Being able to feel love: Some personal reflections on Tango and our capacity for intimacy

Instructors Deborah Sclarduring (cq)(left) and Brian Dunn (cq)(right) smile while dancing during a class on Tango Dancing at PreEminence Hall in Boulder, Colorado June 16, 2007. (DAILY CAMERA/Mark Leffingwell)

The pandemic has taken a great toll on all of us. If we’re honest, the extended stress, physical distancing, and profound loss and grief have made it harder to *feel*. The most popular topic on last month’s community survey was, “being able to feel love”. This topic couldn’t have come at a better time!

As I reflected on the community’s topic, I thought back to my years in Toronto when I studied Argentinian Tango. It is a dance of feeling and of sharing love. In fact, Tango is so intimate, it was a challenge to find a photo that communicates the real spirit of this exquisite dance. I was pleased to find the one above.

Tango arose at a time when couples were separated because of work-related migration patterns. Even as lovers were apart, they still had human needs for closeness and intimacy. Tango arose as a safe and respectful way to have physical intimacy with someone other than your spouse, without it breaking your vow.

In addition, Tango developed in the context of men outnumbering women about five to one. This gave a man a big incentive to give his female dance partner a pleasurable experience so she would want to dance with him again, and not the other four men waiting to dance with her. Tango movements developed to make the woman feel good, which is a big reason why Tango can be such an intimate and lovely experience.

I want to make a note here and say that Tango is a very gender-fluid dance. When we refer to “man”, we really refer to the leader – the one proposing the movements. Many men dance tango with men especially when they are training, and women dance with women. It would be incorrect to refer to the woman as the follower, since the woman has the choice of whether or not to accept the leader’s proposed next move. She might not, and he’ll have to try something else.

So in Tango there are equal, yet different – complementary roles. Both require a high level of skill, and that is because the dance is not choreographed. The partners must engage in a present emotional intimacy to communicate through their bodies with each other. This means opening one’s heart to *feeling* the heart of your dance partner, so you can dance well together.

It includes awkwardness. It includes vulnerability. It includes taking risks. It includes making mis-steps. And it includes being willing to open your heart and feel platonic human love to work well together and enjoy the dance.

So how might we learn something from the beautiful experience of Argentinian Tango for feeling love during this pandemic?

First, let’s acknowledge the certain death of heart if we close ourselves off from authentically connecting with people. Don’t go there, please!

If we can’t physically touch others, we can still extend kindness. We can extend courtesy on public transit, whether that is making space for someone boarding, thanking the bus driver, or simply saying a kind good morning to another passenger. They may not respond, but at least you are sewing seeds of love into the world, and that’s going to open your heart to feeling more love.

We can also get creative and explore new ways to connect with friends, family and other loved ones. If you have been reduced to getting together on Zoom, then make your Zoom get together special! Here are some ideas to kick off your creativity:

  • Create a colorful and meaningful invitation and send it with a bit of flare. 
  • Set up as a festive tea/coffee date where each of you bring a special drink. Share your drink choices when you get on the call. Wow each other!
  • Make a cooking date where you decide a recipe you are going to cook, each buy the ingredients, open up your Zooms, and make the same dish together in your separate kitchens

Is it possible to be nurtured by a Zoom call? 

People attending my Zoom programs have remarked at how warm their hearts feel by the end of the program. Part of that is my leadership (as in Tango), where I set a tone of heart, kindness, and being very present and authentic with each other. They feel my care.

The equally important part is the willingness of the participants to step into that space of authenticity and share their wisdom and about what they need so we can attend to it. We co-create a space of warmth, care, wisdom and humanity that nourishes our spirits in these desolate pandemic times.

What I am proposing is that the spirit and heart that you sew into reaching out to people in your life can be meaningful. It doesn’t have to be a shallow email or a shallow Zoom call.

It can be a deeply heart-full email or Zoom call if you invest your feeling, your presence and your heart. 

Drawing on the Tango analogy… If you are willing to be present with your awkwardness and vulnerability, and hold space for your partner to be awkward and vulnerable, it makes it more real. If you sometimes take on the role of leading and proposing a “move,” then respectfully listen for how your partner receives it (ie, invite them to a festive Zoom tea). You can also respond with some grace and warmth when someone reaches out to you with a proposed “move” (ie, send a heart touching response to your loved one and add an emoji or two).

We truly create our experience, and even within a pandemic, we can dig a little deeper into how we love people. I invite you to explore how you can attend more deeply to your own heart and to the hearts of those around you this month so you are able to feel more love.

To support you in greasing your emotional intimacy wheels, I am offering a sale this month on Heal Your Heart Through Meditation.

To join my community, click here.

A special treat for those who read to the bottom of the page… This short video demonstrates the qualities of Tango that I talk about in this article. Enjoy!


Gustavo Naveira y Giselle Anne en Salon Canning
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