TANGO AND CONSCIOUS EVOLUTION
The art of tango dancing at its best is a means for conscious evolution of the practitioner. In this section I explain what I mean by conscious evolution and how tango dancing can function as a means for it.
- Consciousness can be seen as the patterning of matter and energy.
- Evolution by natural selection no longer functions among humans.
- There is evidence for the existence of other mechanisms of evolution.
- Conscious choice more than ever before determines the direction of development of our species.
- There is therefore a need to consciously chart our own development as individuals and as a species.
- Each human being is capable of knowing the direction of conscious evolution in the given circumstances. The main “sensor” of the direction is one’s “heart”, one’s experience of bliss.
- There is research showing the relation between happiness and the so-called “flow” states.
- In order to engage meaningfully and consistently in a “flow” activity, it must be sensibly instrumental for one’s conscious evolution.
- An evolutionary activity or interaction is the one practiced specifically for the purpose of blissful experiences and the evolution of one’s consciousness.
- In order to be functional, an evolutionary activity must have certain essential features.
- Some cultures of the past intuitively recognized good evolutionary activities and their cultural significance.
- There are many aspects of tango dancing which make it a good evolutionary activity.
- Tango has been therapeutic and has helped the development of my consciousness in a variety of ways.
- In order for the evolutionary potential of tango to manifest, the right approach is necessary.
TANGO AND CONSCIOUS EVOLUTION
“True happiness is the happiness of growth.”
Pierre Teillard de Chardin
At its best, tango is an instrument of cultural progress, of conscious evolution of human beings. In my opinion, any artistic practice brings the highest joy and attains the greatest meaning for the practitioner if it is instrumental for the development of consciousness. The way that I try to practice tango dancing is based on this fundamental principle. For this reason, I feel that I must explain it here in more detail, though it may seem a bit too abstract for some tastes.
Consciousness is notoriously difficult to talk about, even to define. At this point, science has come to see the world as made up of the same basic “stuff” – matter or energy – organized in a great variety of patterns. In this light, I believe that the most general way to see consciousness is that which patterns matter/energy. Some people would hesitate to call the forces that pattern interactions of elementary particles consciousness, but on the spectrum between an atom and a human being there is a point where most people would agree that patterning becomes much more of a consciousness, such as in the case of animal behavior. Reflective consciousness is a special kind of patterning which also patterns itself, its environment, and does who knows what else. This means that patterning/consciousness can either be “unconscious” – unaware of itself, or “conscious”, or aware of its own patterning activity. Here the difficulty with the term “consciousness” is evident. I would like to call it “patterning” instead – this way we can clearly distinguish between conscious and unconscious patterning. In this section, I use “consciousness” and “patterning” interchangeably.
Even unconscious patterning is not quite like a computer program – it constantly changes, new patterns are born all the time. A tree, for example, is a complex pattern of organic compounds and processes, which unravels in both space and time, in some relation to other patterns around it. Every tree is an unprecedented event – no two trees are the same. Moreover, there was a time when trees did not exist on earth, and then they came about somehow, whether by natural selection or by Divine inspiration. How or why consciousness develops is a huge question in both philosophy and science, but the fact that it does is undeniable.
A human being seems to represent the most sophisticated form of consciousness on earth, possessing a working faculty of reflection – the patterning of mental images. Humans are able to recognize patterns and make mental images of them. But that also enables us to change existing patterns deliberately, as well as create new patterns altogether, both in our minds and in our environment. We have the notorious freedom of choice, or free will, which can feel like both a blessing and a curse. Because of the capacity for conscious choice, reflective consciousness is by its very nature also creative consciousness. By evolution of consciousness I mean the emergence of more and more complex and sophisticated patterns of matter and energy. By conscious evolution I mean the deliberate creation of new patterns by human beings, as well as a directed development of their very patterning ability.
With the emergence of reflective/creative consciousness, the whole process of evolution becomes aware of itself. In general, I see what is referred to as “biological evolution” as part of the evolution of consciousness – the patterning of matter and energy. But even if one prefers to separate biological evolution from the evolution of consciousness, one can see clearly that humans are increasingly able to tamper with both. For example, our present culture has effectively cancelled natural selection in our species. We are not denying anybody reproductive rights, we are fighting to save the lives of the sick and the disadvantaged, and all our mechanisms of adjustment to the natural environment are not individual but cultural, and are increasingly shared by all. As a result, whatever may be new advantageous traits of our species are not propagating genetically as they do in the animal world. Natural selection is ruled out, so other paths of evolution become prominent. One of such paths is the change through “use or disuse or habit”, which Darwin himself cites in his famous “The Origin of Species” – instincts which find frequent use throughout the life of an individual persevere, while the ones which are used rarely tend to fade in the successive generations. (See chapter 7 in “The Origin of Species”.) The mechanism of this is not yet understood by science, but ample evidence of it exists. Allan Combs cites the following findings in his book “The Radiance of Being – Complexity, Chaos, and the Evolution of Consciousness”:
“For instance, in the early years of this [20th] century, one of the founders of American psychology, William McDougall of Harvard University, discovered quite by chance that untrained rats were quick to learn a task (escaping from a water maze) previously acquired by many earlier generations of rats of the same strain. These findings were strikingly confirmed several years later in both Scotland and Australia when researchers discovered that untrained rats picked up the task almost immediately. The great Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, best known in the west for his studies of conditioned reflexes in dogs, observed a similar effect when he trained several generations of white mice to run to a feeding station at the sound of a bell. While the first generation required about three hundred trials to learn the task, the second generation required only about one hundred trials. The third and fourth generations learned in thirty and ten trials respectively!”
For humans, this means that our choices of activity largely determine the direction of our evolution – we can choose to use or not use some of our capacities, which leads to either their further development or their gradual fading. Is this a good thing? Was it right to abolish natural selection among our ranks? Yes, for it is a morality which capitalizes on free will, which lets individuals determine the course of their own development, and, ultimately, of the overall cultural progress. Favorable behaviors and traits are increasingly determined by conscious choice rather than by survival challenges, which means that selection becomes more and more cultural.
As we recognize our freedom of choice, as we create freer societies, it becomes increasingly important to understand how to choose, how to change existing patterns, how to create new ones. With more freedom comes more of a need to chart our own course, both as societies and as individuals. There arises the question of a general direction: which change, which choice is best? This question is so difficult to us so far, so tremendous is the responsibility to chart our further development, that as a culture we still prefer to evade it altogether. The half-conscious popular belief is that by pursuing survival, sustenance, and procreational concerns we automatically develop ourselves in the right direction. A sober examination reveals that we have no reason to believe this given that we have abolished natural selection among our ranks.
A fundamental belief which I came to eventually was that the knowledge of the direction of conscious evolution is inherent somehow in each human being. (This includes the belief that a general direction of conscious evolution exists, though it may vary somewhat depending on a particular individual or a specific time in cultural history.) Just like each tree somehow “knows” which way is up and tries to grow in that general direction, reflective consciousness “knows” which way it wants to develop and constantly looks for ways to do it. However, this knowledge is not explicit to begin with. It is rather a capacity to know, which itself can be developed so that it becomes progressively clearer. As many have recognized throughout the ages, the knowledge of what is “right” or “good” for one to do in life grows from the heart – our emotional center. The heart touches both the mental and the instinctual, is aware of both our more animalistic past and our more aware future, and is able to recognize the most harmonious interaction between the two. Bliss, joy, love, happiness, beauty are all emotional indicators that we are developing in the right direction as conscious beings. This is why more and more people are unable to be content with just satisfying survival and sustenance concerns, and are on a quest for a higher meaning and happiness in their lives.
Roughly speaking, happiness and meaning can come from either the achievement of certain goals which are perceived as worthwhile, or from engaging in an activity which gives joy in and of itself – the “autotelic” experience. But if we look closely, we will find that these two aspects usually go together: each enjoyable activity has certain inherent goals, while achieving even the greatest objectives in life does not bring lasting happiness if one does not enjoy the process of working towards them. However, the emotional response, the bliss, the joy, is something that happens in the present. This means that the improvement of the process, the cultivation of supreme states of being is, in fact, the highest goal. It makes sense from the point of view of conscious evolution: true growth is the improvement of one’s creative/patterning ability, which manifests in every passing moment, and in all of one’s interactions, not just through several landmark achievements in a narrow field. I feel that we are gradually starting to understand this, for it seems that “doing what you love” is getting as important to people as “saving the world”. Saving the world is crucial, of course – if the world is not saved, if people cannot survive, they cannot do what they love, either. But more and more people are sensing the possibility that we can eventually live in a stable enough natural, economical, and political environment, and then it really becomes about heightening of one’s experience, attaining ever more intense and elevated states of being, creating an ever higher beauty, developing an ever greater capacity for love. Socio-economic structures must be constantly improved in such a way as to allow the individuals to “do what they love” and develop themselves freely, for it is the individual development that drives the development of the culture and ultimately the whole of humanity. The search for one’s bliss actually becomes a responsibility – by pursuing one’s own happiness, one is also charting the course of development for others, inspiring others to “follow their bliss”, in the words of Joseph Campbell.
What is an elevated state of being? What is a more blissful experience? We know it when we are having it, but can we purposely create and grow such states? Can we generalize anything about them, or is it entirely personal? Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was very interested in such questions and dedicated many years to the study of people who said they were generally happy. He wrote a popular book about his findings called “Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience”. He found that a general sense of well-being was most often brought about by a regular activity in which so-called “flow” states were achieved. The activities ranged from rock climbing to working a conveyer belt to running a farm in the French Alps, but the flow experiences in all those cases had some common attributes:
“First, the experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing. Second, we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing. Third and fourth, the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback. Fifth, one acts with a deep but effortless involvement which removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life. Sixth, enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions. Seventh, concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over. Finally, the sense of the duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours. The combination of all these elements causes a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding people feel like expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it.”
Possibly the most important feature of a flow state is that there is a “blurring of lines between oneself and something bigger, or other than oneself”. Though one is making choices, most of them are spontaneous responses to the incoming sensory information; perception of existing patterns and creation of new ones are in a harmonious balance. The book described some fascinating people, all of whom seemed to have a talent for producing flow states regularly. As their skills improved through experience, they intuitively transformed their experience in just the right ways so as to produce more intense states of flow. But the book did not talk enough about developing one’s capacity for flow if one did not have it naturally, how to create and, most importantly, intensify states of flow.
Many people nowadays perceive the value of “following one’s bliss”. But not many are actually able to do it. Pursuits of one’s choice often seem out of reach, or one simply cannot find anything to be passionate about. In my younger years, I tried many different “extra-curricular” activities, but abandoned most of them shortly because of boredom or frustration. Tango was the first thing that I fell in love with for any decent period of time. I was crazy enough about it to drop everything else and become a tango professional. At that time, I seemed to be one of the few who were able to find and follow their passion. But even in tango I eventually ran into a wall. After about 5 years, I started getting frustrated with my lack of progress, my enjoyment of the dance began to fade. I was again caught between boredom with what I could do and frustration with my inability to do more or better. Fortunately for myself, I sensed that there was something wrong with my approach, and did not abandon tango for yet another pursuit.
Eventually, I realized that what had been missing was the connection between my particular passions and my overall development as a self-aware human being. I saw that neither “art for the audience”, nor “art for its own sake” were correct paradigms. It is rather “art as a means of conscious evolution”. Reflective consciousness develops itself in interactions with other reflective and non-reflective consciousness that surrounds it. The most meaningful and enjoyable pursuits are the ones which somehow serve a more general conscious evolution of both the individual and the culture. I saw that some activities were more related to conscious evolution than others. Moreover, the same activity could be made more or less evolutionary by one’s approach to it. In other words, even though our main compass in our development is our bliss, a blind search for it often runs into a dead end. We must understand some general principles of what opens up the channels for at once higher enjoyment and growth. It may be that a healthy enough individual evolves and achieves ever higher states of being naturally, but if it is not happening by itself, we must discover what is blocking it. In my experience, most people feel fairly blocked in their growth, and sense that there is not enough positive change in their lives. Dissolving such blocks is best done through awareness, and the best way to become aware of them is to take up an evolutionary activity of one’s liking and try to achieve an ever higher mastery, ever higher states of flow in it.
What is an “evolutionary activity”? It is the one that lets one effectively evolve one’s consciousness – develop one’s ability to respond to existing patterns and create new ones. It is always some kind of an interaction with existing patterns of consciousness, whether natural or human-made. An interaction is evolutionary if it ends up developing one’s consciousness in some generally desirable directions, if a particular activity opens to the practitioner deeper principles of conscious interactions in general. Here are some essential features of a good evolutionary activity or interaction, in my view.
- Since the main “compass” in our development is bliss, a good evolutionary activity must have as its main goal a heightened state of being, a beautiful experience of the practitioner, an ever more intense flow. This is why many of the existing arts turn out to be good evolutionary activities – in most pure art, the beauty of experience is the highest goal. Our very understanding of the word “arts” is somewhat connected with our progress as human beings, which is why many activities which are not seen as art in general begin to be called “art” when taken to a very high level. However, a wrong approach to art can forfeit its evolutionary potential. Much art nowadays is corrupted by creating it primarily for the audience. To see or hear great art can be very inspiring, but only if it represents a highly evolved state of being of the artist. If an artist caters to the expectations of an audience more than to his conscious evolution, he misses the point. For this reason, a good evolutionary activity is the one that does not require an audience.
- A good evolutionary interaction is a good “flow” activity, which means that, among other things, it provides growing challenges and a clear feedback on one’s improvement. A mistake that many artists make today is taking the creative freedom too far, emphasizing novelty at the expense of quality. They lose sight of the challenges inherent in the art form, thereby losing a standard of “good” art and with it a way to get feedback on their progress.
- In a good evolutionary interaction, mastery depends on some generally progressive qualities of a human being; in which one’s general development finds a direct expression; that by improving in the activity, one feels that one is developing one’s consciousness in the desired direction. This also means that in order to take full advantage of an evolutionary activity, it is not enough to just practice it – one must also refine and cultivate the right approach to it. To purify an art is to focus on such challenges in it which relate most directly to what one perceives to be the current direction of conscious evolution in general.
- A good evolutionary interaction fosters a growing interchange between conscious awareness and the Unconscious – our evolutionary future and past, respectively. Ideally, it is a two-way interchange. First, it means learning how to become more in touch with one’s instincts, how to purify one’s unconscious, including the deeper levels of manifested as our physical bodies. Second, it means letting one’s instincts act without the interference of the conscious mind, which is initially tempted to control everything. Third, it is developing new instincts through unprecedented interactions, such as the various already existing and yet to be invented art forms. The latter can be seen as “implanting” new patterns into the Unconscious, thereby expanding its realm.
- A good evolutionary activity is easily accessible to most people of a given culture, which means that it does not require extraordinary expenses or any special childhood training, can be started in adulthood and practiced until an advanced age – this way it can be chosen freely and improved throughout one’s life.
- A good evolutionary activity can be improved without limit not just for the duration of a lifetime, but through generations. Only then can we know whether the next generation has surpassed or fallen short of the evolutionary level of the ancestors.
- A good evolutionary interaction is not linked to one’s survival, sustenance, or social responsibility. In general, all our activities can be made more and more evolutionary. One can find creative ways to pursue even the most mundane tasks so that they too play into one’s conscious evolution. However, to most people who are not yet so free in their learning and creativity, the circumstances usually feel too limiting. Even in the first-world countries, most people find that their jobs lack creative possibilities and do not call for one’s general self-development. Besides, in one’s work, as well as in one’s social and family life, the consequences of failure are too great. In a good evolutionary activity, one should be able to fail or fall short as many times as one needs. This was the biggest reason that I had to eventually curtail my professional activity as a tango dancer – I felt that I had fallen into many patterns which were effective for making money with tango, but counter-productive for true progress in my dancing.
Some cultures of the past understood the value of self-development through art and other non-utilitarian activities. Of course, usually, this was practiced by the aristocratic elite, whose sustenance and comfort was taken care of by others. In pre-revolutionary Russia, for example, upper-class children were taught to paint, sing, play instruments, speak several foreign languages with no practical purpose in mind. But it seems that the clearest understanding of art as the means for self-development was reached in pre-war Japan, in the practice of Zen-based or other spiritual arts. In his beautiful book, “Zen in the Art of Archery”, which I quote a number of times in this website, German philosopher Eugen Herrigel describes his 6-year apprenticeship with Japanese archery master Awa Kenzo and a resulting transformation of his whole being which took place. There it was understood that in order to master the art, the archer had to above all “aim at himself”. The inventor of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, also based his art on spiritual principles. Aikido master Mitsugi Saotome writes:
“The purpose of Aikido is to better people’s lives, to make their spirits blossom and become strong, and by making better people to make a better world.”
Such insights represent rare intuitive breakthroughs. Modern culture as a whole does not yet place a high value on conscious evolution. The mainstream philosophy is pseudo-Darwinian: just try to “get ahead” of others and you will evolve automatically. But we live in an increasingly human-made environment, and we should not assume that a better adjustment to it will lead to our evolution as individuals. Besides, as I have mentioned already, the “winners” are not having all the offspring anyway. We must cultivate activities and environments designed specifically for the purpose of our conscious evolution. The more people engage in them, the more they use and develop what we consider to be favorable traits. A good starting point is to recognize which already existing activities have a good evolutionary potential. An easy indicator of it is if many people keep wanting to do it just for the sake of the experience. Eventually I realized that tango is a great evolutionary activity, given the right approach. This is why, as I realize now, it made such a great initial impression on me, why it engaged me so completely. I did not conceptualize conscious evolution back then, but I intuitively perceived that this dance promised extraordinary experiences.
Why is tango such a good evolutionary activity? Here are some reasons:
- Tango is primarily about a beautiful experience. A great advantage of tango as compared to sports or martial arts is that the beauty of experience, not a competitive advantage, is its main goal. In fact, tango is a rare non-competitive physical interaction with another human being. It is possible to practice sports or martial arts and look for the beauty of experience, but too often competitive priorities take over.
- Tango is a classic “flow” activity. It has an unlimited potential for improvement, unlimited creative freedom – people pursue it literally for decades without exhausting its possibilities; if practiced correctly, tango has some clear goals and provides immediate feedback; it requires our full concentration and can make one forget time and everyday worries.
- Unlike many other modern pursuits, tango involves more of our whole being – the mind, the body, and, ideally, the spirit. It is a multi-faceted interaction with time, space, gravity, music, our own physical nature. Tango is a rare art form that demands the purification of one’s body conditions. It does not ask for more than good natural movement, but neither does it settle for anything less! (See Partner Connection and Body Conditioning sections) Given the right approach, it can teach one what it means to stand and walk well, what it means to purify one’s physical nature. Because of its multi-faceted nature, tango acts as a great mirror and training ground for many of our general strengths and weaknesses, including mental focus, creative attitude, the ability to respond spontaneously to changing conditions, good body coordination, relaxation, poise, centeredness, physical and emotional sensitivity to another human being. In other words, it is a great means for forging a stronger connection between one’s awareness and one’s unconscious.
- At the core of tango is an interaction with another human being, which means that each other’s levels of development are experienced more directly. There is often a direct transmission of certain aspects between partners which are very difficult to explain in words.
- Tango is accessible to all age groups and economic classes (an entrance to a dance is cheaper than a couple of drinks at a bar); it requires no special equipment and no special training since childhood.
- At its best, tango seeks freedom through a higher degree of awareness, sensitivity, and connectedness, which is an understanding of freedom that is more advanced than “freedom by separation” (for a fuller discussion of this see the Partner Connection section).
- Because of its improvisational nature, tango develops our capacity for spontaneously appropriate action, which is an important aspect of more sophisticated interactions, as acknowledged in many advanced martial arts.
- The fact that so many people across the globe are fascinated by tango is telling of its evolutionary potential. On a number of occasions, I have heard, “I would like to learn how to dance a good tango before I die”. However, the fact that tango does not enjoy the status of a supreme art form like music or painting, as well as the fact that relatively small numbers of people dance tango at present, means that it has not yet been developed to a high enough level.
- Tango is unique as an artistic expression of our relationship with the opposite sex, which we can’t help enacting with every step of the dance. It is an opportunity to explore the archetypal level of our psyche, becoming aware of and creatively transforming our identities and attitudes as men and women.
Just because I dance tango does not yet mean that I am evolving. Conscious evolution does not happen automatically. It depends on our intent to make our pursuits more evolutionary, on the correct approach, which is to be constantly refined and redefined. Tango may not be the right evolutionary activity for everyone, but for me it has been functioning as an instrument of undeniable positive change. Most of what I have experienced fits more under the definition of therapy. This is another reason that I became ambivalent about working with tango – I still feel more like a tango “patient” rather than a tango “doctor”. However, I do believe that therapy is just a lower side of the spectrum of self-improvement and conscious evolution. The same principles which restore one’s basic well-being also eventually lead to more extraordinary ecstatic states and a self-improvement beyond the average of one’s present civilization. By “therapy” we usually mean a process of bringing an individual to a generally expected level of mental and/or physical health, of removing the obstacles to what is considered healthy functioning. But the standards of healthy functioning can also differ somewhat from person to person. I have always felt that a healthy individual is the one capable of gradual improvement in his or her experience, the one who regularly finds him- or herself in ever intensifying states of flow (when I say that I have always felt this I do not mean that I was always able to articulate it). For many frustrating years, I was not able to fulfill that expectation, and I did not know why. Initially, tango became such a “flow” activity for me – the one that finally seemed to take root in my unconscious. In that way, it became immediately therapeutic, for, at least in dancing, my experience was gradually improving. But tango also became a window on to the obstacles which had been keeping me from a healthy growth for years. When I began understanding how to dissolve such general obstacles was when I felt improvements in more than just the dance. Eventually, it was this same process that also took me past the “plateau” in my dance experience which had developed after the first several years of a less-conscious improvement.
The following are just some ways in which tango dancing has functioned as a means for self-improvement in my life.
- Dancing became a mirror and a training ground for my general psycho-physical being. The most obvious results were physical – by working on good standing and walking in order to dance better, I ended up improving the overall body conditions, eliminating chronic muscular and joint pains, having more energy and becoming less prone to sickness.
- From both tango and Tai Chi I learned the value of non-confrontational, effortless approach to an interaction, through listening to and accompanying the other.
- Relating to a dance partner turned out to be a great mirror and training ground for other relationships in my life. I began noticing how my habitual attitudes keep a good interaction from happening, and how changing them can immediately transform my experience.
- Through tango dancing I have discovered a fascinating correspondence between psychological and physical patterns: the way I related to my partners and to the dance as a whole bodily was often a direct expression of my character. This meant that working one necessarily affected the other.
- The power of intention (see the General Principles section) first opened to me in partner connection, but began to manifest in many other relationships and interactions.
- The more intense states of flow in my dancing taught me how to “flow” better in my interactions with people.
- Above all, trying to improve my dance experience, reaching for more intense flow states has taught me a lot about the very nature of consciousness, about the subtle balance and interchange between awareness and the unconscious. I realized that good art represents an advanced state of consciousness, in which awareness and the unconscious work in a harmonious balance to allow for the most spontaneous creativity. (I still only glimpse such states, but at least I have a good idea of what I am looking for.) Eventually I understood that the evolution of human consciousness involves not just becoming aware of new patterns, but also “implanting” new patterns into the unconscious, essentially developing new instincts. This is what D. T. Suzuki refers to when he talks about an art “growing out of the Unconscious”. It is when there is a spontaneous response of one’s whole being to the circumstances of the moment. As applied to tango dancing, it is when one becomes so instinctively attuned to the partner, the music, and the space, that the dancing comes out by itself, before one can even think it. Awareness is still very active, but conscious choice no longer dominates one’s actions, but steps aside to allow for a spontaneously appropriate action.
In order to reach and develop higher states of flow, thereby evolving one’s consciousness, a good approach to an art form is necessary. This website is mostly about such an approach to tango dancing. Here I will just outline the main features of it which are most instrumental for the evolution of consciousness, of developing our patterning ability.
The first and most important principle of the right approach is to see one’s art form as a means of conscious evolution. This means not just believing that it can act as such or that it may do it automatically, but actually seeing how it does it and feeling it happen. It means finding ways in which an art form acts as an expression of one’s general manner of interacting with the world, one’s overall manner of being. One’s artistic process then becomes intertwined with one’s conscious evolution: gradually purifying and manifesting one’s artistic vision teaches one general principles of a more evolved state of being, while evolving one’s manner of being in general in turn improves one’s artistic process. It is important to constantly refine one’s vision and approach, to continuously purify one’s practice, so that the relationship between one’s overall being and one’s artistic process is not interfered with by superfluous concerns.
The conscious mind must realize its right place in the artistic process. Its primary task is to weed out all thoughts and attitudes which interfere with one’s direct experience and progress in the art. For example, a desire to be better than others, to affect others with one’s art, to leave a mark, etc. must be gradually subdued. Instead, the focus must be primarily on one’s blissful experience on the practice of the art, but also on the nature of the particular art form, on some general standards of good art which anyone is to aspire to, irrespective of personal “style”. One must find certain standards of freedom on one hand and integrity on the other. In fact, as I attempt to explain in several different sections, a greater freedom is usually a consequence of a greater integrity. For example, in tango dancing, a higher choreographic and musical freedom is enabled by progress in the integrity of partner connection and body movement.
A good artistic vision presupposes an understanding of what prevents good art form happening. If one’s heart and one’s senses are open enough, freedom, integrity, and good art in general want to happen on their own. One must simply get rid of the obstacles to that process. Mental concepts, preconceived notions must be cut down to a minimum, in order to let an actual sensory and emotional experience guide one’s learning. It is for one’s rational mind and one’s senses to recognize certain obstacles and how to eradicate them, but it is for one’s senses and one’s heart to know when the right thing is happening. In other words, a sober self-examination is needed to deconstruct many rigid counter-productive patterns of one’s body and mind, to open up the way for good art which is something that is not “constructed” but grows naturally out of our very being, and which we perceive in an intuitive, less rational way.
In the art of tango dancing, which is usually practiced in a group setting, it also becomes important to set up the collective practice in such a way that best caters to everyone’s artistic process (See The Practice section).
This website is dedicated for the most part to developing a vision of tango dancing as a means for conscious evolution. It is my belief that the best art comes largely from this intention, whether directly or indirectly. It is also my belief that good dancing is accessible to all, given enough patience and the right approach, which is largely about the elimination of obstacles. A large part of this website is precisely about the elimination of obstacles to good dancing, in such aspects as mental attitude, group practice, body movement, and partner connection. In all of it, it is important to be patient with oneself and others, not to lose the enjoyment of the dance behind the “should’s” and “should-not’s”. It is the pleasure that we take in dancing, our irrational pull to do it that is the root of the best dancing that we can ever achieve.