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?

hen someone finds out
that I love to dance, they nearly always ask, "Do you compete?" My answer is: "Yes, I compete with myself to be a better me." Isn't it a shame that dance--one of the few biological markers of our essential humanity--is something to sit down and watch? Something to be judged by experts?

If have the uniqueness of being the musical and dancing animal is on one side, then  the thing we have in common with animals nature to compete.  We are all a mix of human and animal.  So why not embrace that part of us? It's really okay, but being competitive is not my highest sense of what dance is.  Partly, I would say that in order to win, dancers do things that are gymnastics or ballet moves, and that's when the crowd cheers.  Maybe competition corrupts the beauty of the inner experience of tango?

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?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Science of the Embrace

Social tango is a dance of touch. Social tango dancers need no visual cues. A recent research article on touch has made me rethink tango. There are a few things that I now realize. First, I realize (the obvious) that the tango embrace communicates emotion far more than most of us realize. And secondly, I am intrigued with how the researchers called the person touched the "decoder" and the one who touches, "the encoder."

Many dances seem clearly dance-dyads of "encoders" and "decoders" (leaders and followers), but if social tango is truly a dance of touch, lacking visual clues, then perhaps tango is NOT a dance of encoders and decoders. In tango we touch and are touched. Much research has been dedicated to voices and facial expressions to convey emotion. The "voice" of emotion is the music in music-centric improvisational dances like tango and west coast swing. There is no speaker/listener, leader/follower or encoder/decoder in touch. Touch is egalitarian. So perhaps I overstate that tango is a dance of touch, but if I am right, then we should pay more attention to how we truly communicate (both encode and decode) through touch.

I have the summary of the research below.  The scientists found that strangers merely touching a person on the arm can accurately convey complex emotions--even with no visual clues.*

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Endogenous or Exogenous Tango?

Chicho Frumboli and Roxana Suarez
Sybille, my wife, and I had this discussion at dinner on our balcony about a Parisian film maker, Roberto, whom we know.  Roberto has worked meticulously to put together the feeling of tango in  many short films of dancers at European encuentros.  He also films at some tango festivals, which unlike the smaller events, includes star performances and visually appealing moves of many of people which attend these events. Films of stars dancing may take only a few hours of editing to produce.  Roberto's preferred theme is filming about endogenous tango--the internal feeling of tango, his passion. He has a talent for showing how people share​ those hard-to-catch elements that surround tango beyond just the dance, beyond the flashy moves. He captures the embrace, smiles, requests to dance without words.