[Sharing] A Juan Carlos Copes

I love seeing tango danced in movies. The most recent one I recall was El Ultimo Cafe in the Sci-Fi flop “Upside Down” (IMHO at least). The one I am sharing here is similar, yet different.

It’s from the movie “Tango”, directed by Carlos Saura, scored by Lalo Schifrin, featuring Argentine Tango dancer Juan Carlos Copes as one of the supporting character. The scene here was of a group of tango dancers rehearsing for a tango show.

The directer presented the scene in layers, with darkness and just a Bandoneon, gradually adding on the sequence, lighting, and music. It’s so much like the dance itself, building on basic moves and adding more and more elements.

Sounds good, isn’t it? See for yourself.


A couple of things about tango

[Sorry for having to write in English, but I think more eloquently and exact in English.]

Today is exactly one year since I started taking Argentine Tango lessons, and had my first milonga (tango dance party, for those of you who don’t speak tango). It’s been a roller coaster ride of a year.

I still remember my first few classes, where I was literally in a daze, unable to decipher how the sequences work, let alone duplicate them. And the first milonga (on the same day of the first class), where I saw all the fellow dancers flew on the dance floor, and wonder if I could do that myself at all.

Somtimes people gave in to their doubts. This time, I didn’t, and that had made all the difference.

On this particular occasion, I would like to share three things about tango to me, from this year of learning and playing, which is one of the best year of my life.


To me, learning and dancing tango is not no longer about mastering a form of dance. At the beginning, maybe, but the idea gradually changed. The turning point was after one milonga, one of the fellow guys danced with me for 2 minutes. It was exhilarating. I forgot that I was dancing with a guy, or what had I danced. I only remember being very happy afterwards, even though I knew I can’t keep up with him, despite trying really hard.

It dawned on me that why the ladies were smiling after a particularly well tanda. The dance was difficult, It requires large doses of self discipline and trust, but it was exceptionally fun. I want to have such fun with people.


Tango gain strength thru principles of life. As a leader, you have to be dependable (stand talk and straight). You have to have integrity (motion comes from the core). You have to lead with clear direction (direction and distance). You can change your mind, but you must not hesitate (same goes for the dance). You have to trust people to do their best, while you work on your part (just like you trust your partner to do all the above). It takes endurance, the will to practice the skills time and time and time again, knowing that boring it might be, the practice will matter when you need it (alas for tango). And you take care of the people that trust you, just as they take care of you (we navigate with the partner in mind, make sure no harm is done to them).

I am the kind of people that really don’t pay too much attention to details, unless the subject interests me. In learning tango, that attitude changed somewhat. I realised that the dance create an opportunity for me to really re-examine how I treat people in general. I found myself lacking in a lot of aspects. I will take a while to get them fixed, but like so many things in life, it take time to get well.

I was going through a breakup around the time I learnt of Argentine Tango. I was emotionally confused and hurt back then, and thought meeting new people would help ease the pain. While my confusion was solved through the re-examination of myself, I realized the togetherness of Tango healed me beyond my expectation.

Argentine Tango emphasise on togetherness: we dance while maintaining the face-to-face stance as much as possible, and we dance to the beat together. That requires a lot of hard work, especially when you understand the mechanism, but the reward is magical. I still remember when I realised I was walking synchronously with my partner. And to catch my partner’s foot with mine at the exact time when she shift weight, it is nothing less than a miracle. Created by us, two people, while nobody else know the magic. You can’t be more close to your partner than this.

Yet it is as much close as to distant: you can be dancing with someone that you see a lot, yet with no relationship at all. Or you can be dancing with one that you will never meet anymore. Circumstances will be different, and feelings changed. Every dance is different, and the togetherness is what keep it comforting. It’s a “once in a lifetime” experience (or as Japanese would say, “一期一會”).

Going forth…
With all these feelings, I think I will keep dancing until I can’t move anymore (which should be a long while later, hopefully). My only hope is that more people figure out they can dance and join us. After all, it is only walking, just with a lot of delicate interactions. If a crazy sprinter like me can learn it, anyone can.

So, see you on a dance floor!

Thanks to my tango teachers, Candy and Anita, for teaching me so much. I am looking forward to more classes with both of you!
Thanks to S for introducing me to Argentine Tango, and H for really opening my eyes to wonder after wonder.
Thanks to the wonderful community that is Trio Spin. All of you are the reason I keep coming back week after week.