Non-Violence and Tango

November is Family Violence Prevention Month and purple is the colour. It may seem strange that violence and families should be targeted together, however, 1 out of 4 violent crimes in Canada are committed by family members.

Truth is, the more intimate or trusting the relationship, the more vulnerable and at risk we often are. The government website profiling this awareness identifies healthy relationship practices such as caring, affection, laughter and smiling which we might expect are intrinsic to families but apparently not always the case. A fellow social worker who works with children’s services, identifies the lack of respect as the principle deficiency in the problem families with which she works. She has to teach families how to relate to each other in a positive, support and nurturing way.

Tango and Non-Violence

They don’t include learning tango as one of the therapeutic tools but I believe they could. In fact, tango is often recommended in couple’s therapy. The therapeutic principle is simple: We practice in a safe, structured and intimate environment those attitudes that we want to cultivate in our relationships: respect, gentleness, sensitivity, trust, attentiveness, even reverence. Tango, danced sensitively, is the ideal medium for enacting these behaviours.

(Not that it always works. I wrote a book entitled Trauma to Tango which one beleaguered dance partner suggested should have been entitled “Tango to Trauma.”)

Presence in Motion

I recently attended a workshop entitled, Presence in Motion, designed and facilitated by Lucinda Hayden, internationally acclaimed Focusing* Instructor and Tom Lewis, Tango and Aikido Instructor and owner of La Pista Tango dance studio. The weekend workshop combines the insights of Focusing and the relational and energetic dynamics of Tango.

According to Lucinda, dancing Argentine Tango is like a moving Focusing practice. It is no secret that the Tango raises issues, pushes buttons, brings to the surface deeply submerged feelings of self-doubt and insecurity, sensuality and sexuality - all of which tend to trip us up, both in our dance or relationships. Dancing requires staying centered and present in one’s own self, and at the same time listening with your whole body to your partner’s motions and emotions. ThIs requires flexibility, adjustment, and adaptation, always in an environment of safety, trust, respect, honesty.

*Focusing is a mindfulness method, which teaches you how to listen to yourself in a way that helps your experience become more clear, similar to how a camera lens goes from fuzzy to ‘in focus’. It was originally developed in the 1960s and the granddaddy of other body-oriented approaches like Somatic Experiencing.

A comment made at the end of the workshop by one of the participants was echoed by the others: “Men and women seldom get this opportunity to communicate in such a sensitive, non-confrontational, gentle manner.”

Enhancing your love life.

This does not mean you are going to find your next love on the dance floor, although it has happened. (I could name a few examples.) What it does means is that you have the opportunity to explore and practice wholesome and healing relational practices that will deepen the love-life that you do have.

Many years ago I received one of the best critiques ever over the years of my exploration in the world of Tango. Vicente Munoz and his wife Cristina, seasoned tango teachers in Edmonton were teaching Patricia and I to dance tango for our wedding. In the middle of one of the sessions, he interrupted in frustration: “you don’t know how to hold a woman!” Given that this was to be our wedding dance, the critique was especially poignant. I have kept that corrective as a focal learning even to the present day.

A few lessons ago, I was again interrupted by a comment about my embrace by Louise, one of dear dance partners.  She drew the attention of one of students to the delicacy, richness, and warmth of the embrace that I was modelling. Apparently I have learned a few things over the years.

This is what fascinates me about tango, to reiterate the comment of the workshop participant: we have so few arenas in life in which to engage in such nurturing and supportive practices. Tango is one. Which is why I keep coming back.