I love to dance. Just as I loved martial arts as child/teenager, so I grew to appreciate dancing as an adult. Did you know that Bruce Lee was a world class cha cha dancer? The similarities between martial arts and dance are surprisingly obvious when you think about them – co-ordination, rhythm, balance, a mixture of flexibility and strength, the element of control and submission in martial arts becomes the element of leading and following in a dance. In Hinduism, Shiva, the God of creation and destruction, is a dancing God. In martial arts and dance there is the possibility of creation, creating something beautiful, creating peace and destruction, destroying an opponent, destroying the ego. The Brazilian Capoeira is the most famous example of this duality, a martial art disguised as a dance. African slaves brought to Brazil were not allowed to practice martial arts, for obvious reasons, so they disguised their fighting moves as a dance. A Colombian friend in Argentina suggested that the tango had a similar origin as a martial art.
I’ve found nothing to corroborate that, but it was originally danced between two men and may well have often ended in fighting. For all its elegance, the tango has humble origins in the slums and brothels of the meatpacking districts on the edges of Buenos Aires. Only a French fascination with the dance elevated it to it’s high society ballroom status.
Without knowing any of this history, I ventured to my first tango lesson in San Telmo, an artistic neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. My instructors were a lovely couple, Mauro and Mica. Mauro showed me the steps while I practiced with Mica. I enjoyed my lesson and signed up for several more. I’ll go into more detail on a future post.