If you are reading my website, I am going to assume that you are a feminist, and that you are probably experiencing grief and fear right now about what it will mean to live with a president who has no regard for women’s consent–or women at all. You may be concerned about living with the threat of fascism, or all the hate crimes that are being reported against people of color. All the swastikas. All the violence.
We all have to find our ways to channel our anger, metabolize our grief, and enjoy our lives through this difficult time. (And find ways to #resist.)
Thich Nhat Hahn is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, spiritual teacher and activist who advocated for peace throughout the Vietnam War. I always remember this opening line from his seminal book Being Peace.
LIFE IS FILLED with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, such as the blue sky, the sunshine, and the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, anytime.
Vox interviewed Phap Dugn, one of Thich Nhat Hahn’s disciples, to get advice for how to use mindfulness in times of conflict. In this interview, he suggests that we get off our computers and be with others. He says, “Community practice is crucial at this time. It’s crucial not to be alone in front of the computer, reading media. That makes the world dark for you. Find flesh. There are still wonderful things happening.”
One of my ways to find flesh and pleasure (and escape the darkness of the world) is by taking a private tango lesson. No greater bliss than that. Join us March 4-11 or April 15-22 in Buenos Aires to learn tango as a metaphor for your life and relationships, and even, to learn tango as a way to connect with your right to take up space in a male-led dance. These are some lessons that will come in handy for the next four years. It’s great time to get out of the country and commune with other cool women. Can’t wait to meet you here.
Chris Tyre over at the lovely blog Nomad + Camera interviewed me about why and how I chose to leave Silicon Valley tech stress for a more artistic life in South America. And how I got here. Plus you can read up on the tangasm. Why wouldn’t you want to read about that? Here’s the lovely Nomad + Camera interview that’s published today!
Chris Tyre interviews digital nomad types all over the world about how they have created new lives for themselves. The interviews are well worth reading.
I have been bringing together quirky women for TANGO ADVENTURES in Buenos AIres. Now that I have committed to being here in Buenos AIres for the next year we will be offering this 7-day immersive course more often. We may even do some co-ed adventures soon too.
The next Tango Adventure is August 13-20.
For anyone who has questions/curiosities about tango in Buenos Aires, our immersive tango-personal growth-dance retreat-quirkyalone experience, or what this has to do with being single or quirkytogether (doesn’t it take two to tango?) . . .
My assistant Colleen Fitzgerald and I will host a LIVE group #TangoAdventurechat next Thursday, May 19 at 5 pm PT/ 8 P pm ET.
A few weeks ago I told you I was in the process of facing down my fears to tell my first live story at a Moth-like event, That Really Happened???, in Berkeley, Calif.
For your listening pleasure this weekend, here’s a podcast recording of the live 10-minute story.
This story tells the tale of a turning point during my year of solo travel in South America In 2010. I was traveling alone looking for something: a man, a passion, a hobby, I didn’t know what. Something to bring happiness to my life in a continued way back at home.
That August in Cali, Colombia, I fell for Jean-Louis, a French guy with a great music collection. After we spent a night together I thought he might be that thing I was looking for–a French boyfriend in Colombia, great!–but he wasn’t interested in a relationship so I was feeling low.
While I was nursing my disappointment, a woman I had never met before invited me out to a “tango club”–how odd, a tango club in the world capital of salsa?! I said yes, and the rest is history, leading to the first tangasm a few weeks later and a new kind of love affair with its own highs and lows. Tango was actually the thing I found along with a whole new approach to happiness, self-awareness and personal power through pleasure and sensuality.
Last week I took the leap for another solo travel adventure, this time to a unique and totally Argentine tango festival called ETI (Encuentro de Tangueros del Interior). ETI is special because it brings together hundreds of passionate tango dancers from around Argentina, and they are often friendlier than the tango dancers in Buenos Aires. They have incredible passion for this democratically organized festival and even have an “assembly” during the festival to discuss where the next one will be held. It’s democracy in action in tango and the celebration of life, unlike any tango festival in the world.
While ETI is spectacular, this was in many ways the worst travel experience of my life. At least in the top 3. That says a lot, as I have lived a lot of intense travel experiences in South America that I am chronicling in Wet.
The weekend was also outrageously good, rich in learning, dancing, and new people. Isn’t that the way? With the very worst often comes the very best, equal to our fortitude for both.
Here’s the story. I took the bus last Friday and arrived at Crillon Hotel and checked in at 5 pm. Fabulous.
The true adventure starts when the problems begin.
I didn’t bring my passport because I didn’t realize that was necessary. (I live in Buenos Aires, so this was domestic travel; if you’re in California and go to Nevada, for example, you don’t bring your passport.) The receptionist at Crillon Hotel told me he would let me into my room, but this might be a problem, he would have to talk to the manager. I went to dance in the square for the afternoon milonga.
When I got back, he told me there is a law in Argentine requiring foreigners to show their passports at hotels. I called the owner of my apartment and asked her to enter my apartment and take photos of the relevant pages of my passport. She kindly agreed and sent them on Whatsapp within an hour. The manager accepted these, and let me go to my room. I cried tears of relief. Half an hour later, he called my room and told me I would have to leave. He looked at me with eyes that said, It’s not my fault, don’t hate me. It was a cruel act.
At 10 am on a Friday night they threw me out on the street and there were no hotel rooms available in the whole city because of the festival. (I knew the hotels were all booked because the day before I called ten hotels in order to get a single room reservation. This exuberant ETI festival drew 900 people to a relatively small city Rio Cuarto in Cordoba.) I was all alone.
I took a cab to the ETI Festival with my suitcase to talk to the organizers. The woman organizing the festival said I could stay with her but she was obviously harried since she was in charge of an event for 900 people. I sat down, drained, glum, on the verge of tears. I didn’t have the energy to stand in line for a Coke, and I was desperate with thirst and needed sugar.
Fifteen minutes later a man asked me to dance. I said yes, knowing I needed to shake myself out of this defeated state. During the dance I started crying. I couldn’t help it. Tango music is emotional, and I was emotional; the tears just flowed. He asked what was wrong, and I explained the situation.
After our tanda (four dances) Angel led me to his girlfriend Nora. Nora turned out to be my heroine. She called and networked for the next two hours and miraculously procured me a hotel room at a place that would allow me to stay with images of my passport. I spent the rest of this weekend in a comfortable bed in my own room and with this amazing table of women and men. They were fantastic, fun, warm and caring, and they saved me. I felt loved. They’re my new friends in Buenos Aires now.
As my friend Sue said to me later, “So glad you cried and allowed yourself to be with your true feelings instead of stuffing them down during that dance. And then to see what transpired from it.” In fact, I’ve never been able to hide my feelings and I’ve gotten more comfortable with crying ever these days. Hallelujah for the release of tears.
Nora and gang. Nora is second for the right. Savior and new friend! She helped me find a room
Perseverance pays off.
the healing tango embrace
The weekend was incredible. A true celebration of life. Nine hundred people of all ages dancing for hours and hours. I danced until 6 am two nights in a row, and I do not do this in Buenos AIres, even though that’s common. I met so many wonderful new people. Perseverance pays off to experience magical moments. I want to recognize the organizers too. Valentina and Martin, and Valentina who got me a special gluten-free meal for every meal because I am a celiac. This was absolutely spectacular and also made me feel loved.
When my mother heard about what happened, she said, “I’m glad those folks came to your rescue. ‘The kindness of strangers’ is very heartwarming. It isn’t expected so it feels like a gift.” I wonder why we don’t expect it more. If anything, I think that’s the lesson–to venture forth and trust fellow human beings will help us when we really need help.
Now I am back in Buenos Aires, appreciating a quiet moment before August, when the city will be abuzz for the Mundial, the world tango festival.
For those you who are ready for an adventure, albeit one with a hotel room!!!
The AUGUST 15-22 TANGO ADVENTURE in BUENOS AIRES is a month away! This Tangasm Adventure, a 7-day immersion in learning tango and tango as a metaphor for your life, is going to be special because it’s smack dab in the middle of the Mundial, the biggest tango festival in Buenos Aires with the world championship and energy from around the world. However, you won’t have to worry about the hotel room because we have that set for you. It’s going to be an incredible time to experience tango in Buenos Aires, so if this moves you, click HERE to fill out this form and let’s get you here.
Here’s what Megan Cramer who came in March said, “Every day has been a great mix of dancing and connection. I learned a lot about being a good follower on the dance floor. I learned about relaxing, relaxing my body, relaxing my thoughts, just being able to go with the flow of what’s happening. If you want to have a full-body-mind-and-soul experience that fills your five senses and even your sixth sense because you have to sense things happening around you come on this tango adventure.”
I am a tango addict. I have been one now for four years.
I did not go out looking for tango. The dance came to me. It was in Cali, Colombia, the world capital of salsa, where everyone dances, that I saw tango for the first time. A Belgian woman named Griet who was also staying at my hostel invited me to come out with her to a club called La Matraca, and there, I saw a tango danced for the first time. I felt something in my body across the room.
Tango was nothing like the image I had mysteriously developed of the dance, the march of a man and a woman their arms outstretched across the room, the woman with a rose clenched between her teeth. (Where did I get that image? Later I looked on the Internet and found no definitive answers.)
There was a palpable, mesmerizing physics between them, every step he took invading her space caused her to walk backwards, every movement so closely coordinated. She invaded his space too. It wasn’t like salsa, all happy-happy. This was like watching the hologram of a connection.
I didn’t dare to think that I could dance tango. I had never done much partner dancing. But my curiosity is big and I tagged along with Griet for lessons the next day for lessons in a garage across town with the performer who had wowed us that night. Thus began the journey, the roller-coaster, the ups and downs, the pleasure, the connection, and soon, my first tangasm.
My first tangasm
I didn’t know there was such a thing as a tangasm or have a word for it when it happened. I felt supremely awkward, in fact, and wobbled through my dances with teachers whom I forced to dance with me at clubs. A few weeks later, I met Oscar, a proud short teacher who danced salsa, tango, folkloric Colombian, cha cha cha, and more.
Oscar saw me wobbling and told me, “Come on, tango can be easy, I’ll show you how.”
In contrast to my first teacher who was all about teaching me to do the steps “right,” Oscar taught me how to play and not care about doing it perfectly as we walked and whirled around the room.
During our third lesson, that’s when it happened. When we danced, our chests velcroed, hugging in a tango embrace, I felt blood coursing through me everywhere. The dance pumped me with extraordinary amounts of oxytocin, endorphins, whatever the hormones were, they were working. Tango is a dance based on a hug, and this was an hour of continual hugging and dancing. It only takes 20 seconds of hugging to release the pleasure hormone of bonding oxytocin; imagine what an hour does!
The essence of tango, especially for the follower, is to focus on feeling rather than thinking. I have always been a thinker, and feeling is what had been deficient in my life. Here was a dance where all I had to do was feel, and feel I did, all over my body. I had no desire to have sex with Oscar. Already what I felt was on par with the best sex of my life. My cheeks and chest showed it. Tango got my brain to turn off.
After the lesson ended, I ran to the café where Griet was drinking her afternoon coffee. I whispered in her ear, “I think tango might be better than sex!”
Griet gave me a once-over, her eyes going through a checklist of signs. Flush cheeks and chest. Nipples showing. Light mist of sweat. Hair matted down with wetness.
Griet said to me, “I think you have had a tangasm.”
That was my first. You never forget your first.
A better cure than sleeping pills
tangasm on a bus
I moved to Buenos Aires to pursue tango at the source two years later in 2012. In Buenos Aires I felt more powerful tangasms because the embrace was more healing, more committed, than in the Bay Area, where the embrace could feel like a faint and technical thing. Dancing in a hug recycles energy between our hearts and creates an all-over-the-body high. I would go to bed after having a tangasm for the night feeling satisfied; the tangasm helped me to wake up happy, still on a cloud of pleasure waking up in the morning, sipping my morning tea.
Tangasms cured my insomnia much better than Ambien.
A tangasm is not a climax in the way we think of an “orgasm.” There is no particular moment of release. The tangasm is not about how it looks, it’s about how it feels. A tangasm is a moment of total connection coupled with full-body pleasure, bodies swirling with each other, breathing together, a union with the moment, your partner, the music, the room. I have asked people about their tangasms and they tell me things like: “Losing all notion of time and space.” “You forget about everything and everyone.” “A peak experience.” “Traveling to another galaxy.” “Thoughts floating away.” “Being in flow.” “Embracing and breathing together.” “Dancing on a pink cloud.” “A spiritual practice.” This doesn’t mean you are sexually attracted to your partner, though you might be. You could feel a tangasm with someone of your same sex if you are heterosexual or even with your parent.
Since there is no climax in the tangasm, in tango, a partner will not ask you expectantly, “Did you come?” There is no particular pressure to get anywhere. The tangasm is based on connection and sensuality rather than climax. This is something I think we can all benefit from in our sex lives too. Climax can be awesome and deep but being focused on a goal can cheapen the ride; when there is pressure about getting somewhere there’s less enjoyment along the way.
During my four years of tango passion, I’ve mostly been single. I have spent many more nights at milongas than I have on online dating sites or going to events where I could find a romantic/sexual partner. There is a saying in coaching circles that we get what we want. We get what we put our attention on. I started to wonder, have I actually gotten what I wanted? Is tango actually better than sex? With tango, not only do I feel pleasure all over my body, I don’t have to worry about condoms, pap smears, safe sex tests. I’m not going to have an unwanted pregnancy.
Looking for hugs in each new partner, I get to “try” many different, new, exciting sexual partners in one night with no negative consequences. In tango, we dance tandas (four songs with one person). Each tanda is like a one-night stand. At the end of the fourth song we say goodbye and thank you, and if I am in Buenos Aires, the man might tell me that I am wonderful, beautiful, divine as he escorts me back to my seat.
I told one woman about the tangasm and she looked at me quizzically, “Better than sex, really?” I could tell she was saying, Let’s not get carried away.
Then she went and googled for a “sexy tango” video and said she understood. She said, “As I was watching, things that stood out to me as especially sensual were the way he runs his fingertips along her arm, the way she slides her hand up his chest, the tension of their mouths being so close without kissing, or the forced control of both of their bodies when he does the slow dip.” I watched the video and saw she might have misunderstood.
This was stage tango, not social tango. In social tango, what I and most non-performers dance, a partner would not caress your midriff in a gratuitously sexual way. Near-kisses would be against the rules. In social tango, we draw the fuzzy line between sensuality and sexuality so that we can dance with so many partners, including strangers. “Social tango” is much more about the internal experience of sensuality generated through the embrace. In other words, if you go out to a Buenos Aires milonga to watch social tango, you will not see the explicit sexual caresses, but you will see the bliss in the little upturned smiles of the women dancing with their eyes closed and in the focus of the men.
Sex is usually without limits. It has no structure, no time limit. In tango, we dance four songs. Done. Goodbye. Tango offers a structure where you can experience a sensual connection with someone, and then another someone, and not cross the line into explicitly sexual. Boundaries create safety. Limitations create thrills. And variety.
For example, this video is an (exquisite) performance, but it’s more on the wavelength of the tangasm I’m talking about. . . sexual but much more subtle.
Would you give up sex or tango?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t love sex. I am very pro-sex. I love sex. There is a potency and beauty in sex, penetration, and intimacy mixed with love, or even without love, that is distinct. And yet, I started to wonder if I I had to give up sex or tango for the rest of my life, which would I give up? I started to ask a few dancer friends which they would choose. After a tanda, Karen, one of my favorite “queer” tango dancers (a woman who dances the lead), told me, “I don’t want to live in a universe like that. Just the fact that you have tango and sex together in this sentence says something.” ”What?” She wouldn’t say it. ”You mean that tango feels very good,” I said. “Yes,” Karen said, smiling. Is tango always better than sex? No.
Four years later after the first tangasm, I have a boyfriend who does not dance tango, and I find myself staying home with him often rather than going out to dance. Tango is not always better than sex. It depends on the partner, the connection. On the other hand, I am still going away to Buenos Aires for three months and leaving him to dance tango at the source because the true tango embrace is that powerful. I need my dose.
In the end, Karen is right. One does not want to live in a universe where you have to give up either tango or sex.
If you follow my writing, you know that I am interested in the power of pleasure including and beyond sex. One of my favorite -asms is the “tangasm,” an experience of all-over-the-body pleasure that I first discovered when I was a beginner in tango in my very first month of dancing.
To understand the tangasm experience better and share with you, I have asked three of my dear dancer friends, Virginia Vasconi, a professional tango dancer and teacher at DNI Tango, Nele Reial, my co-guide in the Quirky Heart Tango Adventure, and Juan-Pablo Genovese, an incredible soul that I met at ETI (Encuentro de Tangueros del Interior) (a tanguero rave for tango dancers outside Buenos Aires in Argentina) to share their most memorable tangasm with me–and you. When I shared these tangasm stories with my friend Laurence, she posted the stories on Facebook saying, “I’ll have what she’s having.” Exactly.
If you have an asm-to share of any kind, any experience of pleasure or ethereal connection that took you out of the everyday and to another planet, whatever this inspires you, then let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear what unexpected connection sent you to another world. And if you come to Buenos Aires with me I will do my best to prepare you for your first tangasm.
Virginia Vasconi’s Tangasm
“This Tangasm was not my first but was an important one that marked a decisive point in my tango career. I was at the Chicago Tango Festival two years ago teaching and performing. By the way, I’m a professional tango teacher and dancer. [A great teacher and dancer!–ed. note Sasha]
In general, when you dance tango to make a living, many things are lost. When I rehearse with my regular partner, I’m focused on technique, foot-work, steps, creating and coordinating moves, following the music, looking elegant, beautiful, connected, etc. The connection, which is the essence of tango, turns out to be a well-known ordinary feeling, even when you struggle to make it better. This is as difficult as it is to work out a long-term marriage, when routine predominates and feelings are put aside for second place.
How do you recover the essence and feeling of passion, how can you stimulate that inner sensation?
Coming back to the festival on the last night I felt happy about my performance but I was missing something. I wondered: Why am I doing this? Where is my voice as a woman? Why am I feeling incomplete? What part of me is not pleased?
I will never forget that night in the Chicago Festival. One the most experienced teachers (a real gentleman and sweet person) invited me to dance.
Here is the moment I have no more words to describe. All of a sudden all the questions were answered, all my technique and theories were forgotten, all my judgments were vanished to give room to my tangasm! I felt like the luckiest woman on earth. I lost completely the notion of time and space. I felt that I was not even on this planet (or maybe I wished it). I remember the heartbeats, the temperature on my body, the feeling of not wanting to separate from the embrace between each song (I think we barely did). We were attached to each other as if velcro was between our chests.
Just this moment, this instant, I felt so alive! The same feeling I had when I had my first orgasm with an experienced man! I can still remember the effort to open my eyes and come back to reality. It is so hard to describe in words: the most valuable tango treasure: the magical and mysterious connection, the melting in a wonderful embrace that makes you travel to another galaxy! I wish you can all have it at least once!”
Nele Reial’s Tangasm
Nele, my co-guide in the adventure shares her tangasm. Nele is from Estonia and her first tangasm was in Italy. Here she dances the lead.
“It was my last night of one year living in Italy. My friend Giu, a beginner and my first teacher (!), invited me for our last dance. We had been going through a bad but passionate marriage learning tango: arguing, getting frustrated and blaming the other when we didn’t function and yet making it through the night, leaving the milonga with tired but satisfied faces.
This time our intention was different: spending time with a friend rather than trying to perfect our dance or teach each other. We demanding two relaxed. We started to dance. I felt comfortable, safe. I guess he felt especially good too, because this time it was different. We started to understand each other in a profound way on the dance floor. We got into “flow.”
I synchronized with him, the music, and the surroundings to such an extent that suddenly I didn’t feel his body neither mine, I didn’t feel the floor! My body didn’t have limits. I was him and I was even more. I felt the space expanding: the walls, the floor and the ceiling vanishing into the universe. There we were, two of us embracing and breathing and flowing around the space. Somehow I remember it like dancing on a pink cloud. I was meditating on the dance floor! The all-round harmony was so deep!
We had to be radiating our happiness because after we stopped I was quickly asked by another man to dance. I, who had been dancing tango only couple of times, was not a very popular pick. The inviter was a “real” tango teacher!
Five years later I teach tango. I have had amazing dances, made out of true connection, understanding, creation, love and passion, but there is nothing like my first tangasm. There is no correlation between a tangasm and how professional or advanced a dancer you are nor if your dance partner happens to be your lover or your father.”
Juan-Pablo Genovese’s Tangasm
Juan Pablo, Natalia, and their tangasm
“There are some key moments in the life of a tango dancer when you finally understand what is all about. One of those moments is when you have your first tangasm.
A combination of amazing music, an unbelievable embrace, musicality, dance chops and a deep connection that makes a whole lot of hormones rush through your body. The tangasm makes you forget about everything and everyone, and focus only on the sensations. Your mind disappears and you let the dance and the embrace take place. It is so powerful that you will crave it, you will look for it in any dancer you will dance with. Kind of addictive, if you ask me.
I have had two tangasms I remember well.
The first one was in the ETI (Encuentro Tanguero del Interior), a tango encounter that happens every four months in Argentina. About 500 to 900 crazy dancers gather together for three days of pure dancing. It’s the closest thing to a tanguero rave. You have to live it, believe me.
I was outside and there was a very light shower. I was catching my breath. A girl came and we started talking. After five minutes, I asked her to dance. She said yes. After that tanda, I had only that out of this world sensation that was her embrace, her presence, and her name. I looked for her and danced again. My first tangasm. A turning point.
The second tangasm was when I visited Tucumán, a city in the Argentine north. I was there for work, and I attended one little practica (an informal place to dance tango) Mateango. I met the teacher and organizer of the practica, and she danced with me. I really liked her. Next day, a Wednesday, September 18, 2013 (I DO remember it well, see?), we met again at another practica.
I asked this beautiful, sexy lady to dance. When she embraced me it was like heaven opened and a choir of angels sang. My goodness, it was un-be-lie-va-ble. The connection, the embrace, her dance, all of it, in one package. It was too much. And yes, I had my second tangasm. Before the practica ended, she asked me for a second tanda. Of course, I said yes. Enough said, she is my girlfriend now, my partner in dance and in life, and we are madly in love with each other. Each time I dance with her is the same. I crave her embrace. A tangasm each time we dance. Can anyone ask for more?
What will your first tangasm be like? As you can see, there are many kinds. We are gathering for the next Quirky Heart Tango Adventures February 21-28 and March 21-28 for 7 days of tangasmic exploration. Join us in Buenos Aires and let’s find out!
“Tango remains from its origins as a hug, an embrace, to rescue us from pain and loneliness, central pathologies of consumer society. Tango is a path that connects us with our own personal story.”—Monica Peri and Ignacio Lavalle, Psicotango founders
What if you could work through your emotional problems by dancing tango?
Psicotango has helped me to understand myself just as much as talk therapy has—and it’s changed my life and made me a much more powerful woman.
Loneliness in a new city
Here’s the story of how I found psicotango. I came alone to Buenos Aires in need of connection. I came to pursue my passion for tango in fall 2012 after falling in love with tango in Cali, Colombia in 2010. I thought it would be no problem to make friends because I had made friends easily when I moved to Rio de Janeiro. Rio in fact is more immediately welcoming than Buenos Aires. In fact, when I discovered psicotango, I was a perfect student, because I was rather lonely.
I met many men dancing tango in the Buenos Aires milongas, elegant or alternative halls where we dance tango, but after dancing a tanda (four songs), we would say goodbye. Women sat with me at tables, but our attention was fixed on men’s eyes to get dances. I did not have budding friendships. I distinctly remember a month of seriously questioning my decision to move to Buenos Aires, saying to my mother on Skype, “Living without a partner is OK, but living without friends is hell.”
Feeling a raw alienation in a large city that I had not felt since transferring to Barnard College in New York City at age 20, I searched online for people who might be my people. I found an ad in the Buenos Aires Tango group on couchsurfing.org. An Estonian woman Nele posted an ad. She was looking for people to help translate a Psicotango book from Spanish to English.
Tango for psychos, or . . . ?
The book I volunteered to help translate: Psicotango: Danza Como Terapia
Psicotango! Even the combination of words fascinated me. Would there ever be a psicosalsa or a psicozumba, or was this unique to tango? Was this tango for psychos? There are a lot of “characters” in the tango scene.
On a deep level, I knew that psicotango might hold the key to finding my community in Buenos Aires so I joined the psicotango translation team, volunteering to translate passages of the book. I’m not a psychologist, but I am a relationship and life coach, and deeply interested in how we can create better relationships with others and happiness within ourselves. From the very first moment when I saw tango danced in Colombia, I knew tango had a lot to teach me about life, relationships, and connection. Psicotango was a place where other people saw that too.
Psicotango is uniquely Porteño (Buenos Aires). The capital of Argentina is the only city where Freud still holds sway, and therapy is common.
Psicotango is seminar, a book, and a set of ideas combining psychology, community, and tango, creating a space for people to explore what tango means to them. In this culture, psicotango was more normal than it would be in San Francisco. They meet weekly or biweekly in an elementary school, which turns into the Universidad de Tango at night.
I introduced a Canadian woman Linda to psicotango earlier this year on the Tango Adventure. When we left, she told me, “I can’t believe there are men who choose to do this on a Thursday night.” Later she explained why, “I was surprised at many aspects: how many men there were, that they had come there to talk about a dance, and then at the things they were saying, talking about their feelings and about things they wanted from the dance like acceptance, closeness in the embrace. These feelings struck me as representing things we all want more broadly from relationships and life. The psicotango session seemed like a soft, exploratory space that did not necessarily fit with the stereotype of tango that I had been exposed to until then: a steamy, fiery dance, with perhaps a contest of wills and some edge between partners.”
Stage tango emphasizes the battle in tango, but in fact, social tango is much more about the bliss than it is about the battle. This is the bliss we find in an embrace.
Outside the workshop, Sasha and Iganacio, psicotango co-founder
The heart of tango: sublime connection
While most tango classes are about technique or figures, psicotango goes to the heart of tango: connection, the sublime feeling you can have with another. (To connect with another you must connect with yourself, and this is what makes tango a deep personal quest.)
Psicotango also seemed like a needed contrast to regular tango classes that are all about doing it right. You don’t need to have ever danced a step of tango to take a psicotango class. In my first psicotango, we each shared a moment of “ethereal connection,” whether through tango or in life. I could tell this would be a way to get out of my head and back to the thing that originally drew me to tango: connection. I remembered that you can feel sublime connection, or even a tangasm, as a beginner, sometimes more easily than when I was more experienced, bothered by thoughts of dancing “perfectly.”
A whole-hearted embrace circulates energy between our hearts as we dance. A true embrace heals. By contrast, sometimes when I dance in San Francisco, I feel tired from doing “steps” and “exercise,” where more often in Buenos Aires, I feel more energy after dancing—and I think that is because of the energy circulating through a more committed hug.
This energizing, healing hug is also what keeps me going back to Buenos Aires to dance.
Couples of all ages in tango bliss at Gricel milonga
Whiteboard at a psicotango workshop: tango, an interior dance
Monica Peri and Ignacio Lavalle, the founders of psicotango, and the authors of Psicotango: Danza Como Terapia, believe tango is the most healing dance in the world.
They also see tango as a path that rescues us from pain and loneliness, as it did for the original immigrants who created this intimate partner dance in Argentina.
I want to bring the psicotango ideas and method to a wider English audience. I interviewed the founders of psicotango Monica Peri and Ignacio Lavalle and translated the interview to share their viewpoints and mission. The questions are mine and the answers come from Monica and Ignacio.
What is the core mission of psicotango?
The primary mission of psicotango is to show that tango is healing, more healing than any other dance in the world. We believe that tango is more healing than any other dance because of the closeness of the embrace and the game of playful improvisation.
How do you bring Freud and tango together, and why?
Our perspective as psychologists is holistic. We incorporate not only the perspectives of Freud and Lacan from psychoanalysis but also others like Jung from his analytic psychology, the analyst of play Winnicott from the cognitive and the Gestalt. Each one serves us to help us find answers to our central hypothesis that the dance of tango is healing.
What kinds of issues do you see people working through or resolving in psicotango seminars?
We understand that behind every difficulty there is fear. To move the body, to get started with the first steps of tango, we recognize there is fear in the psyche and in the body, in diseases of all kinds. Psicotango is intended for all those who suffer from fear.
What is the best thing you have gotten out of tango?
Tango remains from its origins as a hug, an embrace, to rescue us from pain and loneliness, central pathologies of consumer society. Tango is a path that connects us with our own personal story.
I have heard you say that what’s unique about tango is the closeness of the embrace, and this close embrace approximates behind held in a mother’s arms. You say that tango is a search for the return to bliss, even being in the womb. Now we search for this bliss from an adult perspective. Can you tell me more about this?
In a utopian way, we are born fused with our mothers then we must let go of this utopia. In adolescence we rebel against our mother and as adults we look in the mirror and we realize that our life of relationships is cemented by the primary link with our mothers. Psicotango gets into the crack, or primary bond with our mother, that we all have and helps us to explore it, to know it, to dance better in tango and life.
What is the value of embracing our sensuality in tango?
The full contact with another with the possibilities of a game of improvisation is something that no other dance or activity has, with the exception of making love. Bonds and connection are at the center of where psychology bases its theory of health and disease, whether someone is healthy or sick. We call the milonga a “venue of sublimation.” These are “embraces of sublimation.” We go thirsty for hugs to recover our repressed libido. [Note: Defined more narrowly, “libido” refers to an individual’s urge to engage in sexual activity, defined more broadly, “libido” represents all our instinctive energies and desires.]
What can a foreigner learn about tango in Buenos Aires that they would not discover elsewhere? In Buenos Aires people of the world gather to dance tango in a committed embrace where the real body gets involved. Our folkloric and intimate rituals are part of this too: mate, asado (barbecue), tango.
For those who understand (Argentine Spanish), enjoy this video where Rodolfo Dinzel, Monica Peri, and Ignacio explain why tango is uniquely healing among all dances, recycling energy between partners in a dance of the heart. The name of the video is “Tango: A Passion that Heals.” And for those who have never actually seen tango danced, watch this video and you will see real tangueros and psicotangueros enjoying the dance.
If you missed us LIVE, we have the replay of our boldness hangout on video! YAY!
This Hangout is great to put on at night when you are chilling out . . .it gives you ideas for how to increase your confidence in dance, life, AND dating. It’s also a great preview of the people you will meet in Buenos Aires if you join us and what to expect for this week of “intense enjoyment”!
On the Hangout is Nele, tango dancer and psicotanguera, my Estonian friend who is the co-guide for the Quirky Heart Tango Adventure (and also a great lead dancer who will invite you to dance if you come! that offer is made in this hangout!) and Carissa, world-traveler and new tango dancer who joined us in Buenos Aires in May as a total beginner.
Here are some of our favorite moments from the Hangout.
3:19 I show you how to show desire through your eyes to invite someone to dance–use this dating and meeting new people!
5:52 Nele talks about sometimes going out and feeling frustrated when no one asked her to dance, then learning how to invite men to dance–use this to learn how to ask someone out
13:24 Carissa shares how our psicotango workshop helped her break out of her shell and put herself out there–this has applications for learning to put yourself out there more
18:37 Nele tells us about her first tangasm in Italy—she was a total beginner. Your first tangasm is one you will never forget. And it’s accessible to you even if you have never taken a dance class before.
Spaces are filling up for the next adventures. Choose your week February 21-28 or March 14-21.
If you sign up by December 1, you only need to put down your deposit of $800 to secure your space.
I'm Sasha and I'm here to help you stay true to yourself and live with pleasure and confidence.
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Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her work as an author, life coach for women and entrepreneur has been featured everywhere from NPR and the New York Times to CNN and Vogue.
In her well-loved newsletter going to thousands who identify with "quirkyalone," Sasha is the voice for people who don't want to settle--in any area of life.
In her coaching practice, Sasha helps smart, successful women (and a few sensitive, self-aware men) get clear on their goals and achieve them while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.
Through her Tango Adventures, she helps people go deep in the authentic tango scene of Buenos Aires while using tango as a mirror and a metaphor to help each person discover what tango has to teach them.
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