The Error of Tango

by Mitra Martin

Do not fear mistakes...there are none.” - Miles Davis

My theory is, Tango emerged from dealing with unexpected circumstances. Or, what we might normally call mistakes. Problems. Failure. Starting with the failure to be happy.

Having not checked any of this with any single bona fide expert Old Milonguero or even anyone of remotely Argentinean descent, I’m still pretty sure I’m right, so take it with whatever salt you want.

The first mistake: Cloudymindedness.

Stuck here, all alone, got to work tomorrow, is this it ?? Sadness makes the mind cloudy.  

Tango's answer: To embrace !

Enough said ! Not being happy can definitely be considered a huge mistake, and what is perhaps the quickest and most expedient way to fix it ? A hug ! A big one, a long one. An immediate transfusion of oxytocin, which kicks in once the hug has been administered for at least 20 seconds. Tango music was probably invented to make those 20 seconds less awkward. 


The second mistake: Falling, while hugging.


Tango's answer: The tango walk, a kind of elegant way to cover up the fact that you started to fall, yet you still wanted to keep on holding someone who’s maybe sad and lonely in your arms.

Yeah ! That crazy TANGO WALK. It’s not like it was invented as a display of pure aesthetic prowess. No way ! It was just a bumbling, fumbling, awesome way to keep that woebegone friend in your arms while you both were falling down and there was no bed nearby.


The third mistake: Wrongfootedness.

We got off on the wrong foot, and wanted to make something nice of it.

Tango's answer: The cross, a delicate and cute way to correct being on the “other” leg than the one you’re supposed to be on. Followed by all kinds of nifty ways to prolong the wrongness, WHICH turned out to be sort of sexy, actually.

How really EASY it is to thing this is a serious error, this error of getting off on the wrong foot. Yet, how often it really happens, and such charm we can find from finding adorable ways to deal with reality together ! I know I one time got off on the completely wrong foot with someone only to realize that they were actually supposed to become, like, one of my best friends. Cross !

The fourth mistake: Wrongdirectedness.

You said tomato, I read tomato. Or rather, you said "reft" and I thought "life."

Tango's answer: Steps of every possible kind, including that ocho where I thought I wanted backward but you read a nice twisty forward and that one was pretty great too. So great that I decided to lead it that way next time.

Sadly, this is the itchiest part of Tango. The easiest part to be piqued by. The humblingest part to recognize: to recognize that, it’s actually true, even though I’m plainspoken as day, they can’t tell what I want, and what they end up doing in their confusion turns out to be...better.


The fifth mistake: About to run into those people. 

Oops. No room that way.

Tango's answer: All manner of things -- Stops. Pauses. Paradas or maybe rocking steps. Those pauses turned out to build some nice tension, the rocking bits added some nifty spices. Interruptions of steps-in-flight are collision avoidance and just might reveal the perfect boléo.

Right here is where mostly we miss such the rich chance to be crazy-inventive together based on doing nothing other than being socially conscious. Like how that time I was about to run into that lady and her basket, and so you grabbed me and said, convincingly, ‘hey, have a look at these skyhooks !!’ and I did and it was this -- wildly unusual moment that nobody would have ever thought of. Hail, aleatory wisdom.


The sixth mistake: Cloudymindedness.

I’m yet again penetrated by the sadness of loss, of knowing this dance will end, and that so will this life.

Tango's answer: The embrace. More so !

I am sure I have made a lot of errors in this elucidation of my personal (usually slightly wrongheaded) way of thinking, which, from a Tango perspective may turn out to be great. Probably I shouldn’t post this; see if I didn’t, maybe that would be a more preferable error. Anyway, I’m definitely looking forward to Tango’s answer, and to several more decades of messing up, making a mental note, and tangoing on.


Mitra Martin

Mitra Martin is Program Director at the Oxygen Tango where her focus is developing an interconnected community learning experience, and facilitating conversation around excellence in Tango as a portal to personal and social transformation.