tango therapy

when life and love are weighing me down, tango might make me feel worse. but sometimes it doesn’t. sometimes i’m lucky and it’s so good it’s like therapy. those are the nights when all the right men will come to me in the right order, no neck arching or eyebrow twitching, no hiding or chit-chatting — nights when all i have to do is put my arms around him and turn inwards. here.

and the dance aligns my spine like hot yoga or a visit to the chiropractor’s. the catharsis i experience is something between talk therapy and an exorcism. the touching of a second body resembles a combination of martial arts combat and foreplay. it would be too easy to talk about contact improv - when the contact is so intimate my lips are sliding across the sweat on his chest - what shall we call it, besides tango?

there is a reason why improvisation can feel like magic, like release. if what they say is true — that each moment is new - in tango we must surrender the past for the present, again and again. i close my eyes to exist nowhere but this moment. no fear and no predictions, no heartbreak and no healing, no victory and no ruin.

in tango therapy, i give myself the gift of stillness. to be truly present in the dance is to be embodied within myself. centered, breathing, here. if music and movement only happen in the present, then so does creation, self-invention, transformation. here in one tanda, i am free to live a thousand lives, die a thousand deaths, be reborn a thousand and one times. i’ve made no promises.

half of tango therapy, of course, is the embrace. to be in close embrace is to literally close the space between us. deep inside our two-person world is a sacred place of forgetting. my heart will sigh and my skin will speak - like releasing secrets to a mountain, or a tree. when we part, my hands on your back will linger to say: thank you. thank you for this dance, for this touch, for sharing these exquisitely untraceable moments - of now.


thank you for reading. I write essays about homesickness, tango, and love. you might also like these other pieces — our tango addiction, tango theater, and tango love. you can explore my work here, or sign up for intimate weekly artist letters below.

this is a drawing I did based off a photo by  Jani Autio Photography .

this is a drawing I did based off a photo by Jani Autio Photography.

TangoKening Zhu