embrace me
through the eyes of a
40 tango-essays

authors: Igor Zabuta, Emma Kologrivova
Forty psychological essays - our personal experience, impressions and reflections as of tangueros and psychotherapists.

About social tango from the inside:

male and female;
loneliness and rejection;
traumas, fears and anxiety;
leading and following;
intimacy and contact.

About the dance
changing people and their lives.
[instead of preface]

Buenos Aires, beginning of the last century. Ten men for one woman. The brothels are full and the prostitutes work non-stop for many hours. The men are far from home, from their wives, girlfriends, from mothers and sisters. They came with the hope of earning big money and bringing a family over but now they are poor, disappointed or in despair, and the future seems darker and colder than the present. What do they want?

A woman. To embrace a woman. A normal one.

They say that tango originated in the brothels. More cautious researchers confirm it but note that men didn’t dance with the prostitutes. They danced with each other to kill some time while waiting for their turn. And some say that these are just vulgar and romanticised tales.

It is a fact that men learned to dance tango with men. There were no schools, only practicas. Beginners learned to dance a follower’s role: "you cannot lead a figure that you yourself are not able to perform." When their level as a follower was deemed worthy, they were allowed to dance as a leader, with the new beginner men.

They also say that women did not learn to dance. The partners were so good that they could lead anyone, even the one who stepped on the dance floor for the first time in her life. Some say that women learned at home. But no one ever knows the real truth about women.

A few years later, when the leaders became as cool as the Israeli special forces today, the masters led them to a milonga. Then there was a chance to embrace a real woman, completely and wholly female. And if this happened... After several years of dancing with men, after many years of tactile and emotional hunger - it was an amazing experience. Women don’t just feel different. They have an innate ability to follow, susceptibility, they have a completely different energy. Men embraced so much more than just the woman in front of them. In this embrace, there was a longing for a beloved left at home, possibly lost forever, for their mother, sister, daughter. For the warmth and love of a woman.

Maybe that's why tangeros know how to embrace. They don’t just hug the shoulders or the back, and not with the hands alone. They embrace your spine with their whole being. Some hug softly but so deeply that you can clearly feel the shape of your own and another's heart and stomach. Some - gently, reverently, like a breeze but to the core. Simultaneously, sparks in the limbic brain set fire to the crazed butterflies [in your stomach]. You begin to feel the meaning of the words “care” and “respect”, and the difference between lust and passion.

More often it is not even passion but acute tenderness. Tenderness as longing for what was or could have been, because it will never come true. A dream to warm someone and warm up yourself. In tango, it can come true for 10-12 minutes. Some of this warmth you can even take with you into your daily life.
Who we are and what this book is about

We are Igor and Emma, psychotherapists and tango teachers. We met at the age of about two tango-years and since then we have danced thousands of kilometers and have spoken millions of words.

I came to psychotherapy from tango, Emma into tango from psychotherapy. Like many before us, we could not help but notice: tango changes a person. However, these changes are a bonus, they do not happen to everyone. Sometimes instead of positive changes, only deeper darker layers of the psyche get uncovered, new traumas happen.

We wanted to use tango as a psychotherapeutic tool and called the process itself simply - Tango-therapy. The complex and unique part was that we managed to integrate tango into the Gestalt Approach in our own way. The experience we received led us to a broader but deeper topic - to the study of physicality in contact.

If you ask a gestalt therapist to explain a particular complex concept, such as Tango-therapy or “physicality in contact” (and if one of us turns out to be this therapist), he will not talk about theory, but about his feelings, sensations and impressions. He will talk about his personal experience. These essays are our impressions, our experience of tango as a dance and tango as a therapy. An attempt to post-assimilate what we have lived.

Both tango and psychotherapy are delicacies. They, like this book, are for those who love nuances, feel the half-tones, want to prolong their pleasure and relish the aftertaste.

Enjoy reading!

A few caveats:

1. This book has a lot of (self) irony and sarcasm. Do not believe everything you read and do not take it too seriously. Sometimes tango is unbearably beautiful, so we have to discharge the tension.

2. Some of the texts were written by one of us but we don’t remember who the original ideas belong to. They developed in communication and became common.

3. Despite the commonality of ideas, we rarely completely agree with each other. And that’s great.

Sincerely yours,

Igor and Emma
(dancing psychotherapists)

The Ultimate Challenge

“My dream is to dance tango with my beloved.” So many times I have heard this! I would like to add “… and part as friends.”

Tango is a trial for couples.

The beloved man, your man - it turns out he cannot lead you. He doesn’t really lead in everyday life either. And there is a crowd of girls around, they are prettier, younger and dance better. Sometimes even with him. He’s never been a particularly good dancer but he still tells you where to put your feet all the time.

Your beloved woman, she does not feel you, and for some reason she puts her feet in the wrong place all the time. She says that other partners are better. You tell her how to step correctly but she does not hear. Doesn’t listen to you at all!

And instead of spinning in a dance, dissolving into music, flying up and hovering, you are stamping on each other’s feet and butting your heads. And there is even a suspicion of who is to blame.

The couple find themselves in a situation where both are obviously incompetent and this incompetence is manifested in a very delicate, intimate and vulnerable sphere – in bodily interaction. Starting to learn tango, we do not know how to dance tango. Unexpected fact.

It is difficult to get out of this situation without losses.

It is necessary to part with the illusion that your beloved man can do everything for you, that he is the best in everything. For the man it is necessary too.

You’ll have to accept that the telepathic connection in your couple, if there was one, is now absent. And that the verbal communication is also lacking. And that the idea of perfect harmony in your couple was invented by someone else.

And then, another unpleasant discovery: if you are a man, this does not mean that you are better than a woman in understanding how the body works. Even her body.

You’ll have to accept that your partner admires others, enjoys dancing with them. And not only dancing, but also their hugs, smell and charm. In tango you dance with people in their entirety.

If you love your partner for something, for excellence and dignity, be ready for disappointment. Your partner is not the best. There are better ones.

If you love a partner unconditionally, and imperfections are accepted, be prepared to accept another cartload of previously unknown imperfections. And to drag it yourself. Nobody will give you a horse in tango.


Couples who survive in tango will lose many illusions, but they can really meet.

Couples who came to tango and stayed (as tango-couples or just as a couple) deserve respect. As well as the couples who parted “thanks” to tango.

These are overused words, but you need real maturity and awareness to survive in tango.


Psychotherapist, supervisor and trainer. Together with Igor, she developed the concept of Body-in-Contact and Tango-therapy in a Gestalt approach.

Specialization: Couples therapy (with Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb).

Studied with Daniil Khlomov, Elena Kalitievskaya, Alexander Mokhovikov, Vladimir Kulishov, Evgeny Medresh, Grigory Kharkov, Irina Frolova, Alexander Girshon, Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb, Arye Burstein, Barbara Crescimanno, etc.

She studied tango with Kostya Prikhodko, Taras Popovich, Anna Lavrus, Slava Ivanov, Dominic Bridge, Graciela Gonzales, etc.

Website: http://kologrivova.com/en


Psychotherapist, tango teacher. Specialization: Body-Oriented Techniques in Gestalt Approach, Couples Therapy (with Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb).

Tango teachers: Natalia Omelyanenko, Nata Dymerka, Taras Popovich, Sergey Podbolotny, Elena Sergienko, Slava Ivanov and Olga Leonova, Fernando de Lutiis, Diego “El Pájaro” Riemer & Natalia Cristobal Rive, Mariela Sametband & Guillermo Barrionuevo, Nito and Elba Garcia, Gustavo Guarnieri & Gabriela Perea, Yanina Quinones & Neri Piliu, Dominic Bridge, Graciela Gonzalez, etc.

Teachers in psychotherapy: Vladimir Stepanenko, Tatiana Martynenko, Victoria Krupskaya, Alexander Girshon, Margherita Spagnuolo Lobb (specialization - couple therapy), Arye Burstein, Barbara Crescimanno, Elena Kosse, etc.

Website: http://izabuta.com/en
40 tango-essays

Epub (+Kindle) and Paperback versions

Natalia Orlova, Konstantin Cheslavskiy

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(с) Igor Zabuta, Emma Kologrivova
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