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  • John Lowry


At an in-house seminar on perinatal psychology in Melbourne, Hettie Dubow spoke of Circles of Security, Repair and Trust, and how important it is to provide comfort and attend to a child!s needs to enable the development of resilience, Dr Bronwyn Leigh spoke on "mindfulness and mindful parenting".

Both lectures resonated so strongly with what happens with good Tango – and what is wrong with bad Tango – that I could not resist writing this article for tango teachers, dancers and students.

The Circle of Security is a beautiful name for a good tango embrace. It provides warmth, care, protection, guidance and scope for creative response. A "circle of security" Tango embrace is not a vice-like, movement-restricting hold, or a sweaty-palmed, arm-pumping grip. It is not an uncomfortable, stylised pose with back arched and arms elevated. It is not a manipulative device, or a means of displaying or imposing one!s will upon another.

A "circle of security” tango embrace provides a supportive framework and a means of connecting two people in the dance. Through the sensitivity and contentedness of their embrace both partners feel and sense what is desired, required and possible – and this is the foundation of seamless improvised, ever-changing tango conversation that is beautiful to see and do.

From the beginning, humans need to feel that the world is safe, in order to move forward with confidence and courage. To develop new skills and grow we must experience a degree of discomfort and not knowing, initially, but we need not fear this process of exploration. Making a mistake is a necessary step towards learning. We should not be fearful of failure or of trying new things.

Tango, like life, should be an adventure – a voyage of self-discovery. We should ask what is to be learned from an experience. Winston Churchill famously said, “courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm!”.

But if we are distressed, and stray too far from the circle of security, we need to be comforted. We need the security of knowing that our needs will be met consistently. In time we will learn to self-soothe, build on our skills, develop confidence, and grow resilient.

In Tango, the warmth, care and protection of the other person (the partner) or people (the group) allows us to develop socially, grow emotionally, develop sensitivity to reading non-verbal signals, and improve our self-confidence.

We all need approval and acknowledgement of our essential being. We all need encouragement to try new things, and to build on a growing base of skills. We need to know that we can love and are lovable. A sense of belonging is fundamental to the ability to enjoy being with other people.

The good teacher will guide and watch to see when students need help, but will stand aside when a new skill is being successfully managed. The good teacher will encourage students to experiment and try new things - to get out there and be prepared to make a mistake. A good Tango partner will not be fussed by unexpected things happening in the dance, or on the dance floor, but will see these things as new opportunities to find creative solutions.

Dancing Tango, in the classic way, cultivates the ability to be mindful and in the moment. This means being in the "here and now”, not distracted by extraneous things and not judgemental. It means being aware and observant, and connecting to the present moment and not to the past or future. It does not mean being on "automatic pilot”, performing for an audience or just going through the motions.

Mindfulness requires observation. We should aim for being, rather than doing. To develop mindfulness, we must slow down and cultivate awareness of the body, of the breath, and of all the senses. With training in awareness we can hold any thought in the universe.

To live in the here and now you must train yourself: In the seen there will be just the seen, in the heard just the heard, in the sensed just the sensed; in the thought just the thought! Buddha

To attain a calm, mindful state, while connecting with a partner, the music, and the elevated energy of a crowded dance floor is “Tango Nirvana”.

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