Tango Chorophobia?

Story | Opinion | Mark Word | 11 Aug 2015 | 0 comments

Most of us start out as children with no fear of dancing–that is, with no “chorophobia.”  Psychological blocks sometimes come later and we don’t even recognise them as fears.

The word “phobos” from ancient Greek means to avoid or withdraw, which is perhaps a better behavioral way of understanding phobias.   It is all too easy to avoid or withdraw from dance either before learning the skill or after having bad experiences while dancing. The good news is there are effective ways to “treat” chorophobia.  I will address solutions at the conclusion of this post.

Phobias, can be debilitating for some people, causing great harm to them, and chorophobia is no different.  This sounds like a remarkable overstatement that avoidance or withdrawal from dance could be “debilitating.”  However, think about couples you have known who may have had serious problems around one liking dance and the other refusing to even try.  Or perhaps, you know a couple who danced together and one “gave up” after having bad experiences? Was chorophobia behind it all?  Even for the couple or individual who is afraid of dancing, looking awkward, having “two left feet,” and so on–a dance phobia is debilitating their natural ability to somatically respond to music (dance).  Responding somatically to music is one of the few markers for being a human being.  Fear is stopping this freedom of expression?!  Face your chorophobia and overcome, my friend!

Do you have a fear of dancing?

The following is not an exhaustive list or in any order of priority. Which one is your hot button?

  • Fear of being watched and judged. We dancers know the “treatment” for this phobia because we often hear and quote it. We say, “Dance as if no one were watching.” Fear of being seen as being awkward or foolish can be overwhelming for many.
  • Fear of being rejected. Rejection can be a show stopper for some people. That is why asking for a dance, unlike salsa or ballroom dancing, is a taboo in traditional tango. There is no such thing as just one dance in tango. The tanda of songs lasts for about 13-15 minutes. So that is why we do not ask; we nod with a cabeceo and respond with an accepting “look” or mirada to avoid explicit and public rejection. Getting over a fear of rejection is a psychological and spiritual quest.
  • The fear of being hounded for a dance is another subtype of chorophobia, which could possibly be tied to a bigger fear–fear of being harassed, even sexually harassed.
  • Fear of being shunned. Walking into an intimate social setting, let’s say a milonga with 20-50 people, and a fair percentage of those in attendence shunning you–refusing to even look at you–may be very unpleasant. If tango is truly a social dance, then smiling and looking away is more in tune with tango etiquette. I suggest compassion with people who shun. They have their own fears.
  • Fear of being considered homosexual. This can affect both men and women, but in many English speaking countries, fear of be considered a gay has been ingrained in many men. My solution is not to worry about the long list of stupid things people could be thinking, but for some men it is not so easy.
  • Fear of the opposite sex, especially strangers. Since I was a young boy I was so enamoured by the opposite sex that I had a sort of fear and over-whelming discomfort around girls. My fear has been vanquished totally through dance, but many men and women just cannot get over this anxiety.
  • Fear of busy public places often comes from some unresolved psychological trauma that happened in public. Tango can be a great healing process for this fear–being in public and having fun.
  • Fear of breaking moral codes. There is a a joke about religious sects who prohibit dance: “Why don’t Baptists make love standing up? Because if someone saw them, they might be reported to the elders for having been seen dancing.” Even if people have rejected childhood religious beliefs, they can be embedded into their psyche, causing avoidance and withdrawal from dance.
  • Fear of being addicted to tango. Since the general public often misuses the word “addict” for even wonderful, health-giving activities, this fear is sometimes behind someone giving up dancing as if it were a sickness and they are finally free, but in reality, they left because of avoidance issues. There is no blame here. Maybe the community is not offering what a person needs. (See the solution below.)
  • Fear of injury or injuring others. Many leave tango only because of fear of injury because the community may have lost the level of floorcraft it once had.
  • Avoidance of physical closeness. Some people feel extremely uncomfortable with their personal space being invaded. What better therapy is there than tango for this?
  • Fear of Jealousy. I admit it. I fear jealousy. I have only been jealous a few times in my life, and it is a horrible, horrible feeling. There are partners who are willing to stay home and allow their partner to go out and dance just so they don’t have to be be confronted with these anxious feelings. Being active in tango is an opportunity to grow up and away from jealousy. My wife and I have grown a great deal spiritually by talking to one another about these feelings we both have had.


All of these fears could be treated by a therapist. But I believe that the most effective treatment that I could recommend is that you find a caring tango community. You will find your healing there. If you cannot find a caring and social tango community, then build your own. There are others like you out there, in search for the balm of a caring community to treat your own version of dance avoidances. Even in large cities, there are smaller, more social milongas.

Find one that is your healing balm!


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Published: 11 Aug 2015 @ 15:05


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