What is Tango?

Tango is a vibrant and playful dance between two people. It has very rich potential for expression, improvisation and connection and is danced in both modern and traditional styles. It is often described as a passionate dance, because of the close connection partners can have, the character of the music, and also relating to some of the dance's history.At the heart of tango (Argentine tango) is the desire to listen to, understand and converse with the person you're dancing with, through this unique language of dance. So tango can be many things for different people. Almost any type of music that can be walked to can be tangoed to, which means just about anyone can do it!In tango there is a 'leader' and 'follower'. Through the embrace, the leader offers invitations to the follower for where and how to step. The follower decides in what way they will accept the leader's invitations. Both leader and follower try to maintain harmony and connection through the embrace, and with the music, and so the dance is born.

Like the symbols of yin and yang, the roles of leader and follower each have a little of the other within them. Tango is a collaborative process, which encourages the development of sensitivity, clarity, trust and respect."When I tango it's like there is no past or future, there is only my partner and the music, in constant flow.""Tango is sharing a moment of intimacy and understanding with another person""Tango lets me forget my worries and remember what it's like to let the music take over""It's truly magic, how two people can really move as one, so connected with each other and the music - that's tango"

Why is Tango so popular?

1. Physical Exercise

Tango is good for cardiovascular health. Intensity can be modified to ensure that it is an endurance exercise. Indeed, in Argentina, Drs. Comasco and Peidro have shown in a hospital setting that Tango can be used to improve cardiovascular fitness in persons who have had a cardiac incident or a heart attack. Tango increases mobility, balance, stride length and core strength. These changes have been demonstrated not only in healthy individuals, but in those at risk for falls by Dr McKinley and colleagues, in persons with Parkinson’s disease by Drs Hackney and Earhart, in persons with visual impairment by Dr Hackney, and, in a case study, for a person post-stroke.

2. Social Satisfaction

Interaction with people with similar interests.Partnered tango dance has been found to be an important activity which is engaging, and is self-promoting, because of the amount of enjoyment and identification within the group of people with similar interests and goals by Drs Kreutz and Tateo.• Interaction with people with similar goals.According to researchers McKinley, Rabinovich, Pinniger, and Tesmijian, individuals with disabilities related to Parkinson’s disease, visual impairment or depression have expressed a sense of common goals that include improving mobility, a sense of connectedness and understanding with others and the ability to learn a new activity while decreasing isolation.

3. Spirituality and mindfulness

Tango induces a state of flow and spirituality. Flow is a state of mind where the action is so pleasurable that you want to do it again and again and do not want to stop. This feeling has been expressed by the following groups:* Elderly at risk for falls: («Oh when I hear that music, I just want to dance, dance, dance»)* Parkinson’s disease: («Other treatments do not engage me, I don’t know why. They do not catch my body or my mind. It is like eating without spices. There is something missing. I stopped going to other treatments, but for Tango, I am never absent.»)* Self-diagnosed depression («I wish I could dance all day every day»)* Visual impairments («Once the music starts, and I begin to dance, I do not want to stop; I feel young and whole again»)Spirituality is often expressed in terms of tango as a holistic activity(«In this program they do not only take care of our bodies, they also take care of our spirits. While we dance we are people…. not sick people»).• Mindfulness is improved.In a series of studies, Drs Pinniger, McKinley and colleagues have demonstrated that Argentine Tango helps individuals focus on the present and the task at hand. Because of the importance of the interactions between partners for step execution, dancers must focus on the present task at hand. There is no time to ruminate about other issues or problems that may be troubling them at the present. This factor is so strong, that the enhancement of mindfulness with tango has been to shown to be greater than meditation or resistance training in persons with self-diagnosed depression.

4. Cognition

Specific cognitive skills may be improved.In persons at risk for falls, Jacobson and McKinley have found that the ability to do two things at once, such as navigating in space and being in synchrony with your partner (Dual tasking) is improved. There are indications that working memory may also be improved. Dance appears to be an effective exercise to counteract dementia.In a large epidemiological study, Dr Verghese and colleagues ascertained that the major physical activity that seemed to protect against Alzheimer’s disease was dancing.

5. Meaningfulness

Purposefulness of Tango. Dancers not only want to learn the steps, but execute them gracefully and to be in synchrony with their partner. They often express a specific purpose for doing tango. They want to challenge themselves to do something new; they want to have fun, to meet new people. Tango is goal directed. Anyone who engages in a tango class generally has a specific goal in mind. For healthy individuals, it might be social interactions, the ability to dance the tango at a wedding, a trip to Argentina, etc. For persons with disabilities, these goals are generally related to the disability. Persons will express specific goals such as I want to lose my fear of falling; I want to walk better; I want to feel better about myself. Because tango instruction can be so easily gauged to a person’s ability, and the essence of tango is walking, people easily perceive that they are fulfilling these goals.

6. Emotional and Educational Health

Tango provides an avenue for learning new skills.For example, many individuals with disabilities expressed this sentiment:«When I started learning tango I realized that I still can do and learn things. So I feel capable again. If I can learn tango I am sure I can learn other things too». Emotional responses are facilitated by tango music and enhanced by dancing.Brown and colleagues have shown that MRIs of brain activity during the playing of tango music, or visually watching tango dancing (to music) have exhibited specific activity in the brain related to sensory motor integration and pleasurable emotion. These responses may be enhanced by executing tango-like movements while listening to music. As well, it seems that tango music enhances the release of testosterone, this response seems to be increased when dancing to tango music, both in men and women.Implementation of tango classes for persons with disabilities. Here are a few critical elements to ensure that the tango classes provide enjoyment and support for the participants. Skilled partners preferable: volunteer Tangueros are preferable as partners, as there is much more enjoyment and sense of accomplishment when dancing with skilled partners.

Music should have a strong and predictable beat: a very obvious strong and clear rhythm is critical, as an identifiable strong rhythm engages many parts of the brain and helps the person to execute the walk and other steps. Dance floor is spacious: sufficiently large with no barriers to avoid, and with clear and differential audio speakers in order to facilitate navigation around the room for visually impaired. Social break during the class: participants like to have refreshments and time to talk and rest during the middle of the class. They look forward to socializing and also to resting a bit. Dedicated dance classes: while some individuals enjoy coming to regular tango events, others prefer to have dedicated classes/events for themselves as they have expressed fearfulness in not being able to perform with regular Tangueros. Thus, one option might be to hold specific hours of class or free dance for persons with disabilities.

Here are some video clips of what Tango looks like...