Friday, November 30, 2018

Dilated Tango Eyes

She peered into my eyes and looked concerned after we danced for just two songs of a tanda. I had been dancing at a small weekend tango event, and I suppose I was in a euphoric trance.

"Your eyes are really dilated.  Are mine?"

"No," I said. "Are you concerned?" I asked.

As a registered nurse she mentioned a few concerns, but ended by saying, "If you are feeling fine, then you are okay, but wow, they are really dilated."

Monday, October 22, 2018

The 4th M of Tango

bout four years ago, I came up with a motto for this blog: 
"The 3 M's of Tango: Music / Movement / eMbrace."  

But now, I realize now that I was missing an essential element. The 4th M is Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is an essential element of what draws people to tango. I have had trouble through the years of knowing the difference between fun and mindful euphoria, and it has become clear as I have a regular meditative practice. Without the meditative, mindful part in tango, we may have a fun time but this fun will go by all too fast.  Mindfulness brings a time-slowing euphoria.

Nearly anyone who has danced tango has experienced the difference of a tanda that haunts you forever rather than one that was over too fast and then forgotten. Sure, time goes fast when you are having fun.  But meditative, mindful euphoria creates the experiential reality of time slowing or even stopping.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Timeless Flow and Insights for Tango

Timeless flow is the state of mind that makes tango magical.

"Timeless Flow" is a way to describe the wonderful state of mind that everyone has experienced while in a dream state or in the joy of a magical moment.

As much as I enjoy being "scientific" in my understanding of the universe and life, I am becoming more interested in the Science of Experience.  I want to expand my experience of paying attention to the things that really matter in life. As we increase our awareness of the here and now, time stops in this euphoric space.  This is the best that tango gives to us--a sense of flow.  Musicians, artists, dancers have been describing flow for eons.

I discovered timeless flow in tango while dancing with a yoga teacher and mindfulness coach for businesses.  She said, "That tanda when by so fast." I challenged her with, "Let's dance another, but imagine that time slows or stops or expands."  We did just that, and it forever changed the way I dance. I physically slowed down some for that tanda (and every tanda since that one).  My change of mind created this change of experience. I now avoid saying "time goes fast when you are having fun," or "our vacation went so fast." Did it really? When I am mindful of all that happened, it becomes amazing to consider all of what I had experienced.  I shared that observation with my wife in our recent 30 days in France, and she added to the list of magical experiences.  So we are learning to say instead: "It is as though we had a century of wonderful experiences."  Or we say:  "Time stopped.  That was wonderful"; "it's as if we have known each other for a century."  It helps that have been practicing being careful with notions of time since I was 20 years old.  I saw that as people get older, they'd say time goes faster.  Is it because we have left the mindfulness that we possessed as a child?

I celebrate mindful moments and pay careful attention to them. Join me in the science of time perception, and be as attentive as if you were observing the collision of atoms at a billion-dollar particle accelerator.  The microseconds of evidence in a particle accelerator has led scientists to discover the inner workings of the universe.  A particle accelerator is similar to our moments of timeless flow:  Keep collecting the evidence!  Tango is the best particle accelerator for experiential scientists and much less expensive.

The moments of timelessness that you perceive have a far more practical application than what happens particle accelerator, however.

The practical application of the science
of stopping time is that you can expand 
your experience of timeless flow from
a mere fraction of your experience to
the majority of your experience.

The tango-experience of flow is so powerful, that people keep returning to experience it some more.  Sometimes "flow" is elusive only when we discount the moments of timelessness we experience.

In my next post, I will add some practical ways to expand timelessness in your life and in your tango. I would love to hear from you about your experiences.  You can message me on Facebook or email me at

I plan to post the next step to timelessness as soon as time stops.  Just give me a moment.  :-)

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Photo Credit:  Photo Credit:  Kasia Derwinska.  See/buy her art at Saatchi Art.

Regarding flow.  Notice the section on spirituality--fascinating and the definition of "autotelic"

Friday, July 20, 2018

These Motivation Styles may define your tango

My last blog entry introduced Gretchen Rubin, who had written a New York Times Best Seller, The Four Tendencies.

I have a video below of a presentation that Rubin gave in case you did not catch my last post.  In short, she describes four kinds of people with their "tendencies" when it comes to external or internal motivation. Although some might argue that these are too simplistic, I would argue they are "parsimonious" in that they make sense of complex issues--of why good intentioned people find themselves unmotivated or on the other end of the spectrum, motivated in a way that brings out bad outcomes in their lives.

The Tendencies are here given as a way of understanding our tango lives in the area of external and internal motivations.  Take the quiz about your own tendencies BEFORE you have reviewed the below video. Be sure and answer the way you are and not the way you'd like to be.  Press here for the link to the quiz.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Tango's Four Tendencies

At a national conference of therapists, the organizers invited Gretchen Rubin, who had written a New York Times Best Seller, The Four Tendencies.  She explained in her talk four categories of people in the way to find the motivation to get things done.  I think you will like her motivational speech for understanding how we respond to external and internal motivation. I went home and read her book right away.  Luckily I found a video of her presenting her ideas, summarized well in her TedTalk video for you.  Please check it out below.

What advantages/disadvantages of your personality tendency affect your tango? So here are the categories, just to let your mind to set this up well:

Motivation Tendency       External      Internal                     Strength
Upholders                         yes                yes                           Take care of team and self
Obligator                           yes                no                             Dies for the team
Questioners                      no                 yes                           Takes care of team/self with answers
Rebels                               no                 no                             Keeps the team from lethal mistakes

What is your tendency?  How does it affect your tango?

In July I will add more reflection on this subject, but first I want to hear from people of what tendency they have and how they think it affects them. 

How does you tendency . . .

1. Help you to increase your skill level?
2. How much do you find that music is really important to motivate you to dance?
3. Does your tendency make you interested in tango etiquette or reject it?
4. Any other observations?

Please make comments on the Facebook page or on this post. You can also send me messages at

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

We are a fantastic dancer!

She and I are both percussionists. It may be one of the reasons I love dancing with her. Without exception, she reminds me of our drummer bond, our connection through rhythm awareness.

She needn't remind me!  I know.

Yesterday, after a particularly fun tango, we pause between songs in the tanda and she says, "That was so much fun! You are a fantastic dancer."

Pensively I suggest: "We are fantastic dancers when we dance together."

She counters. . .
"We are a fantastic dancer!"

What a great insight into what tango is all about! Although I really do enjoy positive feedback about my dancing, I find it a bit perplexing that I so often hear a dance partner's self-dismissive responses to my praise.  "I just follow what you lead," I often hear. What is Yin without Yang? What are the stars without the backdrop of the stillness of night? What is an embrace without open arms?  It is up to both heads to listen to the music, both pairs of legs, both bodies to respond to the music meaningfully. It takes two hearts to listen to one another. 

"We are a fantastic dancer," says it best.

Thanks, Stephanie!

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Photo credit:
Tango Embrace by Alan Kirkland-Roath

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Dancers as Music's Graffiti

I know that from my own dancing, especially with certain milonga tandas, that I feel constrained not by a pre-scripted choreography but by the music. The music dances us. My wife tells me that she feels as if she is just dancing to the music and I am there with her.  She's right. Mission accomplished. This feeling of the music controlling your every move in tandem is the zone where the leader/follower paradigm disappears.  Sure, there are two distinct roles, but "leader/follower" is probably the worst analogy to describe the magic of Argentine tango, but perfect for ballroom tango.
Isn't this the way it's supposed to be? The music moves us; otherwise, it isn't really dancing at all, I suppose. Nonetheless, I am concerned that too often hungry-to-learn dancers forfeit the magic of tango in that many dancers rely on a combination of "tango moves," which have been "written" by dance teachers. The "moves" are often taught even as no music is being played, although the majority of moves were discovered by listening to music and one's partner.

What is the better analogy for the magic of tango--something "scripted" or something "painted"?

"Choreo" is the word for the art of dance in Greek and "-graphy" means "written-out." So choreography means to follow what has been "pre-scripted" for your dance. In social dance the prescribed dance has taken away Music's role!  Personally speaking, I want the music to prescribe what I do and also how I feel my partner's inspiration as what "prescribes" my steps. Keeping things very simple with an elegant tango walk is the basis for this--the opposite of being a walking encyclopedia of choreographed tai chi moves to music. I actually practice tai chi with music at times, but the movement is central in this tai chi practise and the music is a backdrop. Tango has music's magic in the foreground. I am suggesting the dancers can be the instrument of music, or "Music's Graffiti." It's true that "graffiti" also has its Greek roots (γράφω) as something scripted. We get the word "graffiti" through Italian (meaning to scrible rather than chisel words) but "graffiti" has its new meaning as a painted art form in public: I think the dancer being the spontaneous, slightly illegal, street art form is the perfect analogy for social tango: The goddess, Musica, uses normal people to paint her inspirations on wooden floors the world over. Divine graffiti?

Music constrains us in the most joyful way. She makes us dance a certain way.  She controls what we will do. Having said this, I have a test--although an imperfect one--of watching performers who appear to have scripted out (choreographed) their interpretation of a particular song.

There is a difference between those who choreograph and those who don't, but I have an idea that it is not easy to know the difference for the audience.  For a test of my theory, let me present to you Horacio Godoy, dancing to
La Muchachada del Centro by la Orquesta de Francisco Canaro (1932) in two versions with two different partners:  Celia Berra and Magdalena Gutierrez.

First play each rendition for a while or all the way through.  Then decide whether the couple is dancing spontaneously, exacted by the music or pre-planned, written-out dance (choreography).  Then, we'll talk about it below.

So I suppose you have a theory of the dance being choreographed or spontaneous.  Surely it is a bit of both through hours of practise together, but where is the emphasis?

Now, to test your theory of choreography or spontaneity, mute one of them. Start the top performance (Berlin) at 11 seconds and the bottom one (Belgrade) at 3 seconds. It doesn't work perfectly, but you can see that it is Music's graffiti being painted here and not dance-written-out (chroreo-graphy). There are too many variations between the two. I have done this with others, and am amazed at zero variance between performance.  Horacio and his different partners are constrained by the music in the most wonderful way.

Now, the lesson here is that you Let the Music Paint You.  Be the music's spontaneous graffiti, painted on the dance floor.  This is social dance at its best.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Tango Impressionists

If you would become a true tango artist in today's world, I believe one must become very much like the Impressionists in Paris, France.

The "Tango Impressionist" creates a color and a mood and not the perfect line and frame, or contrast as tango choreographers and their protégés do. Impressionists rejected the perfect line developed in the controls of a studio. The true impressionists look for the perfect moment and try to catch it before the light changes.  But the bad news is that much like the Impressionists in the late 1800's in France, the TI may be rejected by the clique of wanna-be stage dancers. Yet, if one eschews fame and the (imagined) adoration of dance voyeurs, you will not grow old, as they likely will, never being the stage dancer they so wanted to be. You will not be forced to perform out in the middle of the social dance floor, hoping for adoring eyes. I hope at some point that all modern dancers at least will try to experience the beauty of Tango Impressionism as do milongueras and milongueros. But, unfortunately, visual gratification and the desire to be seen is a big lure away from the desire to feel and intuit the feelings of your partner and the ambiance of the room.

I see the milonguero, close-embrace dance as the new (resurrected) avant guarde art of Argentine tango. When this art is done well it is truly revolutionary--even far more revolutionary than the Parisian Impressionists.  Why?

Tango Impressionists create an art not for display.

Tango impressionism is the secret art between two dancers, sometimes shared in semi-private events in which no one is there to be on stage but to dance social tango as a true, indescribable art form.  Human.  Imperfect. Sure, it can be pleasant to watch, better than browsing a smartphone, but the purpose of the art is not to be seen.

But beware
Living as an Impressionist may bring you in certain circles to be the rejected artist, the creative artist in tango.  It is not like any other avant-guard in the arts.  Usually, the avant-guard has a new expression to put on display to the world, but the world often does not value it until later or never at all.  Go out and find like-minded "impressionists" who know how to paint a mood, an emotion, a feeling rather than the photo-perfect line with their dance. Being rejected, although not a requirement to be a good artist, has been shown to have the positive effect of engendering creative artists.
Tango Impressionist Milonga? No one is watching the dancers!

What TI is not
Fine art is not just doing what you want and calling it art.  Tango Impressionism, as an art, contains the highest expression of what I call the three M's: Music, Movement and eMbrace:   Excellent musicality, movement with a warm embrace. These remain, in my opinion, the center of this resurrected avant guarde of tango.

Choreographic, step-focused, open embrace tango may be cool, but to me, sadly passé. The object of art, in this case, is to feel, not see. It is likely that no one is looking at your art anyway except voyeurs! Maybe Renoir sensed this in his painting, Moulin de la Galette, in which no one is watching the dancers?  I call this painting the "Tango Impressionist Milonga" because it embodies the object of this art:  Tango Impressionism is not a spectacular thing to watch; it's a spectacular thing to feel.

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Photo Credit:
Renoir's Dance at Bougival
Moulin de la Galette

Note: This blog post was inspired by the BBC TV series, The Impressionists. I highly recommend the DVD. Originally the post was going to be on creativity through being rejected, but the Impressionists' positive story must be said first, not the pain of being creative. Maybe in a future post, I can learn more about the paradoxical relationship creativity and rejection have. If I do, I promise to share what I learn. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Encuentro is another name for Heaven

Encuentro in Paris, France
In Europe, and now more and more in America, organizers have developed little tango festivals (festivalitos) which in all cases are close embrace weekends.  The term for these small events has settled on the Spanish word for "encounter" (encuentro).

Encuentros are amazing for things that happen and things that don't happen.

Things that don't happen:
  • Obligation dances.  No one asks you for a dance. Tango etiquette has long established the cabeceo/mirada (non-verbal) method of asking for a dance as the epicenter of that etiquette.  If you "don't believe in" non-verbal requests or don't know how to get a dance without asking, an encuentro is not a place where you will dance much.
  • Crashes. No one runs into you. "Tango stars" don't come nor are they invited. Floorcraft at an encuentro assumes that one can dance well in a very small space.  No one will kick you from out-of-control moves such as ganchos and boleos. An excellent dancer with poor floorcraft will be thrown out or at least never invited again to an encuentro and put on a black list. Personally speaking, the feeling of safety allows me to dance at a higher level. Sometimes I have to use all my survival skills to protect my partner at festivals and local milongas. When I am forced to go into a survival mode while dancing, my focus on dance skills will suffer. The encuentro allows me to focus on what really matters: The music, embrace and unique dance expression of my partner.  
  • Tango "stars" cannot fit in the encuentro ronda!
    Milonguero stars are created in the
    star-filled heavenly embrace of their partners.
    (Encuentro in Newport News, Virginia*)
  • Tango shows. Did you come to watch someone dance all by themselves or to dance with all your friends?  No shows or demos as a rule.
Things that DO happen:
  • Excellent dance music.  An encuentro is almost certain to invite well-known DJ's who understand Buenos Aires rules of tandas and cortinas.  (Four-song tango tandas x 2, a three-vals tanda, again two tango tandas, and finally, a three-milonga tanda.). The DJ also knows not to mix orchestras as a rule. The DJ's take time to find the best quality reproductions and play mostly traditional Golden Age tango. But what good is to have excellent dance music without a good quality of sound?  Encuentro DJ's generally have the highest level technical knowledge about sound reproduction and the best copies of songs. Enjoy their carefully equalized, distortion-free music that is carefully kept at volume levels that will not harm your hearing!
  • Excellent dancers with warm embraces.
  • Gender balance. Having gender balance relaxes everyone quite a bit. Some men and women may sit more than they want, but gender imbalance is usually not a factor. 
  • Social dancers. Many dancers often try to dance with everyone at the small event--not out of obligation but out of joy.
Note: The encuentro I am describing is from my experience. And yes, I am idealizing the encuentro here a bit. But in all cases, I have had a great time--heaven on earth.  Also, I write from my conversations with organizers who may add or subtract some minor elements. One organizer may add a "demo" show of milonguero dancing. Most but not all organizers will make the milongas not so long; so everyone will show up at the same time. This ensures that the balance will be right.  Most encuentros will have a dinner together.  Most will have lots of food and drink included in the price. Each organizer and country will bring a bit of spice to the encuentro and the concept will morph over time--for better or worse.  I am open to edit and change this post.  Write me at or message me on my Facebook Tango-Therapist page ( with your ideas.

-------More info----------
Register to find out when and where encuentros in the USA are happening at  Most European encuentros are through invitation as dancers notice the quality of your embrace and knowledge of tango etiquette.

*Photo credits:
  • Paris encentro with Sybille and me Dec 2014.  
  • The line of dancers in the ronda was taken by Ivy Garrenton
    at the Newport News, VA (USA) encuentro.  March 2018.  

Insights about what an encuentro looks like:

Paris encuentro:  Dans les Bras (in your arms).  Sybille and I were there. Heaven!

 Barcelona encuentro:  Abrázame.

La cita de los amingos 7

Tango Short Films by Roberto:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Why men dance with men on Planet O

An allegory on a taboo subject
by Mark Word

My meditation teacher and tango partner was not kidding:  "Mind-Travel" she called it. "You're ready. Where would you like to go in the Universe?" she asked.  "Let's go dance somewhere new."

"How about going to a parallel universe?" I asked, sarcastically, incredulously.

"That's too far.  How about a parallel galaxy?" she offered.

To my amazement (and I am sure to your disbelief), we went to a parallel galaxy to a planet, called, "Ognat."