Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tango Chorophobia?

Most of us start out as children with no fear of dancing--that is, with no "chorophobia."  Psychological blocks sometimes come later and we don't even recognise them as fears.

The word "phobos" from ancient Greek means to avoid or withdraw, which is perhaps a better behavioral way of understanding phobias.   It is all too easy to avoid or withdraw from dance either before learning the skill or after having bad experiences while dancing. The good news is there are effective ways to "treat" chorophobia.  I will address solutions at the conclusion of this post.

Phobias, can be debilitating for some people, causing great harm to them, and chorophobia is no different.  This sounds like a remarkable overstatement that avoidance or withdrawal from dance could be "debilitating."  However, think about couples you have known who may have had serious problems around one liking dance and the other refusing to even try.  Or perhaps, you know a couple who danced together and one "gave up" after having bad experiences?  Was chorophobia behind it all?  Even for the couple or individual who is afraid of dancing, looking awkward, having "two left feet," and so on--a dance phobia is debilitating their natural ability to somatically respond to music (dance).  Responding somatically to music is one of the few markers for being a human being.  Fear is stopping this freedom of expression?!  Face your chorophobia and overcome, my friend!

The following is not an exhaustive list or in any order of priority.  Which one is your hot button?
  • Fear of being watched and judged.  We dancers know the "treatment" for this phobia because we often hear and quote it.   We say, "Dance as if no one were watching."  Fear of being seen as being awkward or foolish can be overwhelming for many.  
  • Fear of being rejected.   Rejection can be a show stopper for some people.  That is why asking for a dance, unlike salsa or ballroom dancing, is a taboo in traditional tango.  There is no such thing as just one dance in tango.  The tanda of songs lasts for about 13-15 minutes.  So that is why we do not ask; we nod with a cabeceo and respond with an accepting "look" or mirada to avoid explicit and public rejection.  Getting over a fear of rejection is a psychological and spiritual quest.
  • The fear of being hounded for a dance is another subtype of chorophobia, which could possibly be tied to a bigger fear--fear of being harassed, even sexually harassed.
  •  Fear of being shunned.  Walking into an intimate social setting, let's say a milonga with 20-50 people, and a fair percentage of those in attendence shunning you--refusing to even look at you--may be very unpleasant.  If tango is truly a social dance, then smiling and looking away is more in tune with tango etiquette.  I suggest compassion with people who shun.  They have their own fears.
  • Fear of being considered homosexual.  This can affect both men and women dancing the rol masculino.  Going by the gender imbalance in many English-speaking countries, fear of being labeled as being gay, I believe, is a large part of the gender imbalance problem at milongas.  My solution is not to worry about the long list of stupid things people could be thinking, but for some men it is not so easy.
  • Fear of the opposite sex, especially strangers.  Since I was a young boy I was so enamoured by the opposite sex that I had a sort of fear and over-whelming discomfort around girls.  My fear has been vanquished totally through dance, but many men and women just cannot get over this anxiety.
  • Fear of busy public places often comes from some unresolved psychological trauma that happened in public. Tango can be a great healing process for this fear--by being in public and having fun.
  • Fear of breaking moral codes.   Even if people have rejected childhood religious beliefs against the "evils of dance," these beliefs can be embedded into their psyche, causing a withdrawal from dance after a few bad experiences.  The inner voice may be saying:  "Perhaps I need a better spiritual path."  A "better spiritual path" nearly always includes facing one's fears, not scapegoating and withdrawing from an activity such as dance.  Withdrawal (phobos) of dance for reasons other than spiritual reasons is a type of spiritual/psychological defeat, not a triumph.
  • Fear of being addicted to tango. Since the general public often misuses the word "addict" for even wonderful, health-giving activities, this fear is sometimes behind someone giving up dancing as if it were a sickness and they are finally free, but in reality, they left because of avoidance issues. I wish not to case any blame here. Maybe the community is not offering what a person needs. (See the solution below.)
  • Fear of injury or injuring others.  Many leave tango only because of fear of injury because the community may have lost the level of floorcraft it once had.  
  • Avoidance of physical closeness.  Some people feel extremely uncomfortable with their personal space being invaded.  What better therapy is there than tango for this?
  • Fear of Jealousy.  I admit it.  I fear jealousy.  I have only been jealous a few times in my life, and it is a horrible, horrible feeling.  There are partners who are willing to stay home and allow their partner to go out and dance just so they don't have to be be confronted with these anxious feelings.  Being active in tango is an opportunity to grow up and away from jealousy.  My wife and I have grown a great deal spiritually by talking to one another about these feelings we both have had.
  • Fear of hard work.  If phobos is avoidance of or withrawal from something, then we all have had work phobias in our lives--maybe even daily?  So yes, work phobos finds its way into dance too.
  • Fear of leading / fear of following.  Being put in charge as a so-called "leader" when one is ignorant and incompetent to lead causes fear (or should).  Also, who would not be fearful of having an incompetent "leader" taking one on a mission, walking backwards into possible injury!  The music is the leader and two roles react to this leader.  But as it now stands in general tango teaching methods of leader/follower, if you are not afraid, perhaps you should be! 

All of these fears could be treated by a therapist.  But I believe that the most effective treatment that I could recommend is that you find a caring tango community.  You will find your healing there. If you cannot find a caring and social tango community, then build your own.  There are others like you out there, in search for the balm of a caring community to treat your own version of dance avoidances.  Even in large cities, there are smaller, more social milongas.  Find one that is your healing balm!

Photo credits:
Little girl dancing:  http://www.meloveletters.com/mirror-mirror/dance-of-joy/
Chrorophobia.  http://common-phobias.com

1 comment:

  1. On this topic I recommend the thoroughly enjoyable book by Maxine Leeds Craig, Sorry I Don’t Dance: Why Men Refuse to Move (2014, Oxford University Press).

    The publisher’s blurb sums up the book’s argument as follows:
    “That men don't dance is a common stereotype. As one man tried to explain, "Music is something that goes on inside my head, and is sort of divorced from, to a large extent, the rest of my body." How did this man's head become divorced from his body? While it may seem natural and obvious that most white men don't dance, it is actually a recent phenomenon tied to the changing norms of gender, race, class, and sexuality. Combining archival sources, interviews, and participant observation, Sorry I Don't Dance analyzes how, within the United States, recreational dance became associated with women rather than men, youths rather than adults, and ethnic minorities rather than whites.”
    And claims this book to be: “The first sustained study of dance in the lives of ordinary men.”


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