Tango Haptics. Touch, the most basic element of Tango, and life, needs a bit of clarity for most of you. Why ? Because your idea of ‘touch’ and someone else’s idea of touch is radically different. Actually it comes down to differing realities of physiological pressures. And in specific, where those physiological pressures are used the most such as arms and hands, and to a limited extent the torso. Touch is by far one of the most misunderstood, and misused, if not fully unresearched element of Tango and yet it is the very lifeblood of how we operate in Tango. It is a pity that we, as a dancing community, haven’t detailed a more useful way to talk about touch, and separate it from the romantic/sexual aspects that it is frequently used for, as it then commingled (mixed up) in the romantic feelings of physiological contact. It is for this reason that this site details another method, and an easy way of talking about touch that is quantifiable: Tango Haptics.
Usage: ‘Haptics’ ? You may have encountered this word in the technical world, when it comes to iPhones, as in “Haptic’ feedback. The word refers to the tactile, kinesthetic, and proprioceptive contact and feedback (the feedback part is very important) when manipulating an object. Quite a lovely word that encompasses all of the things in Tango that refer to touch that we tend to merge into the confusing word we tend to use to define this stuff — ‘Connection’.
Tango Haptics is a reference to the haptic feedback that occurs within the embrace, and body on body contact within close embrace. It qualifies and quantifies in 5 easy levels to remember and then replicate.
Level 1.) Air to Air.
Level 2.) Skin to Skin or Skin to Fabric.
Level 3.) Sinew to Sinew.
Level 4.) Muscle to Muscle.
Level 5.) Bone to Bone.
Lead, Follow, or Both ? Both roles.
The Tango Topics Opinion: “Connection” as a word to describe what is going on within the construct of the embrace and the physiological pressure of bodily, arm, hand contact, as has been pointed out before, is an exceptionally confusing as a way of communicating how and why something works or doesn’t work.
For example: “I feel very connected to them”, or “There’s a lot of connection in our dance”. These two examples and many like them, can from multiple points of view create different ideas of what the speaker meant AND/OR the recipient hears.
Let’s take the latter of those two phrases, “There’s a lot of connection in our dance”. The speaker could mean or try to infer meaning in one of four possible ways (and possibly more than 4): 1.) There’s a great deal of physiological contact between the partnership. Or 2.) They (the speaker) felt an emotional bond towards their dance partner. Or 3.) The tactile contact of their bodies was either too much or possibly overwhelming for them. Or 4.) The dancing felt easeful and effortless. Where as the listener would have to infer from the given statement any one of those 4 things viewed through the glasses of their own experience. This is the primary problem of using the word “connection” as a descriptor.
However, employing Tango Haptics as an indicator of physiological pressures, we remove all doubt as to what the speaker meant in terms of the contact between the couple.
“I felt a lot of level 1 haptic in the embrace from my partner, which was not enough for me”, or “I like a level 3 of tango haptics with my partner, I am able to hear their responses better that way”. You see ? Not only does it reinforce clarity in the statements, but you know exactly what the speaker is talking about. There is no ambiguity! None.