Hugs, Hormones and Tango

du blir glad av tangoAs a dancer, you know the rush and exhilaration that comes from performing the tango. Sultry, seductive, and sensual, it is truly the dance of love. However, have you ever wondered why it gets that moniker? This might come as a sucker punch to the ego, but it may not have as much to do with your swift feet and perfect form. New research sheds some light on the whole affair and allows us to approach the dance with a but of perspective.


In our brains two tiny little glands (the pituitary and hypothalamus) work together to produce a hormone known as oxytocin. It is called the “pleasure” hormone. Oxytocin gives us that feeling of “closeness”. We experience it when we do certain things. For instance, women produce it in great quantities during childbirth. Experts believe this is part of what creates a strong maternal bond between a mother and child. We also produce it when we achieve orgasm during the act of making love. No doubt, some of you started producing it just reading that last sentence.

However, it is also known to be produced during thousands of other things we do or experience such as watching an emotional movie, reading feel good pieces on social media, and most remarkably, through the simple act of hugging. That’s right, if you want an instant feel good boost, all you have to do is hug someone. No wonder we feel so great when we get tangled up doing the tango! The dance is all about the closeness of the embrace, and research has some surprising things to say about that embrace.

The Science Behind the Tango Hug

According to Dr. Paul Zak, author of The Moral Molecule, oxytocin can be produced in greater quantities depending on the length of the hug. A quick hug yields a very short boost in oxytocin, however, a prolonged 20-30 second hug provides a boost of as much as an 11% boost in oxytocin levels! That is pretty significant!

Now, consider that the tango “dance” is a full three-minute embrace. Although you briefly break the embrace between the songs, a full tanda will add up to more than ten minutes of oxytocin engaging hugging. No wonder you feel all warm and cuddly when you finish! You have sent the pituitary and hypothalamus glands into overdrive, and the bond lingers long after the dance has subsided.

Putting it to Use

So, now that you have this information, what you do with it is entirely up to you. The next time you have a fight or flare up with your partner, sweep them off their feet and tango for ten to fifteen minutes. Poof, instant anger cure! Get into an argument with the cashier at the checkout line in the grocery store? Tango your way to a resolution! Stuck in a negotiation? Tango your way to a compromise!

I’m kidding of course, yet it is important to understand the science behind the feeling as a student or instructor of tango. Knowing the oxytocin relationship as it relates to tango will really help you allay the first time apprehensions that a new student might experience. Explain to them that at first it might seem a bit awkward, but in a minute or so their oxytocin levels will increase and they will be more relaxed.

Oxytocin and tango is one of those rare instances where we see science working in tandem with art. It is not that oxytocin “creates” the tango dance. Yet, it is true that we become more engaged when we are relaxed. We become more connected with our partners when we feel close. Together, we create a thing of beauty to be appreciated. Oxytocin and tango certainly make good bedfellows.

Guest post by: Jason Britt

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