An excerpt from: A Pickpocket’s History of Argentine Tango by Victor Levant

They were Italians and Spaniards, Britons and Jews, poor peasants from Germany, Russia and Poland. Yet in the midst of this life of despair and danger, these men did not fight to the death; they fought for respect. Competition was fierce, but the men devised a method of selection. Dance. Tango, they called it…
The dance, when deeply engaged, revealed the human condition: the solitude of all human beings, the ephemeral nature of modern relations and the need for relationship. We are all exiles, refugees from life, uprooted by immigration. Tango was an escape in order to bear the lot of life.
The music was a reflection of existence. People were thrilled to hear the sounds of Tango music, and recognize their favourite composers, delighting in the orchestras who gave meaning to their emotions. People were moved to move.
All the cultures of the world have their own music and dance. Things that could not be said in words were expressed in music and song. Tango is the same, but with one important difference: the people who created the Tango were from the four corners of the world and had nothing in common except this dance, this poetry, this music. Tango, as a social phenomenon, was born in Buenos Aires and spread worldwide.
The dance itself was a superficial artifice, a social construct, but when deeply engaged, it revealed the human condition: the solitude of all human beings, the ephemeral nature of modern relations and the need for relationship. We are all exiles, refugees from life, uprooted by immigration, loss and the pulverizing effect of modern technology on people’s souls. Our physical movements are clouded by hurt, pain, jealousy, envy and humiliation. Tango was an escape from an unbearable reality, a conscious illusion, in order to bear the lot of life.
But when two people stood on their own two feet, and their bodies melded, magic happened. One plus one equals one, as they say: combining light and darkness, gender-led, commanding subjugation, the slap of bodies, the press of the torso, face and mid-body, the intrusion of thigh against thigh, the hook of the knee, the block of the foot, the turn of the hips, the welding of the chests. An affirmation of life. A dance of the blind, cheek to cheek, raw mating in darkness, bodies in friction, dreamers open to love, susceptible to rejection. A duel. A conversation. A meditation in motion. (Martin in Cooper, 1995)
The music was beautiful. The Tango was escape. The dance-halls were also places of warmth, of acceptance, new encounters, new friends, sharing experiences, learning something new, improving one’s dance, relaxing after a tough day, meeting a loved one. They provided an activity for a couple, a pleasant substitute for just getting drunk, a turning round in circles, and an escape from hectic families or unhappy marriages.
The dance-halls were meeting places where thousands of people met and married, chronicling love, weddings, anniversaries, births, and death itself. Reaching out for love through a heartless world was what drove the dance.
Dancing Tango was a path for transcending human existence. Listening to the music was a way to heal emotional wounds, the death of a partner or loss of a friend; a means of processing difficult feelings and finding a space of inner freedom. It was solace for a wounded heart and a cloak to deflect the harsh realities of life. It soon became an obsession. Its secret was its community.

The book: A pickpocket’s History of Argentine Tango by Victor Levant, can be found at www., or at: in the United States.

The Author brings a unique perspective to his reader with a Ph.D. in International Relations and extensive knowledge of world politics and Argentine culture. His incisive acumen as a psychotherapist provides a window into the soul of the Tango world. The psychology of the Tango is found in the poetry of its lyrics: a direct link with the hopes, fears, frustrations, and illusions of their time.


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