Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Renovating my Tango House

I have been dancing Argentine Tango for twenty years and I have been even leading for a long time. This need for renovation became very obvious when I had tried to change my dance to a more dynamic one. Unsuccessfully. During that process I had also become aware of the generation gap in the skill and style between the younger dancers and me.

I have seen a dancer use sequences from my first dance years and became aware of how old fashion his dance looked and I heard the others comment on the conservated years. I heard also how new dancers commented on styles fully recognizable for me but unknown to them. They said it was not tango. (I could count backward when they had started to dance  . . . :))

So there was a need to update the look of my dance by adding new steps and techniques which the younger dancers also could recognize!

Another way to describe the situation is to think of what a house owner is experiencing!  You maybe are living in a house or your friends have one. Usually there are continuously some renovating project going on but then after 20 years stay you noticed that a more profound, more large-scale actions are needed. You maybe must rebuild the fundament or a basement renovation is needed before some other changes can be processed!

That was the case of my Tango house!

I wanted to change my dance and therefore a better fundament was needed to be clear and strong enough to carry the new top floor. I had been planning and working for a new type of dance for some time but the new additional floor to my tango house did not get completed.

What was keeping me back?

At the time I started to tango the techniques for a stable and solid base were not available. I grabbed and put together material I could found somewhere.  It was not possible to make a plan or choose a style but you got a basic figure here and later on something else with a totally different technique. The wind was blowing through the cracks when different techniques did not fit together. Some figures were with center oriented techniques while others were using centrifugal principles and you were continuously forced to move from one technique to another during a tanda. It happens also that the dancers in the couple have different techniques on figures they try to fit together during a tanda. In other words, it was hard to create a harmonious dance on that base of unfit blocks, unfit moves.

To start with I would have needed some kind of evaluation of the situation but it was hard to get. So I planned the content and set up the lesson structure as I needed with cooperative teachers. Lucky me to get teachers with good skills and pedagogical insights for this project!

I am building, I am renovating!

September was the busiest month with 3-4 lessons a week combined with the preparation and repetition hours at home. The later part of October was easier with 2-3 lessons instead but as busy as earlier at home and it goes on . . . .

Friday, August 30, 2019

Dance Like No One Is Watching - WROOOONG ?

I agree that an excessive search of audience approval is not good but so is the total neglection of audience opinion.

I see the process of forwarding the tradition (or creating something new) as a dynamic balance between individual dancers and the community. When dancers make their dance visible during a tanda the community approves it by accepting their cabeceos later on or it disapproves the dance experiment by focusing on other dancers or they speek out their disapproval!

On the personal level my dance should look from the outside like it feels during a tanda. For a while ago some followers were positively surprised by the feeling during a song and that triggered some new learning initiatives for me. I need to do my dance more visible for the audience to attract other dancers. Teachers have given me positive feedback but when some experienced followers do not get my skill right i need to do what I can to make it easier to recognize.

I have a friend who has a background in music and a strong opinion about how to express the beat. When we were on a ws with appreciated local teachers with 20 years of experience he made the fastest/erliest landings of us all. Clearly before us all. I talked with him later about that but he just stated - That is the way I want to have it! His own inner experience was the only guide for him but here it pushed him off to a totally private solution.

So IMO there is a healthy level of audience/dancer attention vitally forming the future of the dancer, the tango community and the tango.

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Partnership in tango is like an aquarelle

paper water - the music
dancers with different colors
new colors and totally new steps

The Partnership period

At the partnership stage the leader and follower know how to move in tango, how to take steps and adapt to each other. At the beginning of this period you slowly grow out from the leader/follower roles and are transformed to dancers with much more equal impact on a tanda than earlier.

In many important changes in my life, the relevant aspects of a situation come together in a picture embodying the values playing at that moment. So was the origin of this metaphor. I still remember the follower and the spot on the pista where I was struck by the idea about an aquarelle as an equivalent metaphor for our dancing.

The sheet of paper is the base and together with the pure water they represent the music.

When we start to dance, her colors are trickling from one side of the paper and mine are coming in from the opposite side. Our movements make the water move and blend our colors to totally new ones. There are new paths, forms creating themselves on the paper as well. 

In a milonga, the same tanda would feel different with a new follower, because they come with a different personal set of colors. Followers have also impact on leaders steps but the effect is not always easy to recognize. It can be easier to notice with a new partner. Totally new combinations and forms evolve when the personalities fit.
I would call it inspiration and that happens! 
We have seen and heard about it.
 Many times!

The road & The car as Following & Leading metaphor

music as the landscape

the leaders construct the road and fix the signs

the followers drive their car on the prepared road


Following & Leading period

From the very beginning, I have been uncomfortable with the idea of following to be a passive role but it has been a challenge to find a way to describe the active parts included. It has also been impossible to find one picture integrating the whole life of a dancer. The feeling during the first years was totally different compared to the experience of a tanda 20 years later.

What kind of a metaphor could then describe the first years when the leading and following roles have the strongest presence in the couple. In the beginning, we are learning how to move our bodies to Argentine tango and how we relate to music so the dance becomes enjoyable even during your first years!

In classical music, the idea of a musical landscape is common so the idea of tangos creating their own sound landscape was a logical development. Even if some of the song texts are about soccer, heart, blood, and difficulties the music still creates different parallel paths the leaders can choose their favorite among. This is the leaders advantage or often a responsibility during the first years.

The Road Constructor

It is also easy to think a leader as a road constructor when he is choosing the musical path for his feet and body, building the road, which he is offering to the follower too. His skill to navigate and adapt to the other couples will create a safe road on the pista for the couple. Is your road rough or has it a smooth surface? How can your follower recognize the signs for speed limits? Other signs? Are there spaces for scenery stops?

The Car Driver

The follower is not a car as suggested so many times but the driver. It is the follower's decision how to drive that car! It is her decision to keep the vehicle on the offered road and to follow the speed limits and other road signs from the leader during the journey. What is your style of driving? Is it slow or fast? Is the driving occupying all your capacity or are you able to enjoy the path, the musical landscape around you?

The lead/follow period is about learning how to create the tango movements and sequences with your body and how to communicate all that to the partner. It is much more about learning and not so much about improvising yet.

Yes, this is just a metaphor and it doesn't meet all the leading and following aspects but it shows a possibility for a dynamic experience in both roles.

This is the metaphor for the first period on a dancers path! You can here below find the different possibilities there are for us!