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August 24, 2020

Embodiment Circles & the Tango: How I found Connection, Presence & Community during a Pandemic.

I never thought I would find authentic connection when the current pandemic started.

I love to dance tango, an experience that is based on movement, contact, and being lost in the moment. When the first lockdown began in the United Kingdom, it was hard to imagine that I could still participate in my favourite activity.

March started and I had a cough, some phlegm too. I was worried. Although these weren’t the main symptoms the media described, I was cautious. I live on my own, and I stayed at home for three weeks without seeing anyone in person. My daughter lives a few miles away, but I decided to follow the rules and seclude myself. I took the allowed daily bike ride, just to get out of my apartment.

I like spending time on my own, but as a social dancer, I have a strong need for human contact. I went online looking for ways to connect with other people.

Tango led me to the social element of milongas: that special time of the week where tango dancers gather and dance for hours. I also dance Gabriel Roth’s 5Rhythms and find liberation in that practice. But my quarantine and abstinence from dancing changed when I came across the Embodiment Circles.

I had never heard of the virtual Embodiment Conference before. I, of course, loved the feeling of being lost in my body, of moving through the dance floor guided by a tango melody. Until I joined and started attending the Embodiment Circles—which encourage and support those who focus on movement, particularly those in the yoga, dance, martial arts, bodywork, and theater fields—I didn’t realize how beneficial and important movement and connection are to our own bodies.

We started the first circle with 10 minutes of meditation, followed by 10 minutes of movement, and then an open floor to talk to other people. I immediately felt the benefits of having this space and resource.

I have a tendency to overthink, to dwell on past mistakes and worry about the future. Sharing thoughts that run in circles around my head is good for me. I am also a recovering addict. I am 28 years clean and have worked the 12-Step program of Narcotics Anonymous for many years. I appreciate and understand the benefits of sharing and having such spaces to share.

Meditation and movement are also part of what keeps me grounded. Joining the Embodiment Circles became a routine. I attended several times a week, sometimes twice a day; combined with online 5Rhythms classes, I remained sane.

I remember one morning that I arrived early to the Circle. It was just me and the host. As I was checking in with her, she asked me if I wanted to lead the movement section that day. After a moment’s hesitation, I said yes. Tango dancing was my main activity before the pandemic started, so I improvised a 10-minute movement segment based on tango steps.

This was a turning point. I used to run a weekly milonga in my hometown of Brighton, on the South Coast of the United Kingdom. That day I realized I could organize them virtually. Based on the format of the Embodiment Circles, I started my first virtual milonga.

I advertised my “Mindful Milonga” to the local tango community and started a weekly online meeting. We listen to music, watch tango videos, dance, and connect with one another. It was refreshing and inspiring to see how faithfully we could reproduce the experience of tango.

When I heard the Embodiment Circles were looking for potential hosts for themed Circles, I decided to offer a tango circle and immediately submitted a proposal. I titled it “Tango, Presence and Connection.” I invited two of my tango friends: Phoebe, a yoga teacher with many years of experience in meditation, and Anna, a professional tango teacher. Together, we planned and co-hosted the Circle.

I was nervous presenting the first Circle.

Would it work?

Would anyone attend?

Would I be able to facilitate an hour-long meeting?

After giving people time to check in, Phoebe led a meditation, which helped me feel grounded even though my mind was still working overtime with the pressure of being responsible to host the upcoming meeting. Anna proceeded to lead the movement segment after participants gave their first round of feedback. Anna is a highly experienced teacher and performer, and as I followed her tango movement, I could feel myself relax into my body.

When it was my turn, I spoke about the history of tango dancing. Participants shared their experience and we soon closed the Circle. The first Tango Circle was a success—I felt proud and happy.

For subsequent Circles, we varied the topics: the African origins of tango music, lyrics of the songs, non-verbal invitation to dance, connecting with a dance partner, and negotiating space on the dance floor. The Circles continued, and I became excited about the correlation between embodiment and tango. The more Circles I attended, the more I came to understand the concept of embodiment and experience its benefits. I realized that I can and will always be able to connect with my body. Most importantly, embodiment practices help me stay in the present.

I am glad that I found the Embodiment Circles during these times. They help me connect further with my love and passion for tango, a practice that is ultimately about getting lost in the movement, in the presence of your body’s flow. And I’m amazed that it all happened virtually!

During lockdown, I have attended all types of Circles with topics ranging from relationships to sexuality, archetypes to masculinity. They have helped me maintain my mind-body connection. But I was also surprised by the strong connections I was able to make with other people online.

The initial fear and isolation from social distancing soon shifted. I developed social connections with a large number of like-minded people. The Embodiment Circles not only helped me to survive lockdown, but they have also enriched my life greatly throughout the pandemic. I plan to continue hosting the Tango Circle online, and as soon as the crisis is over, I am excited to bring the Embodied Tango concept to the real world.

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