The Secret of Tango

Guest commentary by Ilaria Favale

Tango and tango dancing also pose the question of a secret that belongs not only to the tango itself but also to the dancers. But it only reveals itself if you keep on dancing. And this is also what “Tango – let me into your secret. Berliner Impressionen” invites you to do.”

It takes two to tango

“It takes two to tango” is an English idiomatic expression. “Tango is the sad thought you can dance”, the Argentine composer and playwright Enrique Santos Discépolo once said. Much has been said about tango. The clichés that have always circulated about it are also numerous: Tango, for example, is above all a dance full of sensuality and passion, which is reduced to physicality and physical desire.

Personally, I have been fascinated by tango since I first encountered it. I have always associated with the tango not only something passionate and sensual, but also something poetic and melancholic. I am convinced that every dance tells a story like a novel or a play. The difference lies in the duration. Dance belongs to the moment – like happiness. It is fleeting – like beauty. A former play – closed forever and not repeatable. Yet it has a dramatic quality that attracts attention and arouses interest and participation.

Grace and harmony

But tango also means grace and harmony to me. Whenever I watch tango couples and their light movements on the floor, I immediately remember the quote from Truffaut’s film “The Man Who Loved Women”: “Women’s legs are the circles that measure the globe in all directions and give it its balance and harmony. The tango shows that this can be true for women and men. When couples dance, it is as if they are floating in another world: harmonious, graceful, balanced.

Is it possible to “define” such a dance form in such a way that all these aspects are taken into account? How can the interplay of music, dance, togetherness and culture be accurately described without falling into clichés and commonplaces?

Travel companion to the world of tango

„Tango – let me into your secret” is the title of Marlen Wagner’s book, her very personal perspective. In it I found an answer to my questions: an answer comparable to when you sometimes can’t quite remember a melody – but when it is played, it is suddenly there. The feeling of recognition overwhelmed me. But Marlen Wagner’s book also took me by the hand and along on a journey that gave me a new perspective on the tango.

The book succeeds in presenting tango in all its diversity. There is to see, read and hear that tango also includes the joy of experimenting with the urban and shows Berlin as a place of encounter and creativity. The testimonies of many tango lovers and their very personal approach to the dance prove to be comprehensive experiences. They can transcend the boundaries between cultures and people and open up new dimensions – both those of friction and those gained from togetherness, for example. And sometimes – the moments in Marlen Wagner’s book show this beautifully – the dancers suddenly slide into and onto a threshold between dream and reality that poses new questions and provides surprising answers.

Tango and tango dancing also poses the question of a secret that belongs not only to the tango itself, but also to the dancers. But it only reveals itself if you keep on dancing. And “tango. let me into your secret” also invites you to do so.


Marlen Wagner Tango – let me into your secret. Berliner Impressionen