According to a news release from Reuters this past August, physicians around the world are turning to Argentine tango to treat patients with conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s disease. Phobias and marital problems are also being treated. Reuters interviewed the chairman of the International Association of Tango Therapy (IATT) who explained that many elements of the dance can be used to help people. An example is focusing on learning the eight basic steps to help Alzheimer’s patients improve their memories. He also said that focusing on the tango walk—which requires grace, can help patients with Parkinson’s. This is supported by a study done at the University of Washington School of Medicine where researchers found that patients with Parkinson’s improved their balance when they took tango lessons. And when it comes to marriage therapy, Italian therapists found that focusing on the trust needed in tango’s close embrace and backward movement was useful for couples. No kidding.
My favorite part of the report was about a weekly tango class at the Borda Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the birthplace of tango. This class helps people relax and enjoy themselves in the hospital environment. And the teacher of the class, a psychologist, adds that many participants have responded by improving their appearance and personal hygiene. The dance has also removed barriers between patients and staff. (Henao, Reuters 8/31)
Though I do not have any of the illnesses listed above, I can attest to the fact that Argentine tango has improved my balance and also my ability to walk backward while completely trusting my leader. I’m certain that the close embrace also causes my oxytocin levels to soar, thus helping me bond with our tango community. It also helps keep my circulation strong.
But you know what I really think? I think that all the people involved in this research are really hooked on Argentine tango and wanted to figure out a way to dance more at work! Since I started dancing, I have noticed that my work seems to interfere with my dance schedule!