Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tango and Intimacy

Last week, my childhood friend Vicki sent me a link to a "Dear Abby" posting (of all things!).  It read:
"Woman who needs a hug is urged to reach out to others"

The original posting from the syndicated column wasn't there, but one reader who responded referred to "the older woman who asked you where to turn when she needed to be hugged and listened to".   

Is anyone else touched by that description?

Many readers wrote compassionate and helpful suggestions.  Vicki sent me the link because one reader wrote:

DEAR ABBY: I discovered a wonderful way to receive much-needed human contact — partner dancing. I started with the Argentine tango, which might be a bit too much for some folks, but I have learned to absolutely love it. It’s a safe way to enjoy an intimate connection with a member of the opposite sex, no strings attached.

It takes time to master the skills, but if you stick with it you’ll find a community that shares a passion for a skill that’s challenging and rewarding. Less-intimate forms of partner dance include swing, salsa and country dancing. If you love music and movement, and could use some exercise, I highly recommend it. — CATHERINE IN HAWAII

A few days later, when I first saw the film clip of our segment of the film "The Embrace of Aging" (notice the significance of the title for us tango people?), I observed that the filmmaker, Keith Famie, had captured in our dancing a quality of tango that none of us discussed in the interviews, except for one comment of Alla's, perhaps because we take it so for granted: physical and emotional intimacy!

I wrote to Keith that I think the physical and psychological intimacy-aspects that are so intrinsic to Argentine Tango would be worth mentioning in the film because, often, both men and women to day are starved for intimacy with the opposite sex, even married couples. I remember how my grandparents on both sides hardly touched each other, though in their way they took care of each other.  
Couple from RoKo milonga, New York- photo courtesy Ko Tanaka.

A lack of intimacy in our lives creates a chronic ache in countless individuals, seniors and younger people alike.  We ache in the absence of intimacy, like the woman who wrote to Dear Abby, or we become numb to the ache.  In my tango work over more than a decade with people of all ages and backgrounds, I became aware of well-hidden, silent ache that was subtly prevalent.  I had lived it myself when my marriage grew flat.  

But the intimacy of the communication in tango nourishes men and women at any age.  It's one of the reasons we get addicted to tango.  

Tango can fulfill the need for intimacy where there isn't a satisfying relationship. It can also bring meaningful and even exciting new intimacy to loving, healthy relationships that over the years have lost their "spice".  

Tango gives us a very satisfying intimacy "fix" so we can feel well and return to our lives off the dance floor happier. My veteran tango friends and I expect this quality in our lives, as we do protein in our diets.

Talk about nourishment to make us healthier as we grow older!!  

Send me your comments!  I invite you to respond in the comments area below:


  1. Dear Helaine,

    You so succinctly stated the feelings that I have in my heart and my inter being. When a person loses a love either through death or divorce, it leaves a void that needs to be fulfilled. when I am dancing either ballroom or tango ( tango is my passion now) I am content, but when the Milonga is over, there is a return to the real world. The companionship of a man and a woman is scriptural and is foundational to our creation.

  2. I also think, dear Lee, that when we are in periods of aloneness in our lives, that we have a unique opportunity to cultivate our love for ourselves! I've found solitude to be a great environment for such healing to occur. Then when we are "vibrationally" ready, a new person can enter.