International Tango Therapy Conference in Argentina

TANGO: A LIFE SAVER

What soothes your heart, lowers your blood pressure, cancels out diabetes, and counteracts depression?
What allows more balance and confidence to those with Parkinson’s disease? And gives people with Downs Syndrome a way to solidly inhabit their bodies with more grace and precision? What unites your psyche with knowledge of the body, inspires your endocrine system with endorphins, and fattens your chances of a longer and much happier life? Without Alzheimer’s.
Argentine Tango.

Yes, indeed; dance your way to maximum health and superior cognitive mastery within the ecstatic embrace of tango!

I returned July 22 from the first International Tango Therapy Conference in Rosario, Argentina.  I was invited to present a miniature version of my workshop: Argentine tango: the Relationship Dance.
The workshop is about the polarities of masculine/feminine energy, the different brain functions of men and women, and how tango is a perfect metaphor for why we need, and love, each other.
The conference brought together many professionals who have all learned that the dance of Argentine tango has brought about extraordinary, positive changes in many lives.
It is a HUGE undertaking to put on a conference.
I wish to heartily congratulate Ms. Marisa Adriana Maragliano, one of the organizers, for doing an exceptional job. She cloned herself to be everywhere at once, and had her finger on every rhythmic pulse of the Conference.
There were many supporters and organizers who merit acclaim and recognition:  ( see: http://www.congresotangoterapia.com/organizadores.htm),

The conference was at the Hotel Ariston in Rosario, Argentina.
More than four hours by bus from Buenos Aires; Rosario is a river port city that has a top quality art museum and other interesting sights. However, free time was brief if one wanted to get to all of the presentations.
Tango milongas on two out of three evenings took the leftover hours of sleep, and so heavy lidded participants arrived late every morning.
Almost all of the participants and presenters were also tango dancers, so the milongas were well attended.

Largely psychotherapists, psychologists, and medical doctors did the discourses and presentations. Most of the events were in lecture form, although the last day allowed for experiential events involving movement and/or dance.

The first morning Drs. Ricardo Comasco and  Luis Aposta opened the conference. They both represent work from the Favoloro Foundation; a well-known and respected specialty heart clinic in Buenos Aires.
Their research, using equipment to measure oxygen consumption and heart rate, clearly shows that dancing tango gives one optimum exercise without strain. In addition, flexibility is increased, self-awareness increases, depression relieved, and social anxieties reduced.
Some very humorous tango posters from the turn of the century were shown, at a lecture on “los Bailes del Internado”. In the early 1900’s, medical interns and doctors took to tango in a morbid frenzy. Posters showed doctors with bloody aprons and scalpels dancing tango together. Social milongas were hosted by interns, and once in awhile severed anatomy was hidden at the milongas for a joke.
Fortunately, it seems the love of tango is still alive in the Argentine and Uruguayan medical profession, but is now pairing the gift of science with the dance instead of with the macabre.
Presentations included subjects of : individuation through tango; encountering the psyche’s shadow and using the alchemical process of transformation turning darkness into luminous light.
Feldenkrais method and body awareness. Presentations included movement and exercises to awaken and limber the body. These were very well led, and a welcome relief from sitting still in chairs during presentations.
Using “Psicotango,” participants succeeded in using all the senses to rediscover movement and connection to each other. This kind of awareness is, in my opinion, at the heart of tango, and is what contributes to the pleasure of a dance.
It is the art of play itself, and continual re-discovery, that makes the inner smile widen during a tango dance.
Another presentation stressed that tango keeps us alive in our basic core, as it enlivens the libido. Through the ritual and ceremony of tango and its customs, it becomes a group participation dance of life celebration, not just a ritual for two.

Musicology was also introduced as a healing therapy; with interesting data about illness dropping away after hearing different tones, notes, and rhythms. Memory retention, help for Alzheimers and dementia were also addressed in a talk about favorable results of movement and sound when they are coherent and integrated.
One complete dissertation was on the embrace of tango, and the healing effects of partnering in a dance where hearts beat in unison, and where contact and touch become a healing art. The speaker was Dr. Federico Trossero, a psychiatrist, tango performer, tango teacher, and researcher of tango as a therapy. His book is called Tango Terapia.
Another book, Con el Corazon en el Tango, Includes research data The author is Dr, Roberto Peidro, chief of Cardiovascular Rehabilitation at the Favoloro Hospital in Buenos Aires.
Short films were shown of mentally and physically handicapped people, including those with Down’s syndrome, dancing in hospital halls. Enlightened and free with their new dance ability, their movement was graceful and their co-ordination was extraordinary.
At the conference itself, a young, beautiful, and blind participant was in not only my workshop, but also several others. Her dance ability was extraordinary. At one point, I tried to discourage her from an exercise in my workshop where she could have been physically harmed, but she exclaimed, “This is something I want to do! Why won’t you let me try?”
Not only did she complete the exercise, but also she excelled! The room exploded with applause.

Other presenters come from half way around the world to the conference. Dr. Gammon Earhart from the USA spoke about the improvement of functional mobility for Parkinson’s patients using tango as a therapy. Dr. Patricia McKinley, from McGill University in Montreal, spoke about improvement of elderly patients through tango study. I hope I have not excluded any presenters who traveled far for this extraordinary conference.

Dr, Leon Gerner, from Uruguay, did a wonderful talk on tango and alternative health lifestyle. Dr Gerner will have a link page to all of the presenters at the conference, both in English and Spanish. He will also have data available on the research done and statistics with tango and health.
(http://www.crecelindo.org/eng/content/category/5/14/27/)

On the day of departure, as I was getting luggage on to the bus, one of the young presenters introduced herself. Her presentation had been on Zero Conflict tango. Her thesis is that tango is a way to self realize, and to deepen a commitment to non-violence by promoting harmony, group interests, and awareness. She travels internationally, using tango as a way to promote peace.
(http://www.ceroconflictotango.com)

Finally, on the bus ride back to Buenos Aires, I was mentally reviewing the conference. I was sitting next to the woman who had been my seatmate on the way to Rosario. She is a beautiful and celebrated journalist and radio show host in Buenos Aires. We made friends on the trip, and even saw each other for a dance and supper on the same night we arrived in BA.

The others on the bus were singing tangos, mariachi tunes, giggling, laughing, and caught in an ephemeral web woven by Argentine tango. It was like a bus to summer camp! The buzz of youth hummed through the bus, and sewed our ages in years into a gay, inspired, human crazy quilt of hundreds of pieces.

“What is it,” I thought, “that makes us so devoted to tango? “

I thought of the local tanguero who had helped me with my presentation. He was knowledgeable, kind, tender, an amazing dancer by night; a paramedic by day. My ideas, he said, were tangential to his own. He was inspired to consider what nurtured him as a man, and how tango made him a better person.
As I struggled to leave his magnificent  ( and exemplary) tango embrace during our presentation, more material surfaced in me that I had learned from the conference:

“The embrace of tango releases oxytocin for the woman. If she does not trust her partner before the embrace, she will feel bonded to him after the embrace. Like it or not, the loving embrace releases oxytocin. Oxytocin bonds the mother to her baby and the lover to her mate.”

“The tango embrace is going back to the Mother, where we came from, and where our world is nothing but Love, and where the ‘two” become “one”.  This third “one”, who emerges from the “two, ” is the one who is present when we are really dancing a tango that transforms, and a tango  that heals.”

And finally, a quote from one of the organizers, Oscar Derudi:
“ Tango is a marvelous soundtrack to a movie called ‘Life’. “

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One Response

  1. Hi, Christina. As the author of a book on oxytocin and bonding, as well as Hug the Monkey, a blog covering research and news about oxytocin, I’d love to get the source for the statement that oxytocin releases oxytocin for the woman.

    I would bet that tango does cause the brain to release oxytocin. When people move together, they come into limbic resonance: their nervous systems tend to fall into sync. This is similar to what happens when a baby is held by his mother. An oxytocin release is a central part of the mother/baby bond, and it makes sense to me that there would be the same release during tango.

    But it’s really important to note that oxytocin in NOT only a woman thing. If tango causes the release of oxytocin in the brain, it surely does in the male brain as well as the female brain.

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