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.

Even with failing health or living far from a milonga, one still retains the skills that social tango helps develop. Here is a list of things you probably have already noticed about expectancy in life as it relates to Argentine tango:
  • Cabeceo / Mirada:  In some recent research about increased chances of dating and making friends, simple postures and self-presentation predicted the likelihood of connecting with others.  Expansive behaviors, such as opened arms and relaxed posture created these connection possibilities.  Over a lifetime, if you are able to make friends faster and because your expectancy in life has increased, so has your life expectancy.   
  • Continual learning:  Many people often take up tango late in life and become master dancers. Tango dancers start learning how to DJ, organize communities, and discriminate between orchestras, voices and instrumentalization in music. We tango dancers are thirsty for more knowledge.  The Harvard Business Review and countless research projects have shown that continual learners live longer and are happier. Learning my fifth language (French), I think, is good for my brain health. Far more importantly, continual learning creates connections.  It goes like this:  Dancing tango leads me to meet my French wife, which leads to more continual learning (learning French), which leads to expectancy of life and general happiness and well-being.
  • Enjoyment of life.  Yang Yang, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, found correlations to longer periods of time enjoying life had long lasting effects.  Enjoying the present is in effect charging your batteries for other less enjoyable moments you may experience.  Mindfulness training and tango have similar biological outcomes and create expectancy in life.  Read more in The University of Chicago Magazine's article on her work.
  • Openness to socially acceptable physical contact.  When a famous pediatrician in the US told mothers to stop cuddling and spoiling their children so much, infant mortality increased dramatically.  This phenomenon of "failure to thrive" and infant mortality unfortunately is the focus of research on touch. However, any adult who does not have touch because they are unable touch themselves also will slowly perish.  Argentine tango dancers get over the common aversions to touch that many cultures have.
  • Music as passion. Music is known to help us ward off depression and get through difficult times.  Sad music, like tango, often paradoxically helps us to be happier. Musicians (and perhaps dancers?) of certain genres of music, like the blues, have musicians long outliving other musicians.  We have no data on tango musicians or dancers but if blues musicians live longest, there's a good chance that tango is part of that genre to increase life expectancy. Interestingly, my wife and I have made blues dancing our favorite "second dance." It gives us great joy.
  • Social connections.  I am amazed about the depth of conversations and the deep friendships I have made through tango.  This sort joy of communication and deep connections is tied to expectancy of life.
Is everything good for me in tango?  No! But these negative issues are easily avoidable.  First and foremost, I think, if tango is ruining a person's good sleep, this is a major problem for longevity. I have been acutely aware of this from working with soldiers with PTSD.  Not being able to sleep ages each and every organ of their body, ruining even their libido and all joy in life.  So I now try to find early milongas or make sure that I sleep long the next day.

Even if I stop dancing tango tomorrow, I still can engage with a nod and body language better than the average person.  I will listen to music of all types with a better ear. I will value deep friendships, perhaps even with others who once danced tango, and I will delight in their hugs. Perhaps my Expectancy in Life will turn into life expectancy.

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Photo credit: Milonga in Austin, Texas, USA.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/mashapavlova/8642488048/in/photostream/


  1. Terrific post. Thanks very much. I will repost as guest post in www.dancingwithpresence.com

  2. Beautiful post. I stopped putting a limit on my tango life. I will dance as long as I can walk. The more I dance, the more likely I will stay walking longer (and dancing).


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