
And then there is the natural conversation that starts, sometimes without words. There is an impossible familiarity, so physical you could almost touch it, even it shouldn’t be there at all, because you just met, half an hour ago. And yet, you feel like you’re knowing each other for years.
And then there’s the anticipation. Since you already had such a beautiful connection, you really look forward to it at the next milonga. You start to build even a certain anxiety, a small, trembling fear that you won’t be able to experience the same again. But then you invite her, you open your arms and then softly close them around her, in the unmistakable tango embrace, and start sliding, floating, spinning like a single body. Yes, it’s still there, and you breathe deeply, just a micro-second before you feel her deep breathing too, and then you realize she was thinking – or it was only feeling, no thinking involved? – just the same?
That’s how a tango crush starts.
Who Are You, Actually?
It’s easier to understand how eager you are, after a few milongas (sometimes even sooner) to take this ecosystem of feelings, touchings and interactions to the next level.
So, you start to physically engage. You consume the relationship the way both of you expect: in your bedrooms. And, since you had such a beautiful dancing connection, chances are that your bedroom connection will be just as good, if not better. In my experience, it was always at the same level, if not better than the dance.
It’s been less than a few weeks since you two met, and yet, you’re sharing your life at the most intimate levels. Or so you think. Because, what’s really happening is that you’re just consuming your eroticism with each other projections. But you don’t know that yet. You’re so caught up in your own self-made visions about each other that you can’t see anything past tango and bedroom.
But, as satisfying and nurturing as it may be, this level of interaction it will soon dry out. It will become obvious that this is not enough. Unless this bonding is just a supplement for a handicapped relationship – in which you’re just trying to get here what you can’t get from the main relationship – at some point you’ll want more. You’ll want to explore the world together.
So, you meet outside the tango environment. You go out for a coffee. Or you go out to see a movie. Or to a concert. You know, you start to hang out together. It’s been what, 2 months since you met?
And this is the beginning of the end. There is this specific moment when you find yourself puzzled, in a coffee shop, or during a walk together in the park, unable to talk, looking at the person in front of you and asking yourself (sometimes terrified): “Who are you, actually?”. And, most of the time, she is asking the same question, in her suddenly awake mind.
And this is how the breakup occurs. It may happen amicably, over a cup of coffee: you meet as partners and part ways as smiling strangers. It may happen without a word, after a milonga in which you realize you don’t really know the person you’ve been sharing your life with, and you just decide not to talk to her anymore (and, surprisingly enough, she doesn’t seem to bother). Or it may happen with a bit of a firework, if one, or both of you, are attached to the image you created in your mind. That’s when it may get ugly.
What Do You Want?
The main danger of the tango crush is that you reached such a depth of shared feelings, such a wealth of emotions and sensations, such an intense pleasure, that you may think you’re entitled to get this for ever. Like the other one should be there to give it to you for ever, and you will do the same for her. Like this is a real relationship.
Alas, it was never about the two of you. It was never about a real relationship. As strange as it may seem. It was about the tango. It was about the way tango can reach to your center of love, open the gates and let that energy flood you. The other person is just a pretext. It’s not the real object of your love.
It takes a while to internalize this. I know it was difficult for me, but in the end I had to accept it. And I was happy to do it, all consequences taken into account. One of the most important consequences being to realize and accept that, if I continue to dance tango, it may happen again. I may be hit by a tango crush again. Or not.
The tango crush is probably the most elusive illusion I encountered so far in this world. It’s so close to a real relationship, yet so different. During the dance, during tango, you’re entitled to feel anything. That’s why you dance, after all, for the pleasure of the connection and the beauty of improvisation. That’s why tango is a beautiful dance.
But the actual process of translating this outside the tango, well, that’s as difficult as any relationship you’re trying to build. Just because you’re dancing amazingly together, it doesn’t mean you’ll able to function together as couple. Not even as friends. It takes much more than that.
On the other side, if you’re really aware that what you’re experiencing is just a tango crush, and that’s all you want, just go for it. No expectations. Go with a flow. Enjoy the pleasure, enjoy the dance, feel the experience and let yourself immerse totally in it. Just be prepared to hit the wall of reality at some point and deal with it, one way or another.
The real question is, in fact, what do you want? Do you want a real person? Then work for it. Do you want just to have fun? Then enjoy it.
Because, even though I can identify a “tango crush” instantly these days, that doesn’t automatically mean it can’t actually grow into a real relationship. If both parts want that, of course, if both parts are mature enough, and so on and so forth…
As a matter of fact, you never know. 🙂
Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner
The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”
And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.
Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.
If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.