« October 2005 | Main | December 2005 »

November 27, 2005

USA Today: Tango combats aging

Study says dancing the tango is good for aging body, mind
By Kathleen Fackelmann, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON - The hot moves of the Argentine Tango not only keep the aging body in shape, they also may help sharpen the aging brain, according to a study out Tuesday.

That study, presented here at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, adds to a growing body of evidence indicating that such challenging leisure activities as dancing, chess or even gardening may offer a boost in brainpower that could offset the declines that can come with old age.

Previous studies in animals and in humans had suggested that a sweat-breaking workout may help keep brain cells in top form. But Patricia McKinley of McGill University in Montreal also knew that the activity had to be something that seniors would enjoy.

McKinley picked the tango, a dance that's both fun to do and involves a series of complex moves that can improve balance. Her team recruited 30 seniors ages 68 to 91. Half the group got tango lessons, and the other half were assigned to a walking group.

The dancers got a boost in self-esteem almost right away.

They would come in with sweatpants and sneakers, but after the third or fourth class, they had on makeup and jewelry," McKinley says. The class was mostly older women, but older men came, too.

After 10 weeks, the team looked for improvements in brainpower. Both walkers and tango dancers had better scores on memory tests, but only the tango dancers improved on a multitasking test. Such a boost may translate to better abilities off the dance floor, such as the ability to talk on the phone while responding to an e-mail. Tango dancers also gained improvements in balance and motor coordination. That finding suggests they'd be at less risk of falling, a significant gain for older, frail people who can break a hip and never fully recover, McKinley says.

Tango dancing isn't the only way to power up the brain.

A second study, also presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting, suggests that a specialized computer game might do the same.

Michael Merzenich at the University of California-San Francisco and his colleagues designed a gamelike computer program that might improve the ability to retain information.

The game also trains older people to listen carefully to words, strings of words or sentences and then answer questions about what they've learned. Older people often have trouble with their hearing, and that can slow down or impair their ability to learn a new task, Merzenich says.

The group trained 42 seniors to use the computer program. They found the seniors did better on standard tests of memory and attention compared with 33 control-group seniors, some of whom used a computer during the eight weeks but not the specialized game.

Both studies underscore the importance of a good mental workout. "The brain is like a muscle," says Paul Coleman at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Seniors should pick an activity they enjoy, such as tennis or bridge, and then "just do it," Coleman says.

Posted by joegrohens at 06:06 PM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2005

Tango Radio in Champaign-Urbana

Frank Ridgway at the controls during his weekly show "El Otro Sur"

Champaign-Urbana is lucky to have the extremley fine tango radio show at 12-2am on Monday mornings. Tune to 90.1 FM - WEFT. Host Frank Ridgway plays an enthralling mix of Argentine folk and guitar music, classic tango music, Piazzolla, and contemporary neo-tango/rock fusion. Delicious!

WEFT 90.1FM Website

Frank's playlists:

Posted by joegrohens at 01:37 AM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2005

New Book - "Tango: The Art History of Love"

(click to enlarge)


"Thompson performs a fascinating dissection of tango, picking apart its history with an enthusiast's passion and a scholar's authority. Pulling references from poetry, painting, and most potently from African dance, he shows us tango as an ecstatic manifestation of life's emotional dynamics and inflames us with his reverence for the form."
—Mikhail Baryshnikov

“Robert Thompson’s Tango indeed is an aesthetic history of that dance of heterosexual passion. The book has gusto, and its own deep song of eloquent erotic ecstasy and sorrow. It will inform readers until they are wild with all regret.”
—Harold Bloom

"I was startled to find how interesting this subject can be. What a fine book."
—Norman Mailer

“In language no doubt inspired by the lyrics of its subject, this serious volume examines and celebrates the cultural history of the famed Argentine dance, conveying its real passion and the author’s passion for it. Thompson, the renowned Yale Africanist and art historian, convincingly evokes the often-obscured African roots of the dance, whose name comes from the Ki-Kongo word for ‘moving in time to a beat’.… Hollywood versions of the dance pale once Thompson beings to mine the riches of tango’s rhythms, lyrics, philosophy and steps…for fans of dance, music and cultural history, this is the real deal.”
—CPublishers Weekly (starred review)

Publisher's Description

In this generously illustrated book, world-renowned art historian Robert Farris Thompson gives us the definitive account of tango, “the fabulous dance of the past hundred years—and the most beautiful, in the opinion of Martha Graham.”

From its syncretic evolution in the nineteenth century—partaking of European, Andalusian-Gaucho, and, unbeknownst to many, African influences—to its representations by Hollywood and dramatizations in dance halls throughout the world, Thompson shows us tango not only as brilliant choreography but also as text, music, art, and philosophy of life.

As he did in his classic Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy, Thompson, in this book, “takes his subject in the round, not in any specialized or compartmentalized manner. He is part anthropologist, part art critic, part musicologist, part student of religion and philosophy, and entirely an enthusiastic partisan of what he writes about” (The New York Times).

Passionately argued; unparalleled in its research, its synthesis, and its depth of understanding; and written with revelatory clarity, Tango: The Art History of Love is a monumental achievement.

About the Author
(Click to enlarge)
Robert Farris Thompson is a world-renowned Yale art historian and author of the now-classic Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. He is also the author of, among other works, Black Gods and Kings and African Art in Motion. He has been a Ford Foundation Fellow and has mounted major exhibitions of African art at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. He is Col. John Trumbull Professor of the History of Art at Yale University, where he is also Master of Timothy Dwight College. He lives in New Haven.

TANGO: The Art History of Love
By Robert Farris Thompson
Pantheon Books
September 20, 2005 / $28.50
ISBN: 0-375-40931-9


Posted by joegrohens at 09:24 AM | Comments (0)