Trading in Imaginaries: Locating Authenticity in Argentine Tango


  • Rebecca Barnstaple





Argentine tango tends to be associated with highly gendered images of women and men locked in contorted embraces. These images constitute a tango imaginary that is removed from the lived experience of the dance. Remaining close to the experiential core of tango, this paper provides a Heideggerian-inspired phenomenological account that re-imagines tango as a mode of being-in-the-world. By situating us in direct and constant relationship with an attentive partner and furnishing a complex grammar of constraints, tango generates a frame for creating and sustaining worldhood. By examining the how of dance, the kind of experience it offers up, we approach the dynamic emergence of Being. In what follows, I draw on my years of dancing tango to elaborate an understanding of the experiential dimensions of the dance, and how these relate to the development of shared focal practices that disclose insights associated with embodied being-in-the-world.