Monday, June 13, 2011

Finding the Missing Self in Tango

The Freedom of Dance has a Dark Side

Tango Dialogues

This is the second of an ongoing series of dialogues with friends who have found a spiritual or philosophical meaning in tango.  This dialogue came out of a conversation from a tanguera whom I have never met.  She privately responded to an blog post in January, an article entitled, Tactical versus Strategic Tango.  She took to heart the wisdom I am learning from veterans of war and what helps them get better. "Teresa" (her pseudonym) took this warrior-wisdom to the next level-- life practice and the milonga dance floor.

Tango Therapist: Teresa you told me that your tango life seemed to take you away from your usual self. First tell me what is your "usual self?"

Teresa: I work with impoverished and downtrodden peoples, and it makes me truly happy -- to give of myself, to honor human dignity above all else and do what I can to make other people's lives a little easier. That is my usual self.

Tango Therapist: So how were you were you different in tango?

Teresa: My experience so far has been largely "receiving" from those better than me. I find it a bit confusing because by nature I tend to be a giving person, but tango brought out another side of me, a self-centeredness that I was not comfortable with. So why was it that with tango had I become so addicted to perfecting my dance that I put aside my nobler self? I am a bit disappointed in the months spent in this mode. But I am at same time thankful that I confronted my ego now with just two years into the dance instead of much farther down the road. I do not place blame on anybody as I let myself be led down this path.

Tango Therapist: So how has this changed? What did you do to return to a philosophy of tango that reflected your life philosophy?

Teresa: Well, I realized that I had to change this path or tango and I would have to part ways. So I went to our next class/milonga with a totally different focus. Honestly by night's end I had such peace in my soul, I was elated. I tried to stay committed to my focus on community versus performance. This is for me, at this time, I am not suggesting to anyone else how they should be. So I showed up at the beginners class to be a follower if they needed one. It turned out that they desperately needed a few more followers. This was my first big test. I danced with beginners. It felt good to GIVE expecting nothing in return. I gave my self at the class and I did it with all my heart, that when it came time for the milonga I was so peaceful inside that the dance came from my soul and it was everything I strive for it to be. Gone was that perfectionistic nagging, the performance mind. From this mental place my inner self and soul at peace with herself .

Tango Therapist: I think your story is important for all of us. Tango will help our life philosophy, but also our life philosophy influences our tango.

Teresa: I feel like this is a new chapter in my tango journey. I want my actions to speak for themselves. Then if others ask about this new peace, I will feel free to share my concerns and the changes I am making.

Tango Therapist: Thanks for sharing this with us. Your "beginners mind" helps me and I think it will help many.

Comment or "like" Tango Therapist's Facebook page at this link


  1. I think there is a time and a place for both selfishness and selflessness in tango. You have to learn when each is appropriate for yourself...sometimes on different days/weeks/months/years and other times within the same tanda.

  2. SMW: As they say on the airplane: "Put on your own mask first, and then assist others." Finding balance in all things is key.


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