Monday, October 22, 2018

The 4th M of Tango


A
bout four years ago, I came up with a motto for this blog: 
"The 3 M's of Tango: Music / Movement / eMbrace."  

But now, I realize now that I was missing an essential element. The 4th M is Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is an essential element of what draws people to tango. I have had trouble through the years of knowing the difference between fun and mindful euphoria, and it has become clear as I have a regular meditative practice. Without the meditative, mindful part in tango, we may have a fun time but this fun will go by all too fast.  Mindfulness brings a time-slowing euphoria.

Nearly anyone who has danced tango has experienced the difference of a tanda that haunts you forever rather than one that was over too fast and then forgotten. True, time goes fast when you are having fun.  Meditative, mindful euphoria creates the experiential reality of time slowing or even stopping.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Timeless Flow and Insights for Tango

Timeless flow is the state of mind that makes tango magical.

"Timeless Flow" is a way to describe the wonderful state of mind that everyone has experienced while in a dream state or in the joy of a magical moment.

As much as I enjoy being "scientific" in my understanding of the universe and life, I am becoming more interested in the Science of Experience.  I want to expand my experience of paying attention to the things that really matter in life. As we increase our awareness of the here and now, time stops in this euphoric space.  This is the best that tango gives to us--a sense of flow.  Musicians, artists, dancers have been describing flow for eons.

I discovered timeless flow in tango while dancing with a yoga teacher and mindfulness coach for businesses.  She said, "That tanda when by so fast." I challenged her with, "Let's dance another, but imagine that time slows or stops or expands."  We did just that, and it forever changed the way I dance. I physically slowed down some for that tanda (and every tanda since that one).  My change of mind created this change of experience. I now avoid saying "time goes fast when you are having fun," or "our vacation went so fast." Did it really? When I am mindful of all that happened, it becomes amazing to consider all of what I had experienced.  I shared that observation with my wife in our recent 30 days in France, and she added to the list of magical experiences.  So we are learning to say instead: "It is as though we had a century of wonderful experiences."  Or we say:  "Time stopped.  That was wonderful"; "it's as if we have known each other for a century."  It helps that have been practicing being careful with notions of time since I was 20 years old.  I saw that as people get older, they'd say time goes faster.  Is it because we have left the mindfulness that we possessed as a child?

I celebrate mindful moments and pay careful attention to them. Join me in the science of time perception, and be as attentive as if you were observing the collision of atoms at a billion-dollar particle accelerator.  The microseconds of evidence in a particle accelerator has led scientists to discover the inner workings of the universe.  A particle accelerator is similar to our moments of timeless flow:  Keep collecting the evidence!  Tango is the best particle accelerator for experiential scientists and much less expensive.

The moments of timelessness that you perceive have a far more practical application than what happens particle accelerator, however.

The practical application of the science
of stopping time is that you can expand 
your experience of timeless flow from
a mere fraction of your experience to
the majority of your experience.

The tango-experience of flow is so powerful, that people keep returning to experience it some more.  Sometimes "flow" is elusive only when we discount the moments of timelessness we experience.

In my next post, I will add some practical ways to expand timelessness in your life and in your tango. I would love to hear from you about your experiences.  You can message me on Facebook or email me at mark.word1@gmail.com.

I plan to post the next step to timelessness as soon as time stops.  Just give me a moment.  :-)


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Photo Credit:  Photo Credit:  Kasia Derwinska.  See/buy her art at Saatchi Art.


Regarding flow.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)  Notice the section on spirituality--fascinating and the definition of "autotelic"


Friday, July 20, 2018

These Motivation Styles may define your tango

My last blog entry introduced Gretchen Rubin, who had written a New York Times Best Seller, The Four Tendencies.

I have a video below of a presentation that Rubin gave in case you did not catch my last post.  In short, she describes four kinds of people with their "tendencies" when it comes to external or internal motivation. Although some might argue that these are too simplistic, I would argue they are "parsimonious" in that they make sense of complex issues--of why good intentioned people find themselves unmotivated or on the other end of the spectrum, motivated in a way that brings out bad outcomes in their lives.

The Tendencies are here given as a way of understanding our tango lives in the area of external and internal motivations.  Take the quiz about your own tendencies BEFORE you have reviewed the below video. Be sure and answer the way you are and not the way you'd like to be.  Press here for the link to the quiz.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Tango's Four Tendencies


At a national conference of therapists, the organizers invited Gretchen Rubin, who had written a New York Times Best Seller, The Four Tendencies.  She explained in her talk four categories of people in the way to find the motivation to get things done.  I think you will like her motivational speech for understanding how we respond to external and internal motivation. I went home and read her book right away.  Luckily I found a video of her presenting her ideas, summarized well in her TedTalk video for you.  Please check it out below.

What advantages/disadvantages of your personality tendency affect your tango? So here are the categories, just to let your mind to set this up well:


Motivation Tendency       External      Internal                     Strength
Upholders                         yes                yes                           Take care of team and self
Obligator                           yes                no                             Dies for the team
Questioners                      no                 yes                           Takes care of team/self with answers
Rebels                               no                 no                             Keeps the team from lethal mistakes





What is your tendency?  How does it affect your tango?



In July I will add more reflection on this subject, but first I want to hear from people of what tendency they have and how they think it affects them. 

How does you tendency . . .

1. Help you to increase your skill level?
2. How much do you find that music is really important to motivate you to dance?
3. Does your tendency make you interested in tango etiquette or reject it?
4. Any other observations?


Please make comments on the Facebook page or on this post. You can also send me messages at mark.word1@gmail.com.


I look forward to hearing from you.








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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

We are a fantastic dancer!


She and I are both percussionists. It may be one of the reasons I love dancing with her. Without exception, she reminds me of our drummer bond, our connection through rhythm awareness.

She needn't remind me!  I know.

Yesterday, after a particularly fun tango, we pause between songs in the tanda and she says, "That was so much fun! You are a fantastic dancer."

Pensively I suggest: "We are fantastic dancers when we dance together."

She counters. . .
"We are a fantastic dancer!"

What a great insight into what tango is all about! Although I really do enjoy positive feedback about my dancing, I find it a bit perplexing that I so often hear a dance partner's self-dismissive responses to my praise.  "I just follow what you lead," I often hear. What is Yin without Yang? What are the stars without the backdrop of the stillness of night? What is an embrace without open arms?  It is up to both heads to listen to the music, both pairs of legs, both bodies to respond to the music meaningfully. It takes two hearts to listen to one another. 

"We are a fantastic dancer," says it best.

Thanks, Stephanie!


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Photo credit:
Tango Embrace by Alan Kirkland-Roath


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Dancers as Music's Graffiti



I know that from my own dancing, especially with certain milonga tandas, that I feel constrained not by a pre-scripted choreography but by the music. The music dances us. My wife tells me that she feels as if she is just dancing to the music and I am there with her.  She's right. Mission accomplished. This feeling of the music controlling your every move in tandem is the zone where the leader/follower paradigm disappears.  Sure, there are two distinct roles, but "leader/follower" is probably the worst analogy to describe the magic of Argentine tango, but perfect for ballroom tango.
Isn't this the way it's supposed to be? The music moves us; otherwise, it isn't really dancing at all, I suppose. Nonetheless, I am concerned that too often hungry-to-learn dancers forfeit the magic of tango in that many dancers rely on a combination of "tango moves," which have been "written" by dance teachers. The "moves" are often taught even as no music is being played, although the majority of moves were discovered by listening to music and one's partner.


What is the better analogy for the magic of tango--something "scripted" or something "painted"?


"Choreo" is the word for the art of dance in Greek and "-graphy" means "written-out." So choreography means to follow what has been "pre-scripted" for your dance. In social dance the prescribed dance has taken away Music's role!  Personally speaking, I want the music to prescribe what I do and also how I feel my partner's inspiration as what "prescribes" my steps. Keeping things very simple with an elegant tango walk is the basis for this--the opposite of being a walking encyclopedia of choreographed tai chi moves to music. I actually practice tai chi with music at times, but the movement is central in this tai chi practise and the music is a backdrop. Tango has music's magic in the foreground. I am suggesting the dancers can be the instrument of music, or "Music's Graffiti." It's true that "graffiti" also has its Greek roots (γράφω) as something scripted. We get the word "graffiti" through Italian (meaning to scrible rather than chisel words) but "graffiti" has its new meaning as a painted art form in public: I think the dancer being the spontaneous, slightly illegal, street art form is the perfect analogy for social tango: The goddess, Musica, uses normal people to paint her inspirations on wooden floors the world over. Divine graffiti?

Music constrains us in the most joyful way. She makes us dance a certain way.  She controls what we will do. Having said this, I have a test--although an imperfect one--of watching performers who appear to have scripted out (choreographed) their interpretation of a particular song.

There is a difference between those who choreograph and those who don't, but I have an idea that it is not easy to know the difference for the audience.  For a test of my theory, let me present to you Horacio Godoy, dancing to
La Muchachada del Centro by la Orquesta de Francisco Canaro (1932) in two versions with two different partners:  Celia Berra and Magdalena Gutierrez.


First play each rendition for a while or all the way through.  Then decide whether the couple is dancing spontaneously, exacted by the music or pre-planned, written-out dance (choreography).  Then, we'll talk about it below.










So I suppose you have a theory of the dance being choreographed or spontaneous.  Surely it is a bit of both through hours of practise together, but where is the emphasis?

Now, to test your theory of choreography or spontaneity, mute one of them. Start the top performance (Berlin) at 11 seconds and the bottom one (Belgrade) at 3 seconds. It doesn't work perfectly, but you can see that it is Music's graffiti being painted here and not dance-written-out (chroreo-graphy). There are too many variations between the two. I have done this with others, and am amazed at zero variance between performance.  Horacio and his different partners are constrained by the music in the most wonderful way.



Now, the lesson here is that you Let the Music Paint You.  Be the music's spontaneous graffiti, painted on the dance floor.  This is social dance at its best.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Tango Impressionists


If you would become a true tango artist in today's world, I believe one must become very much like the Impressionists in Paris, France.

The "Tango Impressionist" creates a color and a mood and not the perfect line and frame, or contrast as tango choreographers and their protégés do. Impressionists rejected the perfect line developed in the controls of a studio. The true impressionists look for the perfect moment and try to catch it before the light changes.  But the bad news is that much like the Impressionists in the late 1800's in France, the TI may be rejected by the clique of wanna-be stage dancers. Yet, if one eschews fame and the (imagined) adoration of dance voyeurs, you will not grow old, as they likely will, never being the stage dancer they so wanted to be. You will not be forced to perform out in the middle of the social dance floor, hoping for adoring eyes. I hope at some point that all modern dancers at least will try to experience the beauty of Tango Impressionism as do milongueras and milongueros. But, unfortunately, visual gratification and the desire to be seen is a big lure away from the desire to feel and intuit the feelings of your partner and the ambiance of the room.

I see the milonguero, close-embrace dance as the new (resurrected) avant guarde art of Argentine tango. When this art is done well it is truly revolutionary--even far more revolutionary than the Parisian Impressionists.  Why?


Tango Impressionists create an art not for display.
Revolutionary!


Tango impressionism is the secret art between two dancers, sometimes shared in semi-private events in which no one is there to be on stage but to dance social tango as a true, indescribable art form.  Human.  Imperfect. Sure, it can be pleasant to watch, better than browsing a smartphone, but the purpose of the art is not to be seen.

But beware
Living as an Impressionist may bring you in certain circles to be the rejected artist, the creative artist in tango.  It is not like any other avant-guard in the arts.  Usually, the avant-guard has a new expression to put on display to the world, but the world often does not value it until later or never at all.  Go out and find like-minded "impressionists" who know how to paint a mood, an emotion, a feeling rather than the photo-perfect line with their dance. Being rejected, although not a requirement to be a good artist, has been shown to have the positive effect of engendering creative artists.
Tango Impressionist Milonga? No one is watching the dancers!


What TI is not
Fine art is not just doing what you want and calling it art.  Tango Impressionism, as an art, contains the highest expression of what I call the three M's: Music, Movement and eMbrace:   Excellent musicality, movement with a warm embrace. These remain, in my opinion, the center of this resurrected avant guarde of tango.

Choreographic, step-focused, open embrace tango may be cool, but to me, sadly passé. The object of art, in this case, is to feel, not see. It is likely that no one is looking at your art anyway except voyeurs! Maybe Renoir sensed this in his painting, Moulin de la Galette, in which no one is watching the dancers?  I call this painting the "Tango Impressionist Milonga" because it embodies the object of this art:  Tango Impressionism is not a spectacular thing to watch; it's a spectacular thing to feel.


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Photo Credit:
Renoir's Dance at Bougival
Moulin de la Galette


Note: This blog post was inspired by the BBC TV series, The Impressionists. I highly recommend the DVD. Originally the post was going to be on creativity through being rejected, but the Impressionists' positive story must be said first, not the pain of being creative. Maybe in a future post, I can learn more about the paradoxical relationship creativity and rejection have. If I do, I promise to share what I learn. 




Thursday, March 15, 2018

Encuentro is another name for Heaven

Encuentro in Paris, France
In Europe, and now more and more in America, organizers have developed little tango festivals (festivalitos) which in all cases are close embrace weekends.  The term for these small events has settled on the Spanish word for "encounter" (encuentro).

Encuentros are amazing for things that happen and things that don't happen.

Things that don't happen:
  • Obligation dances.  No one asks you for a dance. Tango etiquette has long established the cabeceo/mirada (non-verbal) method of asking for a dance as the epicenter of that etiquette.  If you "don't believe in" non-verbal requests or don't know how to get a dance without asking, an encuentro is not a place where you will dance much.
  • Crashes. No one runs into you. "Tango stars" don't come nor are they invited. Floorcraft at an encuentro assumes that one can dance well in a very small space.  No one will kick you from out-of-control moves such as ganchos and boleos. An excellent dancer with poor floorcraft will be thrown out or at least never invited again to an encuentro and put on a black list. Personally speaking, the feeling of safety allows me to dance at a higher level. Sometimes I have to use all my survival skills to protect my partner at festivals and local milongas. When I am forced to go into a survival mode while dancing, my focus on dance skills will suffer. The encuentro allows me to focus on what really matters: The music, embrace and unique dance expression of my partner.  
  • Tango "stars" cannot fit in the encuentro ronda!
    Milonguero stars are created in the
    star-filled heavenly embrace of their partners.
    (Encuentro in Newport News, Virginia*)
  • Tango shows. Did you come to watch someone dance all by themselves or to dance with all your friends?  No shows or demos as a rule.
Things that DO happen:
  • Excellent dance music.  An encuentro is almost certain to invite well-known DJ's who understand Buenos Aires rules of tandas and cortinas.  (Four-song tango tandas x 2, a three-vals tanda, again two tango tandas, and finally, a three-milonga tanda.). The DJ also knows not to mix orchestras as a rule. The DJ's take time to find the best quality reproductions and play mostly traditional Golden Age tango. But what good is to have excellent dance music without a good quality of sound?  Encuentro DJ's generally have the highest level technical knowledge about sound reproduction and the best copies of songs. Enjoy their carefully equalized, distortion-free music that is carefully kept at volume levels that will not harm your hearing!
  • Excellent dancers with warm embraces.
  • Gender balance. Having gender balance relaxes everyone quite a bit. Some men and women may sit more than they want, but gender imbalance is usually not a factor. 
  • Social dancers. Many dancers often try to dance with everyone at the small event--not out of obligation but out of joy.
Note: The encuentro I am describing is from my experience. And yes, I am idealizing the encuentro here a bit. But in all cases, I have had a great time--heaven on earth.  Also, I write from my conversations with organizers who may add or subtract some minor elements. One organizer may add a "demo" show of milonguero dancing. Most but not all organizers will make the milongas not so long; so everyone will show up at the same time. This ensures that the balance will be right.  Most encuentros will have a dinner together.  Most will have lots of food and drink included in the price. Each organizer and country will bring a bit of spice to the encuentro and the concept will morph over time--for better or worse.  I am open to edit and change this post.  Write me at mark.word1@gmail.com or message me on my Facebook Tango-Therapist page (https://www.facebook.com/MovementMusicEmbrace/) with your ideas.

-------More info----------
Register to find out when and where encuentros in the USA are happening at https://www.siempremilonguero.org/  Most European encuentros are through invitation as dancers notice the quality of your embrace and knowledge of tango etiquette.

*Photo credits:
  • Paris encentro with Sybille and me Dec 2014.  
  • The line of dancers in the ronda was taken by Ivy Garrenton https://m.facebook.com/ivygarrenton/
    at the Newport News, VA (USA) encuentro.  March 2018.  

Insights about what an encuentro looks like:

Paris encuentro:  Dans les Bras (in your arms).  Sybille and I were there. Heaven!



 Barcelona encuentro:  Abrázame.


La cita de los amingos 7


Tango Short Films by Roberto:  https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=roberto%20sz%20projections


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Why men dance with men on Planet O

An allegory on a taboo subject
by Mark Word


My meditation teacher and tango partner was not kidding:  "Mind-Travel" she called it. "You're ready. Where would you like to go in the Universe?" she asked.  "Let's go dance somewhere new."

"How about going to a parallel universe?" I asked, sarcastically, incredulously.

"That's too far.  How about a parallel galaxy?" she offered.

To my amazement (and I am sure to your disbelief), we went to a parallel galaxy to a planet, called, "Ognat."

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Quitting Tango in 2018











My last doctor's appointment in 2017.  I am at Dr. Tango's office in the waiting room. Suddenly an overwhelmingly strong feeling comes over me. "I should never come back here," I tell myself. "I have to quit coming here!" Exasperated in the moment, I reach over and pick up one of Dr. Tango's business cards on the waiting room coffee table.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Tango Survivalist

Tango:  A matter of life and breath.

Life's all about survival. The way we go about survival can be a range behaviors from egocentric, cut-throat survival behaviors to empathetic, enlightened community-focused survival behaviors.

Survival is the foundation of existence in all things that we do. Warriors, pragmatists and even holy writers of wisdom literature point to our need to survive as the foundation. Our day to day behavior demonstrates clearly how we uniquely practice survival.
--Warriors try to survive on a tactical level.
--Pragmatists aim for "sustainability" on a strategic level.  --Philosophical and spiritual* thinkers ponder the "big picture" of survival.

What many do not realize is that all three dimensions -- tactical/ strategic/ spiritual are going on at the same time. This is important to know if you are going to be a three-dimensional Tango Survivalist, or for that matter, any kind competent survivalist.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Freedom from Status Seeking

My wife says she's come to the realization that we are "out-of-status" dancers.

My wife had lamented that she hardly danced in a tango marathon a few weeks ago. She even cried. She felt disheartened, neglected and ready to leave the event. She stayed for many hours because I would not have let her leave without me.  She's my favorite dancer; so I felt terrible about her being invisible to the tangueros at the event. But at many other events, she appears to be dancing more than many other women. So which is it? Is she in-status or out-of-status as a dancer?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Finding your other half in tango



Find your "other half" in tango!

I do not mean finding someone to accompany you to tonight's milonga.  If you are searching for your "other half" (or even "better half") in another person, you are likely to find another half person!

Your other half is, I believe, your introverted half finding her extroverted half, your integrated yang-self fully accepting his yin-self, your segregated male and female natures finally uniting. Biologically speaking, your other half is a balanced Autonomic Nervous System.

A tango friend, Eric, and I were talking this week, and I was struck by his story of how he once was a bit introverted before he danced tango. In spite of his mild introversion, he somehow became a good public speaker, saying that he had to prepare to speak in public by taking on an extroverted persona, someone unlike himself.  He recounted how he would talk to himself to prepare himself before a speech:

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Autonomic Dancing


Autonomic Dancing is a connection to the music and natural embodiment of music. An example of autonomic dancing is found in Cuba. Dancers of the guaguaco say that they allow the gods to take control of their body, and they begin their ecstatic dance.  Another word for "the gods" is the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).  It's easier to say "the gods."  On a good night the tango gods take over my body, thanks to the ANS.

The autonomic nervous system is running our body without any thought from the "executive functions" of the brain.  We breathe, our heart pumps and our digestive system all function even when asleep or if knocked unconscious. The ANS also includes bodily movements that follow without thought when music is played.

The antipode of Autonomic Dance is Cerebral Dance.  Cerebral dancing is a series of choreographed moves that keep repeating themselves (if you are lucky) to the pulse.  A remarkable amount of people in non-dancing cultures often complain they have two left feet. In reality they have a disconnected autonomic nervous system from music. It is not a person's fault. Cerebral dancing, I believe, comes from a culture and/or family which has devalued music and dance. My university, and example of cultural devaluation, had no dance department, and the music department had a large increase in funding only when the sports department needed musicians to play at their football half-time.

Try this: Focus on your dance in a similar way you might focus on your breathing in meditation. Alter both your breathing and dancing now by slowing them down, paying attention to phrasing and melody.  If you allow the body to breathe or dance as it does naturally, you may find that if you are present within your own body. Once you begin being in yourself, observing and joining your ANS (the gods), you will find it easier to connect and be present with the person in front of you.

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Further reading:  How music effects the ANS:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3011183/

Photo credit of ecstatic dance:  https://wildlyfreewoman.net/tag/tonya-k-freeman/




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Life Expectancy through Expectancy in Life


Let's say that one day I can no longer dance Argentine tango. I feel strongly that the skills I have learned from social tango would increase the likelihood that I will live longer, and if not longer, then at least happy years. Longevity is not my goal. Increasing my "life expectancy" also is not a my goal. But, yes, Expectancy in Life, is my past and present which has a good chance of being my happy future.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Getting beyond Zero


"Getting to Zero" is a goal theory with a big hole in the center of it.

Getting to Zero and then beyond, however, is the very best that tango can give you.  In the area of the arts and the human psyche, Zero is not enough. Something I have been doing with patients diagnosed with PTSD lately has been to measure distress differently. My goal for those I help is going beyond. Tango is my inspiration for challenging the "getting to Zero" medical model.

Friday, March 31, 2017

No Cure for Dance Phobias



There in no cure for dance phobias except by dancing.  The fear of dancing (chorophobia) has no special pill, no easy therapy, no healing magic wand.  Why?  Because chorophobia is often not even seen as being a problem. How can you cure a problem when it is not even recognized as one?  So, in other words, chorophobia does not even get a chance to be cured.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sustainable Tango: The Facets of Well-Being


For many who dance tango--and I am one of them--tango is like visiting heaven.  But is it tango that makes people happy or something else?  I think we can agree on the answer when we really think about it:  Tango does not make us happy.  A life that juggles many different wellness elements will sustain tango (or any other positive behavior) over time.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mood Regulation and Tango



This post may save someone's life.  No matter who you are in life, you will be touched by others for whom you care who will kill themselves. I work with a population of men and women who kill themselves in the US nearly every hour of every day:  Military veterans.  Sadly, you and those you know are at risk for suicide.  I am not going to suggest helping a suicidal friend or family member with tango; however, I hope you can see why the most effective therapy for mood regulation is very similar to tango (as practised in a caring, warm community of dancers). In other words, I hope you will value what you have through tango a bit more, and are a little less inclined to subscribe to how tango is the opposite of healing as a mere "addiction."  Is it possible?  You may be regulating your mood through tango and increasing your well-being!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Last Chance Tango



Preface: Below is a curriculum for small cities.  Gender balance is a good place to start.  So do it!  I hope this curriculum helps to grow your community.  It will probably not work when tango stars have already come to your city to show people how to dance. Too often such teachers forget the personal and social value of dance.  So you must find a teacher or a group of people who will guide this curriculum, who are dedicated to quality social dancing, not just dancing.  The first class should happen over a beer with no dancing.  You will see why . . .

Last Chance Tango may be your offer to your partner, but he doesn't even know it! So make it known with a true curriculum and a real chance at success. Last Chance Tango is a way of teaching tango that has nothing to do with the torturous dance classes that your partner either avoids or tried and refuses ever to try again. I am asking for a bold step:  Ask the person you love for one last attempt at a dance class--Last Chance Tango. Tell your partner, "I'll never ask again, baby!"  That will take courage, but the next part is harder, and you have little power in how the next step will go--actually going to take the class. So let's think this through before you dare trying what might be your "last tango."

What is at stake here. Not being willing to dance may be a signal that one's relationship will sooner or later fail. Many people start dancing at the end of a relationship to start going out and to re-enter the world after a relationship break-up. But why wait for the end?

Friday, November 11, 2016

How WMD can save the world


WMD:  Weapons of Peace



WMD is not "Weapons of Mass Destruction" as used here!

Tango uses WMD. Words. Music. Dance. These powerfully combine can effectively change your world, challenge depression and to help us rediscover our psychological center. Dance combined with music and lyrics, in my opinion, contain the markers of what it means to be human. In the fourteen lines of a sonnet, the meaning of life may become clear. By the fourth movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony some men may understand what women want when they cry from being happy.* Dance explains the meaning of the universe in an excellent tanda. If honey bees can dance to find the exact coordinates of pollinating flowers, then perhaps words, music and dance can help humanity find the coordinates away from our apparent path of self-destruction. Words. Music. Dance: The weapons of peace.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Seven Year Itch


After seven years many people give up, or reassess what the future should be.  That's the seven year itch. 

I am not giving up, but on my way to important life goals. November first marks important dates for me--seven years to the day of maintaining this tango blog, ten years of a passion for dancing tango, and a coincidence of having written 365 posts with this one. Has it been worth it? That is a question to myself. The answer is "absolutely!" Writing so often has lead me to do my life's work:  Writing a book that must be written for veterans.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Foundation of Pleasure


The why of the embrace, the music, the movement: Dance survival

“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” 
Viktor E. Frankl,  Auschwitz survivor and psychotherapist

Dance and pleasure.  The first thing that comes to mind for me when I think of dance is pure pleasure.  

However the foundation of pleasure in dance is Meaning. This thesis is highly influenced by Viktor Frankl. He was an medical doctor, neurologist and psychiatrist. As an MD for his fellow Auschwitz prisoners, he later went on to continue the great traditions of two other Viennese psychotherapy thinkers right before him, Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. Other important thinkers who have laid the basis of modern psychological theory still remain in their theories far more accepted.  (And that is why many dancers will immediately, say "bullshit!" to the idea that meaning is the foundation of dance passion and pleasure, of self-actualization and empowerment.)  But Victor Frankl's view was tested in the death camps on what survival is all about, including the survival of pleasure and happiness.  We ought to listen to his insights!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Do you dance to compete?



When someone finds out that I love to dance, they nearly always ask, "Do you compete?" I am sure that I am not alone.  How about you? My answer is an overly passionate "No! I dance out of pure joy. I've already won." Isn't it a shame that dance--one of the few biological markers of our essential humanity--is perceived as being a spectator sport?  A dancing-with-the-elite-stars spectacle? Something to sit down and watch? Something to be judged by experts?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tango and Cardiac Coherence

Is your tango "coherent"?
"Cardiac Coherence" is a term you will start hearing regularly. From this new area of study, we will start hearing more about activities that bring one's nervous system into alignment with one's breathing and heart rhythms.  Types of meditation and any mindfulness practice will be studied for the positive effects they achieve.  Not all mindfulness practices are equal, and now we can measure them.  Close embrace, mindful tango is not even being studied.  But it will be.  Trust me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Beginner's Guide to Tango Etiquette



Beginners need to know a few things that hopefully are already clear to others, but if you are a beginner, just as in life, the "grown ups" may not follow a culture's etiquette out of ignorance or their belief that the customs of the general population do not apply to them.  Argentine tango culture has a lot of wisdom to it, and helps you to have more fun.  So please learn some basics.  I have danced for many years in Europe, and I can say that tango etiquette not only works but is required in much of Europe and of course in Argentina.  Let's start with the an essential element which is NOT in the ballroom or Latin dance community . . . .

The Cabeceo literally means "a nod of the head" (head = cabeza) which in tango means "let's dance."  It is erroneously believed that only men initiate the cabeceo to get a dance.  Smart women have been getting what they want with their eyes, a smile and a nod from the beginning of time.  Nothing changed in Argentina or in tango.  Attempt to avoid asking for a dance with words; the cabeceo will keep you out of trouble.  I don't expect you to believe me, but now I have told you so.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Tango and Developmental Psychology



Whatever behavior or cognitive skill developmental psychologists study, only one human behavior does not quite fit into their model.  That one thing is dance.

Developmental psychology started out as the science of understanding how infants and the very young develop.  Now, however, developmental psychology has expanded to study how we keep growing, developing over the course of our entire lifetime.  I think that tango dancers would benefit with a scientific look of the developmental course of dancers. For example, I would like to know why one tango dancer's passion goes on for a lifetime and another dancer's intense passion fizzles out in just a few months or years. But whatever developmental psychologists might find, they would have to grapple with the unique nature of dance.

Dance, unlike other behaviors for the majority of adults, requires a retrograde step back into our childhood. Wouldn't it be wonderful for a person who says they cannot dance to see a film of themselves as they respond spontaneously to music for the very first time as a child? Today's parents are recording these moments on the smart phones, but the majority of the planet have not seen this moment. Wouldn't it be great if we could see our unabashed joy or a sudden level of body/mind skill appear? Other constantly developing skills, such as speaking, skills in logic, social skills, gross and fine motor skills--any other life skills--do not required a return to childhood to go on with the development of that skill.  Dance often does. Unfortunately this return to childhood is required because in many cultures dance is abandoned as children grow up and adults lose all belief in themselves as dancers.  But so what?  What is lost if we give up dance in our later childhood?  The majority of development psychologists will ask this question with the assumption that dance is not an essential skill, like speaking, walking and logical reasoning. So . . .  is this a fair question?