About transcience and imperfection

mindfulness tango Nov 30, 2022

© by Cosima Díaz Campos, 7 December 2021

There is the saying "No Lotus without Mud" or "No mud, no lotus."

More than two decades ago, one of my first and most important lessons in tango was:
"No Tango without Mud".

Mud is Barro or Fango in Spanish.

Many dancers even say: a 'perfect' tango is not Tango.
In other words, if perfection is the goal, it is not tango.

I was intrigued by this concept, and I have always kept it in my mind and have been contemplating on it. A tango that is without mud, does not evoke the same emotions. When I heard about the Japanese art kintsugi and the world view of wabi-sabi, I see it is based on a similar idea as our concept of 'Tango needs mud'. It is like a deep human wisdom, that sees and appreciates the beauty of transience, impermanence and imperfection.


The Japanese tea bowl in the image below has an rought texture and a rough asymmetrical shape. By the usage of the bowl, the glaze will have a gradual discoloration. This bowl is an example of the beauty of transience and imperfection; wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi is a world view centered on the contemplation and acceptance of transience & impermanence and imperfection.

Wabi originally means to feel miserable, lonely and lost. This turned into the joy of the harshness of lonely stillness. Other meanings of wabi are simplicity, humility and living in tune with nature. It also describes someone who is content with little and makes the most of whatever he or she has while always moving towards having less. 

Sabi refers to what happens with the passage of time. It is about transience beauty, about possessing maturity and wisdom.

Practicing wabi-sabi is about the value and beauty of the natural cycle of growth and decay, life and death, as well as embracing the imperfections that comes with it.

Not the obvious beauty is the highest, but the veiled. The moss-covered rock, the grass-covered thatched roof, the gnarled pine, the broken and repaired vase. This wabi-sabi world view also holds the Kintsugi art.


Kintsugi is the art of repairing a vase that is broken with gold, and the repaired vase is appreciated as a very high beauty, more than it was before it was broken.

Made in China in the 10th Century, with gold lacquer repair. Wheel made stoneware with celadon glaze with impressed design
© The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD. Under Creative Commons Zero: No Rights Reserved or CC0 license.

Crear y recrear el abrazo

The famous milongueros who danced in the Golden Era who taught Mariano explained to him about how the dance couple is continuously creating and recreating the abrazo during the dance, and how this moment is so valuable. This is not something we can see from the outside; we can perceive it as dancers. As dancers we are constantly looking for more connection, creating and recreating the connection with ourselves, with our partner, and with the music and the space around usall the time. This gives a very intense dancing experience.

Two steps are never the same

When we as dancers contemplate about wabi-sabi we will have a different experience of our dancing life and maybe we will understand better why we can become so happy from the simple things.

Thinking about the broken vase that we repair and becomes more beautiful than the vase that was never broken...

For us dancers, let us to keep experiencing
each abrazo
and each step 
and each turn
with intensity,

bringing with us, in every dance, 
all the brokenness and all the repairs that have been made in our lives.

Carmencita Calderón

In the context of wabi-sabi, I will conclude this blog with three videos of the legendary Carmencita Calderón. She is one of the few famous dancers who maintained the style of Orillera throughout her whole life. She did not change to the new fashions of the Golden Era (Tango Salón). Her dance and her artistic spirit are a big inspiration to us.