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The Lessons of Tango [Oct. 10th, 2020|02:19 pm]

Having a broad vision, or being petty, the results are different.

Viewing from the perspective of the team, or viewing from the perspective of the individual, the results are different.

Zooming out to see yourself as a part of the whole, or zooming in to see yourself as everything, the results are different.

Focusing on what's in common, or focusing on the differences, the results are different.

Being sympathetic, or being unsympathetic, the results are different.

Taking the concerns of others into account, or rejecting different views, the results are different.

Being agreeable, or being disagreeable, the results are different.

Moderate and balanced, or rabid and extremist, the results are different.

Meeting in the middle, or having your own way, the results are different.

Accommodating with each other, or fighting with each other, the results are different.

Cooperating, or being uncooperative, the results are different.

Building bridges, or building walls, the results are different.

Working for the common cause, or working for self-interests, the results are different.

Striving to achieve harmony, or striving to win competition, the results are different.

Teamwork, or self-display, the results are different.

The former are magnanimous and patriotic, the latter are self-centric and small-minded.

The former, which are germane to tango, lead to a better society.

The latter, pertinent to individualism, lead to dissension, disunity and failure as a nation.

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A Sexless Marriage and the Mystery of Tango [Sep. 6th, 2020|11:45 pm]

When I was new to tango, I was single.  I was in a new job, and for three years I was a perfectly happy single man. This was the longest period that I was not in a relationship in my whole life. Tango was enough--at least for a time.  It was a good time to get to know myself. Social dance filled a void.

As a therapist, I have been fascinated by social interactions in tango, my own and others'.  Let's say that I was distracted a bit from this mysterious phenomenon, I will call the "tango-is-enough phenomenon."

The Sexless Marriage
A while back, I was astounded
with a story from a confidante that she was having an extra-marital affair before starting tango. But tango was enough, she said. She stopped seeing her lover.  Her sexless marriage drove her to seek out what she was missing, but the extramarital affair, she found, was not as fulfilling as tango. Tango was enough. She didn't have time for something that suddenly felt shallow.


Then I heard the story again! And again! But then I thought about it.  Why am I astounded when that was my experience too that tango is enough? 

Mystery versus the Myth of Passion
I realize that for those who understand the social interaction in a tango community, these stories will not seem that unusual. All I am suggesting here is that the tango-is-enough phenomenon is unfortunately overpowered by stories of tango passion and gossip-worthy scandals. Something is very precious about this phenomenon of tango being better than an affair. You know, people meet each other in bowling clubs, or book clubs, at work, or whatever. Then the love affair/marriage might follow.  But do other activities you know of stop extra-marital affairs?* There is a mystery here. Something is strange at the quantum biophysics level.   :-)

Lock-Down to Think About Things
During this pandemic, as we go into flu season, we have a chance to realize more about the mystery of life and what is important to us. What brings us to be grateful? Pandemic or not, many of the elements of the beauty of life are requesting our intention and attention.  The many facets of tango are still there--connections with others, listening to music, dancing ecstatically alone, learning more about the music and orchestras, and most of all being in the zone, mindful in all things.  

I suggest staying in the present, full of joy. Tango is not just a dance but the way to understand that life is meant to be a mystery, lived in the present, and that the mystery of happiness is enough, joy is enough, life is enough.  Tango is merely a sweet signpost along the way to keep us on this path.

*Even though tango just indeed may be enough, my suggestion to the sex-deprived spouses (sometimes both having affairs) is that they seek marital counseling, specifically a sex therapist.  

Photo credit: Need a ring?

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The Best Pandemic Tango Ever [Aug. 22nd, 2020|09:11 pm]


What is pandemic tango? 

Or even
hat is endemic tango?

Endemic and pandemic are not words only meant for disease!  In fact, these words have nothing to do with disease directly.  They have the same base meaning: -demic means "population."  En-demic is in-the-population and pan-demic is throughout-the-population from the original Greek. 

For those who follow this blog, I have suggested the four endemic M's in tango--Music, Motion, eMbrace, and Mindfulness.  Some friends even have suggested Manners (etiquette), and eMotion to make it six M's.  These "Ms" are pandemic to tango--present in the tango community no matter where you go.  Some of these M's may be really a lot more important to you now that you have not been dancing much.

So be mindful of what you miss during this time of being separated from your love of dance.  That defines what your body and mind seek out the most essential elements of tango.

The Element We Most Miss
Endemic to tango, at least for social tango, is the embrace, and many tango dancers miss the embrace the most during our physical distancing during this pandemic phase of our lives.  A colleague at work was the first person to touch me. We worried that she would die, and she was in the intensive care unit. I really didn't know her very well, but when she came back to work, I told her that I had prayed for her every day.  She wanted to embrace me, but she settled on a handshake. It felt so amazing to have social contact again. 

Let's be positive and proactive
Using the word "endemic"--prevalent or characteristic--helps us get back to basics to what dance really means.  Maybe it is not the social touch for you.  But what is the positive pandemic element in tango for you? What is always present and important to you?

A Prediction
At least for me, I think that I have also found what is endemic to a healthy life. This forced break from tango has brought me to see some of the positive things that have sprung up:  More reading, more deep sleep, more important projects that have been neglected, more conversations with my partner--these are also endemic to a healthy life.  As horrible as COVID-19 has been--as with all its tragedies--we humans can also find ways of surviving and being better. It is not a normal outcome of tragedies, but it can and does often happen.  I predict that many will transform their tango to be more regulated with earlier milongas and better sleep, and certainly, we will all be much better huggers when this is all over.

If you wish to contact me: .

Definition of pandemic is from Webster's

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Tango and Reincarnation [Aug. 12th, 2020|02:01 am]

Reincarnation means something different in tango. 

Juan D'Arienzo's orchestra plays and you embody the music in a totally different way than if Troilo's orchestra is playing.  When your body changes so much, I would argue that this is a type of new "incarnation."  A new tanda starts, and then the next orchestra is Di Sarli. Now your incarnation of the music transforms you yet again.

So this sort of "reincarnation" is possible when we dancers let go of all the steps we have learned.  Reincarnation happens by listening to the music rather than nervously trying to knit one' "moves" all together during a tanda.  Let that go!  Breathe. Reincarnate as the music guides you to a new embodiment, moving uniquely through this present tanda.

Really it's bad karma to dance the same way to no matter what music is playing.

Why wait to die to be reincarnated the old way?  Each tanda, each orchestra, really each song gives you the chance at reincarnation.  I do not want to be flippant about Hindews or others who truly believe in reincarnation, but isn't it sad to leave your partner behind in reincarnation? Tango offers reincarnation with a partner; nirvana with a partner; heaven-on-earth with a partner.  If we get to choose, I choose reincarnation with every tanda and with every partner.  During a pandemic, it may mean dancing with a broom, dancing alone, but whatever you do--experience reincarnation regularly.

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Generalizing Tango Ecstacy during the pandemic [Jul. 14th, 2020|01:30 am]

Moments of tango ecstasy are generalizing to other places in my life.  Did you ever feel like you were walking on the streets of heaven--even a bit lost? Well, with any luck, you will stay lost!

Let me explain "generalizing." If a person has a specific anxiety for driving over tall bridges, for example, that anxiety may become generalized into being afraid of any bridge, such as an overpass. Now the fear is starting to grow to the point that no driving is possible without debilitating fear.  Driving and perhaps even going out of the house becomes difficult. This person probably has Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). COVID-19 is creating temporary and even permanent GAD symptoms in the world. What can we do to help others or ourselves?*

GAD is not you
Today's disorder-focused world of psychology tends to see the world with dark glasses on, that is, modern psychology focuses on what is wrong--something that psychologists would quickly point out as being abnormal if one of their patients did this. But whose calling who crazy here?!  

So let's do just something more positive:

Generalized Ecstasy Delight (GED not GAD)
A more positive generalized emotion is ecstasy, or joy, or happiness. Worry can be "nurtured" but other emotions can also be nurtured. Why not? Positive experiences make this possible only when we generalize the positive emotions we found with tango.  I think that tango has enriched my life so much as to generalize its beauty to other activities, other new or old passions. My connection to my partner, my meditative spiritual practice, my joy at work, my love of nature--all these help me to nurture my GED.  Thank you tango!  I see tango--really dance and music--as a path, pointing to other ways to find joy in all things. The pandemic cannot take away ecstasy if this emotion becomes generalized.  It doesn't just happen; it's a Quest.

Generalized-Ecstasy-Delight moments show us a path, the way of and to joy and ecstasy.  The path is the process, not just some destination.  Meet you on the golden streets of Nirvana? Let's get lost there!


Maybe you or another person you love is fighting with Generalized Anxiety Disorder?  Here is a step-by-step alternative to the symptoms which describe GAD:

GED (Generalized Ecstatic Delight) versus
GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)
By Mark Word

Generalized Anxiety Disorder  GAD symptoms

Generalized Ecstatic Delight
GED resiliencies

Persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events

Persistent ecstasy and delight in more than one avocation, person, group, activity. Even the simple things in life bring enjoyment

Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes

Visualizing plans and ideas that give great enjoyment in creative thought

Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren't

Finding ecstasy in situations and events even as others may see these as “mundane”:  Connection to others, a simple walk alone, gratitude that comes easy

Difficulty handling uncertainty

Riding the wave of uncertainty as a chance for psychological or spiritual growth

Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision

Allowing decisions to be an example of being human and doing our best from what we know

Inability to set aside or let go of a worry

Living in the present (mindful) rather in the past (regret/depression) or future (worry/anxiety)

Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge

Living in serenity & courage with wisdom coaching when one or the other is chosen for the moment

Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind "goes blank"

Credit: Mayo Clinic’s symptoms of GAD

Practicing using a balance of intellect/emotions (psyche) beyond just constant inner talk, such, as visualizing, feeling the pulse in different places in the body, being attentive to sensations, noises, the awesome sound of silence or music. Blank is good

Note about GAD: Many people have unresolved PTSD and not GAD.  Medication alone is usually insufficient to help combat anxiety.  Ancient peoples did not call it therapy, but the same principle is what "treats" it: One must face the anxiety in order to overcome it.  "If you fall off the horse, get back on."  Sounds simple, but it's not for the person who must do it.

*Feeling safe is not necessarily good. 
Grandiose Delusional Disorder allows people to believe they are safe when they are not during this and all other pandemics in human history, but that is another story.)

Photo credit:  Streets of Gold

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Why I am not ready to dance yet [Jun. 29th, 2020|01:57 am]

Are you ready or not?

I am not. 

Perhaps, if it were safe, we'd all be ready to go.  But it's not safe, and I have things to do!

I don't want to spend a moment of time pining over the pandemic, and then miss what I can work on under the circumstances.  I wish it were all over for everyone--especially those who are sick and dying--but wishing for an early end seems unrealistic.

What is realistic is avoiding futile wishes for it all to disappear, as a few politicians have predicted and wished.  Please join me in a search of personal growth as a dancers and as a people during this tragic time. The pandemic gives us all an opportunity to learn something.  Here is a list of things that I am working on:

1. Build a robust immune system insomuch a as I am able before dancing again.  If you dance long enough, you will join me in the over-65 risk group for COVID-19 or other possible epidemics in the future.  This is the time to get really smart out bolstering my immune system.  Before the pandemic, I had completed a post's draft on some insights for tango about tango's unique help in building our immune system. Pre-pandemic, I had read the book, 10% Human, and I do everything I can to build and maintain a robust immune system.  It was perfect timing to read that book. See footnotes for more on the immune system for dancers.

2. Become a better breather before I dance again.  It will make you a better dancer. I incorporate better breathing into my own dance-alone practice.  The pandemic teaches us that our respiratory system needs to be exercised. I regularly do breath-work.  Let me give you some resources and ideas that may change your dance and even help increase you level of wellness (given at the bottom of this post). 

3. Establish the best sleep discipline of my life before I dance again.  Then you will realize how often tango may have been harming your health.  Be part of a revolution of early milongas, encuentros, festivals.  It is already happening in my area.  Before the pandemic, organizers gave 7-10 or 11pm a try, and more people came out than ever for these Saturday milongas.  Be a part of the Early Milonga Revolution, but start good sleep habits now while you have the time and focus. Sleep scientists came up with the simple equation:  Sleep better = dance longer in life with a better sex life too.  No kidding.

4. Establish foot health--the best I have had since starting tango.  Have you noticed the healing process of your worn-out feet?  My feet are so much better off! Pay attention to your feet so they do not wish that the pandemic is their best friend.  You'll need your whole body-with-feet, soul, and spirit happy to dance again.

5. Take lessons online to support your own development and your favorite teacher.  You can get a degree online, meet with your doctor online, meet with a therapist online.  You can learn tango online too. Amazing but true.

6. Finally, learn more about tango music.  Can you name a rock band when it plays?  Can you even tell which album or approximate year your favorite band played a particular song?  Do that with tango.  It's easy:  I suggest a book like Tango Stories, or simply write "Laurenz tanda" or "DiSarli tanda" in a YouTube search.  Play only one orchestra as you are doing chores or dancing by yourself or with your partner.  Become good at the game "Name that Tune" when i comes to tango music.

I have a lot of work to do to prepare for the return of our milongas. We may be in solitary confinement, but I can hear you dancing in the cell next to me, and that brings me joy.

Footnotes for tasks 1 and 2 above.

1. Immune system ideas
  • I learned that one's immune system is harmed on a long-term basis by social distancing because sharing our individual microbiome through social contact makes us healthier.  However, this is not true during a pandemic, but we need to get back to dancing eventually!  Many people are older in our tango community and make up many of the best dancers. So if you want to dance long, work on this first task more than anything else. 
  • How old were you when you heard the word "antibiotic"? What about "probiotic"?  My spell checker still has not heard of "probiotic." This is our problem. We kill micorbes and viruses and fungi without knowing that through good nutrition we get all of these living in our bodies and helping us. Nutrition and knowledge about the microbiome are essential to overcome even what your primary care physician does not know about your health.  Learn now and dance longer!
  • My experience working in as a behavioral health consultant in a primary care clinic is that our habits, behaviors, and emotions are the things that keep us healthy or get our bodies unwell.  Far fewer of the problems we confront in primary care are from our patients' genetic disposition. So change some habits, maybe? A long list of immune system diseases creates a certain equation:  Immune system disorders = less dancing in your life. Do what you can in order to dance long and well.  Prepare now.
2. Better breathing resources:
  • Read "Breath: The Science and Lost Art of Breathing by David Nestor.  This book has changed my life.  It was just published in May 2020.  I am a better breather than ever before and no longer breath through my mouth at night because of this book. At least, I suggest listening to the NPR podcast with the author.  I sleep so much better now.
  • Yoga breathing.  Make one or more of the many breathwork styles your own. Follow them exactly at first and then improvise tango-style. :-)  I like this breathing technique, but I use my heartbeat to determine how long I hold my breath.  Get curious and learn more from a yoga teacher.
  • Learn about the Wim Hoff Method.  I started in 2019.  The method includes breathing and retention.  I like this video the most. After a long retention, I feel euphoric all day. Cold-water exposure is a part of this method. The Method has changed my immune system for the better. I am less and less reactive to allergens.  
  • May I suggest my own invention I use with anxiety patients?  My style of the "Game of Thrones" is breathing more often and as a habit. That means, deep breathing each time you are on the "throne." (Men: it's time to sit down.)  People who die, pee their pants because finally they are fully relaxed.  I was frustrated that people did not practice.  So this is a "health coach" hack:  If you breathe deeply for at least 8 times, then retain for a while and exhale on the toilet, you will empty your bladder some more because you are more relaxed. Important: do this on the throne. Here's the game of "thrones" motto: "Don't wait until you're dead to finally relax and pee."  

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COVID-19 and Tango [Jun. 22nd, 2020|09:49 pm]
The last milonga we attended must have been back in February before the lockdown.  We had just received news on Facebook before we went to the milonga that a dancer with the coronavirus attended a festival in Italy and many people fell ill after contact with that dancer.

The atmosphere at the milonga was quite tense.  Many people stayed away, there were temperature checks at the door and a box of anti-septic wipes on each table.  The organizers were doing their best to keep the attendees safe from what they knew about the coronavirus at the time, and, to try and keep tango going in our city. People tried to be calm but there was a lot less hugging and kissing hello for sure.

In fact, we had been afraid since November/December last year hearing the news and rumours coming from Hong Kong and China (Man Yung always keeps abreast of the news from that region) about the mysterious and deadly coronavirus.  The Chinese Government can't be trusted to be transparent about what is actually happening.  It was just a matter of time before the threat reached our shores.

I felt extremely relieved that after that milonga, all the milonga organizers in Toronto decided to shut down their milongas due to the coronavirus.  This was before the government mandated lockdown, before everyone was ordered to social distance and to stop gathering in groups larger than 5 people.  Close proximity and close contact in Tango is just too dangerous, it takes just one sick person to attend a milonga and so many others will also fall sick.  I really applaud the tango organizers in our City for taking that difficult step of closing down quickly.  It shows how much they care for the safety and wellbeing of the tango community and the public.

I don't think Tango will start up in earnest again until a vaccine can be found.  Well, maybe some people may try to get milongas started up before a vaccine is available but we won't be going to any Tango events until that time.  From what we know, washing hands often, checking temperatures, wearing a mask, dancing outside, head-to-toe disinfection etc. etc. reduces coronavirus transmission rates but they are not foolproof, people can still get sick if they get in contact with someone who has it.  Man Yung is a senior citizen with "pre-existing" medical conditions and I am no spring chicken.  We aren't going to risk it.  We won't even be going to practice in the dance studio we usually rent each week by ourselves. People using that studio will be exerting themselves physically during exercise/dance and if they have coronavirus, they will aerosol it into the air with every breath.

I know it is very tough for all the Tango organizers and teachers right now.  We hope they will be able to pull through and that the vaccine is only months away rather than years away.  As for us, we have been very lucky. Man Yung is retired and can stay at home and even though I have to go to work (the nature of my work doesn't let me work from home), my office is taking all precautions by making all staff wear facial masks and not allowing any outsiders into our office.

Yes, there is no tango dancing but we are comfortable, we can stay home and watch Netflix and drink more alcohol than we would normally drink.  I've gained 4 pounds since the lockdown started and it's all from gin and tonic.

Man Yung listens to tango music every evening on Youtube. I think he is practicing a million steps whenever he closes his eyes. He told a friend on the phone that he would be "fine" if he doesn't dance tango again but I think he is just putting on a brave front.

I have been having several bad dreams in which Man Yung drags me to a milonga while COVID-19 is still raging.  People are dancing without any face masks.  I have also had several dreams of finding myself in a supermarket and people are shopping without any face masks.  I just had a dream last night in which a horde of angry clients (without face masks) burst into our office and we have to call security to remove them.  I think this is becoming a recurring nightmare and phobia.  Instead of crowds of zombies I'm afraid of crowds of people without face masks.

As far as we know, our friends in Buenos Aires have also been in lockdown.  They aren't dancing, they aren't going out.  But that's ok, they are healthy and keeping safe and they assure us through email and Facebook that they are prudent and listening to what the government is telling them to do.  They are also quite hopeful we will all return to dancing soon.  The most important things right now are health and family and they are making sure to maintain their health and to keep their families safe and we totally agree.

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Tango Withdrawal Symptoms [May. 25th, 2020|06:49 pm]

I have some good news for tango addicts:  It's unlikely that you are going through a true tango addiction withdrawal.  It's been hard, but you will come out better on the other end.  This is why:

What many dancers I know are experiencing lately has been refreshing:  More time to read and do things they wanted to do. As for me, I am sleeping really well.  I have read several great books.  I meditate a lot.  I am in contact with more old friends.  I see that others have been talking on social media about all the things they are doing.  "I am not dancing tango, so I did this instead..." they write.  Life has gone on, and in some respects because of tango, we are better at being social animals even without tango in our lives.  The pandemic has given a reprieve to our world's environment and our internal world too.

Were we ever really addicted?  The word "addiction" is now used to market video games and food; so sure, in the new meaning of the word, everyone reading this blog is probably "addicted." We all might be having a new-aged tango withdrawal!  But thank goodness it is not a withdrawal in the outdated medical meaning of the word, which the medical world needs to abandon, as other words have been such as "mentally retarded."

But for the few of you who are addicted, this is what addiction would look like in the medical sense of the word:

Sudden Tango Cessation Disorder
Consider Mary.  Because of the pandemic, Mary has the common withdrawal symptoms from STCD (sudden tango cessation disorder).*  Like typical addiction withdrawal, she suffers from four things:  (1) anxiety--panic attacks, restlessness, irritability; (2) depression--social isolation, lack of enjoyment; fatigue, poor appetite; (3) insomnia--both falling asleep and staying asleep; and (4) her mind doesn't work well--she has poor concentration, poor memory.  She has many of the physical symptoms of COVID-19 too.  That is how she went in for help.  The physician reassures her that she will live.  The doctor goes to the waiting room. "She will probably go back to dancing at the end of the pandemic," the doctor tells her grieving family.  Her mother sobs. 

True, Mary did not need long hospitalization.  Will she ever recover?  She may not. 

But you will.

Your withdrawal is probably just a withdrawal from tango and not a tango withdrawal.  There is a difference.  In fact, the next time we meet, you may be all the better for this withdrawal from tango. You have a deeper appreciation of the joy of dance and the miracle of a warm embrace.  During your withdrawal from tango, you really listened to the music more carefully, and as you dance you better recognized the orchestra you learned to identify better during the pandemic.  

You are grateful for the things you took for granted.  This probably means that you are now addicted to life.  And that is a good thing.

*I am making this diagnosis up, of course.  But medically defined addictions?  They have all these symptoms and can include stroke, heart attacks, and hallucinations.  

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The Long Term Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Tango [May. 16th, 2020|02:05 pm]
  • The coronavirus pandemic has caused a cessation of tango activities worldwide.
  • An epidemiologic model is presented to elucidate the factors involved in the spread and control of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) responsible for Covid-19 disease.
    • In this model, a population is divided into several distinct disease states:
      • Susceptible individuals, who have not been exposed to the virus
      • Infected / Infectious individuals, who have been exposed to and are shedding the virus, consisting of two classes:
        • Asymptomatic: Infected with the virus, but not having disease symptoms
        • Diseased: Infected individuals having Covid-19 disease symptoms
      • Deceased: those who have died from Covid-19
      • Immune: individuals with antibodies against the virus, recovered and protected from disease, no longer Infectious
    • The model also takes into account several interventions:
      • Social Distancing, which reduces exposure of Susceptibles to Infectious individuals
      • Treatment: assists Diseased individuals in recovery to the Immune state
      • Vaccination: induces immunity in Susceptible individuals, transitioning them to the Immune state
    • This model provides a framework for discussion of the risks of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and the means of limiting its spread. 
  • The role of diagnostic testing in controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2 is also addressed.
    • Viral detection tests identify individuals who are infected and shedding the virus.
      • These tests have been used primarily to confirm Covid-19 cases (Diseased individuals).
      • These tests can also be used in Contact Tracing to identify individuals at risk of infection due to contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.
        • Confirmed cases and their Contacts are Quarantined.
      • There are a high number of false negatives associated with these tests, resulting in the release of Infectious individuals into the social environment.
    • Antibody tests identify individuals who have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection.
      • In populations with a low prevalence of infection, there are numerous false positives associated with these tests, providing false security to test positives if they reenter the social environment.
      • There are insufficient data to determine whether presence of antibodies protects against subsequent infection, or how long any such protection would last. This diminishes the value of any Immunity Certificates based on detection of antibodies.
    • Most estimates that have been made of infection or disease prevalence, based on viral detection diagnostics, as well as inferences regarding herd immunity, based on antibody testing, give a biased view of the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in a population, due to small sample sizes and nonrandom sampling.
  • Social Distancing limits the spread of coronavirus, but causes a depression in economic activity. Government executives, while making efforts to contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2, are motivated by economic and political pressure to reopen the economy, which relaxes Social Distancing measures. Under most circumstances this also leads to an increased spread of the virus.
  • It is expected that resumption of tango and other social dance activities will follow a certain pattern.
    • At first, only small social gatherings (≤ 10 people) will occur (e.g., private dance lessons and small classes). It is likely that dancers will be required to bring a partner and dance only with that partner. Face masks and use of hand sanitizer are likely to be required.
    • Sometime thereafter, somewhat larger social gatherings (e.g., up to 50 people) will occur, including larger classes and smaller social dances. Partner exclusivity requirements may still exist. Tango dancers may organize private or semi-private milongas to limit attendance and thereby protect dancers against itinerant dancers who may bring coronavirus into their restricted milonga environment.
    • Tango festivals, marathons, and encuentros will only occur after widespread herd immunity is achieved, most likely through vaccination, or through the spread of virus to infect most members of the population. This is unlikely to occur until at least 2022.
    • The reopening and persistence of social dance events is dependent on the willingness of dancers to participate under various conditions of risk, as well as the anticipated profitability for event organizers.
  • The criteria used by individuals in deciding whether to resume social dancing will be different than those used by government executives. The costs and benefits of reengaging with social dancing will differ depending on demographic factors.
    • Older individuals, at greater risk for Covid-19 disease, will be more hesitant to resume social dancing. If partners are required for dance events, dancers without partners will be excluded. Even if partners are not required, in most dance communities, women are more numerous than men and will be more reluctant to resume dancing.
    • With respect to tango, more younger dancers on a less crowded floor may lead to more expansive and exhibitionist dancing, which would further inhibit the return of older, more traditional dancers. However it is likely this outcome would be temporary.
    • Fear of physical contact as a risk factor for disease transmission will limit participation in social dancing, in tango in particular because of its reputation for physical intimacy, and especially for Traditional Tango dancing in a maintained embrace with cheek-to-cheek contact.
    • Recruitment of new dancers to tango will be more difficult because of the associated close physical contact.
    • Some milongas will fail because of lower attendance. Some tango communities will become extinct for the same reason.
  • Despite the disruption of tango activities worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, tango as a social dance will recover, although it may remain at lower numbers for several years. Delay in the development and distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine could be a significant factor having a negative impact on the recovery of tango communities worldwide. Start-and-stop reopening and retraction of economic activity due to repeated outbreaks of Covid-19 would deny dance communities the stability they need to survive.
  • The primary reason tango will once again become an integral part of the social dance scene is that tango offers to many people around the world a much needed emotionally safe physical intimacy that is desired and is therapeutic.     

The impact of the current coronavirus pandemic upon tango social and instructional activities has been extensive. As a result of the implementation of Social Distancing to limit the spread of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the disease Covid-19, tango social events (milongas, festivals, marathons), instructional opportunities (classes, practicas, private lessons), and concerts and shows have been cancelled worldwide (Tango in Times of Pandemic). There has even been evidence that large scale tango gatherings have been the source of SARS-CoV-2 infection (Tango Marathon Directory). Not only has there been a social, educational, and emotional impact upon tango dancers, but the financial impact has been devastating for many tango instructors, performers, musicians, and event organizers who depend upon tango for their income. The economy of Argentina, in particular, has suffered from the loss of tango tourism (Reuters).

At some yet undetermined point in the future, the coronavirus pandemic will be brought under control and it will be deemed safe to relax Social Distancing measures and resume normal activities, including tango social dancing. The purpose of this post is to evaluate the long term impact of the coronavirus pandemic on tango activities. The focus here is on the United States, the country with the most Covid-19 cases, but this discussion is relevant for all countries where tango is danced and there is significant SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Epidemiologic Model of SARS-CoV-2 Transmission

The factors affecting the spread of a pathogen can be understood within the framework of an epidemiologic model. Any population can be defined with respect to a particular disease by the division of the members of that population into several different compartments representing different disease states. The basic SIR Model (Wikipedia) includes 3 compartments – Susceptible, Infectious, and Recovered; this can modified for specific diseases to represent the dynamics of movement of individuals between disease states. Presented here is a model for the movement of individuals within a population between disease states for SARS-CoV-2. (See another model (Nature).

Prior to exposure of a population to SARS-CoV-2, all individuals in the population are Susceptible to infection. Upon exposure of the population to the virus, some proportion of the population (beta: β) becomes Infected. It is believed that these individuals can shed virus shortly after being Infected, without having disease symptoms (Discover), i.e., they are Asymptomatic. At some point, some proportion of those Infected (delta: δ) develop clear symptoms of disease, i.e., they are now classified as Diseased. This time between initial infection and the development of disease symptoms is the Incubation Period, estimated to be 5 days (median), with 97.5% of those developing symptoms doing so within 11.5 days (Science Daily). There is some proportion of individuals (alpha: α=1-δ) that does not become Diseased; it has been estimated that 25% of those infected with SARS-Cov-2 remain Asymptomatic (NPR)  ; therefore approximately 75% (= δ) of those who are infected with SARS-Cov-2 develop Covid-19 disease symptoms. However, some studies (e.g., British Medical Journal) have asserted that as many as 78% of SARS-CoV-2 infections are Asymptomatic. Nevertheless, at any point in time, depending on the recency with which SARS-Cov-2 has invaded a population, 50% or more of the Infected individuals may be Asymptomatic (NPR). Children and young adults are more likely to remain Asymptomatic than older individuals and those with underlying health conditions (CDC). Notably, the ability of SARS-CoV-2 Infected individuals to transmit virus to other individuals when they are Asymptomatic increases the difficulty in controlling the spread of the virus.

Some proportion (mu: μ) of Diseased individuals die from Covid-19. The probability of mortality for Diseased individuals, usually reported as the “case fatality rate”, increases with increasing age and the presence of underlying medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, and cancer) (Worldometer). There are also geographic differences in the case fatality rate, which could be due to such factors as community living conditions, quality of medical care, and public health reporting criteria, as well as genetic differences in the strain of SARS-CoV-2 (Chicago Tribune). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate of the worldwide case fatality rate is 3.4% (Worldometer). This is an underestimate of mortality for Covid-19 cases because it does not take into account the final outcome for hospitalized patients, as well as unreported cases who die at home, but is undoubtedly an overestimate of the “infection mortality rate” (probability of mortality once infected) because it fails to take into account Asymptomatic Infected individuals, as well as symptomatic individuals who recover at home; it has been estimated that the infection mortality rate is less than 1% (CEBM), although this estimate also varies according to age and presence of underlying medical conditions.

The application of Treatment to Covid-19 cases can, in theory, improve the probability of recovery, depicted in the model by the parameter rho (ρ). Recent randomized clinical trials have shown some promising results for the antiviral remdesivir (JAMA) (Pharmacy Practice News), and remdesivir has received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the treatment of Covid-19 (FDA). There is also some evidence that transfusion of plasma from patients who have recovered from Covid-19 to patients with moderate to severe symptoms can be effective in decreasing the risk of mortality (PNAS).

There is a belief that recovery from Covid-19 provides some degree of immunity to subsequent infection (Immune status), as well as terminating the shedding of the virus and therefore transmission to Susceptible individuals (Lancet). This assumption is based on the detection of anti-SARS-CoV-2 serum antibodies in Covid-19 recovered individuals. Individuals who remain Asymptomatic also eventually acquire some degree of immunity and therefore cease being Infectious (Nature). The model parameter alpha (α = 1-δ) designates the proportion of infected individuals who remain Asymptomatic (and develop immunity), compared to those who become Diseased (sometimes designated post hoc as “pre-symptomatic”).  It is not known how long anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunity persists, but it is assumed that it persists for some time (Science Alert). However, the World Health Organization has warned “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection”. (WHO

Vaccination against Covid-19 would, in theory, provide a route to Immune status for Susceptible individuals that bypasses the Diseased state. The model parameter sigma (σ) represents the proportion of Susceptibles in the population who transition to the Immune state via Vaccination. At the present time, there is no effective vaccine against Covid-19, although numerous vaccine candidates are being evaluated worldwide (WHO). It is expected that 12-24 months will be required before a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine will be available (AAMC), i.e., not until 2021 or 2022 (NIAID). It is not known whether a Covid-19 vaccine would provide lasting immunity (US News & World Report).

In the absence of safe and effective treatments and vaccines against Covid-19, the most effective strategy recommended to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 is Social Distancing (CDC). This includes the recommendation that individuals Shelter-in-Place (at home) and only leave their homes for necessary activities such as grocery shopping, pharmacy visits, and medical appointments. Of course, some individuals are employed to provide these essential services and therefore some proximity between individuals will occur. Under these circumstances, maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet / 2 meters and wearing facial masks and gloves reduces the probability of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Frequent hand washing and sanitization of objects brought into the home complement Social Distancing measures. 

The most stringent forms of Social Distancing are Quarantine and Isolation (CDC). Infectious individuals are Quarantined, i.e., separated from the social environment, either in hospitals for severe Covid-19 cases requiring constant medical supervision, or at home for mildly symptomatic or Asymptomatic individuals. Quarantine also requires a person who has been in contact with an identified Covid-19 case to not leave the home; Isolation is the segregation of a Covid-19 case from other individuals in the home.

The logic behind the Social Distancing is that Infectious individuals, by social isolation, will transition out of the Infectious compartment before they have the opportunity to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to Susceptible individuals. Once the reservoir of Infectious individuals has been depleted, transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is terminated; the disease is eradicated within that population.

It is also important to note that immigration into and emigration out of populations can also affect the distribution of individuals in the different disease compartments within a population (unlabeled large arrows attached to each compartment in the model). Specifically, the immigration of Infectious individuals increases the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission for the population in focus, and emigration of infectious individuals increases the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in other populations into which Infectious individuals migrate. Therefore restrictions on travel between populations become important in hindering the spread of SARS-CoV-2 from highly infected populations to populations with little or no infection.

The Role of Diagnostic Testing in Covid-19 Disease Control

Diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 has received considerable media attention (NBC News), and lack of sufficient testing has been identified as a deficit in the effort to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2. However, the goals of diagnostic testing are often insufficiently elaborated and therefore incompletely understood.

There are two types of tests used in the control of the spread of SARS-CoV-2, those detecting presence of the virus and those identifying antibodies to the virus.

Most of the early testing in the Covid-19 pandemic has been conducted using a Real Time Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test, which detects the genetic material (RNA) of SARS-CoV-2 in samples obtained from the respiratory tract, usually nasal, oral, or pharyngeal samples (CDC). To this point in time, this test has been used primarily to confirm Covid-19 (One Medical) in patients with symptoms characteristic of the disease [e.g., shortness of breath, cough, sore throat, fever, muscle pain (CDC)], in order to commence treatment. The RT-PCR is also able to detect SARS-CoV-2 in Asymptomatic individuals. This test has received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) (FDA) for diagnostic purposes. More recently, the FDA has given an EUA to an ‘at-home’ saliva collection test for detection of SARS-CoV-2 (FDA). The FDA has also given EUA recently to a SARS-CoV-2 antigen test (FDA) that detects viral proteins, for use in identification of infection. This test provides results more rapidly than PCR tests, but is not as sensitive for verification of presence of the virus. These viral detection diagnostics do not confirm the presence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies; i.e., they identify individuals as Infectious, but not as Immune.

Viral detection diagnostics can play an important role in a Test-and-Quarantine strategy, where individuals in the population are tested to determine whether they are Infectious and, if so, are isolated according to their presenting symptoms, i.e., either to a hospital if severely ill, or to their homes if presenting with mild symptoms or are Asymptomatic. An addendum to this methodology is Contact Tracing (CDC), where identified Infected individuals provide information on other people with whom they have had close contact since they were infected, and these people are contacted and advised as well to quarantine.

One limitation in the use viral detection diagnostics is their imperfect sensitivity, i.e., some SARS-CoV-2 Infected individuals will be diagnosed falsely as negative (e.g., a 60-70% sensitivity estimate in one study in China (Al Jazeera) indicates that 30-40% of infected individuals tested were diagnosed as non-infected).

Viral detection diagnostics could be used to provide some insight on changes in the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in a population, which is important information for developing a containment or eradication strategy. However, random sampling of the population would be needed to arrive at unbiased estimates of prevalence (Stat). In addition, it would necessary to obtain a sufficiently large sample size to minimize the (standard) error in estimating this prevalence. 

Notably, since the RT-PCR is usually targeted towards identifying Covid-19 in suspected cases, in this nonrandomly selected subpopulation, the prevalence of disease is high, and therefore the percentage of false negative tests is higher than it would be in a low prevalence population (NCBI); thus, this sampling and testing methodology will release a large number of Infected individuals back into the social environment.

Detection of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies is the most direct method of estimating the proportion of individuals in the population who have developed immunity (i.e., whether herd immunity has been achieved). It has been suggested that confirmation of the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies could be used as a guidepost for allowing immune individuals to return to work during the relaxation of Social Distancing measures (Immunity Certification) (The Guardian). Presence of antibodies in an individual also could qualify that person as a candidate for donation of plasma for infusion into patients with Covid-19 (MIT Technology Review).

At the present time, the FDA has issued an EUA for one serological test for anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, that developed by the Cellex Corporation (Biospace). Although the FDA encourages the use of SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests, caution is advised in their interpretation because the accuracy of these tests has not been evaluated sufficiently (FDA). SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests have limited utility because they could release into the social environment a significant number of individuals lacking immunity, particularly when the overall infection rate is low; e.g., for the FDA approved Cellex test, at a SARS-CoV-2 infection prevalence of 5%, 50% of test positives would be false positives (Evaluate Vantage).

The utility of SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests for providing Immunity Certification and for evaluating the course of the Covid-19 pandemic is limited not only because of population prevalence and sampling conditions, but also because it is not known to what degree or how long presence of antibodies protect against future (re)infection, disease, and virus shedding. Therefore, the WHO warns against the issuance of ‘immunity passports’ designating individuals as prepared to reenter the work force; i.e., the assumption that a positive antibody test ensures that such an individual is protected from future infection or no longer shedding virus is premature (WHO). However, one practical use for SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests is that (assuming random sampling and large sample sizes) it assists in identifying trends in the proportion of members of a population who have been exposed to the virus (Healio), which can indicate the effectiveness of Social Distancing measures and the prospects for limitation of further spread of the virus.

Return to Normalcy in the Course of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Social Distancing can be effective in reducing the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, but it comes at a cost. Associated with Social Distancing is reduced commercial activity, causing increased unemployment and reduced income to both businesses and their employees. Decreased economic productivity can have negative political consequences for government executives. Government decision makers and economists are motivated to minimize the economic costs of Social Distancing by relaxing the measures associated with it. Because relaxing Social Distancing measures is likely to lead to increased spread of SARS-CoV-2 (Advisory Board), this decision usually comes into conflict with the goals of epidemiologists and public health officials, who aim to minimize the spread of the virus, and health care delivery system managers, who wish to minimize the hazards and strain placed on health care facilities.

From a public health perspective, an easing of government-imposed and self-imposed restrictions against social proximity is more likely to be warranted as the probability of transition of Susceptible individuals to the Infected state (β) is substantially decreased. This can be accomplished by movement of individuals out of both the Infectious and Susceptible categories, preferably into the Immune state (rather than to the Deceased state). An increase in the portion of Immune individuals can occur through Vaccination, but currently this is not an option for SARS-CoV-2. When the proportion of Immune individuals in the population increases to a certain level (e.g., ≥ 70%), “herd immunity” (Johns Hopkins) is achieved.

For epidemiologists, a minimum requirement for relaxing Social Distancing measures is that each Infected individual transmits the pathogen to less than one Susceptible, on average [i.e., Reproduction Number R0 < 1 (U Michigan) (Nature)], so that the number of new infections decreases over time.

Estimation of the proportion of the population that is Immune and determining whether R0 < 1 are undertakings requiring extensive sampling and testing of the population. In actuality, due to insufficient testing, public health officials have made (and are likely to continue to make) recommendations about relaxing Social Distancing when the number of new Covid-19 cases or number of new SARS-CoV-2 infections in a population has decreased steadily over a substantial time period, preferably also when a certain minimum prevalence has been achieved. (Ideally these data would have been collected using random sampling of the population.) Another factor taken into consideration is whether hospital ICU capacity is sufficient to handle the increased number of cases that are expected to occur when Social Distancing is relaxed.

Accordingly, official government policy regarding relaxing Social Distancing measures usually has addressed issues of health care system capacity and population trends in new Covid-19 cases. For example, in its statements the US White House Guidelines for Opening up America Again (White House) rely on establishing mechanisms for surveillance (testing) for Covid-19 cases and asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals, Quarantining and Contact Tracing, assuring adequacy of hospital capacity and supplies for Covid-19 cases, as well as using Social Distancing to protect the health and safety of individuals working in essential industries and in a limited commercial environment. Prior to opening up commercial activity, US States need to demonstrate a 14 day downward trajectory in the number of Covid-19 cases or percentage of positive tests. After meeting these initial ‘gating criteria’, states are advised to gradually allow reopening of businesses in stages. Phase One of reopening encourages working at home, avoiding nonessential travel, maintaining Social Distancing, and not congregating in groups larger than 10 individuals; restaurants, places of worship, movie theatres, gyms, and sporting venues can open for operation during Phase One. After meeting the criteria of an additional 14 day downward trajectory in Covid-19 cases or positive tests, states can advance to Phase Two, which allows social gatherings up to 50 people, opens up schools and bars, and removes the restriction on nonessential travel, while still maintaining a ‘moderate’ degree of Social Distancing. After once again meeting the testing criteria of a 14 day downward trajectory, states can advance to Phase Three, which opens most commercial and social activities with the exceptions of retaining Social Distancing criteria for vulnerable individuals (the elderly and those with underlying health conditions). Notably absent from these published guidelines are any mention of random sampling of populations to obtain unbiased estimates of disease or infection prevalence, or requirements of a statistically adequate sample size to obtain a precise estimate (low standard error) for these measures.     

[The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently issued a set of ‘decision trees’ for opening different segments of the economy (APHA).]

In actuality, decisions made by government executives with regard to relaxing Social Distancing measures have been influenced heavily by a combination of economic and political factors (The Guardian). Most US states have proceeded to relax social distancing requirements and expand commercial activity prior to the demonstration of a downward trajectory in cases (using whatever sampling methods were available), some instead relying primarily on having sufficient hospital capacity to catch the expected increase in the number of Covid-19 cases. (US News & World Report) (Washington Post) (Associated Press). Placing a higher value on economic recovery than public health places the lives of millions of people at risk for Covid-19 disease and mortality (USA Today).

Personal Decision Making with Respect to Covid-19 Hazards

Individuals have different criteria than government executives when making decisions about social distancing. Whereas a certain amount of disease and mortality may be acceptable to government executives in reopening the economy (The Guardian), individuals will consider the mortality risk for themselves, family members, and other loved ones with whom they come into contact in deciding whether to relax Social Distancing; i.e., in almost all cases [exceptions noted (CNN)], individuals will be more conservative than governments in opinions about relaxing Social Distancing (The Atlantic). Factors such as age, family status (married, children, elderly household members), health status, financial resources and security, employment environmental conditions, etc., will have an impact upon the willingness of a person to relax Social Distancing. For example, a young adult with lower risk of disease and mortality and fewer economic resources is expected to be willing to accept some risk of disease and mortality due to economic necessity, and therefore tolerate and engage in more relaxed Social Distancing practices; in contrast, an older person with a higher risk of disease and mortality, but having a guaranteed retirement income, is more willing to accept and participate in more restrictive Social Distancing practices.  

The personal decision making process with regard to Covid-19 also needs to be examined with respect to the quality and quantity of information used in making decisions. Low information individuals are more likely to trust government decision makers (or at least those representing their political interests). These trusting individuals are more likely to engage in moderately risky behaviors sanctioned by government policy, believing that their trusted political leaders have their best interests at heart. They also may be manipulated by political and economic opportunists who appeal to their emotions in order to entice them into performing actions (ABC News) that are in conflict with their personal interests. In contrast, high information individuals, in making their decisions about relaxing Social Distancing, generally examine the data and diverse opinions that are taken into account (or ignored) in the formulation of government policy. The educated high information individual will recognize that there are health hazards and, at times, misinformation incorporated into government guidelines for relaxing Social Distancing. Although not necessarily the fault of the government, there exists a naïve assumption among many that when government executives relax Social Distancing measures, this indicates that there will be no or minimal increased risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection in the more relaxed social environment. However, the reality in most environments is that the number of new cases of Covid-19 will increase significantly upon relaxing Social Distancing measures (CNN).

The high information individual is also likely to understand the limitations of Covid-19 testing programs, realizing that viral detection tests fail to identify numerous infected individuals, and that positive antibody tests are unreliable indicators of immunity. A particularly well-informed high information individual will place little credence in Covid-19 public health statistics based on changing sampling methods and small sample sizes.

Therefore, the high information individual is more likely to continue practicing strict Social Distancing measures until either an effective Covid-19 vaccine or effective antiviral treatment is available, or at least until the number of newly identified Covid-19 cases within the local population has persisted near zero for a reasonable amount of time. A high information individual is most likely to maintain strict Social Distancing measures if that person is at high risk for severe Covid-19 disease or mortality (e.g., older individuals, those with underlying health conditions) and has a guaranteed source of income (e.g., retirement income).

Relaxing Social Distancing Measures for Tango and other Social Dance Related Activities

Government actions associated with the relaxation of Social Distancing measures have not been uniform across geographic regions, with local factors such as disease prevalence, population density, hospital capacity and local political and economic pressures affecting the specific courses of action taken. Some government decision makers have placed public health welfare at the forefront of the decision making and others have placed greater value on other criteria, such as stimulating the economy or promoting their own political ambitions. An assumption made here for the sake of discussion, is that government executives make their decisions based primarily on public health criteria, i.e., that Social Distancing guidelines are relaxed only when there has been a sustained decrease in new Covid-19 cases and infections, and relaxing them only to the degree that a sustained decrease can be maintained. This assumption will be the basis for making predictions about reopening social dance activities.

The actions taken by business owners in response to government relaxing of Social Distancing measures also are not likely to be uniform. Business owners need to take into account their expected income under reopening conditions, weighed against their costs of business operation, as well as any legal liability costs that may be incurred if disease spread (to employees and customers) could be attributed to practices in place and activities occurring at a particular business site.

Under the assumption that government executives are rational actors guided primarily by public health and safety, certain trends in the reopening of commercial and social activities can be predicted, based on (at least) three criteria: (1) In resuming a certain activity, the risk in transmission of the coronavirus will be low. (2) The activity is of high necessity for human livelihood. (3) The resumption of the activity has a positive stimulating effect on the economy. Taking these factors into account, it is likely that social dance activities are likely to receive low priority in the temporal ordering of activities slated for reopening, primarily because they present a high risk of transmission of the coronavirus due to the interpersonal contact and a high social density, but also because of their status as recreational rather than as essential activities, and because social dance activities have only a minor stimulating effect on the economy due to the relatively low amount of money injected into the economy. (An exception is noted here for tango in Buenos Aires),. For most social dances (tango, ballroom, swing, salsa, country & western), distinctions between dances in the degree of social distancing are likely to be ignored by regulatory officials, although differences among these dance genres will be relevant for individuals deciding for themselves whether to reengage or initiate participation in social dance activities.

The discussion about resumption of social dance activities begins with the assumption that the expected temporal pattern in expansion of dance activities follows loosely the stages of reopening envisioned in government guidelines for reopening the economy. Dance related activities such as performances and concerts also are considered within this framework. However, after elaborating a plausible framework for reopening, the discussion will return specifically to the issues raised by the addition of the physical contact involved in social dancing to the relaxation of Social Distancing.   

Under the assumptions stated above, it is expected that initially, only small gatherings of dancers (e.g., ≤ 10 people) will occur; this would include private lessons and small group classes. It is likely there would be a requirement of bringing a partner to class and not changing partners during the class. An additional requirement may be wearing face masks and sanitizing hands before class, although the former may not be very well accepted, especially for tango, which has a reputation for intimacy. Musical and perhaps even dance performances may resume in clubs and restaurants where customers are separated by a sufficient distance. However, limitations on income due to reduced attendance may prevent some dance enterprises from opening.

After some time, assuming no new Covid-19 disease outbreaks in a community, moderately sized gatherings (e.g., ≤ 50 people) would be considered acceptable. Larger classes and workshops would be expected to occur, but perhaps still requiring no change of partner during a class, and still recommending use of hand sanitizer before class, and still encouraging wearing face masks. These larger instructional settings are unlikely to include inviting visiting instructors to teach, because these instructors travel between communities and also are likely to attract dancers from other dance communities. Closing communities to dancers outside the community limits the spread of SARS-CoV-2 between communities.

Somewhat later, it is expected that the first social dance events will reappear. Social dances represent a further breakdown in Social Distancing because unlike classes, where movements of the group are coordinated by instructors, in social dances attendees are free to move around in the enclosed space. It is highly likely these first social dances will be local events, i.e., not advertised beyond the local dance community, in order to limit participation of dancers from other communities. At these social dance events, changing partners may be restricted or advised against. (In Buenos Aires, the first milongas to resume are likely to be Milongas del Barrio [Tango de Salon: The Tango of the Milonga (Part II of ‘Tango Styles, Genres and Individual Expression)], where couples do not change partners.) It is likely that personal protection measures such as wearing masks and using hand sanitizer still will be recommended or required, but face masks are still unlikely to be adopted widely, especially among tango dancers. There may be attempts to decrease floor density (e.g., by limiting the number of couples on the dance floor), but maintaining a ‘safe social distance’ of 6 feet / 2 meters or more between couples on the dance floor is not manageable; therefore, an additional challenge to Social Distancing is created here. For tango in particular, a crowded dance floor is a characteristic of the culture and an empty dance floor is likely to discourage dancers from attending milongas. For social dances of all kinds, requiring spacing in the seating areas would reduce social interaction, counteracting one of the motivations for attending social dance events.  All of these considerations suggest that the demand for social dances will not be high under some set of Social Distancing restrictions. To some degree, hosting social dance events outdoors (e.g., outdoor milongas) may circumvent some of the spacing restrictions that would be imposed on indoor social dance events, and events of this type may increase in number or proportion relative to their existence prior to the pandemic.

Specifically with respect to tango, but not limited to tango, perhaps early in the resumption of social dances there may be smaller events such as private milongas in people’s homes or in relatively obscure public places, or in private rooms in public places, with advertisement primarily or only by personal invitation. Perhaps private tango clubs with a small fixed membership will form for the purpose of limiting dance contacts. These measures would provide some degree of safety against the visitor or outsider whose SARS-CoV-2 infection status is unknown, even if there is a false sense of security with respect to the infection status of known fellow dancers. These events would be more attractive to couples than to individuals without partners because the risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection is reduced when dancing exclusively with a partner, and the possibility of meeting someone with whom one could establish a relationship (dance or otherwise) would be limited in these small social gatherings. If these small social events are hosted in private homes or inexpensive venues, these undertakings could circumvent to some degree the cost demands of hosting social dance events.

Likewise, concerts and dance performance venues probably will be modified gradually to allow more attendees, most likely still maintaining some distance between attendees. Relaxation of Social Distancing is likely to occur sooner for concerts and dance performances than for classes and social dances because the former do not require physical contact between people, and movement around the enclosed space is more limited. It is also likely that outdoor performances will comprise a higher proportion of events of this type than prior to the pandemic.

Larger social dance events such as workshops given by visiting instructors and large social dance gatherings (e.g., tango festivals, marathons and encuentros), which attract dancers from other communities, are expected to be the last social dance events to reappear, probably only after the Covid-19 pandemic has ended and likely in conjunction with widespread vaccination of the populations involved. It is expected that it will be late 2021 at the earliest, but more likely 2022 or later before these events will reappear in large numbers. Greedy or foolhardy event organizers may resume these activities earlier and perhaps require an Immunity Passport for admission (which is an unreliable indicator of immunity and can also be forged), and desperate or foolhardy dancers may attend these events.

As stated at the outset, it needs to be emphasized that the condition of physical contact between individuals is a major deterrent to the resumption of social dance activities. The calendar for reopening these activities is likely to lag significantly behind the opening of other (noncontact) social activities. If dancer participation is limited, event organizers will cease hosting them, and event organizers will have their own concerns regarding providing an environment in which the coronavirus can spread. It is perhaps more likely that initially some unconventional gatherings of social dancers will emerge, such as private dance parties and impromptu outdoor dance gatherings, most likely organized and attended primarily by younger dancers. Under all of the circumstances described, physical contact between dancers and high social density are likely to result in some cases of newly acquired coronavirus infection, which would result in a reduction of these activities once again. Therefore, it is possible that a stable dance community of any kind will reemerge only after herd immunity has been achieved, which in all likelihood is not until the overwhelming majority of the population has been vaccinated.

If there is a condition which will delay indefinitely the resumption of social dance activates, it is that in which an effective Covid-19 vaccine is not developed and administered widely. Likewise, even if the number of new Covid-19 cases is reduced to near zero, but there are sporadic outbreaks, it will be difficult to maintain a persistent interest and commitment to social dancing of any kind.   

Personal Decision Making with Regard to Resumption of Tango Dance Activities and the Consequences for Tango Communities

Government directives and actions of business owners are a prerequisite for the resumption of social dance activities, but ultimately the outcomes for reopening social dance activities are dependent primarily upon the participation of dancers in these activities. A person’s choice to engage in or resume dancing is based upon the perceived personal benefits and costs of this engagement. The calculations made in personal decision making regarding Covid-19 are likely to be different from those made by government executives in their efforts to stimulate the economy. The costs of social dancing have been altered by the coronavirus pandemic; perhaps the benefits have also changed, although more subtly.

The costs and benefits of participating in activities vary according to a person’s demographic status. The risk of Covid-19 disease and mortality is higher for older individuals than for younger individuals and this will be a major factor inhibiting older dancers from returning to social dance activities. A single unattached person is likely to perceive greater benefits from participating in social activities, particularly after a period of social isolation, than would a person who is married or living with a partner. Specifically with respect to tango, for single people there is the additional benefit of achieving a close physical contact with someone (The Intimacy of Dancing Tango: Therapy for Contact Deprivation in North American Society), something that may have been absent during the Shelter-in-Place phase of the pandemic. However, if partners are required for participation in social dance activities during the reopening phase, dancers without partners will be denied the benefits of new social experiences and, in tango, close contact with a person who is not a life partner; this would inhibit the return of people without partners to social dancing. Due to greater physical fitness, a younger person is likely to have more options for engaging in physical activity and therefore social dancing is less likely to be one of a limited set of choices for physical activity, as it may be for most older people. Amount of disposable income, which tends to be higher for older people, will allow greater participation in costly dance activities than would be available, in general, to younger people. More highly educated people usually have higher incomes; they are also likely to make different cost and benefit calculations. Since most social dance communities have more women than men, the benefit for participation is usually greater for men than for women. All of these factors and undoubtedly others affect an individual’s decision about returning to participation in a dance activity during the subsidence of an epidemic.

Dancers may choose to attend social dance events depending on the social and environmental characteristics of these events. Some dancers, particularly older ones, might avoid dances with high attendance and crowded floors. They might avoid dancers with a lot of young dancers, who are more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus. Some dancers, particularly older dancers and those preferring Traditional Tango (i.e., danced in a maintained embrace) would probably prefer smaller venues and would be more likely to initiate and seek private and semiprivate events (e.g., by invitation only), as described above. 

In general, during the early stages of resumption of social dance activities, attendance is expected to be lower because many dancers will perceive the costs of resumption of social dancing to be too high to risk reengaging in these activities. It is likely that during this early period three will be a higher proportion of younger dancers at social dances than prior to the pandemic. For some social dance events, in particular ballroom dances and some milongas, which normally attract a greater share of older dancers, there may be insufficient attendance for the events to be sustained financially. In some cases, smaller venues will be sought, which is often a viable option for milongas, which require less space than, for example, ballroom dances.

When comparing social dances with respect to the rate of return of experienced dancers to the activity, it is apparent that the perceived risks of disease transmission are highest for tango among the social dances. Tango is a dance that many dance in an embrace that is maintained throughout the dance, with a significant number of dancers also maintaining cheek-to-cheek contact, with a partner association lasting for the duration of a tanda (10-12 minutes). This maintained close contact, and facial contact in particular, can promote the spread of the coronavirus. Among those dancers who return to tango, the Tango Traditionalists, who achieve and maintain the closest contact with a partner, are going to be more hesitant to return to dancing tango than those who prefer to dance in an open frame, and some of the former may modify their partner hold to be more distant upon their return to tango, abandoning the maintained embrace and cheek-to-cheek contact. Some dancers may no longer participate in dancing tango socially because with these changing conditions they will be denied the emotional satisfaction of dancing in a maintained embrace (The Intimacy of Dancing Tango: Therapy for Contact Deprivation in North American Society). Thus, the character of some milongas will change substantially – there will be more dancing in an open frame. If this is associated with more exhibitionism, even dancers who dance only in a maintained embrace and only with their partners may cease or reduce their participation in milongas (Tango Community Growth and Development: Tango Sociology, Politics, and Economics), resulting in milongas becoming even more characterized by dancing in an open frame and, due to lower floor density, most likely also more exhibitionism.

There will be variation among milongas in their probability of survival when Social Distancing measures are relaxed. Overall, milonga attendance will be reduced and milongas with lower attendance will be less likely to survive. Milongas known for a greater tolerance for exhibitionism and those favored by younger dancers will have a greater probability of survival than Traditional Milongas and those favored by older dancers.

The preference for open frame dancing and intolerance for dancing close will have an impact on tango instruction. Class instruction will focus more on movements employed when not embracing one’s partner; instruction associated with dancing in an embrace will become less common.

During the period of relaxation of Social Distancing measures, there will be a significant negative impact on recruitment of new dancers to all social dances, but this negative impact is likely to be greatest for tango, because of its public image as a dance danced closely; new dancers would be more likely to choose ballroom dancing or swing dancing, where there is some distance maintained between partners. People who participate in multiple types of dancing may decrease or cease their participation in tango in favor of other dances where contact is more limited. Another safer option might be to explore line dancing (YouTube), where there is no contact between dancers on the floor. The safest option for cautious people interested in social activities is to choose an activity that does not involve physical contact with another human being. Therefore, due to concerns about the health risks of acquiring coronavirus infection, there will be increased difficulty in recruiting new dancers to tango and some difficulty in enticing former tango dancers to return.

There will be a significant negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on tango communities in general, but the impact will be greater on some communities than others. Communities where the number of Covid-19 cases was high are likely to have greater decreases in attendance at tango instructional and social events upon reopening of the economy. Communities at the crossroads of travel (centrally located or near major airports) will have greater decreases in attendance than those in more geographically isolated areas. Smaller communities and those that had difficulty recruiting new dancers prior to the onset of the pandemic would be more likely to become extinct (Tango Community Growth and Development: Tango Sociology, Politics, and Economics).

The last social dance events to reappear on the tango scene will be festivals, marathons, and encuentros. These events will be scarce prior to the time when and if an approved and proven Covid-19 vaccine is available and a large proportion of the population has been vaccinated, which is likely to be no sooner than 2022. If an effective vaccine does not become available, the coronavirus will remain endemic in many populations, and governments are likely to resort to cycles of tightening and relaxing Social Distancing in response to increases and decreases, respectively, in the number of new Covid-19 cases. If the du

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Dancing Alone with a Warm Embrace [May. 10th, 2020|02:49 am]

Tango is just a dance, you know. It allows us to be in our bodies.  It makes time stop or race. It makes regular people feel as if the music has them doing things better than anything else they have ever done in life.  It's an excuse to hug people and be transported to oxytocin heaven without even knowing each other's names.  It transfers warmth to everything we do in life.  But it's just a dance. 


The pandemic is likely going to bring Jerry to psychological ruin.  Tango had pulled him out of a deep depression in 2008.  He didn't even know he was depressed, or at least how depressed he was.  He found refuge in dancing salsa, and that was fun.  Depression's best medication is fun, but tango was not a psychotropic medication--it was therapy and medication.

"I told myself that I would never be so vulnerable," Jerry tells himself as the first milongas began being canceled.  Being cut off from dancing is as scary for him as was getting a divorce.  He is afraid that he has let himself fall in love again. He thought he was safe because a dance should not be able to abandon him as a woman could.  "This is only a dance!" he tells himself over and over like a mantra.

He knows this is a bad omen when he starts catastrophizing with slogan-like phrases:

"A close embrace will never be the same."

"Everyone will be afraid of microbes and viruses." 

"Even if things get back to normal, I will be all rusty and lose the flow." 

"I'll be lonelier than ever before." 

He looks at himself in the mirror and tells himself to slow the onslaught of negative thoughts.  "It will only take over my mind and make me spiral down into despair," his internal psychologist tells him.  

Tango is just a dance, but his fear of being depressed--not the lack of dancing--is what he truly dreads. Another episode of his blood flowing slowly in his veins looms. Depression knocks at the door.

But that's not going to happen. Tango did not leave him; his wife did.

Now he has skills he never had before.  He just doesn't really know it yet.  Like many others in the tango community, life indeed goes on during a pandemic or if a dance partner dies or if a foot gets broken.  Jerry, like others, starts connecting to family and friends on video chats and messages and texts. They read books. And tango dances with them through life, but just in a different way.

His mother is the most amazing connection during the pandemic and this dearth of social touch. Going to his therapist, David, helped him most reconnect to his mother.  "I don't want to get on medications again," Jerry warns his on-and-off therapist. "But I am dreaming a lot. Some are okay dreams but they are very vivid.  I keep dreaming about my mother, who died in 2018, along with my grandparents the same year."


It is good to reconnect with David, who is his old self, even on a normal video chat, which now Federal law allows patients to use during the pandemic.  David peers over his glasses and stares at Jerry.  He's silent for longer than usual--as if he is stumped by this dream problem.  "Well, well ..." he finally says haltingly.  "I know you are an atheist, but you are presenting me with a spiritual issue."

"How's that?" Jerry retorts.

"If you're haunted by your dead mother.  She is a spirit, and therefore, is this not a spiritual issue?"


"Okay, then. Do you want to talk about something besides ghosts, then?"

"Actually, I want to talk about my fear of another bout of depression now that I cannot go dance. But these dreams are bugging me the most."

"Okay, then tell me what you dream about."'

"I dream over and over about her casket going into the ground, and I have no feelings. I cannot cry. My ex-wife and my Mom kept in touch after our divorce.  I was kind of jealous.  Then, just as it truly happened, Nicole comes to the funeral, staying on the out edge of the funeral party. Then and now, these scenes are like a close-up zoom lens. I can only see Nicole there crying as I am numb and cannot cry. I feel jealous that she can cry and I can't.  At the same time,  the audio is turned up, and I hear the casket being lowered into the ground.  People in the funeral party take a shovel full of dirt and throw on the casket.  They wait for me to do it too, but I am paralyzed."

"So who is the producer of this film in your head?" David asks Jerry.

"I guess, I am."

"Right.  And who is the director?"



"Yeah, who else?"

Again David is silent and looking over the top edge of his glasses.  "You are watching a B movie that no one wants to watch; not even you.  And that is because there is no director.  Jerry, what do you want me to say?  Should I be like a psychoanalyst and find the archetypes and deep meanings of your cast of characters?  Should I be a shaman and help you speak with the dead?   Or would you prefer that I help you be a better film director to change this shitty movie into something worth watching? It's your choice."

"Okay, help me with that.  That is better than having a spiritual problem."

"That is your spiritual problem that you have not spoken to your mother except in B movie films at night.  And even then you are the emotionally paralyzed child who has no voice.  How would you make this a better film?  A film that you would want to watch or want to show to some intimate friend.  Would you wait for your dream life to come up with better storylines or would you sit down during the day and create a better film?"

David and Jerry go on about his worries about the pandemic, how his anxieties are returning, and how depression is his greatest fear.  But all of that is a blur.  The thing about showing up as a director, that is all he can really remember about their video call.  Now the empty director's chair haunts him rather than his mother.


Jerry sits at his desk and pulls out some things he still has from his mother:  A cross that she had from her mother.  A ring.  And some papers that he has forgotten, including a completed a genogram from an undergraduate sociology course.  He recalls his mother. She tells him about the family as far back as she knows. He charts dutifully as he had learned in class--that square boxes are for men and circles are for women.  Then came the amazing stories from his mother.  Her first husband's father had raped her.  She has told no one until they sit there together, filling out the genogram. Also, she admits that she had given away her first child to adoption. On a lighter note, she recounts how Jerry's sister is such a natural ballet dancer; how his half-brother is a musician; and his brother is a natural artist and sculptor. She recounts how Jerry was playing guitar even as a toddler.  Jerry connects the dots. He is the musician/dancer in a family of artists.

Jerry stops to think. "Here is a movie worth watching right under my nose."  Well, at least he realizes he has something better than the B movie he has been watching in his dreams.

Memories pour in.  Mom teaching the kids to cook, taking them to church, and the words on the wall in light blue, painted with a 3-D effect:  "God is Love."

"I don't want a melancholy movie," the Producer says, leaning over Jerry's Director's Chair.

"Fuck off.  Fire me and get another Director."

"Mom, I want to tell you how it felt when I visited you. I could finally really hug you.  I have to admit something.  I learned that from tango.  I learned to hug people.  I had forgotten how.  I knew how to do it as a kid.  I relearned with my first girlfriend, but after my divorce, I had forgotten. I was even afraid.  But I had long stopped hugging you since my teen years.  I wish I could've hugged you more. From tango, I learned to dance with the young and the old.  I hug the young women, the daughters I never had. Yes, I hug the sexy ladies who miraculously allow me to dance with me because of my musicality. I hug friends who giggled with my playfulness. I hug the older ladies like they were my aunts or even you. So when I visited you, it was easy to hug you again. Do you remember the time we went back to church, and I kissed my old Sunday school teacher on both cheeks as if she were a venerable tango teacher visiting from Argentina? I could see it in her eyes. You both were as surprised as you were delighted.  But I just had learned how to do this because of tango.  It was a reflex. It was etiquette. It is the new me."

"And Mom?" Jerry went on, then pausing.  "I want to keep hugging you.  Holding you long.  This feels right.  David tells me that I can have a growing relationship with you. And I know how I can do this.  When I dance by myself, please come with me.  I have danced with others who were hurt like you were in your divorce and sexual assault.  They found healing.  And I too will find healing dancing with you.  I am glad Nicole came to say good-bye to you.  It was her right and yours too.  It was your right to have all the people who love you to come to your funeral.  And she had the right to say goodbye.  Maybe death talked to her and told her that we are all connected and the times we loved were the only moments we were truly alive. I am grateful for those moments. Anyway, it was your funeral, sorry that I have been so fucking selfish. . . "

"Don't say that word, okay Jerry?" a motherly voice says in his head.

Jerry knows that he has reconnected with his mom at that moment.  That voice.  It isn't what his mother would say; it is what she is saying.  "David was right," he admits to himself. "I have had a spiritual problem."

The pandemic will give him plenty of time to get back to dancing by "himself."  He can work on knowing the music better, knowing Laurenz and Tanturi and some other lesser-known orchestras better.  But mostly, he is sure that he can find a deeper sense of himself and a healed past--or better said a "revised past, a different storyline."

In a video group room with tango friends three days later, he hears someone in the group say, "Tango is only a dance, you know."

"Not in my Movie," he whispers under his breath.  The voices in the chat group dim as he reflects: "It is who I am. The musician/dancer who learned his warm embrace from his mother."

Art credit:  Tom Kollins.

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Post-Pandemic Chance for Musicality [Apr. 15th, 2020|01:05 am]

Musicality has a chance in our post-pandemic world. 

A wonderful, maybe even radical change away from dancing-like-always-before is upon us. Musicality has a chance to grow because we have no milongas and the meaning of a warm embrace will be forever changed for the entire planet. Life seems more precious and fragile too. The good news is that we can take this time to feel the music in our body and come back to the milongas in the future with a new vision and return as better dancers, even better people.

Father and Dancing Son Advice
My 21-year old son misses dancing as I do.  He is in Europe and very restricted in his movements.  He wonders about being a very rusty dancer too.  So some of the following ideas were from some father-son advice that I will allow you to eavesdrop in on.

There's a good reason that when we return to dancing, that we can be better than ever before.  I told him to forget figures from his ballroom classes for now. "This is a time to put on music and just let your body move without a partner," I told him.  "Let it be a time to find musicality--being attentive to how the music moves your body. Your body's physical response to music is what dance truly is."  "Yeah, Dad," he said, "I have been doing that when no one is looking. I'll do it some more."

The Dancer/Musician
My son is a dancer-musician.  I told him that I used to believe that being a musician helped me as a dancer. Perhaps. . . but upon reflection, it may be just the opposite.  Being an improvisational dancer has helped me to be a better musician. I told him that if you add up all musicians of all time, dancers have instructed nearly all musicians to express themselves with better musicality. If you are aware of tango orchestras' histories, certainly you will see this as the path of the greatest orchestras: They played in front of dancers, and dancers' responses further helped them hone how the musicians would play. Jazz, Rock, and Tango all died as powerful cultural phenomena of their times when dancers started to sit down and merely watch.

Great Musicians Dance with no Partner
Great musicians dance with their instruments and not a partner. To demonstrate the musicality of a musician who dances, let me introduce you to a video of a musical prodigy, Alma Deutscher, when she was 12 years old.  Here (in the video below) she is "dancing" behind the piano. Watch her body language change its "dance" too. I start the video below when she is moving her body to the orchestra's happier moments. She dances to the orchestrata. No partner. She is not playing. But then listen and watch her musical expression as the mood changes to a deeply moving piano dialogue with the orchestra.  Is she crying?  Perhaps. She may be holding back tears, but her fingers and body are crying.  Body and soul: This is musicality.  Innate.  Internal. Expressed with competence.  I weep every time I see this performance.

The awesome depth of human experience includes musical moments. Not being able to go out and dance is forcing us to be closer to the music in our solitude.  I suggest being a minimalist and discover your musicality. The simple- but-musical tango walk helps with the nuances of expressing the music in one's body. Nearly all of the private lessons that I have taken in the last five years have been on the tango walk. Simplicity is complex.

Your search for musicality finds its greatest satisfaction when tears come to your eyes because of the beauty of art that you have shared with just yourself. Later it will become just one other person.  Musicality is entirely internal, and a pandemic is giving you a chance to find the landscape of your heart and in that heart, your unique musically as only you can express it.  In the end, doing this will be more than just learning to better at musicality as a dancer. This practice will be medicine for your soul.

Photo credit:

This blog post is dedicated to my two awesome sons--both musicians and dancers, who in spite of being in their early twenties, turn to me as an older-and-wiser friend. Many fathers would love to be so blessed.  It's a two-way street: We learn from each other and inspire each other. 

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Will we ever dance again? [Apr. 7th, 2020|12:09 am]

We Will Dance Again

Alone with no dancing in sight,
How many long to dance again?
No time for dance as we hide
From a virus that has found
Its way into our bodies and lives.

I try to feel dance in my body,
And I find it in my hands.
I feel your right hand in mine.
I feel your back and hold you closer.
I smell your favorite perfume
Mixed with mine--the smell of you.
I hear the music moving us as one.
I feel your chest against mine,
Each nuance of the music
Translated by two hearts.
I feel our feet on the world, dancing.
On this planet, spinning towards
A twilight predicted by all...
This speck of dirt and water--
Eventually again in the cosmic womb,
And then another Big-Bang Beginning.
In a New Time dance will reappear.
It cannot hide forever.
Once again music, joy, happiness and love
Will make souls dance in a new age.
Sooner or later, perhaps later than soon,
Even we can live this new age in our own time,
And we will dance again.
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The Rare Epicurean Tanguer@s [Mar. 22nd, 2020|02:20 am]
" Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance."  --Epicurus

Epicurian philosophy 
is simple:  Seek pleasure and avoid pain. So you might think there are many Epicurean tanguer@s out there, right?

The problem is that Epicurean philosophy is a wisdom tradition, not a lifestyle.  Seeking pleasure often has no philosophy or ethical basis.

Sure, there are many who seek pleasure and avoid pain, but may lack wisdom entirely. A philosopher thinks deeply about this principle of pleasure and pain. One of my greatest pleasures in life is to dance.  But it took a while for me to find some wisdom of how to be wise enough to create life-long pleasure and to avoid loss, pain, and distress.

Pleasure without Self-Harm
I started thinking about this Pleasure Principle as I was trying to help a patient of mine suffering with sleeplessness.  I think he considered himself a true Epicurean.  He explained that he wanted to enjoy life. So that meant that he wanted to enjoy his cigarette before bed, drink whiskey before bed, and watch TV in bed. Of course, all of these things undermine good sleep and were harming his health. Pleasure without self-harm takes some wisdom.

Tango and the Pleasure Principle
I recommend lots of pleasure.  But I want to be an Epicurean Tanguero.  My tango path for many years was not as an Epicurean philosopher.  I have more and more pleasure in tango, but that was made possible because of becoming wiser--joining the Epicurean wisdom of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain for the long-term good.

If I want more pleasure and less pain, I know that I need to . . .
  • Dance less so I can have good sleep. 
  • Dance less so I can have good foot care. 
  • Wear special earplugs* so I am not deaf later in life. (Get a good decibel app.)
  • Dance in moderation in order to have plenty of other helping activities that will maintain my tango to be long-lived--such as . . .
    >Tai chi for balance
    >Working out for stamina and strength
    >Yoga for flexibility
    >Breathing practice for lung capacity and body awareness
    >Mindful meditation for flow and calming the inner-voice that is not mine.
The path of a philosopher for me is to have ecstatic moments in tango but not at the expense of not taking care of my body's health, my psychological wellness, and my spiritual life.

The Pleasure Principle, philosophically practiced, makes our tango glow, and allows us to be an asset to the tango community, which by the nature of any community will need more wisdom and less shallow pleasure-seeking.  Seek pleasure; eschew pain.  But be a true Epicurean Tangue@.

Photo credit:

* In order to maintain one's hearing acuity, young or old, I suggest getting good quality earplugs, even some made just for your ears.  Some milongas employ partially deaf DJ's who blast their music.  In the workplace, your employer must provide hearing protection over 85 decibels.  I know DJ's who blast music over 100 decibels all night. Avoid these deaf DJ's if you can, or simply do as I do:  Wear earplugs specifically made for ... wait for it ... DJ's.  Whatever you do, don't tell them to turn down their music.  They're deaf and won't hear you.   :-/
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Feeding your Tango Cat during the Black Plague [Mar. 15th, 2020|11:59 pm]
Feed your cat!  Do you remember from your history classes the Black Plague that killed half the population in Europe? What did panicked-stricken city-dwellers do? You will remember that, unfortunately, they killed the cats and then outlawed people from having them. Unbeknownst to the people of that time, the cats were keeping the disease-carrying fleas on rodents out of their homes.  Eventually, the word got out that people who were refusing to kill their cats were protected and the cat-killing law was repealed.

Coronavirus?  Through analogy, tango has made your cat healthy--so much so, that you may as well call your cat "Tango."  In today's world with a modern pandemic from COVID-19 you have to keep your cat at home for a while, but it's not forever. In reality tango feeds your cat.  This means that ample physical social contact before an epidemic makes you and your microbiome more resilient during epidemics. Tango is also psychologically powerful to bolster your immune system.

Your cat is more like your microbiome.  Cats cannot live on tango alone. They need good food to keep the gut bacteria balanced and healthy. They need pure water, probiotics, fresh air and sun. They need lots of sleep. They need to avoid psychologically toxic relationships. It's not just tango, but that's a big part of your biological and psychological resiliency.  Even if you were to have had an awesome, strong cat, during the Black Plague, you would not have gone out shaking everyone's hand just because you had power-cat!  You'd stay in.  So it is with tango. Stay in during a pandemic!!!  

Not only your mind but your body wants you to return to the milonga.
Microbiologists are unequivocally showing us that practicing social distancing, even social isolation, during times of pandemic could be a life-and-death matter for many--if not you, then someone you could possibly infect.  However, during healthy times before and after an epidemic, physical social contact bolsters our immune system.  Meeting, touching and hugging people (also called "tango") increases the diversity of the microbiome in your body and you are stronger for it. Tango is the perfect medicine for the general public's over-sanitized  lifestyles.  More and more people sit behind computers, communicate, chat, date and even have virtual sex. This is a problem for the "sanitized" microbiome which needs to have more social contact in order to be robust.  Then this same socially isolated person who already lacks a diversified microbiome, let's say, gets a viral infection, runs to his doctor and further damages his microbiome with a round of antibiotics. Think PRObiotics and not antibiotics, unless it is a serious infection. Antibiotics, by the way, have NO effect on viruses.
Read this book!
More than 90% of your body
is your microbiome.

Your enemy was never bacteria, viruses, and fungi.  The majority of these microbes, viruses, and fungi work in your body to keep you healthy or are harmless when kept in balance.  Without a good balance of diverse bacteria, people become depressed, anxious and physically sick. (So eat probiotic foods.) The recipe for good health requires a balance in your microbiome.  Little is known about how they do it, but all three are mostly our friends.  Yes, certain viruses, like HIV, are seriously not good.  And Candida Fungi are not good when out of balance. Yersinia Pestis (bubonic plague) are extremely dangerous bacteria.  But don't kill all the cats!  Most are good.  Tango cats especially.  One day soon we will all need to get back to embracing one another.  Long-term survival is the real issue at hand.  For the time being while not dancing so much, stay home, and take good care of your Tango Cat.

Photoshop credit:  Thanks, Benjamin Word, for your knowledge in International Advertising and the manipulation of Internet cat pictures.

Photo credits:
Kitten with yarn (before photoshop):

Footnotes:   How is it that the rodents didn't get sick from the fleas that they carried? Well, to this day they carry a virus that would keep them from dying from the Bubonic Plague if it were to come back. (In the 1990's the US had 10 cases.  So it has come back but has been controlled.  Is it not interesting that humans and rats have certain viruses that protect us!  It's just that they can carry a virus that helps them but not homo sapiens.   

Even though the bubonic Plague would not be as deadly as it was in the 1300s, it is because we have other things that protect us:  Sewers, less malnutrition and better overall hygiene, more cats and fewer rodents.  In 1340, the population was hit with a mini-ice age and was weakened with malnutrition.  Cities were dirty and full of rodents.  Killing the cats, who officials believed were carrying the disease, was the absolute worse thing to do.

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Tango, the Microbiome and the Coronavirus [Feb. 29th, 2020|11:03 pm]

If you dance tango, you do it because it makes you happier.  The microbes in your body are dancing too. Literally dancing.

[I wrote this post before the Corona Virus pandemic started (see below). The new meaning with a pandemic is this:  Many people will never return to tango. Many will become germophobic.  Both of these things are unfortunate outcomes and have been created by a misunderstanding for centuries following the discovery of microbes (bacterias, viruses, and fungi).  What we still do not understand--perhaps especially in the medical field--is that the vast majority of these microbes coexist with our minority human genome in our body. Did you know that many viruses are good for us?  Did you know that even fungi happily have a balance on our skin and mouths and everywhere else in our bodies? It is a matter of balance! When the pandemic is over, it will be best that you return to tango for your own physical and emotional well being.  You need social touch for a healthy, robust immune system.]

One reason that you may be coming back to dance is that tango dancers are likely to be happier and healthier from social contact than if they stayed home.  By "social contact," I mean not just psychological contact but also physical contact. A growing body of evidence shows that we return to eat and do things because our microbes are bidding these behaviors. Can it be that we are returning to dance and do many things at the bidding of the microbiome's influence on our behavior and even our personalities?  (See article below, "Gut Bacteria May Be Linked to Personality Traits.")

Luckily, dancing is good for us.  The other good news is that dancers are likely to have a more robust microbiome because of their close physical interaction with others. Sharing the good bacteria in social contact gives us a greater diversity of bacteria in our bodies. A person with less diversity is likely to get sick and depressed or anxious.  So yes, you are happier when you dance. Your heart and soul dance and your body dance. But there is more . . .

Your microbiome dances.

10% of all the DNA cells in your body indicate that you are human.  90% are all sorts of DNA that are not human.  Trillions of cells make up a huge "community" of diverse bacteria, fungi, and viruses.  Most of these co-exist with our minority human DNA and allow us to live well on the planet.  New studies are showing that people with a lack of diversity in their microbiome (helpful microbes throughout our body) have weaker immune systems and are more likely to be depressed.

People who lack a diverse microbiome have both more physical illnesses and also lack psychological resilience. So the diverse community in your microbiome is "dancing" and very happy when you have close social contact with each other.

Here's a wonderfully produced info video from NPR on the microbiome. It's especially helpful if you doubt that your microbiome really dances. :-)  (Or keep reading below the video if you have no doubts so far.)

Tango dancers are likely NOT to be germophobic. Germophobia creates more and more isolation and even more and more mental problems, especially debilitating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  The germophobe thinks he or she is justified in their permanent social isolation.  Why not?  For now over 100 years, the human race has grown more and more germophobic.  But we only have seen half the story. The vast majority of our microbiome we have attained through physical contact is helping us survive! Look at our medicine and commercials of anti-bacterial products. We all know what anti-bacterial agents are. Even modern doctors have little sense of the harm they are doing to their patients by giving patients antibiotics, which kill the good bacteria (the majority) along with a few bad guys.  And for what purpose?  Why kill bacteria if you are fighting a virus? People-pleasing doctors are unwilling to educate a misinformed public because the American Medical Association has been in a senseless war on microbes without knowing the whole story, which has caused "superbugs."  Except for epidemics, stop using antibiotics if at all possible!  Stop using antibacterial sprays and soaps. Even children in households with no dishwasher are healthier than the more sterile environments of homes with dishwashers.  And, of course, dance more tango.

New Vocabulary Words
The general public has not been able to talk about these truths until recently. If you know the word "probiotic" it probably is new to your vocabulary in comparison to "antibiotic." 
A recent study by Dr. Katrina Johnson in the Human Microbiome Journal looked at social behavior and microbes. She wrote: “Our modern-day living may provide a perfect storm for dysbiosis [microbial imbalance or maladaptation] of the gut. We lead stressful lives with fewer social interactions and less time spent with nature, our diets are typically deficient in fiber, we inhabit over-sanitized environments and are dependent on antibiotic treatments. All these factors can influence the gut microbiome and so may be affecting our behavior and psychological well-being in currently unknown ways,” said Johnson.

But not Tango Dancers, Dr. Johnson! We are a diverse bunch of people. In nearly every tango community I have been in, we share collectively five or more languages, nationalities. Racial diversity is common. But one thing we really share is our microbes, and 99.9% of the time this is very good for our physical and mental well being since microbiome diversity is so good for our physical well being. Generally speaking outside of epidemics, hiding out and avoiding social contact is dangerous for the body and mind.

So let your body dance as if no one is looking. The microbiome has been dancing as if no one is watching since the beginning of the human race--because we have hot been watching! It's only now that we are aware of this incredible dance. And now, we are finally watching. Hopefully, our microbiome won't get nervous.


Photo credit (and below article):

Here is the article so you don't have to look it up:


Gut Bacteria May Be Linked to Personality Traits

A new large study finds that some of our personality traits may be linked to the composition and diversity of our gut bacteria (microbiome). The findings are published in the Human Microbiome Journal.
“There has been growing research linking the gut microbiome to the brain and behaviour, known as the microbiome-gut-brain axis,” said Dr. Katerina Johnson, who conducted her Ph.D. in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford in the U.K.
“Most research has been conducted in animals, whilst studies in humans have focused on the role of the gut microbiome in neuropsychiatric conditions. In contrast, my key interest was to look in the general population to see how variation in the types of bacteria living in the gut may be related to personality.”
Prior research has linked the gut microbiome to autism (a condition characterized by impaired social behavior). Johnson’s study suggests that numerous types of bacteria previously linked to autism are also related to differences in sociability in the general population.
“This suggests that the gut microbiome may contribute not only to the extreme behavioral traits seen in autism but also to variation in social behavior in the general population. However, since this is a cross-sectional study, future research may benefit from directly investigating the potential effect these bacteria may have on behavior, which may help inform the development of new therapies for autism and depression,” said Johnson.
One interesting finding was that people with larger social networks tend to have a more diverse gut microbiome, which is often associated with better gut health and general health.
“This is the first study to find a link between sociability and microbiome diversity in humans and follows on from similar findings in primates which have shown that social interactions can promote gut microbiome diversity,” said Johnson. “This result suggests the same may also be true in human populations.”
Conversely, the study shows that people with higher stress or anxiety had a lower microbiome diversity. In addition, the researchers found that adults who had been formula-fed as children had a less diverse microbiome in adulthood.
“This is the first time this has been investigated in adults and the results suggest that infant nutrition may have long-term consequences for gut health,” said Johnson.
Diversity was also positively related to international travel, perhaps due to exposure to novel microbes and different diets. More adventurous eaters had a more diverse gut microbiome whilst those on a dairy-free diet had lower diversity.
In addition, diversity was greater in people with a diet high in natural sources of probiotics (e.g. fermented cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi) and prebiotics (e.g. banana, legumes, whole grains, asparagus, onion, leek), but notably not when taken in supplement form.
“Our modern-day living may provide a perfect storm for dysbiosis of the gut. We lead stressful lives with fewer social interactions and less time spent with nature, our diets are typically deficient in fibre, we inhabit oversanitized environments and are dependent on antibiotic treatments. All these factors can influence the gut microbiome and so may be affecting our behavior and psychological well-being in currently unknown ways,” said Johnson.

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Musicality: More than a dance class [Jan. 31st, 2020|10:30 pm]

"Musicality is not a learned skill.
It's a natural skill that you

Anonymous musician

You dance tango.  Nearly everyone, but certainly you were born to be musical.  That is part of what it means to be human for you and every dancer. Watch children dance without a single worry about who is watching. That's uncovered musicality before your eys. No lessons. No coaching. Just uncovering with is naturally there.

Musical expression is truly an essential part of being human until we are shamed or told not to "dance around so much" by parents or teachers. Then, here come the blocks to our natural expression!  So, the work of getting through the blocks is a psychological and spiritual quest more than merely a dance or music skill to be learned.  Knowing this fact allows you to relax and let nature take its course.

The reason you love tango, I believe, is because of your inner self who pushed you to start this dance and your desires to embody and express the music which your inner self hears.  More than just a desire for a new hobby--the inner self is driven to express itself musically.

So as vague and huge as the task of expressing yourself musically appears to be, musicality is the center of why you dance.  The quest is to uncover and unblock. Also, you can think of musicality as a drive. Think about other drives.  You are driven to breathe, drink, eat, find shelter. Put on music and you are driven to move, even if your musicality drive has been stamped on and has dwindled down to merely tapping your feet.  Musicality is a drive to be you.

So as a start and especially while alone . . . listen to the silence, then put on the music, then feel it in your body and soul. Let it go. Be the music. Add the "E" to "Motion" and see how musicality pours out of your dance. This expression is who you truly are.

Part II:
More about a word I used above-- the Quest--and how to consciously begin this quest in the next post.  On the Quest of a lifetime, all drives must be channeled.  Let's talk about this.  Please comment below.

Photo credit:

Honorable mention: Regarding adding E to Motion, please see Aydan's wonderful post on this,
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Tango Community Growth and Development: Tango Sociology, Politics, and Economics [Jan. 24th, 2020|04:53 pm]


  • A tango community is a geographically based voluntary association of tango dancers that exists for the purpose of hosting regularly scheduled tango social dance events, i.e., milongas.
  • A tango community has a social, political, and economic structure. It exists independently of other social dance communities and therefore is not subordinate to or a cohort within another social organization.
    • The best measure of tango community size is the total attendance over all milongas in a specified time interval. This is an important, but not the only indicator of community health.
    • Instruction in tango dancing is neither a sufficient nor necessary condition for the existence of a tango community, but some mechanism for acquisition of tango dancing skills, whether in the home community or elsewhere, is required for dancers to function on the social dance floor. Nevertheless, in North America it is rare for a tango community to exist without resident tango instructors, who play a critical role in the recruitment of new members and the development of the community.
  • There are two primary means by which tango communities have originated in North America.
    • Many tango communities originate from within other social dance communities, most often salsa or ballroom dance communities.
      • Instruction in Argentine Tango is initiated within an existing social dance curriculum. If interest exists, music for dancing Argentine Tango is added to social dances, but social dances for which tango music forms the majority of the music program are rarely originated within this environment.
      • The advantage of this Internal Origin of a tango community is that a population of experienced social dancers exists from which tango dancers can be recruited. The infrastructure (facilities and management) needed for development of a group of tango dancers is provided by the larger community, but opportunities for development of an independent tango instructional and social dance program are limited.
    • Some tango communities originate independently of an existing social dance community, for example, by an instructor initiating tango classes in a supportive environment that can provide free or low cost space and some degree of free advertising, such as a community center or university.
      • The advantage of this External Origin of a tango community is that the supporting organization exercises little control over the course of development of tango activities. It is usually easier to initiate tango social dance events within this environment that has less administrative control. The disadvantage of this method is that it is usually more difficult to recruit dancers to build a tango community.
    • As defined here, a tango community is only established when regularly scheduled tango social dance events are organized. This is labeled here as the Foundation Stage.
      • During the Foundation Stage, there is almost always only one tango instructor (or instructor couple) who organizes classes and social dance events.
      • Additional common characteristics of tango communities during the Foundation Stage are small community size, low dance skill level, and classes undifferentiated by skill level. There is usually a high level of enthusiasm for tango among community members. Considerable effort is expended towards recruitment of new dancers. There is usually an egalitarian social structure below the level of the instructors, with most dancers dancing with many other community members at social dance events.
      • Social dance events may be somewhat unstructured, without music played in tandas with cortinas, and tolerance of teaching on the social dance floor. Dance invitation is by Direct Approach to the table.
      • During the Foundation Stage, tango communities may fail due to the inability to recruit and retain a sufficient number of dancers.
    • If recruitment and retention of dancers is successful, at some point tango communities advance to the Diversification Stage.
      • The range of tango activities grows rapidly during the Diversification Stage.
      • The Diversification Stage is characterized by an increasing range of dancing skills. This is accompanied by instructors offering a wider range of classes and workshops at different skill levels.
      • Often additional tango instructors offer classes and additional organizers host milongas during this stage; i.e., there are multiple leaders to develop the direction of community development. Nonprofit Tango Societies may also form during this stage of development.
      • Tango social dance events during this stage develop more formal characteristics such as playing Classic Tango music for dancing tango, organized into tandas with cortinas, with dancers leaving the dance floor during the cortina and forming new partnerships in a subsequent tanda.
      • During this stage dancers develop preferences for partners at milongas based on skill level, familiarity, age, and instructor identification. These partner preferences may lead to some dancers feeling peripheralized and therefore lose interest in tango.
      • During the Diversification Stage, most dancers become more interested in their own social dancing than in recruitment and retention of new dancers, leaving these concerns primarily with the community leaders.
      • As more instructional options become available, dancers become more selective in their participation in classes and workshops, with some dancers no longer seeking instruction locally, or even at all.
      • As tango dance skills increase, more dancers travel to other tango communities for instruction and socializing, and thereby become exposed to a greater diversity of opinions regarding expression of tango, in particular musical preferences and styles of dancing.
      • One critical consequence of community diversification is that some dancers do not feel integrated into the community and leave, so retention of dancers may become a problem during this stage.
    • After diversification, some tango communities enter a Period of Stability, an extended period where community size and membership remains relatively constant. Community size and diversity of activities may be smaller than during the Diversification Stage because there may have been an unsustainable overexpansion during diversification.
    • Community stability may be threatened by any of a number of factors either external or internal to the community.
      • Demographic factors causing a decrease in community size include dancers leaving the community due to changes in employment, education, or family responsibilities.
      • Community size can also be impacted negatively by local and widespread economic conditions.
      • Factors internal to a tango community that can cause decreased participation of members in community events include competitiveness, eliteness, and marginalization of dancers.
      • Segregation of dancers into subgroups is harmful to community unity and, as a consequence, community size. This segregation includes the formation of socially privileged cliques, as well the development of competing factions. Community fractionalization can be difficult to repair if divisions are based on philosophical differences such as music appropriate for dancing or whether or not certain styles of dancing are appropriate for the social dance floor.
      • Inability to counteract forces decreasing community size can lead to tango community decline.
    • A Period of Decline may occur in a tango community when milonga attendance decreases and this leads to decreased enthusiasm and further decreased participation in community events. Decreased community enthusiasm has a negative impact on recruitment and retention of new dancers.
    • Maintaining a healthy tango community with a relatively constant size and membership requires creating an atmosphere where all dancers feel welcome in the community and have an enjoyable social dance experience.
    • Statement of the factors promoting and detracting from tango community growth and development identifies the challenges faced in the creation of a Traditional Tango community, because Traditional Tango culture expects adherence to certain codes and customs that not all dancers may agree to, as well as allowing the formation of a social hierarchy in the milonga by supporting free choice in partner selection.


There are numerous tango communities worldwide, varying in size, duration of existence, number of resident instructors, quality of dancing, and number of milongas, among other things. These tango communities are in different stages of development, from recently established communities primarily concerned with recruitment of new members, to well established communities with regular events, to communities decreasing in size, perhaps in danger of extinction.

A previous post has examined the organization of tango communities according to a profit (business) versus non-profit (democratic) model, with a focus on promoting and retaining Traditional Tango culture (Strategies for Tango Community Development: Profit and Non-Profit Models and the Perspective of Maintaining the Cultural Integrity of Tango). This post examines in general the characteristics of tango communities in different stages of development, as well as the factors affecting transition between these stages, with an emphasis on those factors that lead to tango community growth and stability. Personal knowledge of North American tango communities and, to a limited degree, the Buenos Aires tango community, is used as the basis for causal inferences. The implications for the establishment and maintenance of Traditional Tango communities, particularly the paradoxes these conclusions raise, are identified. Strategies for dealing with these contradictions are addressed in a subsequent post.


Definition of Community

In order to identify the realm within which the phenomena discussed here exist, it is necessary to define the term ‘community’ and identify the parameters for assessing its status.

A tango community is a social unit comprised of tango dancers who voluntarily associate with the community. As a social unit, there are social dance events that occur on a regular basis. These social dance events need not be advertised or identifiable as ‘milongas’ [Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)], although this is usually the case. In these social dance events the focus is on tango dancing, i.e., the majority of the music program is designed for dancing tango, and dancers attend these events for the purpose of dancing tango (even if music is played for other dances); the inclusion of tango music for dancing within a social dance event where the majority of music played for dancing is not tango music is not a tango social dance event [e.g., ‘el baile’ in Buenos Aires, Tropical Latin dance including some tango music]. The music played for dancing tango need not be Classic Tango music; what matters is that in the minds of the dancers, they are dancing to music they consider to be tango music, or that they are dancing tango to the music played. [For an alternative perspective, see Do Milongas Exist outside Argentina? (The Milonga Codes Revisited)].

Community size is an objective measure of community health, although other subjective measures can be revealing prognostic indicators of community development. Because a tango community is a voluntary social aggregation of tango dancers, the most direct and objective measure of community health is attendance at tango social dance events (i.e., milongas). What is important in evaluating community status is total attendance, summed over all milongas, during a specified time interval (e.g., one year). However, it is the stability of attendance, rather than the actual number, that is the best measure of community health, because communities differ in size. Likewise, there is no specific number of dancers required for a tango community to exist, although a sufficient number must attend social dance events regularly (a critical size) for them to be successful financially and socially.

Instruction in tango dancing is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for the existence of a tango community. Dancers could have learned their dance skills elsewhere. In addition, participation in tango instructional activities (classes, workshops, practicas) is not a direct measure of tango community health, although it may be a correlate. Nevertheless, tango instruction is almost inevitably present in a tango community because dancers need to have a means of acquiring tango dance skills. Tango instruction is the gateway for recruitment of new community members. Dance instruction need not be formal, as was the situation for the tango dancers in Buenos Aires in its earliest days of existence (circa 1900).

A tango community is not a loose association of dancers; it has a social, political, and economic structure. There is almost always an identifiable leader, a set of leaders working together, or several leaders with individual initiatives who create events, drive energy in the community, and manage the economic activity surrounding community events. The remaining members of the community take direction from the community leader(s). There is also a social cohesiveness among followers in the community in that they interact with each other in a (more or less) amicable manner as they take direction from the community leader(s).

A tango community is an independent association of tango dancers; it is not subordinate to or a subset of another social dance community. It almost always has its own independent political and economic structure, certainly at the level of interaction between community members and their leader(s). It usually has its own space (facilities for instruction and social events), although it may share space with other dance communities and certainly with other social organizations, e.g., as in a community center.

Obviously, a tango community is a geographically based association of tango dancers, wherein contact between members of the community is significantly greater than contact between members of other communities. It is possible to have distinct aggregations of dancers in areas that overlap geographically yet do not interact to a significant degree, or only to a limited degree; these will be referred to here as “subcommunities”, due to the existence of the potential for interaction due to geographic proximity. This separation exists in contemporary Buenos Aires where tango subcommunities are segregated by age and, to some degree, by adherence (or lack thereof) to specific aspects of tango culture, e.g., as contrasted by Traditional Milongas with gender defined lead and follow roles and gender segregated seating versus the Tango Queer community that practices flexibility in gender based partner role selection. In large First World tango communities, a Traditional Tango versus Nuevo Tango / Neotango subcommunity segregation (or partial segregation) also may exist. Designation of a subcommunity implies a degree of cohesivenss and allegiance that aids in subcommunity persistence, with the recognition that geographic overlap allows some degree of interaction between subcommunities that can challenge their integrity and even existence.


The Origins of Tango Communities

Contemporary tango communities usually evolve by a gradual process. Prior to the development of a social structure that is identifiable as a community, an environment previously unexposed to tango is seeded with the concept of tango dancing, followed by a developmental period which may or may not lead to the birth of a tango community. There are several ways in which the origins of a tango community can be seeded.

In the first case (Internal Origin), the idea of tango dancing originates within an existing dance community (most commonly within a ballroom dance or salsa or salsa/swing dance environment), commonly due to the economic motivation of a proprietor of a social dance enterprise. A social dance instructor may visit a tango instructor in another community or even invite a tango instructor to the local community (typically with accompanying workshops) to learn Argentine Tango. Argentine Tango classes are then added to the existing instructional curriculum of the social dance enterprise. The advantage of Internal Origin is that a population of social dancers is readily available for recruitment to tango dancing. However, within this environment tango dancing usually does not acquire an independent identity (i.e., have separate social dance events), at least at first. If tango instruction is well received, Argentine Tango music played for dancing may be added to existing social dance events, interspersed among the music selections designed for the social dances that are the predominant focus of instruction within this enterprise. In some cases, depending upon the interest of the instructors, a set of Argentine Tango activities may develop, including tango practice sessions and sometimes even tango-specific social dance events (perhaps even labeled as ‘milongas’), although these are usually rare, at least at first. The development of a tango community from within another social dance community is facilitated if there exists a dance instructor whose primary interest is in tango dancing and instruction. In some cases, a dance instructor with tango teaching experience may move into a tango naïve community (often due to circumstances other than the desire to teach tango, e.g., daytime employment or university studies or even relocation due to retirement) and associate with an existing social dance enterprise, either by renting space from a dance studio, or by becoming an officially recognized member of the instructional team at the dance studio.

In the second case (External Origin), the seed of tango dancing is planted by someone desiring to create a tango community independent of an existing dance community, whether or not another (appropriate) social dance community exists locally. This person (or persons) could be an existing tango instructor who has moved into a community, or someone who is not a dance instructor who has learned tango dancing in another community and may either begin to teach tango or invite a visiting instructor to teach, or both. Recruitment is usually more difficult under these conditions because there may not exist a population readily available as a source for recruitment. The financial challenges are also greater under these conditions because space for instruction usually needs to be found and rented. These conditions can be ameliorated somewhat by association with an existing organization where facilities for instruction are readily available, such as a community center or a university. A community center has certain advantages in that it may offer free space (with the consequence of reduced remuneration) and online or printed advertising of classes that assist in attracting students to tango classes; however, efforts along these lines may fail, in part because tango instruction under these circumstances is competing with fitness classes, hobby pursuits, etc. Teaching under the umbrella of a university (e.g., extracurricular courses) usually has the advantage of having a large population of students (and some faculty and staff) available for recruitment, but without necessarily providing advertising for the tango instructional program under the auspices of the university, although formation of student or university-wide social clubs may assist in gaining access to some degree of advertising. In any case, in promoting a tango enterprise of External Origin, supplementary advertisement through independent websites and social media such as Facebook may be necessary to improve recruitment.

A Hybrid Origin may occur if, for example, a tango enterprise is initiated within a larger community organization where there are existing social dance enterprises; e.g., tango classes could be added to a program at a community center already including ballroom dance, salsa or swing classes. Under these conditions, tango students could be recruited from the population of dancers who have learned other dances, without the overall administration being a social dance enterprise that would favor the existing dance program.

Initiation of a tango dance instructional program provides the opportunity for recruitment of dancers for social tango dance events, but the instructor and students in an instructional program do not by themselves constitute a community, as defined here. Often lacking in a dance instructional program is a level of social interaction among the participants that provides cohesiveness and persistence to their association, as well as a sense of belonging to a social unit. The focus of interaction is between instructor(s) and students, with brief interaction between students, and any interaction that exists is dyadic rather than as a group. There may be more interaction among students if they already know each other, which is more likely if the tango instruction is embedded within a larger social dance community, but this interaction rarely creates a sense of identity as tango dancers, much less as being part of a community of tango dancers. Cohesiveness and identification with a tango dance community develops with the initiation of tango social dance events. Preliminary tango community building may arise in the form of tango students, perhaps at the encouragement and/or accompaniment of the instructor(s), going as a group to socialize after tango class, e.g., to have pizza or to a bar, but this is not a tango social dance event, even if lays the foundation of social identification with a tango oriented group.

The duration of this pre-community Origin Period could be as brief as a single workshop that was poorly attended, but even with some degree of maintained instructional success, it normally takes 6 months to 2 years before regularly scheduled tango social events occur, thereby assuring the establishment of a tango community as defined here. It is not known what the success rate of transition from seeding to the establishment of a tango community is. Offering of classes in Argentine Tango within, for example, a ballroom dance studio, without the creation of specific and regular tango social dance events, can continue indefinitely, or at least as long as there are enough students willing to take these courses.

Failure to establish a tango instructional program from which a tango community may develop is due to the inability to recruit and retain a sufficient number of tango dance students. This failure may be due to a low population density in the local area, poor advertising, ineffective teaching, or nonreceptivity to tango dancing in the local community, i.e., its local culture. Obstacles to recruiting a tango student population also include absence of a local social dance community, area residents lacking disposable income, and the presence of religious prohibitions against social dancing in general, or a religious based reluctance to engage in tango dancing based on its perceived sensuality. Therefore, the most fertile ground for planting the seed of tango dancing is a geographic area that is urban, suburban or a university community, having a significant proportion of the population that is middle class or higher in socioeconomic status, religiously liberal or moderate, and currently supporting a social dance community.


Stages of Tango Community Development

As outlined here, there are four identifiable developmental stages through which tango communities may pass during their lifespan. Not all communities experience all four stages. These stages are not discrete (i.e., some characteristics of each stage may appear before others), nor are they necessarily realized in full (i.e., not all characteristics of each stage become manifest in all tango communities). Nevertheless, specification of these stages of community development can identify some of the markers of success and the challenges facing tango communities, particularly with respect to their growth and survival.


Stage One: Foundation

A tango community is born when a regular schedule of successfully attended tango social events is established. Practicas held after a regularly scheduled class, with opportunities to socialize, can be effective in creating social bonds, especially if food and beverages are provided as a catalyst for socializing; however, this is not in itself a marker of community development that has advanced to the Foundation Stage. Eventually the benchmark of community existence, the hosting of tango social dance events on a regular basis, independent of instruction, may be reached.

If the origins of a tango community are within an existing dance community (Internal Origin), in order to determine its own destiny the tango enterprise needs to develop its own identity, with members whose sole or primary dance interest is tango. Usually a salsa or ballroom dance enterprise has its own priorities and is unlikely to support tango social dance events to the extent that a separate identifiable tango community can coexist within its boundaries. Therefore, although an existing social dance community may serve as fertile ground onto which a tango seed is planted, and an embryonic tango community can be nurtured within this environment that provides financial and facility support, for continued growth of the tango community this umbilical cord to the supportive social dance community almost always needs to be severed and a separate organization with its own administration and its own space needs to be developed. (A notable exception to this pathway to independence was the former Dance Manhattan in New York City, where a vibrant tango community with milongas existed for more than 2 decades inside the larger structure of a more inclusive social dance community.) A movement toward independence outside the origin social dance community may be as simple as a tango organizer establishing a tango social dance event outside the administration of the origin social dance community, or an orgnizer may be more enterprising in establishing an independent tango instructional program, whether by direct instruction or by inviting visiting instructors, with the concurrent or future establishment of an independent regularly occurring tango social dance event.

Tango entrepreneurs who originate a tango instructional program outside of an existing dance community (External Origin), e.g., at a university or community center, despite possibly facing greater challenges in recruiting tango students, may have an advantage in establishing an independent social dance community due to having the space and administrative resources necessary for independent operation more readily available.

One nearly universal characteristic of Foundation Stage tango communities is the presence of a single leader (or leader couple) that plans, organizes, and directs tango related events, including regular classes, social events, invitation of visiting instructors, and perhaps even travel to nearby communities. This is manageable for one person or couple because at this stage community size is small. The remainder of the community of dancers usually retains a non-hierarchical social and political structure, with attention for guidance focused on the community leader(s). Although Foundation tango communities are almost always led by an instructor or instructor couple, a feeling by dancers of membership in the community, something achieved through active participation and contribution to the development of the community, increases the probability of successful establishment and growth of a tango community.

With respect to tango dancing and its social environment, Foundation Stage communities have certain characteristics in common. Community size is small; even a group of 15-20 dancers dancing tango socially on a regular basis can comprise a Foundation Stage community initially. The average dancing skill level is almost always low. (Skill level may progress faster if the community is built out of an existing social dance community.) Community energy is directed towards recruitment and teaching; social dance events (particularly an event that can be advertised as a ‘milonga’) are a lower priority. When tango social dance events are hosted, they usually focus on teaching beginner level lessons, used for the purposes of recruitment, and some degree of informal teaching typically extends into the social dance period, onto the social dance floor. A considerable amount of effort often is directed towards making newcomers feel socially comfortable in the tango environment.

In Foundation tango communities, traditional milonga customs (Codes and Customs of the Milongas of Buenos Aires: The Basics) are unlikely to be practiced. Music selected for dancing may not be all or even mainly Classic Tango music (Music Played at Milongas / Tango Social Dance Venues), and this music may not be organized into tandas with cortinas. Dancers usually do not embrace while dancing. A circulating ronda may not be clearly established. Teaching on the dance floor is likely to be tolerated. It is highly unlikely that the cabeceo (Use of the Cabeceo and Gender Segregated Seating in Milongas in Buenos Aires and Elsewhere in the World) is used at all as a method of dance invitation. Social dance events usually resemble practicas, not milongas in the traditional sense.

Despite the naïveté of most of the dancers in a Foundation Stage tango community, there is often a great deal of enthusiasm about this tango that is only partially understood. In fact, this enthusiasm is necessary for the growth and development of a tango community beyond the Foundation Stage. There is typically a desire for learning, an excitement about recruitment, and an attitude of openness and acceptance towards other group members. Most dancers dance with other members of the community regardless of skill level, or perhaps because there is little variation in skill level. Absence of these desirable characteristics is likely to doom a Foundation Stage tango community to early extinction.

There are numerous requirements for success in the establishment and maintenance of an independent tango community. Functional dance space in an accessible location must be acquired for instruction and hosting social dances. Advertising, whether by printed material, internet placement, or word of mouth, needs to attract students. Recruitment and retention of new dancers both need to be successful; an equal or nearly equal number of men and women needs to be recruited and retained. Tango instruction needs to be effective in producing acceptable social tango dance skills, for both men and women. Social dance events need to be enjoyable for all attendees, which means that all attendees are able to dance and are comfortable with their partners. Dancers need to develop a sense of belonging to the community; competitiveness and strife among dancers and the perception of a hierarchical structure of status and influence [beyond the recognized leader(s)] can create a sense of alienation of dancers from the community. Failure to achieve one or more of the favorable characteristics outlined here could lead a Foundation tango community to an early demise, or perhaps a prolonged inability to advance to the next stage of tango community development.


Stage Two. Diversification

Once a tango community has established itself as an independent entity in the Foundation Stage, if successful it grows in size by continued recruitment and retention of dancers. At some point the community begins to diversify along several dimensions.

As tango dancers gain experience, some dancers improve their dance skills faster than others, so that there develops a range of dance abilities. The Foundation instructors respond to this diversification of dance skills by offering classes at multiple levels, either by themselves and/or by inviting visiting instructors (who may be mentors for the Foundation instructors) to do likewise. In some cases the Foundation instructors may enlist more advanced dancers as instructional assistants for beginner level students and, if the demand is great enough, deputize one or more of them to teach the Foundation instructor’s curriculum (typically at the beginner level, perhaps adding classes, sometimes even at new locations, to increase recruitment opportunities).

As dance skills improve, there also is an increased demand for more formalized tango social events, and the first social dances that have some characteristics of milongas (Codes and Customs of the Milongas of Buenos Aires: The Basics) typically appear. Music selected for dancing begins to consist mostly or entirely of Classic Tango music (Music Played at Milongas / Tango Social Dance Venues), and it is more likely this music will be organized into tandas with cortinas. In the overwhelming majority of cases, couples will leave the floor during the cortina and new partnerships will form with a new tanda. As teaching on the dance floor diminishes and may be frowned upon, these social dance events advertised as milongas will be differentiated from practicas, which lack the aforementioned characteristics. However, the use of the cabeceo (Use of the Cabeceo and Gender Segregated Seating in Milongas in Buenos Aires and Elsewhere in the World) as a means of dance invitation usually is still absent from milongas at this stage of community development. Embracing one’s partner while dancing may appear during the Diversification Stage, depending on the type of instruction given to dancers.

As a tango community grows in size and diversifies in dance abilities, it becomes almost inevitable that other tango dance instructors and event organizers will arise from within the community, adding additional tango instructional programs and social dance events. (In some cases, new tango instructors will appear as a result of their moving into the community.) The secondary instructors and organizers may initiate their operations solely out of enthusiasm to contribute to community growth, or a desire to create a dance environment with their own preferences (e.g., instructional curriculum, music played for dancing, floor and lighting characteristics, food and beverage preferences), or perhaps embark on their enterprise anticipating economic or social status benefits. In some communities, particularly larger ones, tango festivals (i.e., with multiple visiting instructors and milongas) will be organized.

In some cases, the characteristics of dancers who associate with different tango events may differ, e.g., there may occur some degree of segregation of dancers based on age, depending on the age of the organizers or the environment in which events are held (e.g., casual vs. more formal environment). Therefore, in contrast to the Foundation Stage, where there is a single leader who is the focus of community attention for guidance, in the Diversification Stage a multifocal social attention structure usually arises in the tango community.

An alternative sociopolitical structure that may develop in the Diversification Stage is the Tango Society, usually a nonprofit [501(c)3] organization with a rotating elected or appointed board of officers (e.g., Austin TX; Boston; Minnesota; Madison WI). These Tango Societies appear to be designed to promote all tango activities within a community, including the activities organized by the Tango Society, creating an impression of community cooperation. To some degree this type of organization may reduce the competition for attention and direction that individual organizers attempt to impose on the community, although the impact of a Tango Society varies across communities, depending in part upon the degree of influence it exerts in favor of its own activities.

As the community social and political structure becomes diversified, the pattern of mostly nondiscriminatory partner preference characteristic of the Foundation Stage typically evolves into a partner preference pattern at milongas that is based on skill set similarity, social familiarity, age, attractiveness, instructor identification, and perhaps even ethnic identity or marital/relationship status.

The preference to choose partners of the same or similar skill level may develop to some degree as a result of familiarity with other dancers due to participation in the same level of tango classes or taking classes from the same instructor. At some point it may become apparent at the milongas that beginner level dancers tend to be ignored by more advanced dancers, although more advanced men often seek out attractive beginner level women as dance partners, perhaps in an attempt to impress them with their prowess at dancing tango. Beginner level dancers may be intimidated by the skill level expressed by more advanced dancers and be hesitant to enter onto the milonga dance floor, adding to their feelings of social isolation.

If more advanced dancers are less welcoming to beginner level dancers, the retention rate of new dancers may decrease. If more advanced dancers are content with their status at milongas (i.e., being able to readily find a sufficient number of suitable partners), they may lose their interest in recruitment of new dancers. Therefore, typically during the Diversification Stage, recruitment energy becomes more concentrated in the set of community organizers, particularly the instructors, who have financial or personal prestige investments in the process.

As communities grow in size, partner preferences may also develop with respect to age, i.e., dancers will tend to dance with partners of similar age. The exception to this is that older men, particularly those with more advanced dance skills, often will seek out younger women as partners.

Gender disparity usually becomes evident during the Diversification Stage. Learning to lead is more difficult than learning to follow, particularly as tango is taught in most North American tango communities (i.e., as a catalogue of steps), with the result that the dropout rate is higher for men than for women. (In most cases, the recruitment rate is also lower for men than women at all stages of community development, although this is primarily a culturally based gender distinction in North America.) Men may also wait longer before feeling prepared to participate in dancing at a milonga. This results in a greater number of women than men in most tango communities. Given the shortage of men at milongas and the preference of men in partner selection for more highly skilled or younger or more attractive women, this creates a differential among women in their participation in dancing at the milongas, with older and less highly skilled women often participating significantly less in social dancing at milongas.  Dance invitation by Direct Approach of men to the table contributes to this differential participation among women in dancing at milongas.

Partner preferences at milongas may also be determined by relationship status. Unaffiliated single dancers tend to dance with each other and couples tend to dance only or primarily with their partners.

As tango dance skills become more diverse and more tango instructional opportunities appear (including with visiting instructors), dancers become more discriminating in their instructional decisions. Some dancers take classes only from their first instructor (and possibly visiting instructors invited by this instructor), others from multiple instructors, and others only from some visiting instructors. Some dancers only participate in workshops when they travel to tango weekends and festivals (perhaps more for a social than an instructional purpose). A few seek instruction only in Buenos Aires. In some communities there may even be some dancers who no longer seek tango instruction. This latter category tends to increase in size with the age of a community, as more dancers reach a state of satisfaction with (or perhaps a state of frustration with advancing beyond) their level of dancing.

As tango dance skills increase, there is usually a concomitant increase in knowledge of tango culture and history among some members of the community. More dancers travel to other tango communities to attend tango weekends and festivals, often independently of the accompaniment or even encouragement of the leaders of their home community. There they come into contact with other instructors and dancers with different perspectives on dancing tango and the music appropriate for dancing tango. Some community members even travel to Buenos Aires and attend milongas there, as well as study with tango instructors there. This increased contact with different tango instructors and dancers motivates some community members, particularly local instructors and event organizers, to invite tango instructors with different perspectives on dancing tango to their home community. This often leads to increased diversity in styles of dancing tango within the community, as well as a broader (or sometimes narrower) range of music deemed acceptable for dancing tango.

The most critical problems to be faced during the Diversification Stage are recruitment and retention of new community members. If deficiencies occur and persist in these areas, community size will decrease and the community will descend directly into a Period of Decline, rather than enter into a Period of Stability (stages described below). In order for a community to remain viable, new dancers need to feel welcomed and included in an increasingly complex community social structure. It is more difficult for newcomers to become integrated into larger communities because new dancers are not as visible, as well as often not deemed as essential to community maintenance.

During the Diversification Stage, community leaders need to work together for the benefit of the community rather than entering into competition that is destructive to the community.

The duration of the Diversification Stage varies widely among communities. Diversification usually persists a minimum of 2 years (beyond the Foundation Stage), but can endure for many years until a Period of Stability is achieved.


Stage Three. Period of Stability

The Period of Stability is the phase of community development where community size and membership remains relatively constant, usually for several (or even many) years. The Period of Stability develops out of the Diversification Stage, with the transferred characteristics being a range of dance abilities and a set of instructional opportunities to accommodate this range of skills. It is also highly likely that tango communities in the Period of Stability have multiple instructors, but it is possible that a community, particularly a small one, may not have developed this characteristic. It is very likely, but not essential, that a tango community in this stage has multiple regularly scheduled milongas, usually with each hosted by a different organizer.

The Period of Stability may be the time where community size is at its largest, but this is not necessarily so; constancy in community size is what characterizes this period. Often during the expansion that occurs during the Diversification Stage there are many newcomers to tango, but many also discover that either tango does not find a place in their lives, or that participation in the community is not sufficiently rewarding to motivate continued involvement in its activities. The Period of Stability may be the period of maximum growth in community activities (instructional offerings and social activities), but more likely by this stage there will have been a weeding out of some activities, i.e., those that are not successful in attracting dancers. Every tango community has its carrying capacity, a level of activity that can be supported in a state of relative equilibrium. During the Diversification Stage, the number of tango offerings often exceeds this carrying capacity, and only those activities that can be sustained continue to exist. Milongas that have fewer attendees cease operation. Visiting instructors who are less successful in attracting students are no longer invited. If tango festivals are organized and do not attract a sufficient number of attendees, these are either eliminated or hosted less frequently. Resident instructors who cannot attract a sufficient number of students to meet expenses discontinue teaching. Even resident instructors who are successful in attracting students may decrease the number of classes offered if they do not attract a sufficient number of students in some classes, perhaps eliminating classes at some locations. In most tango communities, during the Period of Stability, as more and more dancers become comfortable with their dance skill level, many dancers curtail or even discontinue their participation in instructional activities. This is not necessarily a sign of community decline, but rather may be a sign of community maturity.

What remains relatively constant during the Period of Stability is the total number of milonga attendees, so that some of the more successful milongas may actually experience a slight increase in attendance, while classes and workshops offered may actually decrease in number and attendance.

As the diversity in number of instructors and organizers and their events decreases, the remaining activities, organizers and their participants begin to define the character of the community as it persists. The character of the community is determined by community size, the distribution of skill levels, its demographic composition (age distribution, gender ratio, ethnic diversity, married/coupled vs. single composition, distribution of incomes and education), its relative focus on instruction versus social dancing, its willingness to travel to other communities (including Buenos Aires), its musical preferences, and its range of preferences for different styles of dancing tango, as well as the incorporation of specific tango customs (e.g., use of the cabeceo for dance invitation, inclusion of exhibitions at milongas, code of dress, deviation from heteronormative partner formation). With respect to tango customs, embracing while dancing and use of the cabeceo usually become more common during this period.

A tango community can remain in the Period of Stability for an indefinite period, which is a goal in community development. There may be some variation in levels of participation over time, but with recovery from any temporary perturbations that may occur. What disrupts the stability of a tango community is confrontation with external and internal forces that destabilize a community, and how the community responds to these perturbations.


Causes of Tango Community Destabilization

Tango community stability, i.e., maintenance of a relatively constant community size, can be threatened by a number of factors.

It is useful to differentiate between external and internal causes of tango community destabilization. External factors are causes of decreased participation that are unrelated to community properties. Internal factors are causes of decreased participation that emanate from activities occurring within the tango community.

External factors can be classified into two categories, demographic factors and economic factors, although the two are not independent.

Demographic factors contributing to decreased participation in community activities include the following. Dancers may move out of a community. Dancers may attend social dance events less frequently (or not at all) because of deteriorating health and fitness, which is often associated with increasing age. Social commitments arising from marriage (or pair bonding in general) and/or child rearing or elder care may change a dancer’s priorities in life. Changing demands of education and employment may cause some dancers to reduce or discontinue their participation in tango events. The influence of these factors is ongoing but variable over time, and is unlikely to have a significant impact on large communities, but short term increases in the effects of these demographic factors can have a significant detrimental impact on small tango communities. For example, in university based tango communities, there will be a relatively large proportion of dancers moving out of the area at the same time each year because of graduation, and there will be a need to replenish the population annually; one year of low recruitment can send a university based tango community into decline. For all tango communities at any stage of development, decreased recruitment and retention success, i.e., that which fails to replenish losses due to external factors, can contribute significantly to community decline.

Economic factors affecting community participation can be specific or general. Loss of sites for activity can occur because businesses or public agencies providing space for tango events change their priorities for space allocation, or go out of business (e.g., a restaurant hosting tango social events). Loss of a popular space for milongas, particularly if events are held there regularly, can decrease participation significantly and reduce community enthusiasm. Failure to find a suitable replacement site can be responsible for community decline, particularly in small communities. Generalized conditions of the economy, such as recession, unemployment, or inflation can reduce the disposable income of the tango population, thereby decreasing event participation rates. Recruitment of new members also will be hindered during times of economic recession. However, a recovering economy can reverse the effects of recession.

Internal factors causing reduced attendance at community events are characteristics of dancers and the community as a whole (i.e., community culture) that influence dancers’ participation in community activities.

At any stage of tango community development, dancers can lose their enthusiasm for participation in community events if they feel disenfranchised from the community. This can occur if the character of the community develops in a direction that is not satisfying for these dancers.

To feel comfortable in the social environment of a tango community, dancers need to be amicable towards each other on and off the dance floor. A community culture tolerant of competitiveness, eliteness, gossiping, criticism, scapegoating, and marginalization is disruptive to community harmony. Sexual objectification and predatory behavior depersonalize and threaten the security and self-esteem of women. Toleration of disregard for the safety of dancers on the dance floor can also cause some dancers to stop attending milongas. The presence of any of the aforementioned disruptive factors within a community can contribute to a loss of enthusiasm for participation in community activities.

One factor that is likely to contribute to community decline is the loss of the feeling of unity within the community. There are two types of community fragmentation that can occur – the development of a social hierarchy and segregation into competing subgroups, although these are not completely independent.

Although the lines of division are not always distinct, in some tango communities a subgroup of privileged individuals may develop, usually around a community leader. Members of this clique have elevated social status, often due to their support of the community leader’s agenda. Clique members are repeatedly rewarded publicly for their cooperation with the community leader by being given positions of power and prestige, e.g., selected as recruiters or administrators for community events (e.g., tango weekends), as instructional assistants for classes, or as DJs for milongas, even if they are not the most qualified persons for such positions. Partner selection in dancing is also likely to be influenced by membership in or acceptance by clique members. Exclusion from the clique may cause peripheralized dancers to feel disenfranchised and therefore lose interest in participation in the community, or perhaps support another community leader whose following lacks this hierarchical structure, i.e., clique formation may facilitate community segregation, which is detrimental to community growth.

Probably the greatest threat to tango community size and possibly even survival is community fission. This begins with the formation of subgroups of dancers that become somewhat or, in some cases, completely independent of each other. This is indicated by differential support of activities by different subgroups of dancers. It is natural for tango students to support the activities organized by their instructors, but community fissure is in progress if dancers participate primarily or only in instructional offerings and social events hosted by their instructor and rarely or not at all in the events offered by other instructors. This results in lower average attendance for community events, possibly with some events failing.

Community segregation is most harmful to community harmony when it is manipulated consciously by community leaders. This can be as simple as disparaging other community leaders or their followers, or it can be more publicly antagonistic as indicated by actions such as scheduling a milonga at the same time as a pre-existing milonga (most disruptive in small communities) or inviting a visiting instructor at the same time another organizer has already scheduled workshops for a visiting instructor. Even large tango communities can feel the tension generated by the latter.

Community fissure can be particularly pernicious if segregation is based on philosophical grounds, because philosophical differences are difficult to resolve. This may take the form of differences in musical preferences, as exemplified by the music played at Traditional Milongas (only Classic Tango music) versus Alternative Milongas (Tango Alternative music played), particularly if dancers have limited options in milonga attendance based on their musical preferences. Those who have danced tango in North American tango communities throughout the 21st century are well aware that often the greatest tension that has been created within tango communities has been caused by philosophical differences regarding styles (or technically, genres) of dancing acceptable at milongas, basically a conflict between the acceptability only of Tango de Salon (or more narrowly, Tango Estilo Milonguero) versus tolerance for Exhibition Tango (Tango Escencario, Tango Nuevo or, more recently, Tango Campeonato).  Dancers can become very emotional in their advocacy and defense of their philosophical positions, with differences often leading to open verbal conflict, which is the manifestation of a much deeper conflict within the community.

Given some degree of segregation and even fission within a tango community, the future of the community depends on how these differences are resolved. In large communities, multiple subgroups can operate somewhat independently indefinitely, particularly if each subgroup is successful in recruitment and has sufficient attendance at its events. This is the situation in Buenos Aires. However, in most tango communities, due to competition, one or more of the subcommunities loses sufficient membership and becomes extinct, and the community at large continues with reduced size, competition and conflict, and may even recover and expand thereafter. However, this is a more precarious position for community survival than reaching a state of peaceful coexistence between competing enterprises, with respect and possibly even support given to each subcommunity.


Stage Four. Period of Decline

The causes of community decline have been addressed in the previous section. The indicators and correlates of community decline are identified in this section.

The only relevant and objective measure of community stability is community size, as measured by the total attendance over all milongas during a specified time interval. Nevertheless, there are several other indicators of community instability, because they are frequently associated with an imminent or concurrent decline in community size (listed in apparent decreasing order of correlation with overall milonga attendance):

  • decreased number of milongas
  • decreased visits by traveling tango instructors
  • decreased attendance in beginner level classes and practicas
  • fewer resident instructors teaching tango

These decreases are beyond the failed experiments that occur after the Diversification Stage; these are the decreases that occur after a Period of Stability. A clear indicator of a Period of Decline is entry into a positive feedback loop, where decreased participation leads to decreased enthusiasm, which leads to further decreased participation.

Some additional signs of a community descending into period of decline are moving milongas to smaller locations, and replacement of formal tango social events (milongas) with more casual ones (e.g., tango house parties). Sometimes during the Period of Decline additional recruitment events (introductory tango lessons, sometimes accompanied by a social event) are initiated. To a significant degree, the schedule of events in a tango community that is in a Period of Decline resembles that of a community in the Foundation Stage. What differs is the social atmosphere in the community. During a Period of Decline, remaining experienced dancers usually hold on to their attachment to tango, but lack the enthusiasm for recruitment that existed in the Foundation Stage. Motivation for recruitment becomes concentrated in the community leaders, and their demeanor may exhibit more of an air of desperation that one of enthusiasm; potential recruits can sense this. New recruits are few and the retention rate of new dancers is low. Milongas fail due to economic inviability; substandard replacements may be found, but attendance is lower. Soon the community is comprised of a small number of only the most dedicated dancers, who can continue indefinitely having tango social dance events in rent free or low cost publicly accessible facilities, or in someone’s home.

It is difficult to determine the mortality rate for tango communities because no public obituaries are posted. There is some evidence that the most frequent failure with respect to tango communities is the inability to progress from offering instruction to establishing a regular schedule of milongas, i.e., to enter the Foundation Stage, although it appears that at least some communities that have reached the Foundation Stage have failed. However, it is not apparent whether any North American tango community that has reached the Diversification Stage has ever become extinct. Nevertheless, in traveling around North America in has become apparent that, in many communities, attendance at milongas and the number of milongas hosted has declined during the last 10-15 years. Tango festivals are fewer and smaller, and these have been replaced in part by tango marathons and Encuentros Milongueros, which are increasing in number; it is possible that this trend is due to decreased interest in tango instruction, a sign of maturity. Some of the decrease in community activities may be that which normally occurs after expansion in the Diversification Stage, although there are some tango communities that are obviously in a Period of Decline. On the other hand, new but smaller tango communities are arising in parts of North America where none had existed previously. Without a well-designed survey, it is difficult to assess accurately the health status of tango communities as a whole in North America, although in 2020 some signs of decline are apparent. One of the aims of this essay is to identify the challenges that face tango communities in different stages of their development, in order to pinpoint foci for intervention and recovery.


Summary: Characteristics of a Healthy Tango Community

Tango communities reach a state of stability if successful recruitment and retention of new dancers is greater than or equal to the departure of dancers from the community. Ideally, the rate of loss of community members is low, so social relationships can become solidified and dancers achieve a high skill level through experience dancing at milongas. There is no guarantee that a tango community with a long stable history has a high average skill level, but each community strives to fulfill its potential given its exposure to instruction and the composition of its membership.

There are several desirable characteristics of a healthy, stable ta

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Foresight has 2020 Vision. [Jan. 8th, 2020|03:15 am]

Tango, one of my main creative passions in life, is connected to my use of social media to keep up with people and events. Social media is a problem for me. Something needs to change in 2020. So this year I hope for foresight, not hindsight, having 2020 vision.  I am dedicating myself to JOLO--the Joy-Of-Living-Omnipresent, which is my new term for a pervading awareness to care for my physical and psychological health.  "Omnipresent" sounds like something only Divinity can do, but perhaps that is what the Universe wants more from us--being all-present and present-in-all. 

And for my 2020 foresight, I guess I will need a smarter SMART phone to help me with more joy and less obsession . . .

Transformational Phone

Oh, yes.  Another clarification is needed for a my new SMART phone.  Literally, a "phone" is a sound and a "telephone" is transmitted sound.  The sound that I plan to make will be more in person and less through technology.  

Here's how I'll use my not-so-SMART telephone:

1. SMV.  I have deleted Facebook, Messanger, Apple News, and the YouTube app off of my cell phone.  This will help.  I still keep connected to the news, but I don't want to be obsessed. Also, I don't know about you, but for me, Social Media Voyeurism (SMV) engenders FOBLO, the fear of being left out of tango events one sees on social media. (FOBLO is not just fear for millennials who made up the term.) I wish to have a 2020 vision with less and less regret that I am not present in all the photos of my favorite dancers dancing at a festival or milonga I did not attend. I am changing notification settings on my not-so-smart phone and spending more time on my truly SMART phone--talking to a diversity of people.  The decision to turn off the notifications takes some smart common sense.

2. Engage my maturity and resiliency skills.   Being-happy-with-what-you-have is a difficult task for everyone striving to mature and grow spiritually.  So FOBLO is a monster not only for a generation who has grown up on selfies but everyone engaged in social media. As for me, I want to be continually working on "growing up," being on a path of an ever-maturing person, and on a path of multiple passions to pursue in life.

3. Time for depth.  An example just in tango is my resolution to even celebrate "being left out." I can celebrate having time for other things, such as reading that book on tango orchestras; practicing more by myself. (I will have week-long quests to dance every day--even at work with my door closed, but every day.) Also, I may enjoy just giving my feet a needed break. Who knows? Perhaps, I enjoy a needed vacation from tango to broaden my life in things not related to tango, such as, reading more, writing, learning French, working out or hiking more, exploring more tai chi and getting great sleep.

4. The spiritual part:  There's just no time for missing out or having FOBLO if my 2020 foresight gives me "JOLO," the joy of living omnipresent.  Coming into the New Year, I am happy to focus on my health and well being more than ever before. Back in 2017 my resolution was to give up [unhealthy] tango--late-night tango.  I have done really well at that, and I recommend it to everyone that we all eschew late milongas for the most part or at least promote early milongas in our local communities because sleep and health are two sides of the same coin. So my first tango event in 2020?  Houston--a marathon--but I will only attend the early events. This is the practice of living JOLO. Foresight has a 2020 Vision.

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Never Forget Why We Started [Dec. 21st, 2019|08:39 pm]

As our second anniversary is approaching, we can be proud of the progress we’ve made in the past twenty-two months. Our number is steadily growing. Our dance skills have improved a lot. We now hold our own milonga on a regular base. When we go out to dance as a group, people are impressed by us. We start to have an impact on the tango community in this city.

But there are no grounds for complacency. We are still far away from our goal. Our number is still small. Our dance skills are still not adequate. We are still a marginal section in the local tango scene. The entire community remains in the shadow of the Nuevo influence. There are still a lot for us to do both in terms of personal growth and community building.

But some of us feel so good about themselves already that they don’t want to remain low profile. They want others to see what they can do. They want to experience new things with new people. They start to miss classes when there are conflicting events to ours. Some think they are good enough to be on their own and don’t need the group anymore. Some left already.

While exploration is commendable, we shall not forget why we started. This group has a mission. We are not individualists who come only for personal gain and leave when that goal is reached. We are here for a much bigger cause: to build a strong tango community, to promote the milonguero style of tango, to reform the tango culture in this city, and to bring more people into our cause. (See Champaign Milongueros Group Charter.)

This requires teamwork, commitment, discipline, responsibility, grit and personal sacrifice. If we only think about ourselves and neglect our duty, we will end up repeating the mistake of those before us who have wandered in tango for many years and still do not have a place to dance. People seeking independence will discover soon or later that they need a home group to study, dance, improve themselves and enjoy tango.

Gathering a group of like-minded people is important because we cannot enjoy tango with just anyone. We can only enjoy tango with people who share the same philosophy, use the same embrace, dance the same style, know the same steps, and reached the same level of proficiency. Tango is the collective work of a group of like-minded and equally educated dancers, without whom one alone cannot dance tango no matter how good his/her dance skill is. That is why we must not just think about personal gains but must also take the responsibility to help each other to grow and to build a strong tango community together.

That is not an easy task. People are different and unleveled. Some are quicker learners and better dancers than others. It takes time for everyone in the group to reach the same level of proficiency. Meanwhile, those who are better may lose patience and think it’s just easier to dance on their own. When we put personal interests above the group, we lose the vision, the group suffers the consequence and we all pay a price.

But if we remain united and work together to support and encourage each other, the group will grow faster and become better sooner, and we will all benefit as a result. It takes committed people to make a strong group. It takes a strong group to make an impact. Until we become such a group, we cannot convince others to join us, and we cannot make a real difference. Therefore, the most important thing for us to do now is not to flaunt ourselves but to improve ourselves. History will be made by those who stick to the cause, work together and don’t give up.

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Old Milongueros don't sleep much [Dec. 6th, 2019|02:53 am]
"Once upon a time, old milongueros danced all night and worked all day!"  A tango myth?  Yes, one I used to believe!

The Early Milonga
I have it from different sources of those who have lived in Buenos Aires, that the old milongueros did their serious dancing at early milongas.  Sure they would show up at later milongas, but that was to drink and court women at the late milongas to score or simply socialize. The tango-myth of eschewing good sleep is pure fairy-tale machismo

How to die early
I have worked with soldiers for all my professional life as a therapist.  Soldiers express a similar idiotic machismo--that "sleep is for wimps" and then these same soldiers die young from believing this rampantly popular stupidity. (Ask the Veteran's Administration.)  Tango dancers too often choose sleep deprivation--I did for years! But soldiers and others dealing with PTSD would like to sleep, but cannot. If you have a choice, choose health; choose sleep!

But maybe I am wrong
Let's agree hypothetically that the stories are true of the milongueros defying the need for sleep. Some yogis, through meditation, have reduced their need to sleep through meditation.  So let's agree that some dance or meditate all night and work all day the next. I think meditation and tango have a health-giving element that helps us get good sleep.  But little sleep? Even if tango or meditation helps, what does your body tell you?  Can you feel well on less than four hours of sleep? Do you personally know anyone who can? 

Is it possible that tango compensates for not sleeping?
I wish it were true. But no. Although tango has a huge salutary effect on anyone who loves to dance, it will not compensate for disregarding the body's need for sleep.  In fact sleep deprivation leads to poor dancing, poor balance, and poor memory.  Even if these milonguero tales were true, we don't hear the many voices of all of those who died early from the long-term effects of sleep deprivation.

So what is essential for tango?  Good music, talented dancers, a good dance floor.  And good sleep.

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Ovidio José Bianquet also see

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Replacing Gaydar with Tangdar [Nov. 16th, 2019|11:05 pm]
Who is the target?
In many cultures, men must protect their physical and mental well being from the "dancing-man prejudice."  Especially a man who dances in North America finds himself constantly in the scope of both men and women's "gaydar." At least, this has been my experience.

recent article about men avoiding recycling in order not to appear gay (or be "outed") made me wonder if this fear keeps so many men away from dancing. Why are there so few men in many parts of the world who avoid being dancers? By reflection on my own experiences throughout my life, I realized that men--both gay and hetero--have reason to be warry of how men and women "scope them out." As I thought about this subject, many of my own experiences were reawakened--like recovered memories. I became more and more somber, even repulsed, as each memory surfaced:
  • I heard in seventh grade from some female classmates that their mothers said that if a man crosses his legs he was gay.  I thought that was stupid, even funny, but I took note and tried not to cross my legs so much.
  • My private music teacher was scoped out by an ex-sailor's gaydar. He told everyone that my music teacher was gay and said he was nearly ready to beat him up because he saw my teacher touch me in a friendly way.  I am horrified that as a young teen, I assumed the ex-sailor's gaydar was accurate. As I learned over time, the veteran sailor's gaydar had malfunctioned.
  • When I was in my 20's and a musician in Oakland, California, my church made a threat to ex-communicate a pastor because she and I attended our mutual church and musician friend's gay wedding. My friend was disallowed from being a member of the church.
  • A good friend and fellow long-distance cyclist was identified by a salsa partner of mine as being gay.  Her gaydar malfunctioned too, sending off warning signals because he shaved his legs. She did not know that the majority of serious cyclists shave their leg hair since if they get in a wreck it is easier to clean wounds without hair in the way. He later married the woman he was dating.  (I didn't tell her about my legs.  ;-)
  • Dancing tango in Washington, DC in 2016, a woman remarked that she loved my cologne. She asked what it was. "Cartier," I said. "I got it in France." That surely set off her gaydar. So she sent out another gaydar signal to be sure. "Who makes it?" she said.  "I don't know," I said. "Oh, well I guess that means you're not gay," she assured me. According to her gaydar scope, if I had known who made the cologne, that surely would have confirmed my gayety. As always, I took note.
  • A salsa partner years ago taunted me with her gaydar because I was not interested in her. "You are a good dancer, and my theory is that a man has to be gay if he is a good dancer." She was baiting me, jealous of the woman I was dating with whom I had just broken up. She was implicitly trying to have me prove myself and my sexual identity or be labeled in her inner circle of friends.  Again, I took note.
  • In 2012 I lived in Germany when my female coworkers found out that I like to dance. Their gaydar was set off unwittingly by my Cuban boss who told that them that my girlfriend and I were avid tango dancers. They told me later that they first had assumed I was gay. Again I took note. Another department at the hospital knew I danced, and when I said I was engaged to a French woman, they all checked their gaydar and agreed that it was a decoy--until they met her at an organizational dinner.
  • When I was deployed to Egypt in the Army, a staff sergeant said that our Executive Officer was gay (according to his gaydar).  "I can see it a mile away," he told a group of us as we sat eating at the chow hall. "Really?" I thought. "I don't see that!"  But I took note.
  • My ex-wife and mother of my two children took some of my personal letters to court from my gay musician and church friend (mentioned above).  She argued to the court that I should be limited in my ability to see my two children because I had a gay friend. The female judge had asked my children if they wanted to stay with me until Monday mornings every other week. The judge allowed and then disallowed my request because of this damning "evidence." At that time I wasn't even living in the homophobic US, I was living in a country that made homosexual people wear pink triangles on their clothes in 1938 before eventually killing many of them. Gaydar.  Toxic laser rays.
  • Lastly on this abbreviated list: Long ago, my ex-brother-in-law (divorced for a very good reason), was imprisoned for having killed a man whom he had thought was trying to seduce him.  Gaydar is not funny for any man, especially a gay man.
Gender imbalance harms the health and longevity of tango because a large part of the world's population is or wishes to be perceived as heterosexual. The larger part of female dancers would prefer to dance with a man, even in spite of great women dancers who know both roles very well. Too many women are sitting and unhappy with the state of affairs in tango's gender imbalance in many countries. 

The casualties of gaydar are mostly the men who never show up to dance. If men are even afraid for their lives--and they have every right to be--I hope that I have influenced a few people to put away their gaydar, especially in our non-violent, non-judgemental tango community.  I have promised myself to keep my own gaydar scope to myself and to ask others to keep theirs as a "concealed weapon"(before someone gets hurt)! Another positive step, too, is to think of ways to inspire men to join our dance community. It's about time we start reversing the damage already done.  Replace it with finding guys who have warm embraces and move their bodies as if controlled by the music. This is Tangdar--the ability to spot future tangueros and nurture them that they may find their dancing self.

Photo credit:

Before you buy your very own gaydar mug (yes, they are for sale), you should know that the definition is not accurate. The real definition is: "The stupidly proud, usually erroneous and sometimes dangerous belief that one has the ability to correctly label people as gay."

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