Feel-good Friday: DANCE

It’s a little like a love affair Dancing feet. It starts out great, makes you feel good and then there are a few bumps along the way.  You begin to doubt yourself.  You settle in, become comfortable with the same steps and work into a routine.  But if you want to improve your dance and keep things fresh you have to always evolve and work at it.  You have to be eager to take it one step further to keep it interesting and alive. And to make the leaders want to dance with you.tango6

Anyway, that’s my little analogy of the dance

You just can’t take a crash course to be a tango dancer in a movie – Robert Duvall

tango1Dancing is not only social and good exercise, it makes me feel good. But I’ve been lax in going regularly for a long while now and I feel like I need to improve.  With tango, it seems so easy but you never quite feel like you’ve mastered it.  It is said that it takes a lifetime. Well since I have some time left I started lessons with one of the best instructors – Nadia of “Strictly Tango.” She spends several months a year in Buenos Aires. She’s professional but makes it fun, doesn’t miss a beat, watches your posture, corrects you on the spot and her dance space is incredibly appealing – the most ambient dance space for learning in Vancouver.  Her base is ballet – actually the best base for any dance.  She’s lovely. (See a short bio below).  I already feel a big improvement. But I have a looong way to go.

A good dancer is one who listens to the music…We dance the music not the steps. Anyone who aspires to dance never thinks about what he is going to do. What he cares about is that he follows the music. You see, we are painters. We paint the music with our feet.” – Carlos Gavito

Nadia's dance studio
Nadia’s dance studio (and photo above)

I also started taking West Coast Swingopposites attract! Think Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing (but not as dirty). tango5I took West Coast Swing years ago but was travelling and didn’t continue when I came back and forgot the steps. It’s more funky, casual but lots of fun and the music is upbeat…a mix bag of rockabilly, country, blues and current pop music – club style dancing with a partner. The opposite of tango although there is a mixer where both dances are incorporated into the evening which should be interesting. My instructor Pamela Podmoroff is one of Canada’s top competitive dancers – but she knows HOW TO TEACH.  A rare package. She’s fun, friendly and patient. Both of these classes are gender balanced.


A good reason to dance West Coast Swing – CHECK OUT this short video:

Strictly Tango with Nadia (BIO):

Nadia’s love affair with dance began early, with lessons in classical ballet at age ten in her home country, Iran. By the time she was fourteen, she’d earned a scholarship to study ballet in New York City. By nineteen, she was the youngest company soloist of the San Diego Ballet.  Even when university studies and a successful career as a high school teacher demanded her focus — and took her from the United States to Canada and on to New Zealand— Nadia continued to teach ballet at the urging of her students.  Her love of dance also took her to Cuba on three occasions, where she studied modern dance.  In 2000, back in Vancouver and ready for a change, Nadia put dance on centre stage again, devoting herself full-time to her own studio, the Forufera Centre for Dance.

The Dancing King

My sis took this pic in the kitchen. She thought I looked natural & happy.
My sis took this recent pic of me in the kitchen.  Me at my most natural.

Have a great weekend

health MATTERS: can dancing the TANGO improve cognitive function?

imagesa79d20fb8c4aa92f6e351bed1fa80152How nice to know that aside from the sheer pleasure of dancing the tango there might be a health benefit to go along with it.  Tango may be the most passionate of all dances but it has a structure that goes along with the flow, so I consider it to be the “thinking man’s dance.”  

So I wasn’t surprised to find out that that according to the non-profit organization Dance for PD® (Parkinson’s disease), the answer is YES, it does help to improve cognitive function.

The following was written by Ruth Buczynski, PhD  for the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioural Medicine.

Because Parkinson’s is a brain disorder, some people thought it might be uniquely affected by something like dance. So they approached the Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn, New York, about creating a program for people diagnosed with the disease.

Dance for PD® has been holding classes since 2001 and has witnessed the profound positive impact it has had among participants. But most of this evidence was anecdotal.

Scientific evidence of the program’s effectiveness was just beginning to be published.

In the nearly four years since I first started following Dance for PD®, the science has caught up. I heard about a 2015 study focusing on participants, but when I went to look it up, I was amazed at the number of studies published just in the first few months of 2015 that look at the topic.

Given this wealth of studies from research facilities around the world, I had a hard time highlighting just one. So instead, let’s look at some of the most recent findings on dance as an intervention for Parkinson’s:

  • 46 patients diagnosed with mild to moderate Parkinson’s participated in Japanese researchers Hiroko Hashimoto et al’s study. They found that dance improved motor function, cognitive function, and mental symptoms. (Effects of dance on motor functions, cognitive functions, and mental symptoms of Parkinson’s disease: A quasi-randomized pilot trial. Complimentary Therapies in Medicine, Apr. 2015)
  • Researchers out of Canada and Sweden investigated the use of tango lessons to improve motor and non-motor functions of people with Parkinson’s Disease. They found that the Argentine tango can improve balance and functional mobility and are calling on larger studies to test benefits on cognition and fatigue. (Tango for treatment of motor and non-motor manifestations in Parkinson’s disease: A randomized control study. Complimentary Therapies in Medicine, Apr. 2015)
  • Irish investigators led by Dr. Amanda Clifford took ten participants and had them attend weekly Irish dancing lessons, along with a parallel home practice, over an 8-week period. This preliminary study found that Irish set dancing is feasible for people with Parkinson’s and could increase their quality of life (Is Irish set dancing feasible for people with Parkinson’s disease in Ireland? Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 2015)
  • A May 2015 [epub Feb. 2015] literature review in Maturitus concluded that studies support the idea that dance can cause “substantial and wide-ranging benefits” in people who suffer from Parkinson’s, in addition to the older population in general.

One of the things that fascinated me about these studies was the sheer number of countries that are currently researching the neurological possibilities of dance for people with Parkinson’s.

This is a treatment strategy that could be used anywhere in the world.

And then, let the neuroplasticity begin.

In our Brain-Smart webinar series, we’ve been talking about practical and innovative strategies for working with the power of neuroplasticity to strengthen and heal the brain. The webinars are free to watch at the time of broadcast – you just need to sign up.

What are your reactions to using dance as a therapeutic intervention?

Sourcehttp://www.nicabm.com/ (National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioural Medicine – a pioneer and leader in the field of mind-body-spirit medicine.).

Art/Culture/Music: TANGO – a TRIBUTE

In tango, heaven is found through the simple gift of grace.

of my dear friend and dancing buddy Jon who loved Tango so much.  He will be greatly missed especially by all the women dancers and his daughter whose name happens to be Grace. He was a kind and gentle man – a true gentleman.

Astor Piazolla - a major influence
Astor Piazzolla – a major influence

Mesmerizing, sensual and intimate are just a few words you might use to describe the Tango. A dance of romance and passion, it is among the most famous genres of dance in the world and is currently enjoying a massive renaissance throughout much of Europe, South America and the USA.

In Argentina, its spiritual home, the tango is a way of life and considered as important as the samba is to Brazil or bangra dancing is to India.  Music is absolutely key, essential, absolutely impossible to separate from the dance itself. It’s not just some initial inspiration; the intricacies and interplay within the music itself are the whole lifeblood of the dance.

Argentine Tango – some history:  There is none.  But really, The origins of Tango are obscure. There are many theories, each with its passionate advocates, but ultimately it is impossible to discover the facts because the records don’t exist. Tango sprang from the poor and the disadvantaged, in tenement blocks and on street corners, amongst people whose lives usually leave little trace in the history books. Nevertheless, we owe a great debt to the many dancers and musicians who gave shape to the Tango, though we shall never know their names. Well we do know one:

Astor Piazzolla (March 11, 1921 – July 4, 1992) – “In my head I had Bach and Schumann and Mozart and very little tango.”


Astor Piazzolla is best known for being the father and inventor of Tango Nuevo – a revolutionary new genre in which jazz rhythms and classical music were infused into tango. Tango Nuevo, at first, was strongly rejected in his home country Argentina, but eventually was appreciated and celebrated for the genius it was throughout the world. I happen to love Tango Nuevo the best of all the tango music.

So often music can reach much farther than any words. 

Adiòs Nonino, was composed by Astor Piazzola in 1959 after his father’s death, Vicente (Nonino) Piazzolla. Monica (one of our best local tangueras) posted this one on Jon’s Facebook page.


My personal favorite is OBLIVION (this clip shows beautiful shots of tango & Buenos Aires).


Words from Piazzolla:

My first bandoneón was a gift from my father when I was eight years old. He brought it covered in a box, and I got very happy because I thought it was the roller skates I had asked for so many times. It was a letdown because instead of a pair of skates, I found an artifact I had never seen before in my life. Dad sat down, set it on my legs, and told me, ‘Astor, this is the instrument of tango. I want you to learn it.’ My first reaction was anger. Tango was that music he listened to almost every night after coming home from work. I didn’t like it.”

“To give pleasure to the old man, I clumsily tried to learn, and I was dreadfully bad”  (He got better).

Of course tango is a major influence on young Piazzolla, but one must be aware that he is much more multi-faceted than that. His dad said “If you want to change the tango, you had better learn boxing, or some other martial art.”

Whilst in New York his father buys him boxing gloves and Astor decided he wants to be a boxer no less! But this “career” is sharply curtailed after losing in matches against friends Rocky Graziano and Jake La Motta. However what Piazzolla takes from this is a resilience to endure the hard and very critical world of music.

Piazzolla meets Gardel (another Legend)

They say timing is everything! It is 1933, Astor is now 12, when his father – who is a huge Carlos Gardel fan – realizes that the icon is in town. Vicente has the crazy idea to make a wood carving to pay him tribute, and asks Astor to take it to Gardel. When Astor reaches the building where Gardel is living, who does he happen to run into, but Gardel’s musical assistant Alberto Castellano, who is looking  lost.

Castellano has a small disaster on his hands – a most fortuitous one for Astor! He has left his key inside the room; but our youthful Piazzolla volunteers to climb the fire escape into the penthouse, through a window, to wake the sleeping Gardel. Inside Astor mistakes the sleeping lyricist Alfredo Le Pera for Gardel and wakes him. Le Pera reacts aggressively until he realizes Astor is a boy and not a thief. Eventually, Gardel is found, who accepts the present and even gives him a signed photograph.

One thing leads to another – Gardel and the Piazzollas became good friends, enjoying the cuisine and Latin musicians that meet in the Piazzolla household, allowing Gardel to feel nostalgic for Argentina. Eventually Gardel, because of his poor English, hires Astor as his interpreter; and after seeing his musical ability, also uses him as a bandoneón player, though only in private functions. Piazzolla takes part in Gardel’s movie El Dia Que me Quieras – who according to biographers was Gardel’s favorite – playing a brief part as a newspaper boy, for $25. Piazzolla considers this movie monumental to his life.

Gardel even offers Piazzolla to accompany him in his world tour as an assistant – but Astor’s father refuses this given the fact that Astor is only a boy of 14. This is a very fortunate refusal, for Astor is replaced by Jose Corpas Moreno, who along with Gardel is killed in the plane crash of 1935, on this tour. Timing, again.

There’s so much more but I will close with this quote from Piazolla:

“I learned the tricks of the tangeros, those intuitive tricks that helped me later on. I couldn’t define them technically; they are forms of playing, forms of feeling; it’s something that comes from inside, spontaneously.”