Split Personalities: It Takes Two to Tango

Published: Tuesday, Feb 19, 2008
MDNG spoke with Neal Goldman, MD, assistant professor, department of otolaryngology, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC, to learn how he juggles practicing both medicine and tango dancing.

How did you get involved in tango dancing?

I grew up in the Dominican Republic until I was about 13, so I was exposed constantly to Latin music. I would go to parties in 6th grade and hear merengue and salsa music. Later, I was on vacation in Venezuela, and I saw people salsa dancing. I walked up to them, and said “How do you do that?” Th ey said, “You can’t, it’s in the blood.” I took it as a little bit of a challenge. I agree that growing up with dance makes it a lot easier; hearing it every day of your whole life will make understanding and interpreting the music easier, but I was exposed to it later in life. When I was 30, I moved to Seattle, and thought I would be in a city where I could be anonymous in the back of a dance class. I started taking some salsa classes, and through salsa, got interested in tango.

How do you find the time to practice tango dancing while maintaining your medical practice?

It’s crazy, but I spend a lot of time dancing. I drive an hour-and-a-half (each direction) two days a week for two to three hours of dancing. Plus, I teach classes and go to diff erent events. Because I live in a smaller town, I find myself finding reasons to combine business with pleasure. If I’m going to a medical conference, I’ll make sure I fi nd where all the dance opportunities are in that city.

Do you see any similarities between your devotion to tango dancing and the dedication required by medical practice?

As a resident, you work really hard, long hours. I absolutely loved it, because I loved learning something new and could feel myself learning new skills and developing new abilities. Th at’s the only similarity I see between medicine and dancing; with tango dancing, I still find myself learning new things and feeling good about myself from learning them.

Does being able to get away and do something you enjoy help relieve the stresses of practicing medicine?

It makes me feel great about myself to be doing something physical, active, and social. It opens you up to new people anywhere you go. If you know how to dance socially, you can go to any city in any country, show up at an event, and you will find people who you immediately have something to do with.

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