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Tango Zen: The Walking Dance Meditation

Updated on November 10, 2013

Moving Meditation

Sport Dance has become an important part of athletic events such as the Arnold Fitness Weekend and its adjunct events in Columbus, Ohio in the early spring of each year. The event is so popular that it is also nominated to join the Olympic Games.

Sport dance and ballroom dance in competition are tough disciplines that require many hours of concentrated work. They be more difficult to perform than even boxing or the martial arts and these dancers train their bodies and their minds for peak performances..

Both types of dance activities can create better health and concentration in their participants. Part of these benefits include physial balance and mental centeredness. Altogether, the physical and mentalo aspects of these dances, and particularly Tango, offer a route to self mastery through movement arts.

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Tango especially is what is know as a moving medication in some circles, like the movements of Tai Chi Chuan. Tango expert and author Chan Park teaches and writes about all this in a small but powerful book that is an excellent guide for anyone interested in dance and especially in Argentine Tango with its history of most intense development beginning around the 1860s.

Tango Zen is full of useful information on how to observe Tango and life from a meditative attitude. This includes breathing and body awareness more than sweat and so, new students learn to walk and to breath in a synchronized fashion.

Mr. Park begins each new class with walking and breathing exercises. As they continue to walk and breathe together, each new couple relaxes to become a single moving unit. This is beautiful. Add some Tango music, and it is even more beautiful. Watching is almost as exhilarating as doing the dance.

Tango Zen by Mr. Chan Park

Chan Park's Tango Zen Class

Moving As One

Walk and breathing in unison, a couple becomes one with one another and the Dance. Their movements gain power that is hard to ignore, because it suddenly grasps the viewer's attention. Audiences feel invigorated yet relaxed after a performance. To some, watching the Argentine Tango is better than eight hours of sleep for refreshing the body, mind, and spirit.

Chan's book is important, yet light and easy to read and understand. It is fun. Even if a reader does no more than to use it to learn to walk and breathe for exercise and serenity, it has done its job and provided a gift.

Watching Chan's classes and performances is like experiencing the power of the ocean.

Elements of both Tango and Apache have been used on ice for Olympic competition as well, including the video of ice stars Torvill and Dean below.


More Than Dance

In learning Tango Zen, students walk together and may trip over each others' feet and laugh at first. Gradually, they become synchronized. Soon they are gliding and when many couples do this together in the same room, a feeling of relaxation and flow is palpable.

As a book, Tango Zen includes practical instructions for dance movements, along with stretching exercises and specific walking techniques. The illustrations are quite good as well and beautiful. The exercises can be used for dance, exercise, and relief of tensions.

In the video below, a meditation class has decided to use Tango as moving meditation. It involves relaxation and concentration on movements and changes of posture.

Argentine Tango

Torvill and Dean

The unbeatable ice dance couple in several Winter Olympics, Torvill and Dean composed the following number as Tango for the ice and mesmerized crowds wherever they performed it. Thei show stopping number such as this are th reason for their consistent to ranking for so many years.

Ice dancing is already the concept of two dancers becoming one on the ice and with Tango, it is more so.

Torvill & Dean Combine Tango and Apache on Ice

Tango Music

Tango Music

Although this is a fictional work, the novel reads like a documentary of one man's search for the best, most famous Tango singer in Argentina. every page feels real and the history of Tango rings true.

Since 2009, Tango is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, like a National Park in importance. Its most famous dancers and singers are revered.

Carlos Gardel (1890 - 1935) is probably the best known Tango singer, active in the 1920s and 1930s. Another, Carlos Acuna (1915 - 1999), was famous is several Latin America countries. Thy are both buried in La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires. These and a few other men have been responsible for writing and performing much of the body of Tango music we have today, a large part of it used in Mr. Chan's Tango Zen classes.

A sample of famous Tango numbers is presented in the video to the right, which you might use for relaxation.

Modern Scene from "Take the Lead", Starring Antonio Banderos


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from North America

      @zentango - Thanks for your contribution. I agree about "brains on sticks." Argentine Tango can surely cure that.

    • zentango profile image

      John C 3 years ago from Southern California

      Coming late to this conversation, but I know of Chan and have read his book - both videos are nice intros to his teachings. Although we've never met in person, it's amazing how he and I have gone on parallel paths for our tango journeys.

      Like Chan when I have taught classes, I've focused on the meditative aspects of this sensual dance. Although that seems like a HUGE disparity, in reality it is a lot like other tantric arts where as Patty says there is this sense of flow and getting in the zone.

      One other thing I thought worth mentioning is that I also emphasize how modern society trains us to be brains on sticks that click click away on smart phones with very little actual connection. We need more things like Argentine tango in our lives that help us to reconnect with our feelings, intuition and each other.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      Hello Chan! I am fascinated by the tango and love to watch tango and Tango Zen especially. One day, I will take lessons.

    • profile image

      Chan Park 7 years ago

      Hello Patty,

      Thanks for putting the links. Keep dancing!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      Hello Chan! I will link these up into the text above; love the whole idea of the Tango Zen. Thank you for visiting!

    • profile image

      Chan Park 7 years ago

      Hello Paty,

      I am Chan. Thanks for giving a nice message about TangoZen. Since you mentioned of my classes and performances, could you link these video clips?

      Take care,


    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      I thnk I see people "getting into the zone" as athletes say, when they dance the Tango well. It is my favorite dance to watch.

      The Antonio Banderos film about Tango that was based on a true story had some elements of this "in the zone" type of phenomenon, too.

    • jassele profile image

      jassele 8 years ago

      Dance in general is very meditative to me, and I love watching the tango and dancing it. I hope that I will learn more about the dance and become better at it. I've never heard of meditative tango before this though, it's very interesting.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      It is certainly a fascinating book. I love to watch the Tango, anyway.

    • profile image

      Stela 9 years ago

      very interesting, thank you! eager to read this book.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Thank you Lissie and Princessa!

      The meditative aspect puts the tango zen dancer into a alpha-brain-wave state, which is a light trance, like the ocndition we enter right before we go to sleep. During alpha-brain-wave, focus can be very intense, without the anxiety. Athletes call it "being in the zone."

      The Kama Sutra and Tantric sex handle sex at many levels, with an intense focus but no stress, also a kind of trance.

      The struggle for power and sumission also reminds me of French apache dance (apoche). I love to watch both, but prefer the tango. I have never had a dancing partner and regret this very much!

      Have you seen the Tango in its original form, between two men? Fascinating.

      Thanks for comments! :)

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 9 years ago from France

      I need to read that book. I love Tango, it is one of the dances I grew up with. My grandmother was always dancing it with my grandad. They always said it was a dance only for the adults, which gave it a "forbidden" connotation. As soon as I grew up, I learnt to dance it!

      I think it is a very sensual dance: the meeting of two persons, the struggle for power, the submission... I would have trouble meditating with it as it has a very sexual connotation for me.

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      I love tango but I can't imagine it as mediative - way too much concentration for that:-)

    • profile image

      aman 9 years ago

      nice hub,Keep writing

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      I have loved tngo ever since I was two years old and saw it performed on TV to the song Hernando's Hideaway.

    • gabriella05 profile image

      gabriella05 9 years ago from Oldham

      I love dancing especially Latino dance Thank you very much for this fantastic hub

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Thanks for the fascinating comments! reality dance shows can be a lot of fun.

      Mr Marmalade, you are probably better than you think.

    • compu-smart profile image

      compu-smart 9 years ago from London UK

      I used to dance professionally..In my mind!!;) I love watching the many different types of dancing. It's good because here in the UK we have a lot of reality dance shows involving celebrity's..

      Interesting info.

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 9 years ago from Sydney

      i did learn once Not much good now

      Great hub

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Oh don't give up! It might be fun. At least you can watch. :)

    • profile image

      Deborah Dera 9 years ago

      What an amazing concept! I love tango music, too! I wish I could dance! Apparently, I have very little rhythm!