A Different Rush Hour: Commuters Tango through London and New York

tango-commute-_2.jpgThe independent of London recently featured an article relating to the Landmark Self-Expression and Leadership Program project of Thomas Lindner, which according to his Tango Commute website forms a distributed network of individual couples conveying a sense of compassion and connection through the close embrace of participants’ favorite dance. Through shared headphones (there is no public noise), partners danced together in various commuter locations throughout London on July 7, the third anniversary of the bombing of the London public transportation system in 2005.

The project was again taken up on September 11 in New York City. According to Lindner, the emotional contrast of terrorism and dancing was deliberate: Terror is an act of intimidation spreading fear, while tango is an expression of freedom generating joy. The independent story follows below.

Why rush-hour commuters will be tangoing in London tonight

by Madeleine North

July 7, 2008

As a Londoner, there are certain things you expect on your route from office to tube to home. Too many people in your path. Grim faces. Tube riders with a tenuous grasp of personal hygiene. But tango dancers silently criss-crossing in front of you as you negotiate Westminster Bridge or weave across Waterloo concourse? Not so much.

And yet, if tonight’s rush-hour journey (between 6pm and 7pm) takes you over a bridge, or through a main station, be prepared for some unusual encounters. The metropolis’s tango community will be out in force: couples – young, old, new-style, old-school – will be plugged into shared iPods, and dancing to their own little tunes.

This is ‘Tango Commute’, the brainchild of Thomas Lindner, a German-born dancer who, quite simply, wants to cheer up the daily, communal troop homewards – oh, and demonstrate the fine art of “hugging musically”, as he rather sweetly puts it.

The first event was last month on London Bridge; tonight’s, part of the Major of London’s initiative, Big Dance 2008, is a more ambitious affair, involving seven bridges and seven stations. It is, obliquely, a way of marking the anniversary of the 7 July bombings, but like the “flash mobs”, silent discos and tube-train parties that have gone before it, its main purpose is to inject some spontaneous pleasure into proceedings, a little bit of connectedness in an environment where interaction is generally limited to pointedly ignoring everyone around you.

And it works. Having been to a warm-up version of this event – on Blackfriars Bridge – I can vouch for the enjoyable incongruity of it all. Commuters, eyes fixed on their target – the tube station ahead – are suddenly confronted with dancers wafting into their vision. You can almost read their thoughts: What the hell are they dancing to? And why are they on the bloody bridge? First, they’re annoyed to have yet another obstacle to get round, then they’re begrudgingly intrigued; then, often, they grab a shot on their mobile phones.

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