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Inner Experience of Tango

Announcing a new research study on the inner experience of tango

Update May 2, 2023: We are very grateful for the 1300+ people who participated in the survey. The survey is now closed. If you’d like to find out about results, be sure you’re on the newsletter list.

What is the purpose of this research? 

The purpose of this research is to illuminate the dimensions of the inner experience of tango. Based on the many anecdotes we’ve heard over the years, we expect there to be quite a bit of diversity in the experiences that people have. Let us help each other better describe the wonderful and diverse experiences that arise from our experience of tango. 

What comprises the inner experience of tango? Mental talk, mental imagery, sensations, and other types of interior awareness. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could “see” this? This research will help do exactly that. 

Although nothing can fully capture the mystery of tango, we can use research methods to better understand patterns of the inner life of tango dancers. Up till now the inner experience of tango was something we saved for moments of poetry and art, late night post-milonga conversations, or confessional Facebook posts. We love all those things! And this research allows us to complement them, exploring the topic using the tools of researchers. 

Who will benefit? 

We don’t know what we don’t know —  that’s why we do research! Here are a few ways members of the tango community might benefit from this research. 

Tango newcomers – We don’t describe the magic of tango well, so often beginners have a hard time seeing beyond the heels and suits and the fancy footwork. We are ready to welcome new waves of beginners into the world of tango post-Covid. But we are still relying on old ways of talking about tango. This research can help. 

Tango dancers – By learning more about how others experience tango, dancers of all levels will be able to empathize and connect better. 

People struggling with tango – The more we know about how the inner experience evolves over a dancer’s lifetime, the more support we can give dancers who are struggling through awkward phases. 

Tango organizers – With more insight into the patterns of inner experience tango dancers have, organizers can create more intentional events that people will enjoy more. 

Tango teachers – Having deeper and more structured understanding about dancers’ interior lives will help tango teachers develop teaching techniques that meet students where they are and help them grow. 

As a community – We may have more in common than we imagined. There may be things we share that transcend “style,” appearance, preferences, or other things that seem to divide us. There may be ways we’re different from each other that we didn’t know about, that spark curiosity and interest. Let’s find out! 

Beyond this, we hope that other dance communities may be inspired by this research to do their own investments in understanding the interior dimensions of their dance, so social dance can grow. 

More about the inner experience survey project

The inner experience survey project was initiated by Avik Basu–a researcher, tango dancer and DJ who teaches research methods at the University of Michigan and Mitra Martin, a qualitative researcher, tango dancer and community developer. 

We have been working on this survey for more than two years. Our process involved one-on-one conversations, focus groups with dancers across different roles and levels of experience, as well as cognitive testing of the survey itself with several experienced dancers. In the future we may decide to do this or similar research in Spanish too but we did not have the resources to do that at this point.

We plan to share insights from this research with the tango community via Awaken Tango over the next few months.

This is a labor of love and we’re donating our time out of curiosity, interest, and a hope to advance knowledge in a useful way. 

Awaken Tango and tango research

Awaken Tango is helping promote the survey opportunity. One of Awaken Tango’s aims is to foster a “think tank” that helps facilitate cross-community collaboration, research, and dialogue, and projects like this are part of that aim. Awaken Tango’s first tango research project was the World Tango Covid Research Project, carried out by Mitra Martin, Korey Ireland, and Meredith Klein and volunteers in 2020. We are grateful for those who support Awaken Tango.

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