Susan Tango pictures

Why Argentine Tango?

Argentine tango is perhaps the most subjective of all social dances, requiring each partner to surrender, without anticipation — to the music, to the other — in pursuit of the ultimate, the flow that is created when two individuals become one, the “partnership,” moving as one body with four legs.

Through lecture, discussion, psychic visualization and actual dance, this workshop will explore the intersubjective dimension of psychoanalysis and Argentine tango, the parallels in psychoanalyst-analysand and tango leader-follower dynamics.

How is the practice of psychoanalysis similar to the dance of Argentine tango?

  • Can the psychoanalyst surrender to free-floating attention & the Argentine Tango follower to non-anticipation?
  • How does this lead to free-association in words or dance movement?
  • How is psychic dialectic promoted in psychoanalysis and Argentine tango?
  • How does this relate to intersubjectivity and interpenetration?
  • How are holding and being held a psychic dialectic?
  • How can a contrived agenda disrupt spontaneity in both tango and analysis?
  • What are the dynamic evolutions in tango that differentiate compulsion and desire, impulse and spontaneous gesture, and addiction and passion?
  • Do erotic feelings impassion the dance or disrupt it?

Getting to Know the Physical Self as a Psychic Self

  • What is “surrender” and how does it relate to a tuned-in experience of the other?
  • How do “potential space” and “play space” compare for the tango couple and for the psychoanalyst and analysand (patient)?
  • Can the tango dancer and the psychoanalytic analysand surrender agendas and allow thought to come from inner organic feeling connections?
  • Can leader and follower both surrender to the music and to subtle shifts in body weight?
  • Are thoughts split off from body and feelings?

Remembering Our Dear Friend Dino Bakakos, Argentine Tango, and Saturday Nights at Lafayette Grill

remembering Dino, pictures of Lafayette Grill and Dino with Susan

My new book project, Saturday Nights at Lafayette Grill: True Tales and Gossips of the NY City Argentine Tango Scene, which includes nineteen essays and fourteen interviews with some of the Lafayette Grill’s tangueros and characters, changed its meaning twice already. At first, it was fun to collect information and memories of one of the greatest Argentine tango places in NY city. When Lafayette Grill was forced to close its doors, the book became the hope for re-invention (Dino could not wait to see this book published!). Now, it will serve to commemorate not only the restaurant and good food and music, but most of all – its owner, Dino Bakakos, generous and kind soul, and enthusiastic supporter of all the arts.

… it is here at Lafayette Grill that I have had the chance to make my dream come true of supporting the arts in New York and in the U.S.: dancers, visual artists, poets, singers, and with your books, even writers, and of course the musicians…

I could feel how beautiful the tango music was, and I watched people doing tango and felt so inspired. I thought it was such a wonderful way for people to experience their bodies, and to connect with others and make friends. I loved to watch the way the arms and legs flowed in circular movements, away from each other and then together again… I could see that people would feel good through tango and this would cause them to reach out to others and make friends. I learned more and more watching tango. I learned that tango is, probably more than any other dance, about making relationships and being in relationships.— (from the interview with Dino Bakakos)

Invited Panel (with Beatriz Dujovne, PhD): “In the Arms of a Stranger”

— at the APA’s Division of Psychoanalysis (39) Spring meeting, “The Leading Edge of Creativity,” Santa Fe, NM (La Fonda Hotel, Main Ballroom North). This panel is on Argentine tango and psychoanalysis, and the analogies between the clinical moment and the Argentine tango moment. Includes paper presentation and live Argentine tango improvisational performances.

Tango was born in an ethos of “Creativity and Madness.” Its fore-parents were a conflicted, nostalgic, art loving, passionate, rebellious melting pot that had to create how to live out of nothing daily. The presenters, both professionals, both devoted tango dancers will open the program with a demonstration of tango by local dancers. Beatriz Dujovne’s presentation reports psychological phenomena that happen inside the dancers. With their voices she illustrates safe regression, cycles of closeness and separation, working through losses, hurting and healing inside the embrace. She proposes that we are hungry for being on a level with others and that tango fulfills that need by zeroing in our common humanity. Susan Kavaler-Adler offers a personal and psychological perspective on an alternate form of monogamy, as well as analogies between the profound “in the moment” experience in tango and the profound clinical moment in psychoanalysis, and analogies between the psychoanalyst and the Argentine tango partner as a “stranger.”

Argentine tango performance with Sid Grant

—at the 3rd International Emotionally Focused Therapy Summit in NYC – “The Power of Emotions: Loving Connections, Lasting Bonds”!

tango collage

Articles on Tango and Psychoanalysis

Anatomy of Surrender

PDF version is available here

In Argentine Tango the woman (follower) can never surrender to the soul of the dance and its music unless she can surrender to herself. To allow this the leader (usually male) must clearly direct and support her in the frame of the embrace, similar to the analytic frame surrounding the analyst and patient (analysand) in psychoanalysis. If the leader controls the woman she can only submit or rebel and can never surrender. For the leader to have a firm frame and to be connecting without controlling, he too must surrender, to himself, to the music, and to his partner. Argentine Tango is about mutual surrender. As he senses the body of the woman he surrenders to his intuitive grasp of the axis and motion of the woman, and he surrenders to the fluidity of following the flow of the follower with his own rhythm and intention. To know which foot the follower is on the leader must surrender to his own instincts and to his connection in sensing the body and being of the other.

People often confuse surrender and submission. There are critical differences between these ideas, particularly in terms of the retaining and owning of one’s power in surrender—being the agent and having one’s own axis—in contrast to giving up one’s power to the other in
submission. The psychological meaning of surrender is distinctly different than the military definition. Yielding and letting go of control in surrender is a high level capacity in psychological development… Read More

Being in the moment: In Psychoanalysis and Argentine Tango

It takes Two…
The second Psychoanalysis and Argentine Tango workshop was very actively involved with the dance of Argentine Tango itself and with the etiquette of tango dancers in the Argentine Tango atmosphere, touching on important gender issues and gender feelings. As in the first workshop, the psychological seminar, conducted by Dr. Susan Kavaler-Adler, preceded the historical and videotape seminar conducted by Ellen Sowcheck. The participants in this workshop played a very active role in creating dialogues and discussion. Consequently, a group interaction blossomed. The latter part of the day included an Argentine Tango lesson conducted by Ellen and dance demonstrations by Susan (Dr. Kavaler-Adler) and Helmet Salas, Susan and her husband Saul, and by Ellen and Helmet (two dances). The lesson focused on each participant exchanging roles of leader and follower to appreciate the subjective experience of each partner in the dance. The intersubjective experience of the dance created a third subject (or character), the dance itself, within the “potential space” and “play space” existing between the leader and follower… Read More

Psychoanalysis by Day, Argentine Tango by Night

Reflections on Intersubjectivity or “It takes Two to Tango”:
Workshop (March 15 2002), conducted by
Dr. Susan Kavaler-Adler and Ellen Sowchek.

They came from Canada, Israel, Massachusetts, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Oregon, California and New York City. They were psychoanalysts, psychoanalytic patients, psychotherapists, dancers, and Argentine tango dancers. They all gathered in the Pierre Dulaine dance studio (35 participants) to hear about the overlaps between “being in the moment” in psychoanalysis and Argentine tango. They heard Dr. Susan Kavaler-Adler (psychologist-psychoanalyst-28 years of practice–and Argentine tango dancer) extemporaneously speak about the lack of anticipation for the follower in Argentine Tango being like the “lack of memory or desire” in the psychoanalyst, which is accompanied by “free floating attention”, corresponding to the “free association” of the psychoanalytic patient (analysand: the “leader”). A multitude of analogies followed concerning the partnership in analysis and in tango.

Then they heard and saw Ellen Sowchek’s (Argentine tango teacher, ballroom and Argentine tango dancer, hostess of Pierre Dulaine’s Tuesday evening milonga TangoElegante) narrative on Argentine tango history with video taped clips of famous and infamous tango couples, with distinctions between Rudolph Valentino movie stereotypes and Argentine tango couples performing today. Ms. Sowchek challenged the workshop participants to tune into the… Read More

Watch Susan performing at Argentine Tango competition in NYC: