Review: "Tango your life"

18th April 2012

Review of the movie, 'Tango your Life', filmed and directed by Chan Park


As part of the Tango Zen weekend in April 2012, the "Tango Your Life" documentary was shown (Trailer here). This article is my review of that film.

To read my reflection on the Tango Zen workshop itself, please visit

About Chan

Unlike most of us, Chan Park began his tango journey from a seated position. He attended milongas in his then home town, Washington D.C. for three years without ever taking a tango step.

What was he doing, you might reasonably ask. He was looking, learning and opening himself to the energy he as a long-time Zen enthusiast sensed in tango spaces where people came to dance what we call salon-style tango.

It was the expressions he saw on the faces of the dancers, expressions of profound calm, concentration and acceptance, what Chan Park refers to as the 'Buddha face' which led to his interest in filming the milongueros of Buenos Aires, to whom he is now 'an adopted son'.

Yes, Park, like so many before him, found that there was something in tango that he wanted to devote himself to. So he gave up his job as an electrical engineer at NASA and relocated to Buenos Aires, where he spent the next four years dancing five days a week and being mentored by the legendary and now deceased, Ricardo Vidort.

"Tango Your Life"

The film introduces you to milongueros of all nationalities, from all walks of life and of all ages up to 91. Plain-speaking, sometimes in English, sometimes Argentine Spanish, they talk about why they dance tango, about the gifts total surrender to the music and one's partner, brings.

These are not the observations of tango tourists nor of dilettantes. Some are academics and writers living and working in Buenos Aires: Julie Taylor, a social anthropologist and trained dancer (author of Eva Peron: The Myths of a Woman and a dark memoir of the city called Paper Tangos); Margareta Westergard ("Tango Passion and the Rules of the Game"); Migdalia Romero ("Tango Lover's Guide to Buenos Aires"); Ruth Goodman ("The Sacred Book of U"). Others are portenos, who were lucky enough to absorb the music 'from their mother's milk'. They talk intimately and passionately to a director they clearly trust.

It's powerful stuff, this documentary and it's filmed without frills so one senses the authenticity of Mr Park's quest for the answer to why tango becomes life for such people.

If you've been to Buenos Aires, images from the film will resonate with you: street corners you've stood on (like Corrientes, opposite the famous tango music store, Zivals) or the interior of the tango club, El Beso with its distinctive red pillar. If you haven't been to this sprawling city you will sense its nocturnal energy. It pulsates through the frames like a habanera rhythm. As one of the organisers of the UK premier of this film, Nathan Jeffries from Stokies Tango Dojo, observed: "This should be used by the Argentine Tourist Board."

Icing on the cake

A fun touch at this movie premier evening (the launch event for a mind-body awakening 3-day workshop in Tango Zen run by Chan Park in a daffodil-bedecked Midlands village hall) was the presence of an usherette in 1950s uniform, Essie Jo Jeffries, who to the delight of filmgoers served free ice cream cones. No wonder they call her Yum-Yum up there.

~ Candi Miller, 18th April 2012