In my early years in Tango, I bumped into the Tangomentor blog. I found Ivica’s posts really interesting and challenging but for some of them, I couldn’t really grasp them. One of them was the “Motion vs emotion” post. Thanks to a friend of mine I recently revisited it and read it again. Having had the experience of covid and moreover some really powerful and emotional tandas, I read the post again and it now made so much more sense!
Even more so I was intrigued by a comment below ending with the following statement:
One last point: if you go into this, dancing the emotion, the risk of getting oxytocin instead of dopamin, is quite high. Enjoy it, but be aware you will fall in love, with your dance partner: the tango-love. Just enjoy it but don’t confuse it with real love.
A bit of chemistry
So I did a bit of googling and found out that dopamine can provide an intense feeling of reward. Dopamine is most notably involved in helping us feel pleasure as part of the brain’s reward system. Sex, shopping, gambling, eating — all these things can trigger dopamine release or a “dopamine rush”… as well as drug consumption. So dopamine is what makes this dance addictive and you want more of it. Dopamine can be triggered when we do something successufully to tell our bodies… that was good… do it again! When dancing I guess you feel like this when you execute a sequence successfully or when you manage to interpret in a nice way the music, etc.
Oxytocin on the other hand is a neurotransmitter that is involved in childbirth and breastfeeding. It is also associated with empathy, trust, sexual activity, and relationship-building. It is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” because levels of oxytocin increase during hugging and orgasm. Oxytocin is typically linked to warm, fuzzy feelings and shown in some research to lower stress and anxiety. Oxytocin has the power to regulate our emotional responses and pro-social behaviors, including trust, empathy, gazing, positive memories, processing of bonding cues, and positive communication.
So… if you ever danced a tanda and it felt like falling in love… that was it. Oxytocin brought you to that state of mind. But then again why is this not happening in every tanda? In my opinion, there must be a unique combination of an embrace, music, a partner, an openness in the communication, and a mood, in general, to lead to this effect. Therefore, it’s not often but when it happens it’s pure magic.
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is one of those pieces that can definitely lead to high oxytocin levels when you manage to become one with your partner while dancing it!