A Bit of Cha-Cha-Cha Helps Relationship Rah-Rah-Rah

Winnipeg Free Press, June 8, 2013 | Go to article overview

A Bit of Cha-Cha-Cha Helps Relationship Rah-Rah-Rah


At first I was taken aback.

I'm not sure where it came from, but my friend felt the urge to share something personal over coffee.

He and his wife had been to a marriage counsellor.

I was surprised because they seemed happy enough together; he loves his wife and his wife loves him.

Then he explained why they need counselling. The kids are grown up and gone and suddenly they are in the season of life our annual backyard visitors, Mr. and Mrs. Robin, experience every summer.

Their nest is empty.

Now, the middle-aged couple -- what the heck let's call them the Robins -- only have each other to care for. And, as their marriage counsellor told them, they need to find a way to reconnect, so the counsellor suggested they look for something they could enjoy doing together.

Something like ballroom dancing.

Actually, when you think about it -- not that most husbands want to -- ballroom dancing has a lot going for it as a substitute for formal marriage therapy. After all, it takes two to tangle.

And two to tango.

Which is sort of what a South African post-graduate psychology student named Ramona Hanke explained to the world in a master's thesis on the subject back in 2006. She entitled it: The Impact of Ballroom Dancing on the Marriage Relationship.

As it happened, Hanke had stumbled upon the concept prior to university while teaching the tango, the waltz and the cha-cha-cha.

Hanke found evidence during her research of dance as movement therapy in various psychology-related areas, but she couldn't find any literature on dancing as marriage therapy.

In her paper, Hanke reflected on her time as a ballroom dance instructor and how out of step couples were when they arrived for dance lessons. Over time, though, not only did the relationship between the husbands and wives become more intimate, but so did her own relationship with the couples she was teaching.

Part of the closeness had to do with connecting on the floor, but the dance studio also encouraged togetherness between students and teacher at weekend social events. Soon, Hanke was sharing her students' birthdays and weddings; their pregnancies and job promotions; their dreams and their aspirations. But she also experienced their arguments, illnesses, miscarriages, discoveries of infertility and family deaths. And as Hanke's relationships with the couples deepened, the couples began to reveal more and more of "the true nature of their marriage and themselves. …

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