A little Buddhism goes a long way.

A little Buddhism goes a long way in enhancing our tango..


As Thich Nhat Hanh, the revered Buddhist leader explains, “Our concepts about things prevent us from really touching them.” [1]

The core principle of buddhism is to let go of attachment to outcome. Accept the present moment for what it is without judgement, expectation or agenda.  

What does this have anything to do with tango?



Full disclosure:

Why would I consider including religious quotes in a tango blog?

Because I consider the  Tango a spiritual practice and  as such, I spend more time studying spiritual principles and reflecting on how they might relate to tango - and vice versa- than I do actually dancing. I consider the time that I do get to spend on the dance floor to be sacred and requiring preparation of mind as well as body.

By the same token, as a spiritual practice, the implications of dance must blend into the broader spectrum of life. For example, consideration of emotional balance and relational dynamics need to be reflected in one’s dance as well as in one’s social life. Personal stability off the dance floor is as important as maintaining one’s balance on the dance floor.

The intent of a spiritual practice is to concentrate the learning of a healthy life perspective and experience into a constricted discipline. I find tango amazing in this respect. The learning that I derive from the dance experience about relational dynamics, sensuality and self-expression seem limitless.

My blog is an attempt to bridge the gap between spiritual reflection and the physical practice of tango. It is difficult to do because one is attempting to put into words the meaning or feeling of something physical and on the other hand put into practice reflections which have no direct reference to the dance.

Not that this is impossible. It has been done quite expertly with yoga, tai chi, martial arts and other eastern practices, as well as some western movement practices, (cns. spiritual reflections by Gabrielle Roth on the transcendent qualities of dance movement or fascinating insights by Nita LIttle on Contact Improvisation).

However, to my knowledge (limited to English) a comparative catalogue is absent from tango. I am aware of a few writings (cns. Mary Anne Schleinich’s master’s thesis  In Tango’s Embrace: A phenomenology and ceremony.) and I am instantly attracted to some of the mystical statements by Carlos Gavito. But reflections in English are not readily available. To wit, Tango teachers will talk at length about floor craft or musicality but seldom reference the healing qualities of the embrace or the relational dynamics expressed in the dissimilar roles of lead and follow.

But I digress. Back to our Buddhist master.

A little Buddhism

Our  “concepts” as Thich Nhat Hanh calls them,  namely our judgements about how a dance should look or feel, prevent us from “touching” our partner and the music and from being present and responsive to both.

Tango has the potential of being danced extemporaneously, that is without prescribed sequences or responses. It is an opportunity of creative and spontaneous response to both the music and our partner. We dance from the inside out as we listen to both.

Often, or typically, our dance does not reach this potential. Our creative expression is  surrendered to routinized sequences in our lead. In return, we expect prescribed responses from our partner. When our partner does not respond in a way anticipated,  we become frustrated, angry or judgemental.

Our concepts about the dance prevent us from being in intimate contact with, touching our partner.

Alternatively, when we approach the dance from a place of inner stillness, quietness, listening, we open ourselves to the sensations of the moment. We are aware of the sights, sounds, smells, touch. We respond not only to the flow of the music but to our partner’s timing. We are attuned to the muscular movements that indicate when she is finished her step and returned to her axis. We internalize our partner’s sense of rhythm and we adapt our dance accordingly.

We surrender ourselves to what wants to  be expressed in the dance. We exchange our concepts for the freshness of creative expression in the moment.