I Did Not Expect to Find God in Tango
Under what other influence could the sweaty, awkward interactions of novice dancers be transformed into something akin to divine communion?”
Life is the enjoyment of emotion, derived from the past and aimed at the future. The emotion transcends the present in two ways. It issues from, and it issues towards. It is received, it is enjoyed, and it is passed along, from moment to moment.
To dance, it's necessary to include the other, which requires coming out of your little world...Then comes the hug ... the whole world is now fascinated with hugging, which is a form of communication. And 'communication' comes from what we have in common. This is something that we have in common, this hug of the tango.
Argentines Teach Tango Inside Mental Hospital
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 06, 201312:37 AM
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — You can hear the "All of us are crazy for tango" program before you can see it: Just follow the orchestra's plaintive chords through the labyrinthine passageways of the Hospital Borda.
There, in a dance hall deep inside the public hospital where mentally ill men have been treated for 150 years, both patients and visitors discover how much they have in common in dance classes open to all. The program's name, playing off a common expression for mental illness, reflects the enthusiasm of both patients and visitors for Argentina's national dance.
Psychiatrist Silvana Perl runs the classes held every other Wednesday, including their annual tango festival this week.
She says therapy happens when hospitalized men dance with visiting women: It makes them part of a powerful social and cultural current that runs through Buenos Aires, and gives both dancers the shared human contact that is essential to community.
"To dance, it's necessary to include the other, which requires coming out of your little world," Perl explains. "Then comes the hug ... the whole world is now fascinated with hugging, which is a form of communication. And 'communication' comes from what we have in common. This is something that we have in common, this hug of the tango."
Tango teacher Laura Segade says she and her friends joke that the only difference between the dancers is that some are "crazy on the inside" of the hospital and others are "crazy on the outside."
I did not expect to find God in tango. When I set foot in the Strictly Tango ball room to see it danced, live, for the first time, I was indulging curiosity. When I signed up for my first lessons, I was trying on a hobby for size. When I bought my first pair of stilettos, I was buying equipment for a recreational diversion. In all these beginning steps, it never occurred to me that tango lessons and stilettos would propel me onto a spiritual journey, that Argentine Tango would become for me a tangible, physical, sensual way of knowing myself, and knowing God.
Gratitude to Doug Todd of the Vancouver Sun for pointing us in the direction of Passionate Embrace, an excerpt from which is offered above. It was posted by Doug Todd on December 12, 2013. 5:38 pm. The images at the top come from his column, too. See The Search. Here is what he writes:
Now this is refreshingly different. A Vancouver Christian found her way out of depression, cancer and a stultified faith through the sensuality of Argentinian tango. Along the way she rediscovered the divine. Sandra Vander Schaaf explores the body, the erotic, God and the power of mutual human attraction in her intoxicating new book, Passionate Embrace: Faith, Flesh, Tango (Clements Publishing). Vander Schaaf has taken her devotion to tango to an entirely new level of intensity and self-reflection. It’s a very honest and brave book, of only 153 pages.
What is Holy in the Tango's Embrace?
We Come Out of our Little Worlds
I offer a speculation. Perhaps what is holy in the Tango's Embrace is the creative transformation of emotions into wholeness through the enjoyment of the hug, which is itself one way of experiencing God.
This transformation is deeply physical. It occurs by means of the dance, the movement, and body--to-body connections. It has a cosmic dimension, too. The dancers are linked with the spirit of creative transformation at work in all of life. They enjoy a sense of hope and trust: a trust in the power of beauty. The Tango is a form of liturgy, of holy communion.
This spirit of creative transformation is not the whole of things. Violence and cruelty, greed and hatred, are part of life, too. Not all things are beautiful. There is no need to pretend that everything is pretty.
But the spirit weaves its way through life as a ruach -- a breathing, a wind, an energy -- that is healing and wholemaking. Sometimes we can move with this spirit, in our awkward and sweaty ways, and taste something so deep, so holy, so vulnerable, so accepting, that all we can say is "Oh my God." And then we keep dancing.
-- Jay McDaniel