WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Know When to Tango

By Katie Romano Griffin

A heterosexual couple dances in a embrace while seated spectators look on.

“Tango is a social dance, a dance of the people. What would be the point of having lessons with teachers if we all taught the same? That is the charm of tango: with each person you find a different character and style.”
—Miguel Zotto

When I find myself struggling with a person or group, I sometimes consider isolating myself from them altogether. That’s when I retreat to a space where I can hear tango music.

In an instant I’m eight years old again. I can smell the hot Café Bustelo percolating in the tiny pot on my grandmother’s stove while she plays cards with my grandfather and his childhood best friend from Argentina. Music starts to play while my aunts and uncle move the furniture so they can dance. In mere moments the living room becomes transformed into a space of expression, celebration, and connection.

My mother and uncle are clearly the most skilled dancers. They settle into an easy rhythm together, floating across the old terrazzo flooring, the card players occasionally pausing to watch them. Order turns to chaos as everyone takes turns practicing steps on their own, and then we engage with other family members. We each bring our own skills, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses to Tango, but always we seek to balance feeling our way through the relationship of the dance with each new partner—and with respect and love for the person and the music’s rhythm.

The Tango of my youth was not as inclusive as my sweet memory would lead me to believe, but I can smile at that memory and know that the spirit of Tango extends beyond my eight-year-old understanding to a more inclusive dance: one that makes space for a theology of a better world, on a dance floor of mutual respect, with people of all genders, sexual orientations, abilities, races, and ethnicities.

When I meditate on this inclusive Tango of the people I ask myself, “This person or group that I am struggling with: am I wrestling with a different character or style… or is something else happening here? Do we have an agreement of respect, or is one of us trying to dominate what they don’t understand? Is one of us more skilled, and therefore needs to meet the other partner where they are and help them move to new places? Or does one of us need to engage with other learning partners before we can event attempt to be in relationship?”
May I always remember that Tango, like life, is a dance of the people. It’s meant to be shared, not practiced in isolation. May the rhythm of the Tango expand my spirit and remind me to seek to be in relationship with my fellow dancers in life, while also being mindful that it’s okay to say no those who, in the moment, do not wish to work through the challenges of the dance with love and respect. May it be so. Amen.