Saturday, April 30, 2011

Psychiatry on the Dance Floor

Is your movement a goal or a process?

Diálogo Tanguero 
Psychiatry on the Dance Floor
Prologue:  Lately, I have had wonderful discussions with tangueros and tangueras all over the world and so I hope to bring their wisdom to Tango-Beat.  This is the first Diálogo Tanguero (Tango Dialog) of  what I hope will be many to come.  My conversation below is with a forensic psychiatrist in one of the most populated cities in the US.  Over a cup of coffee, she told me about incidences that influenced her from her childhood, and how these influenced her pursuit of happiness through tango.  An earlier post “Tango Start Line” was about dancing for only your partner and not competing or dancing for the onlookers.  This dialog grew out that article.

Tango-Beat:

What brought you to tango?

María:

I grew up in Colombia, and I listened to tangos all the time.  My siblings thought I was strange because they were listening to rock ‘n roll, but I was influenced by our father who constantly would listen to tangos and boleros.  I loved these classic tangos.  I knew all the words to them by heart.

Mark:

You are a forensic psychiatrist, and you are summoned internationally in your work.  No one would ever guess that at night you come out as a tanguera!  And I am sure that few would ever guess you are a tanguera aficionada when you present papers to audiences, appear in court for victims or that you are treating patients.  My experience is that when we dance you are absolutely 100% connected to me and to the music.

María:

At work I present myself as plain as I can, with little makeup and very conservatively dressed.  Tango lets me be as feminine as I want to be, and that has really been wonderful for me.  Also, as a child I always knew that one day I would be dancing tango.  The reason for this is that my father always listened to tangos, and I have been listening to them since the time I was inside of my mother’s womb.

Mark:

You told me that you guide your tango teachers away from technique, choreography, and competition.  Instead, you are interested in the simple passion of the music and tango as a social dance.  Tell me why.

María:

I think I learned how unimportant competition is early on.  I want to dance it for me and my partner, not what others think or see.  When I was 12 or 13, I participated in an all girl’s bicycle competition in my neighborhood’s club.  My cousins Gladys and Nubia, who were 6 and 8 years older than I was at the time, also participated.  In the middle of the competition, a girl ahead of me tripped over something and fell off the road into grass and mud.  Behind her I fell with others.  My cousin Gladys, came to help me to get back on my bike.  I still remember telling her, “You shouldn't stop for me!  You could win the competition.”  She answered, “It doesn't matter; the important thing is that we are all going to make it to the end. . . .Who cares about being the winner or not.”
On life's track: Against others or with others?

Since that day, Gladys became my favorite cousin, and what she taught me that day stayed forever with me.  Approximately two and a half years ago, when I started taking tango lessons, I remember telling my first tango instructor, “I just want to learn to do it correctly, but overall I want to enjoy it.  I don’t want to compete.”  I don’t plan to be a tango instructor, though if one day it I teach, it would be to help others less advanced than me to get better.  Being on a stage in order to have ovations from the public is not my goal.  All I care about is to dance this music with all my heart, because I love it.  

Mark:

But you have through your passion learned good technique, I think.  I danced with you when you first started and you have really become very good in a short time.

María:

Well, thanks.  But I think that I have learned quicker because I never forgot about dancing just for my partner.  With my teachers, I have had that very clear, that my wish is to be a good dancer, but technically good dancers often are sitting.  My hope has been that anytime that I attend a milonga, I’ll be asked to dance all the time, not because I am the best on the dance floor, but because men will be able to tell that I have passion for tango and I dance it with my soul.   So, my hope is always to be dancing to the end, like in my bike competition, where I did not win, but I was able to finish despite the bumps on the road.

Mark:

Well, I feel this when I dance with you.  It doesn’t take a forensic psychiatrist to analyze this!  You have rediscovered your passion for tango that you knew as a girl.  Now, you are dancing to it, but it has been moving your heart for a long time.  What a great story, María!



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