Notes from a Master
on tango, fusion, and embodied non-duality
Alejandro is a tango teacher.
But he’s so much more than a tango teacher.
Long ago, he left his native Argentina to live in Japan for six years, complete a Ph.D., and become a molecular biologist. Then one day, he took off his lab coat, left his career, and decided to follow his dream to practice and teach tango in Buenos Aires. He never looked back.
I found Alejandro in 2013 while searching online for an instructor for the Unschool Adventures tango trip. I emailed, we talked, I recruited him, and he was fantastic! In 2016 and 2017 I returned to take one-on-one private lessons, developing a solid foundation in Argentinian tango (and a solid trust with Alejandro).
But in 2017 I was also falling in love with another dance—fusion—that offered a playfulness, openness, community, and musical diversity that tango couldn’t match. Fusion soon became my dance—and I haven’t looked back.
Yet I’ve never forgotten that it was tango (and by extension, Alejandro) that enabled my fusion. Like a disciplined old master, Argentinian tango shows you how to lead with clarity, communicate with precision, and relish the magic of chest-to-chest connection. And who can forget a first love?
So I came up with an idea. Knowing that I’d be in Buenos Aires again for a few weeks following the Patagonia Retreat, I emailed Alejandro with a radical proposition: Would you help me develop my fusion dance through the lens of tango?
Alejandro jumped at the opportunity. Despite knowing little about fusion, he understood that what I sought wasn’t any specific technique, but rather a deepening of the basics: communication, intention, mindfulness, precision, and connection.
I, in turn, was delighted—because there’s something else you should know about Alejandro: he’s a highly experienced meditator and dedicated Buddhist scholar. His six years in Japan weren’t just for science; they were also for spirituality. Unlike other dance teachers who prioritize moves and looks, Alejandro’s teachings resonate at a deeper level. In past private lessons, I’ve walked away feeling like I’ve received relationship coaching, psychotherapy, or spiritual guidance. Tango with Alejandro is never just tango; it’s closer to something we might call “lessons in embodied non-duality.” Which is why he was the perfect person for the job.
Over the first two weeks of April, Alejandro and I completed seven sessions together, 1 hour and 45 minutes each. What follows are excerpts from my class notes, offered with minimal editing and context. I believe they speak for themselves. Enjoy.
“What we can create together is more interesting than my plan for you.”
“Always notice this person (your partner) in connection to the music. Tell them, ‘I see you. You are special.’”
“When you’re not listening—when you’re not creating this dance with me—I feel very alone.”
“Don’t be a single-embrace guy. Be open to different pressures and positions. Embody the emotion of the music. No robot man! No one-size-fits-all solutions!”
“A strong, forceful embrace is nice. But it’s better to have a light embrace that can become firm at appropriate moments. Otherwise firmness is empty. It’s noise!”
“The aim is to transcend the dichotomy of firm/pushy and airy/ambivalent—to be soft and assertive at the same time.”
“Instead of hearing a song, conceiving a plan, and then executing that plan—notice the environment, listen to your follow, and go from there.”
“Your mind works so well for you! Of course you want to use it. But what we want to see in your dance is your heart.”
“I want you (the follower) to be free, so I don’t have to push, so I don’t have to make unnecessary effort, so I can conserve energy.”
“What I care about is connection, not getting the job done. What I don’t want is to reinforce anxiety. That’s less fun for me.”
“Saying ‘no’ as a follow is what makes things interesting—it begins a conversation.”
“All of this is only possible if you have the sensitivity of a snail’s antennae.”
“A restriction is not a restriction, because my freedom is internal.”
“In the end, it’s all about compliance and subordination—to the music, to the moment, to the partner. But there are a million ways to comply and be subordinate! You get to choose.” [the phrase “compliance and subordination” started out as a joke; then we started to take it seriously]
ON MUSIC AND PARTNERSHIP
“The goal is to create goosebumps.”
“The music is seducing you into certain moves, but it’s not forcing you. When you think you have to react a certain way, you lose your freedom.”
“This class is like a dance; I’ve been following you since the first email. We’re co-creating this. Your presence is having an effect on me, just by being here.”
“If tango feels like a super-serious business meeting, it will destroy your love for it.”
“If you take a book and start ripping out pages, at what point is it no longer a book? Just like tango, just like fusion, just like lead and follow. Tear out the pages.”
“Dance is about connection, congruency, and fun—not about you, or me, or our conceptions of ourselves. The best moments arrive when we transcend identities and egos.”
“This is no Blake! There is no Alejandro! As faster you learn that, the faster your dance improves.”
“What defines us is not our identities—it’s how courageous we are, and how much risk we’re willing to take.”