I’ve often heard the phrase ‘tango face’ ... if a regular European social tango dancer was to use it they’d probably mean the display of zen-like awareness ... a kind of half-smile and a relaxed face ...The Strictly Come Dancing afficionado is more likely to mean the adoption of whatever expression the dancer most feels represents torrid passion. Quite apart from the cringeworthy cliche of such perceptions, the expressions themselves make me think of constipation rather than angst.
I think I said to Carole (DanceTog) at the weekend that someone I had seen in a performance the week before, had a beautiful tango face. I meant that her expression when she was dancing - both socially and in performance - was very nice to look at. It was absorbed, alert, and happy. A friend of mine has a tango face so warm and joyful that you want to bottle it and put it in a cupboard for when you're feeling depressed or cold. And I do look at men's tango faces when I decide about wanting to dance with them.
It never would have occurred to me to think of the other senses she mentions - artificial faces adopted to fit a convention.
I was chatting to another lady this weekend who had studied stage tango for a while but was now working on her social dance: she wondered about the expressions of people in the room. Well, to be fair, I said, some of them look like that because they're doing judo rather than tango. But when it works, you just look however you look when you're really, really into something.
People's tango face just expresses some mixture of concentration and whatever else they are feeling. It's pretty difficult to fake an expression when you're following in a totally improvised dance, because you need so much concentration. Whatever you're actually feeling is likely to show.
The tendency to giggle when anything goes wrong is a good one to cultivate.
People do work on their tango faces. They do look at someone and say "I want to dance like that girl - she's so blissful, I love her expression". But they don't mean by this that they are going to try to fake an expression. They mean that they are going to eliminate from their dance whatever prevents them feeling like that, and add whatever they think will help. They mean that 'that girl' looks as though she feels good to dance with and is getting the same from her partners.
I have been known to stick my tongue out at photographers going click, click click and trying to catch my tango face, they can be very annoying (Carole is very respectful), but mostly I don't pay them any attention. I'm glad I'm not so interesting that I have to go round deleting my YESYESARGH face off Facebook. That's a tedious task.