Tango not just a sensual dance, but has spiritual lessons too!


At the beginning of this month I attended a weekend Argentine Tango workshop at Temenos, the spiritual retreat in McGregor. I learnt more than just the basic Tango dance steps, and learnt about myself too, in that the dance has a spiritual side.

We were asked by our Tango instructor, Rachael Glaser from Libertango dance school in Mouille Point in Cape Town, to introduce ourselves. I shared that I discovered my love for dancing six months ago, dancing to the music of DJ René Tanguy at La Parada Constantia Nek every Sunday that I am in Cape Town.

Wanting to take my dancing skills a step further, mastering Rock ‘n Roll from dancing at La Parada Constantia Nek in being lucky to have some fellow dancers dancing it with me, my eye caught a notification that Temenos was hosting a Tango Workshop. At first I thought it an odd fit that a Tango Workshop was being held at the spiritual retreat, but at the end of the weekend I could see that dancing the Tango has a spiritual side. 

I love watching others dance the Tango, in shows, in Tango shows in Buenos Aires (my son and I saw a different one each evening that I was in that city), and free dancing on a street corner with just a CD player, and it looked like the most difficult dance one could possibly learn. 

When I saw the ad for the Tango Workshop at Temenos, I decided to challenge myself in learning the Tango in what I described as the Mount Everest of dancing, or so it felt. Rachael and Lizelle were gentle and kind, and helped put my Tango dancing fears aside, by taking us into it step by step, move by move. Learning to feel our weight changes from one leg to another, and that of our dance partner, was a start, very important in signaling dance moves, and something I have never been conscious of in any other dance type. We added a new move in session after session, starting to walk, and then doing slightly more complicated moves with side steps, and a swivel to face our dance partner again. It was comforting to know that I was not the only Tango newbie. I was very grateful to Paola, Julie, and Katherine, who have done Tango lessons before, who were switchables for the singles amongst our group, and who taught me so much while we were practicising new moves, and for taking over the Leader role, so that I could be a Follower. I want to close my eyes now when I do the Rock ‘n Roll, it making following in the dance even better. I learnt total trust in my dance leader from the Workshop.

I loved the connectedness we had in dancing with a dance partner we had not met before the Workshop, connected via ‘blue tooth’, and realized that letting go as a Follower, and trusting my Leader, is something I need to practice more of. I have been a controlling leader in a business and as a mother, and am learning to let go. The Tango Workshop taught me trust and how good it feels to be guided and led by another. I had no basis of knowledge or experience to take the lead or to control the dance with another.

For some, dancing the Tango is meditative, and creates a mindful connection between people, even if they have not met each other before, and braids ‘together our mind, body and spirit while developing each of these’, writes Rachael on her Libertango website. Communication through silence with steadfast leadership by the Leaders and a response from the Followers makes this dance so different.

Yesterday I attended a workshop on Musicality in Tango, taught by Washington-based dance
school owners Nora and Dima Berk in Observatory (main photograph above). It helped us to hear and interpret the music, and let its rhythm, drama, and beat guide our dancing, easier said than done. We learnt to express the emotion and mood of the music, anger with sharp movements and with a loud foot stamp on the floor (stocatto), and appeasement with round harmonious movements and slow sliding moving of a foot (rhythmic). 

I feel a tremendous sense of achievement in having taken the Workshop, and attending the Musicality class yesterday, and in having learnt the first basic Tango steps, and was able to dance with male Leaders, a first since starting to take lessons. I want to continue with Tango Beginner classes at Libertango.   I would advise letting go of one’s fear of the difficulty of dancing the Tango, and to join a Tango dance school like Libertango, to learn from the bottom level. 

Libertango, Mouille Point, Cape Town.  Tel 0822557829 www.libertango.co.za  Facebook. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein


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