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Only Connect

Tango begins with the premise that people want to have sex. It's what men and women do. It's hardly even worth mentioning. Now let's move away from the universal to the unique. Let's find out what our connection is.

Some tandas are like, “I am dancing tango.” This goes here and that goes there and don't forget all that technique. But then there are tandas where all that vanishes. Where there's only a man focussing all his attention on the serious business of holding a woman in his arms—or even, beyond that, a person speaking and listening to another person. There is no dance. There is no social blather. There is only the electric silence of two people, una pareja, being quiet.

We don't love tango because of where we put our feet. We love tango because of those rare moments of “connection.” Fancy insider jargon, yeah, but wouldn't we all blush to say out loud, “and then we turned into one big golden ball of energy with a couple of heads and some feet sticking out at either end, and our hearts were wrapped around each other.” This “connection” can feel like a current of lightning that fuses us into one thing, and it would be a heartbreaking crime to do anything that would break the circuit. Peace is so rare in this world.

Often we do have to evolve from the outside in. It's certainly true technically—I always have to start out thinking, “put my hip here,” and only after I've learned what it feels like to do it right do I figure out what the internal motivation for that scene is. Touching each other's bodies definitely starts the process of connection, and is a necessary first step toward discovering if you have that internal connection or not. And you will or you won't: if you do, you can't pretend it away and you have to adjust your life to accommodate this new truth. If you don't, you can't pretend it into existence for all the tea in China.

Even very smart people often need to start their exploration of connection with the easier, external, physical reality of things. Once upon a time Ovid wrote the Ars Amatoria. Basically a tango technique manual about what happens on the outside. Very popular. He got exiled for his efforts and in order to regain favour with a prudish emperor, he wrote the now-much-more-famous Metamorphosis. Basically his retelling of a bunch of totally old stories about the real tango that happens on the inside. In case you missed this story, here's an outline: once upon a time we were all rolling around as complete beings, peaceful and content. The gods envied and feared the power of our happiness, so they split us all apart, causing us great pain, and now we roam the world searching for a good milonga, searching for relief from that pain, searching for the happiness we once had. “Only connect,” says EM Forster (the only true thing he ever wrote). That drive keeps humanity going. It's hard, cold work, being half of a yinyang, and when we experience those infinitely scarce moments of being one thing with a human energy that balances our own, it does feel like a return to some prior state that got scrapped in an ill-advised remodel.

Lightning is not democratic in its strike distribution. Some people are luckier than others. And I only allow myself to talk about “being one thing” because I, like lots of women, spent nutritious decades learning to be a whole, self-actualized, complete thing all by myself. Memorizing Shel Silverstein's follow-up to The Missing Piece (called, with hopefully unintentional provocativeness, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, and sermonizing that nobody actually has or is a missing piece and we're all just rocks rolling along on a big trip). I learned that you can't and shouldn't subsume your identity into someone else's. I learned, in short, how to stand on my own axis. And now I'm learning why that's such an important first lesson: it's so I can dance with someone else!

“With me. But on your own.” Don't stir your black into someone else's white and make everyone a danceless grey. Grey is an unappealing mess. Connection is radiant light, or all colours, or a handy way of thinking of it is as a yinyang of vibrant, saturated black and shining, gleaming white. Optimally undiluted, forming a perfect dynamic whole, and each containing a little of the other in their heart.