Sunday, August 25, 2019

Who takes the blame for Magical Moments?



A common experience I hear from followers is that during their earlier tango days, they experienced the most wonderful magical moments

I wonder if this comes from giving all the praise--especially as a beginner--to a great leader. And leaders, being human, can easily and gladly accept the "blame" for the magical moment. My experience is that equally wonderful moments happen in the arms of a non-judgemental woman who opens doors I didn't know even existed. 

A few women especially come to mind. As a relatively new dancer, I once met a beginner who co-created magical moments with me.  Now as a veteran dancer, she still does it. The problem that I see, is that she still "blames me" entirely for all the cool ideas that come out of our dance--things I have never done before. If anyone is to blame, she is. Another woman in the same community does the same thing for me, and just recently after years of not seeing her, we danced again.  It's true that I feel I have far passed her ability, but the same magical moments happen with doors opening that I never knew existed.  I do not "blame her" for these moments. We share the "blame" for our mindful moments and magic.

Tango addictions
It's no wonder that people call tango "addictive."  Tango that has it's best highs early on sounds a bit like cocaine. The best cocaine highs are reported by addicts when they first snort this drug, and then after this early experience, one is simply chasing that earlier high.  So get over the addiction model, and start taking at least half of the "blame" for your highs in tango. This will snuff out the addiction model, which eventually will lead you to be "cured" one day from lack of working on your responsibility and your need to grow as a dancer, both psychologically and spiritually.  No one is perfect in this regard, but magical moments will increase and not diminish on this path of shared responsibility.

Tango detox
Tango is not a drug that is responsible for our highs.  But this perception happens when another person's great dancing is perceived as responsible for our magical moments. It's hard not to blame others who are either judged as good or bad dancers.  But it is all about shared responsibility. Generally speaking, I think it easy to practice tango "blaming"--both positive and negative. These are two sides of the same coin.

Share responsibility!  Even if the dance did not go right, many other things are amazing about the night when I look mindfully. The person who isn't dancing well may have just recovered from cancer treatment or is finally getting on with their life after a dark period.  Who knows?  The magical moment is to be present, and when I do this, I have lots of magical moments in all aspects of my life, not just tango.

I need to remind myself of this over and over.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

It takes too TIRED to tango . . .


>It takes saying "too tired to tango" before we realize that doing something great for one's health at the wrong time will harm our health and levels of energy.

>It takes "too tired to tango" until exhaustion or multiple health issues stop us in our tracks.  

>It takes "too tired to tango" 
before a person finally tries to find balance.

That's my story: Just call me Mr. Sleep Deprived I fully participated in the worst health risk of tango. No longer, but I was too tired to tango.  That doesn't mean I stopped tango! I tried to stop in 2017.  But instead, I just started dancing at earlier events. Presently, I go to a practica in my town that has great dancers and starts and ends early.  I started a Facebook group called Early Milonga Enthusiasts in my town (please copy the idea in your town). I now go to encuentros where the timing is always an early milonga and an evening milonga that does not go so late.  I sleep in as much as I can on these weekend encuentros.  But I'm not "too tired to tango"--during an encuentro! I dance for as much as 8 hours of tango. My Fitbit, worn on my ankle, indicates I walk for over 5+ miles (8-10 kilometers).  The point of good sleep is that we are NOT too tired to tango!  Sleep and tango are buen amigos!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Early Milonga Revolutión

Catch to 8am milonga at La Confitería Ideal* in Buenos Aires.
But how about your town's own early milongas?
I am asking you to take up arms!  And use those arms to hug people who also enjoy earlier milongas. I think they are the silent majority, and it is time for an Early Milonga Revolutión!

When I wrote about the health risks that tango dancers have because of sleep deprivation caused by late-evening start times, I got hundreds of emails, messages, and comments in agreement.  (See Tango's Worst Heath Risk.)  I made the point that sleep deprivation is unnecessary if we just had earlier milongas.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Tango's Worst Health Risk

Is tango harming your physical health? Probably.

Is late-night tango harming your long-term health more than helping it?

Luckily, that can be changed easily enough. Tango is healthy for us in many ways as this blog has pointed out for over ten years. In the last ten years, scientists have only started realizing just how bad sleep deprivation is. And the problem with tango?  Mostly we do it at the wrong time of our sleep cycle! Our present enjoyment of tango too often leaves us sleep-deprived and with a messed up circadian rhythm.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Suspicious Tango Pastor


Organizers and teachers in my experience most have been wonderful, giving people. But then there are a few bad apples.  (If you have a bad apple in your community, see the "solutions" at the bottom of this page.)

Most people I know have great skills with avoiding cults, religious zealots, and hell-and-brimstone pastors who claim to have "all the truth." Politicians too.  But with tango?  All those skills of being leary of zealots seem to be thrown out the window sometimes when a tango organizer or teacher claims they have the whole truth, the only way to tango heaven. Why?

Monday, May 27, 2019

Yin Power in the Stillness of Tango


Yin is the unsung hero of tango's magic. 

What people often watch and praise, however, is the Yang-action in tango.

Even in life, Yin is the unnoticed hero, in my opinion. I wrote the majority of this post about six months ago. When rediscovering the draft, I took away about half of it and now, I'll add something my wife told me about one of her favorite dance partners:  She said he had a way of building a feeling of preparation for the next move. Isn't this an example of Yin? That night the added description changed the way I dance.  (Yes, I listen to her descriptions of tango magic.) My wife noticed my change right away.

It is worth a moment or two to consider what this Yin energy is. Instead of thinking in male/female terms, here are two analogies of the Yin energy which promotes balancing these energies in oneself:
  • Breathing:  Each person needs to breathe in (the action of Yin) in order that a person can breathe out or talk (the action of Yang).  Yin is powerful!  One cannot just breath in or just breath out. But for those who are singers, swimmers or practice breathing medication, balanced breathing takes effort to fully breath out and then fully breathe in. 
  • Throwing a ball:  Yin as behavior is winding up gracefully. Yang is throwing with grace and also with power.  The often unrecognized power, however, is in the graceful, relaxed winding up before throwing the ball!
People notice movement, not stillness.
But stillness is the power that brings effective movement.

At tango performances watch how people tend to notice leading or ornamentos, but then fail to see stillness (which precedes, not "follows"). Women who so wonderfully embody Yin Power, which precedes everything I do, too often deny their important role.  They say, "I was just following what you led" after I say how wonderfully she empowered the dance.  How can Yang do anything without Yin?  Yes, and so in remains: Yin is the unsung hero of tango's magic.



Photo Credit:  Alan Thornton --Getty Photos
https://www.thespruce.com/the-yin-yang-theory-and-feng-shui-1275241


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

When will the Tango Teacher Disappear?



Get ready!
If you love a subject and you are ready, the teacher will appear-- or so goes the saying.  But it's just not that easy. Most find that there is more to it. So...

Get set!
As a student, you will find teachers who will demotivate you or attempt to distract you from the good path you were on. Maybe you had a wonderful embrace or amazing walk that a new teacher has now "disassembled."  Now your latent talent must be recovered.  So the "get set"phase may slow your greatest desires.  It's just the fact in any human endeavor of learning that teachers can be a student's biggest obstacle.  On the other hand, if you have a lot to give as a teacher, many students will appear who will not be able to hear or find what you have to give.  It will all be worth it when the right student or the right teacher appears.

Go!
If you stick with it, the student will find the teacher and the teacher will find the student. Then one thing remains.  When will it be time to disappear from one another, the student from the teacher and teacher from the student?

Lao Tzu answers this question in his wisdom for both teacher and disciple:

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Walkie-Talkie Dancers

He's talking and she's looking for an escape.
This blog post focuses on Mindfulness (one of the four M's of Tango).

tango community where I once lived had a problem. When I arrived there, I was astounded by conversations going on while dancing. The garrulous dancers were entirely veteran men and women dancers!

The word "conversation" should not need to be defined, but let me clarify:  Walkie-Talkie Dancing is not occasional sighs, or a few chuckles, a once-in-a-while "wow" or an occasional blurted "that was fun." Walkie-Talkie Dancing is an ongoing conversations while dancing.

Walkie-Talkie Dancing usually stops when a person learns a bit of tango etiquette. But seasoned dancers? No excuse.

This post is for new dancers who have to decide for themselves if their local veteran dancers (role models) are modeling the best habits or not.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Tonight will be my last ever milonga . . .


This is what she says each time she goes dancing:

"Tonight will be my last ever milonga."

But she says it with a smile.  She makes the most of each "last time" she has in a joyous way.

She practices for the true last time that surely will come sooner or later--not as a sad reminder that there is in all things always the very last time, but that she may be aware and simply to show up fully.  She's not on her phone.  She's not just chattering loudly next to the dancers. She is present, catching the eyes of others who want to dance too. She's aware. She's there.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Where do all your passions meet?

A moment of stillness before the International Dance Concourse in Vienna
A concourse is an open space where people or paths converge. Yet, a more significant place is the converging paths inside of me and you: A psychological internal convergence of paths, which you feel throughout your body when you arrive there.

Many want to know which path to take in life. Well, perhaps that is the wrong question. Ask instead: "What is my internal concourse for life?" Tango has helped me see this very clearly. If you have a passion for tango, I think that we probably have very similar places that converge.

The following are some of the many paths leading to the open space of my external concourse, and although they are mine, I think that many reading this post might have similar experiences:

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A tanda is not a marriage . . .

Fifteen minutes of commitment is harder than you might think.
It's an engagement. What got me thinking about commitment or engagement in a tanda was a conversation with a man I met at a training seminar. After a few days of conversation, I asked him if he and his partner danced. He said he had no partner. "Something is wrong with me. I just can't commit." That hit me hard. It seems like commitment was sadly unreachable for him. My automatic "fixer" mode kicked in, and I told him he should take up tango. I suggested, "The commitment to your partner is for only fifteen minutes. It's easy!"

Then I realized that was a really big lie.  It's not easy at all.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Will Your Relationship with Tango Survive?


How is your relationship with tango going these days? It will survive if you transition successfully through different phases that all lasting human relationships do.

I often wonder after seeing so many come and go in tango, what makes the relationship with dance last?  The answer is found in part in your hormones.

Let me introduce to you Dr. Gottman, the researcher/therapist who was the first to look at relationships through hormonal levels in the blood system as couples talked with each other about their difficulties. He eventually could predict whether a relationship would last or dissolve by briefly reviewing the hormonal levels in blood samples before and after sessions.  He and his research team found that even couples who looked as if they were learning to communicate were at times on their way to a surprisingly sudden and destructive end. In other words, if one's blood contains high levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, one's relationship is unlikely to continue long-term.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Dilated Tango Eyes


She peered into my eyes and looked concerned after we danced for just two songs of a tanda. I had been dancing at a small weekend tango event, and I suppose I was in a euphoric trance.

"Your eyes are really dilated.  Are mine?"

"No," I said. "Are you concerned?" I asked.

As a registered nurse she mentioned a few concerns, but ended by saying, "If you are feeling fine, then you are okay, but wow, they are really dilated."

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. Sure, time goes fast when you are having fun.  But 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.

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:

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."

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.

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.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

What to know about Encuentros

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.

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.

Comment or "like" Tango Therapist's Facebook page at this link
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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" which in tango means "let's dance."  Another word is "mirada," (the look) which is stupidly is reserved for women, but men may just look and the woman may be the one who nods her head; so think of these as the same.  (Watch primates do this perfectly well. It's not rocket science.) 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?