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The Plain Dealer - Paging Dr. Tango

February 12, 2006

PDQ / Ten Minutes With…
February 12, 2006

By John Campanelli

Tango is more than just a dance to Dr. Jeannette Potts, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Actual life lessons can be found among those romantic and sensual moves, says Potts, who also answers to the name Dr. Tango. She has gathered those lessons in a new book (out in autumn) and uses them in her life and work. No, the dancing doc doesn't have a rose in her mouth when she sees patients-at least not yet. She spent a few moments recently letting PDQ's John Campanelli lead…with a bunch of silly questions.

Describe the feeling of a flawlessly executed tango.
I'll use a quote from Sally Potter from "Tango Lesson." I'll paraphrase it a little bit: "You feel grounded enough in your own strength and core that paradoxically you can feel like you're flying."

Why isn't tango choreographed?
It would really actually spoil the dance if one had a template. . . . The beauty of the dance is the license to be very expressive.

What kind of shoes should a woman wear for a night of stylish -- yet comfortable -- dancing?
She should have the highest heel she can tolerate. . . . Heels make a leg look more beautiful.

How often do you step on toes or get your toes stepped on?
It's less frequent these days. . . . When it does occur, very rarely now, it's usually a lot more traumatic. It hurts a lot more now.

One minute, you're the sultry Dr. Tango doing a workshop on dance, a few minutes later you're back in the urology clinic checking a prostate; how do you make the switch?
I decided a couple years ago that it wasn't necessary to make the switch. . . . I realize in retrospect I was wasting a lot more energy trying to have two personas. Now I realize that the personas are very enhancing to each other.

So in your mind, are you always Dr. Tango now?
Almost. [laughing] It almost makes me sound like I need some Haldol.

Some what?
Haldol, the anti-schizophrenic drug.

Have you ever had a partner who needed to bathe?
Fortunately not.

What other kinds of music do you dance to?
I love hip-hop. I love grunge rock. I fantasize about doing a tango to Korn.

Most unusual music you've ever danced to?
Techno belly-dancing music in Istanbul, [Turkey]. It was at a nightclub. I just loved it. I called it like a free-form salsa, but I did more of a belly-dancing thing but it was techno.

One of your areas of medical specialty is chronic genital pain in men; why is it that sudden male genital pain, caused by a blow with a bat, ball, railing or bicycle crossbar, is always good for a laugh in our culture?
I suppose it's because there's an innate fear in all men to have something like that occur. . . . I guess it's a way to diminish that fear. And yet, what is so funny, some men will just crack up at another man and no woman could get away with that. There's an empathy in that laughter.

What's the best way to put the "art" back into the art of medicine?
Remove some of the dollar signs.

First sign of a lousy dance partner?
Talking. If they have to talk . . .

Best movie tango scene ever?
The very last scene, during the credits, of "Assassination Tango."

Most important life lesson from tango?
Do not anticipate. Anticipation leads to patterns which stagnate relationships, stagnate your growth, keep your horizons very limited in terms of bias and prejudice.

Advice for someone interested in learning tango?
Everyone, including myself, expected to start taking tango lessons and to be performing these magnificent theatrical moves right away. That's the thing that draws us in. But it's just like a good piano teacher and good piano student. You have to do those supposedly boring scales over and over again to play a masterpiece.

One of the chapters in your upcoming book is "Was Jesus a tango dancer?" Well . . . ?
The faith of a Christian, the way I understood it in my upbringing, was that Jesus had to be 100 percent human and 100 percent divine. . . . If we look at the 100 percent human side of the person, who should be the ideal man, with all of the human qualities, which would also make him a strong and sensuous person as a male. He would have to be the kind of leader or partner who would never make you feel embarrassed about your deficiencies and at the same time celebrate your strengths. That's what good tango dancers do.

So. . . . the answer. . . . Did J.C. bust moves on the dance floor?
If J.C.'s teachings were a form of demonstrating humanness and the broad spectrum of humanness, I think he would have used the tango metaphors in the parables.

He was a teacher and was always teaching. Do you think he would have talked during the dance?
No, he wouldn't need to.

What is business but a dance between two companies?
What is life but a dance between people?
— Jeannette Potts, M.D. - Dr. Tango
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