There are four foundational needs of our psyche: to be seen, to be listened to, to connect and to belong. (Reginald A. Ray, PhD, cofounder and spiritual director of Dharma Ocean Foundation).
I cannot think of any social activity that offers a better possibility of addressing all four of these needs than the Tango.
intimacy and connection …
Dance generally and Tango specifically is conversation: an opportunity to be listened to, to be attended to, to be held, to feel supported. We are massaged inside and out through the engagement with partner and music.
The elements of intimacy and connection in tango were fashioned in a world of anonymity where immigrants were faceless, nameless, rootless, needing to be loved, desperate to be held. It was an answer to the soul’s need to find intimacy and beauty in a desolate world.
rituals of respect …
Tango is infused throughout with rituals of respect and attention: inviting your partner to dance by making eye contact (cabeceo), escorting them to the dance floor, extending one’s hand as an invitation to enveloping embrace. Most significant of course, is the structure of the dance itself which requires communicating with your partner in a gentle, supportive and affectionate way.
Back to our list compiled by Dr. Ray.
#1: need to be seen ....
Seeing is connection from a distance. It is the first point of contact and engagement. It is the spark that inspires courage to reach out to a stranger across the room, the bridge that spans the chasm between object and desire.
Eyes are the window to the soul. They reveal our deepest longings, our treasured secrets, our inner wisdom. It is a stroke of genius that the Tango ritualized eye contact as the first and critical element of the dance proposal. Eyes connect from across the room with an affirming nod, raised eyebrows, a look of acceptance and expectation. The intimidating, vulnerable pilgrimage across the dance floor could only be risked with the prior assurance of approval.
Before entering into the embrace, pause and gaze into your partner’s eyes. Smile. Share in this silent exchange how you feel about them, your excitement about this special moment, your reverence for them as your partner.
Repeat the eye contact at the end of the dance. Notice the difference. Allow your eyes to express your soul’s satisfaction with the treasured moments of connection and beauty.
Hold that feeling within as you leave the dance floor. Treasure it. Take it home with you.