Music, movement and space in tango milonguero

Like everyone else I used to think that in tango the most important thing was the movement. I believed that as long as I had some music and a place to execute the movements, I was good to go. However, over time, I came to the view that this was completely backwards. I now believe that tango is primarily about the music, and only secondarily about the movement.

Without adequate attention to the music, the movement is not satisfying. With good music, on the other hand, you do not need that much movement to enjoy yourself. For me, tango is a particular sort of aesthetic experience that you can get at some milongas in Buenos Aires, but almost never outside of Buenos Aires.

If tango is primarily a particular sort of music, then one thing that follows from that is that it cannot be separated from the space. Music and space are actually one thing because our acoustic perception is inevitably tied up with the perception of space.

For example, tango lessons are often conducted in dancing studios, which are the worst possible places for tango. They spend most of their money on the floor and the wall-to-wall mirrors, and then put in a sound system that is just loud enough and with enough bass for the funky dancing. Then you pay for the rental of a space which is completely inappropriate for tango. You do not need the mirrors or that much space. What you absoluteluy do need is enjoyable sound and a relaxing ambience.

The only way to evaluate these things is by way of a comparative method. When I dance in different sorts of spaces, I check in with how I feel. What is my mood like? Do I feel like dancing? Do I feel comfortable, relaxed, tired, bored, tense, or restless? Is my energy high or low? This will, to a large extent, be a function of the space and the sound.

To be able to assess the situation, I need a reference system, that is, a space that is adequate or close to ideal. This could be a listening room at home with a good quality audio system. But it could even be a pair of audiophile quality headphones. This will give me a benchmark against which to evaluate spaces and sound equipment. While this may not be interesting to people who want to use tango for other purposes, it is important to me because I am interested in tango as a particular sort of aesthetic experience.