Sunday, June 12, 2016

The "Choir Effect" in Tango

Does it feel like you are part of a choir when you dance?
What intrigues many dancers is why people dance tango throughout their lives, and others "lose the magic" and quit altogether.  During the early phase of learning tango, it's hard to imagine walking away from something so wonderful.  So why do people quit? 

I am convinced that if the therapeutic effect of tango disappears, people naturally stop dancing. This is tragic because movement to music is a powerful coping mechanism in a stressful world. Human touch bolsters our immune system, and dancing is a rich way to stay socially connected. These important health factors should not be easily discarded. To abandon the salutary effects of dancing in some instances has tragic consequences--both for physical health and mental well-being.

Through analogy, let's look some of the same therapeutic effects found in singing in a choir, and compare it to dancing. For cancer patients, singing in a choir has recently been proven to create a powerful effect to one's body and increases the chances of recovery. Positive changes cascade through the body for those who participate in a group effort with music. Many choirs, especially gospel choirs, combine music and movement, and both share very similar to the positive effects in the body and for the human psyche.

In Europe tango dancers travel a long way to find what I will call here "the choir effect."  Dancers seek out encuentros.  Some abandon their own local milongas altogether. Encuentros, they argue, are known for three main things that may be missing  too often at local social venues:
  • A higher level of dance (similar to a higher level of singing in a choir);
  • Gender balance (similar to being able to sing rather than sit out too much);
  • A sense one is dancing in harmony with all the other dancers (social unity).
Dancers often cite these three reasons as the main elements of why they will travel to such an event.  If you have to travel, however, something is not therapeutic within your local social scene (or how you see it).  Think of what can be done on a personal level.  Take lessons with others at higher levels and connect with them to be better yourself!  More importantly, be a positive example for good dancing for others to emulate. Gender balance may be also the lack of promoting the gender that is missing in what you might be (or not) doing.  Advanced males sometimes snub the beginning males. Luckily, I found a male mentor and many wonderful embraces of veteran tangueras.  Also, beginner males face some very dark views of the cabeceo being for the "male ego" (which it is not), and feminizing male dancers in general is a turn off for many men. Men and women need to promote gender balance instead of fleeing to encuentros.  Finally, what is being done to promote the "Choir Effect"?  Blend with the energy of the other dancers around you.  Also, you can speak with local organizers in support of the "Choir Effect." They cannot guarantee a high level of dance or guarantee gender balance; yet the one thing they most easily can provide is safe, being-in-the-choir-like dancing and good music.  Make this a conversation point at milongas!  If the "Choir Effect" is not happening, then people may eventually travel to find this or simply stop dancing.

Be the change you want in the world (of dance).  Through example, be one of the "voices" in the group which blends and harmonizes with the group, attentive to the baton of our amazing director, the music.

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Photo credit

*Milonga: A social dance party in which tangos, tango waltzes (vals) and dance music called "the milonga" are played in sets (tandas).  Traditional milongas play music from the Golden Age of tango--a time which coincided with the golden age of jazz (the 1930's-1940's) when both jazz and tango musicians focused on the dancer rather than the listener.