15 Minutes of Laughter

3rd July 2010

"In the vast expanse of inner listening
The sacred clown comes home.
Open, vulnerable,
with no great ambitions or fears,
with no questions
and specially no answers to give...
...A timeless presence filling the air
touches all...
with that little spark of wonder,
for what is about to be born"

~ Didier Danthois


The chemistry of your brain and your blood literally changes depending on whether you are happy, sad, angry and so forth. This changes the way you perceive the world.

The classic example is: you walk past a group and they laugh.

If you're happy, you're more likely to assume they're just happy. If you're upset, you're more likely to assume they're laughing at you.

Be happy

I've been thinking lately about how an evening of tango actually starts. For a long time, I'd make sure I went for some kind of a walk to calm my mind. One venue I used to go to had a peaceful canal complete with ducks behind it.

However I'm now taking this a step further. How do you make yourself happy?

For me I think it's the 15 minutes before I get to a milonga that are important.

So if you're travelling with someone, spend the last 15 mins talking about happy things. If you're on your own, likewise forget about the irritations of the day and focus on what makes you smile.

I think about times in my life that have had me literally crying with laughter (honorable mention to Jack and Billy, thanks guys). Gradually the annoyances of the day melt away as happy chemicals* enter my bloodstream. My perception shifts. The world becomes a nicer place.

* Serotonin, Noradrenalin and Dopamine - apparently chocolate works well too.

Happy (Tango) Feet

So how does this affect my actual tango?

First of all getting dances. I look relaxed and confident and, well, happy. That's going to tick a lot of boxes for most women. As an added bonus women who want to be grumpy are going to give me a wide berth.

Now consider two dancers. They both go and ask someone to dance and are turned down.

To the dancer who is happy it doesn't matter; they simply go and ask someone else, or sit down and enjoy watching the dancing. But to the dancer who was annoyed, they're far more likely to fester over why they got turned down. And also to have their confidence knocked a bit. Which means they find it harder to get dances. So they get grumpier and so on.

The vicious or virtuous circle

There's a "feedback" mechanism at work here, also. If you start off potentially unhappy, each refection makes you unhappier, and you're quite likely to give off more and more "grumpy" vibes throughout the evening, which of course will mean less people will want to dance with you, and so on. Conversely, if you start off in a more positive frame of mind, you're more likely to enjoy the evening more, so turning a potential vicious circle into a virtuous one.

One tip to help with this: get off to a good start, by dancing with someone you know, and like dancing with.


"Doing is a function of the body. Being is a function of the soul." - Jack Hass

For me the difference between dancing and "moving around while music is played" is largely that the first doesn't involve thinking. It's being rather than doing. A feeling, rather than problem solving. I find that feeling happy makes it much easier to dance - in essence you're already in "feeling" mode.

"You're laughing, that's good; I look cute when you're laughing" ~ The Norm Show

I can now see the distinct benefit of going to venues where the host and whoever's on the door is actually pleased to see you. It's a small thing, but potentially it can make a significant difference to a venue. A room filled with happy people is probably going to be more tolerant and relaxed than a room full of grumpy people.

So the host can affect the culture / atmosphere of the venue. Which may explain the atmosphere at ... certain London venues.

~ Christopher O'Shea, 3rd July 2010

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