Tango theory of mind

There is a “tango theory of mind” that many tango dancers seem to subscribe to. According to this theory, leader listens to the music, thinks what figure combinations fit the next phrase in the music. He then commands his body with his mind to move according to those movements. These movements are then sensed by the follower, and she then interprets the bodily sensations, in other words, thinks what lead the sensation represents, thinks how she wishes to interpret the lead, possibly adding her own spice to it, and then commands her body with her mind to move according to the interpretation.

This “tango theory of mind” is true in the sense that it really describes how these people dance. It is based on reality. But recently I have had experiences that cannot be explained through this theory. So, I do not believe there is single unified “tango theory of mind”. Rather, I believe there co-exist several “tango theories of mind”, each based on our understanding, rooted in our experiences. According to different experiences our body and mind may have different ways to understand what it means to “dance well”.

In my current theory the mind and body are in a different relationship with each other than in the theory described above. The mind is involved in dancing only when I am learning, taking lessons etc. During dancing, it works better if my mind is “switched off” whether I am leading or following. In other words, there is some magical direct connection, which does not involve the mind. However, sometimes, maybe for dancing with a beginner, or when the dancing for some reason does not go smoothly, it seems I return to this “original tango theory of mind”, although it seems to create more problems than it solves.

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About Mikko

A man hopelessly bitten by the argentine tango bug.
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8 Responses to Tango theory of mind

  1. Chris says:

    Mikko wrote: “According to this theory, leader listens to the music, thinks what figure combinations fit the next phrase in the music. He then commands his body with his mind to move according to those movements. These movements are then sensed by the follower, and she then interprets the bodily sensations, in other words, thinks what lead the sensation represents, thinks how she wishes to interpret the lead, possibly adding her own spice to it, and then commands her body with her mind to move according to the interpretation.

    In theory that could work… if the guy was able to predict every next phrase in the music, and how the ronda would go over that time period, and how each step would go with his girl.

    In practice it is not possible. So that kind of dancing really doesn’t exist much, except in classes where the music doesn’t matter, a ronda barely exisist, the girl is merely a “follower”, and the dance is directed by and instructor providing steps to copy.

    It’s a lead and follow dance inspired by Argentine tango, but it is not what the Argentines call dancing tango. See this:

    “TANGO IS NOT A LEAD AND FOLLOW DANCE”
    “Show me leads and follows in tango, and I’ll show you couples who are not dancing to the music”
    http://j.mp/12Lo4vs

  2. Mikko says:

    If I peel away the aggression, it seems to me you are basically saying you like to dance other way than the first way. Me too.

    It’s a lead and follow dance inspired by Argentine tango, but it is not what the Argentines call dancing tango.

    It is a fact that there are plenty of people, also people from Argentina, who also call the first way to dance tango. Names are not important, and you will only get frustrated if you believe you can control who uses what words in what way. People use them as they please.

    I believe the root of tango is human connection, and you cannot force people to experience human connection by hitting them in the head. We are humans, we err. We need to have mercy on ourselves and on others. Developing sensitivity for connection needs time, respect, compassion. Not games of who is right and who is wrong about terminology.

    • Chris says:

      Mikki wrote: “It is a fact that there are plenty of people, also people from Argentina, who also call the first way to dance tango.

      There are a few who will call anything they can sell in classes “dancing tango”, especially when far from earshot of their countrymen. And that lead-and-follow, thinking-driven tango-inspired dancing is ideal for that purpose.

      But I was talking of Argentines in general.

  3. Mikko says:

    If you are right, so what? There is nothing you can do about it, and getting heated up about things that are beyond your control guarantees misery.

    Like you, I also think there are people who are teaching (and getting paid) ways to dance tango that I do not personally like or find helpful. I just believe they are not doing this out of malice, but because they do not have enough experiences of the right kind from tango.

    There are also “sacred” things for me in tango, but I think they can be only transmitted through dancing, not by arguing in the internet. So, the teaching of tango would be transformed if the teachers would have the right experiences.

    In general, being argumentative creates an hostile environment where people are not open to new experiences or change, but grows the resistance to change. In such environment the magic of tango is further away, not closer.

    So, I believe that by being argumentative about “right way to dance” you are actually hurting what I feel sacred about tango. I don’t think you are doing it out of malice. I believe you are doing it because you do not have enough experiences of the right kind of acceptance to your ideas. (See the symmetry here?)

    I can feel that underneath you have the best intentions. But that is not sufficient if we want to help more people to experience the magic of tango. Rather, we need to understand what are the consequences of our actions, and whether those actions help in this aim or not.

  4. Chris says:

    Mikko wrote “I believe that by being argumentative about “right way to dance” you are…

    That’s a false quote. I said nothing about the “right way to dance”.

    There are many ways to dance tango. Different ways are right for different people in different contexts in different cultures. It for that reason that the qualifier “Argentine” is used to distinguish Argentine tango dancing from others, where such a distinction is needed.

    This blog purports to be about the Argentine variety. So when it presents the very non-Argentine kind of dancing typical of European “tango” classes modelled on the English-standarised ballroom dance tradition, please do not be surprised to find disagreement.

    The more you dismiss such disagreement as “being argumentative”, the less you will learn.

    Good luck.

  5. Mikko says:

    Your comments boggle my mind.

    I am not dismissing your points. I am just saying that your style of communicating your points has the opposite effect from what you claim you are after.

    It seems unlikely that you secretly want the opposite of what you claim, in other words to increase the number of people calling ballroom tango with argentine tango and getting paid for it.

    But how else can I understand your refusal to acknowledge my basic point?

  6. jantango says:

    I never heard of this theory. It is, perhaps, what is keeping some dancers thinking about tango instead of feeling it. They miss its essence.

  7. Mikko says:

    Hello jantango, nice to see you here, I love your blog!

    I never heard of this theory.

    It is not surprising that you have never heard about it, because it is probably the first time it has been expressed explicitly. I have not read it anywhere else.

    The name I made up myself, borrowing the term theory of mind (ToM) from Psychology and Philosophy.

    I don’t think “tango theory of mind” is typically a conscious thought. But if I see to how people dance and listen how they talk about their dancing, it seems as if they thought in the way I describe above, if they had consciously thought about it. But still, at root it is usually not a conscious thought, but something else, perhaps emotions or unconscious thoughts. But it is difficult to talk about those.

    I believe people can be roughly categorised by their major weaknesses. There are “mind people”, whose major weakness is that they use their mind when it is not appropriate. (This does not make them very wise, they might not even be very intelligent.) For them, mind is usually the boss, so to say. In dancing, too much thinking creates more visible problems than in many other areas of life, because mind is much slower than body and emotions, so it is unsuitable for split-second decisions needed in dancing.

    I seem to belong to this category of “mind people”, hence the name of the blog. Which is why not thinking during dancing is a constant struggle for me. But seems possible for us mind people to come to a realisation that mind is only one tool in the toolbox for us humans, and it is not useful if mind is the boss in all situations.

    I wrote about this theory of mind, because I believe that the way to change yourself is making the thought of how you are thinking explicit and conscious. Then you can decide what you think. Or in this case, rather decide not to think, but feel instead, which feels more fruitful when dancing.

    Long story short, I agree with you.

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