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Tango Therapy is not a Tango Class
It is a common mistake to believe that tango salon/ social tango and tango therapy are the same.
For this reason, some tango teachers started to promote their classes as tango therapy.
Some of them also published some of the articles from the media in their websites/brochures, as a proof that their tango classes are “therapeutic”.
However, this situation brings two problems as a result: Continue reading
1.- Increase in the problem of the disease/disorder of the participants in the classes because they need therapy, or, in the best scenario, does nothing to help them.
2.- A great damage to the people/therapists that are really working with tango as a therapy. Moreover, a great damage to tango therapy itself because after some traditional tango classes the participants who believe in the benefits of the tango as a therapy are going to say that it did not work.
The articles from the media only show the advantages of tango in palliative care, but they do not explain that the dance was modified according to the needs of the participants. They do not say, for example, that some studies were based on tango practices where the participants went to the sessions every day for twelve or more days. They did not say that the participants must continue with the practices for at least half an hour per day, every day, after the lessons.
In tango therapy, we use tango as a pathway in order to help people with some diseases or disorders. Nevertheless, it is necessary to understand that it is not for everybody and the sessions (not classes) have to be led by somebody with experience in working with vulnerable people.
Most of the tango therapists are psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, dance and/or movement therapists, or people working within the caring professions.
Just let me give some basic examples in order to clarify why.
People with Parkinson’s disease:
One of the problems is the mobility. They lose balance frequently and they have problems with turns.
If they join a tango class, the teacher will recommend them using “Tango shoes”, also the classes are normally held in venues with a wooden floor. This only provides a high risk of falling down, with the consequences that only you can imagine.
A normal figure like a forward ocho can be like a suicide movement for them, because they have already problems with turns.
Loss of memory is the main difficulty for them.
In Tango salon, the creativity, the possibility to create your own choreography is very important. Some Tango Teachers also do not believe in the traditional tango steps and they teach tango in a more free way.
If a person with Alzheimer’s disease goes to participate in one of these classes, then tango is not going to help him/her. They need to work with structures, steps, pre-prepared choreographies because they need to train their memory.
Much of the tango music is not happy, it is melancholic, some also depressive, even if you do not understand the lyrics you can “feel” it (otherwise you cannot express yourself properly in your dance).
Tango dance is also slow, but not always. It is the opposite for what a person with depression needs.
The Milonga style is cheerful, happy and snappy.
For many tango teachers tango and Milonga are the same dance style but Milonga is simply quicker!
In Tango Therapy, we carefully select the music according to the needs of the participants and we work in a different way with Milonga than in Tango.
These are some simple examples but there are many more situations that show why a Tango social class cannot be confused with Tango Therapy.
Think about this, if you need to go to some kind of therapy (it does not matter why or what type of therapy you need), your therapist will recommend you do something on a regular basis, maybe three times a week, maybe more.
Tango therapy can give you an alternative for the boring exercises and you can replace them dancing tango. However, it must be an exercise any way. You must do it in a regular way and in the way that will help you with your problem.
A tango therapist will give you not only tango lessons; they also are going to prepare follow up exercises in order to continue with your therapy in your home.
A Tango Therapy session also includes a series of complementary exercises that you need to do in order to complete your treatment. In addition, they will teach you the tango style that is appropriate for your needs.
Tango Therapy is based in movement / dance therapy and we add the particular advantages that Tango has but we may modify the tango styles, figures, and choreographs in order to reach our goal that it is not to create tango dancers, but to improve the quality of life of the participants of the sessions.
Tango as an exercise
Talking about the biological structure, tango improves mobility and physical abilities; its practice improves several aspects of health.
Also, it develops the superior cognitive functions because it is necessary to pay attention to the steps.
Tango is an exercise of slight to moderate intensity, similar to that which is recommended to prevent cardiovascular diseases. This was a study made by Dr. Roberto Peidro, chief of Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Ward at the Favaloro Foundation (Buenos Aires, Argentina). A measurement that, according to the World Wide Organization of Health, improves the cardiovascular activity and prevents ill health, if one practices in regular form. Continue reading
Tango dancing is beneficial to the elderly because it incorporates elements found in standard neurological rehabilitation programs: forward, backward and side to side weight shift; one leg stance; walking on a straight line both backwards and forwards; increasing step length in all directions; and turning within a narrow space, says Patricia Mc Kinley. An added benefit to tango is that its movements are performed to music, which is known to facilitate performance of ambulatory activities.
Dancing Tango also can benefit patients with Alzheimer’s disease, precisely because the dance is an activity with an emphasis on coordination that forces the patients to use their memory in order to remember the steps
A research in Australia suggests that tango may help people fight depression.
An University of New England researcher, Rosa Pinniger , has been running a trial to see if concentrating on dance steps keeps negative thoughts away.
Psychologists use it to try to help people fight negative thoughts and see situations more positively.
Ms Pinniger says many studies have shown that meditation can be helpful in learning to do this.
While studying the benefits of meditation she realised the brain works in a similar way when dancing the tango.
“While you’re doing tango you can only be in the present – you really have to focus, concentrate, and it doesn’t allow your thoughts to drive into your mind,” she said.
“The same with the tango – everyone walks and as long as you can walk you can tango, and this is the truth.
Ms Pinniger says the participants in her trial have kept coming back to the tango classes because they can see results.
“If people can have a break from their negative thoughts for three minutes – which is the time of the tango – they can realise that it is possible,” she said.
Recent research has shown that dance, specifically tango, may be an appropriate and effective strategy for ameliorating functional mobility deficits in people who are frail and elderly.
Individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) experience declines in functional mobility that may be even more pronounced than those experienced by frail elderly individuals without PD.
This is the first study to systematically investigate and compare the effects of dance and strength/flexibility exercise on functional mobility in people with PD.
We have demonstrated the feasibility of tango movement sessions for individuals with PD. While some significant changes in measures were noted, these changes were small and may not be clinically meaningful. Future studies with a larger sample size are needed to confirm and extend the present results. This work may ultimately lead to improved therapeutic movement approaches employing dance as an enjoyable and effective strategy for addressing functional mobility deficits in individuals with PD. These preliminary data suggest that dance may be a beneficial group activity to address balance and gait problems specific to PD.
For downs syndrome and disabled children we can observe a clear motor response to rhythms. One way of rehabilitation of these children is through the sensory motor adaptation to different types of rhythm and seeing when they are able to pass from rhythm towards the melody, which is a great evolution. The Tango music with its particular rhythms and sweet melodies helps this rehabilitation ,also, the process of learning the steps and figures with a partner is a nice challenge. The strong rhythm can give them a sense of identity, of feeling good and the softer melodies a creative push. The AMAR (Association Dance Group of Argentina), say that downs syndrome people can absolutely be devoted tango dancers. It is absolutely true, it just takes patience and passion on the part of the teacher!
Dr McKinley has a primary focus in the development of leisure based activities for vulnerable populations as well as age-dependent changes in balance and skill acquisition in both children and the elderly in McGill University, school of physical and occupational therapy in Canada
Rosa Pinniger is an honours student at the University of New England (Sydney – Australia), where she is studying cognitive and behavioural therapy.
Madeleine E. Hackney, BFA, Svetlana Kantorovich, BS, Rebecca Levin, DPT, and Gammon M. Earhart, PT, PhD – Program in Physical Therapy (M.E.H., R.L., G.M.E.), Department of Biology (S.K.), Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology (G.M.E.), and Department of Neurology (G.M.E.), Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri
The therapeutic force of dance
“You use the floor as earth, the pelvis as centre, holding torso and legs together. You work for fluidity, moving like a goddess, undulations like water, like the ocean. High leaps for men. You elongate the muscles, creating a hidden strength”
Katherine Mary Dunham
Dance therapy was developed through the genre of modern dance. Continue reading
The modern dance pioneers known as Martha Graham, Doris Humphreys, Isadora Duncan and also Katherine Dunham broke away from the traditional ballet repertoire and created movement that encouraged creativity, spontaneity, individuality and personal expression.
The psychoanalytical philosophy movement developed by thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Carl Gustav Jung encouraged using dance for therapeutic purposes. In fact Carl Jung in one of his last books said that the psychotherapy of the future needed to be of the body, needed to have a corporal dimension. The therapeutic benefits of dance that is authentic, free, that encourages opening and interjection from the emotions from the heart is many:
- – self esteem and confidence in oneself, in ones body
- – proprioceptive awareness
- – greater awareness of how our bodies reflect our lives
- – intense sensation of feeling alive
- – integration of mind, body and spirit
- – musical sensibility
- – a sensitive connection with ourselves, our couple, our world
- – balancing of the nervous system
- – boosting of health of the immune system
- – improved posture
- – awareness of universal gestures
- – courage to create
Dance is movement and movement is created by the human body. In order to understand our body we need to move it. Our whole life is encased within our cells, our bodies hold our life, express our life.
We have the gift of a mortal, tangible body that makes our lives on earth a physical experience yet many people spend so much time focusing on their intellectual and emotional needs that they forget to experience life physically.
This is something so ingrained into our culture that people have become so disconnected from others, from themselves, from the mystery of living itself. We have become a culture of consumerism and we need to enter into the culture of the body.
Used throughout time to connect with the inner life force, evoke higher power, lead one back to one’s self and to invoke deep truth and wisdom dance integrates the mind, body and spirit. The physical, emotional and spiritual in a joyous celebration of life.
Through the unity of mind, body and spirit, dance as a therapy provides wholeness, a sense of integration and balance.