Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The importance of following and leading

Is the leading more important than following has been the subject for several postings lately.
This is my view: I consider the leading and following to be the core functions in our dance. The leader and the follower are equally important at all levels and more similar in effort when both partners have developed their adaptation skills and later on the intuitive dance. However at the beginning the leaders workload is larger.

I agree with the writers about the step learning. I also think that both groups learn their own steps with equal easiness. Some individuals learn more easily then others but within the groups of leaders and followers it may be about the same.

Another area to learn is how to produce the lead/leading signals and follow/receive the signals. Think about a basic ocho as an example. Both groups need to learn the signals for different parts of it and during the hours on the pista leaders and followers do develop all the variations needed for different partners.

And here is the end of the list for follower responsibilities as i see it. On other hand the follower has the advantage to reach the level of true enjoyment or intuitive dancing much earlier than a leader. (a leader can experience the followers special level of relaxation and dream about joining her there some day. . . )

The list of the leader responsibilities is longer. At a later development level the conscious mental efforts and physical demands become similar for the persons forming the couple. During the journey from start to that level the leader is responsible and expected to cover for the shortcomings by learning more than a follower.

To begin with I need to know the follower steps - if not, how could I create the signals for an appropriate lead. It doubles my step learning efforts and even today it is mentally exhausting to remember her/my steps simultaneously when I am learning a new sequence.

Then we have the navigation which is much more than walking forward to an empty space on the pista. It is a complicated skill and last mastered. But when mastered the couple can intuitively adapt their steps to the space available while smoothly advancing on the dance line together with others. We can also, as couples, react to the music with different steps but simultaneously with others so the fully developed pista is pulsating to music. You can see this happen on some videos from Buenos Aires milongas.

The most demanding of the extras is the responsibility for content. The steps must be interesting enough and the connection to music needs to be satisfying. Different followers want different content. The leader must know what to suggest.

In the table below the rows present the areas of responsibilities for both groups.
The columns show how much mental/conscious effort is needed for dancing. It stretches from totally conscious steps --> totally intuitive dancing. A variation of the Four stages of competence process!

For me the different stages/periods are these: During the Lead/Follow period the dancing is mostly a conscious process, demanding all my mental capacity. When partnering we both know the steps by heart and can easily adapt to each others; at the best moments intuitively. To reach to the absolute dance the couples on pista must have the skill to intuitively adapt to the other couples as well as to each others within the couple.

Finally and once more - I consider the leading and following to be the core functions in our dance. They are equally important at all levels and more similar in effort when both partners have developed their skills and later on the intuitive dance.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Bandoneon Caminata

This is an old idea and the video footage is from 2009 and 2010; with other words please forgive the low quality of the visuals!

My goal for the caminata was for a long time a simultaneous walk. I wanted our feet to move in same speed so the distance between my toes and her toes was the same all the time. I was sure this was the ultimate goal for an heavenly correct walk. This walk was filmed on our Saturday training and I remember how pleased I was with the regular pattern our feet created! 

They started at the same time and we brushed by the standing leg simultaneously and the distance was kept stable. There was other problem but the feet were great!

Time went by and I became a little bit reluctant. I started to wonder if our walk with its regular pattern was a liiiiiittle bit boring?  Those thoughts guided me to this Javer caminata.

The distance between the feet is changing, it is moving like bandoneon between a short distance at landing to its maximum when moving forward. The foot behind you is moving more slowly compared to the speed when the foot is in front of your body. When she is moving fast Javier's foot is slower and the opposite!

This creates a fantastic vivid walk!

Javier Rodriguez and Stella Misse

they land simultaneously

when they have shifted the weight to a new standing leg
his foot is still behind him (slow) but her has passed (fast)

to prepare the new landing
his foot passed the standing leg and continues forward (fast)
her foot has a shorter distance to cover and can take it easy (slow)

they land simustaneously

It is stil in use and here an US based couple use the same walk!

Ney Melo & Jennifer Bratt

If you want to clearly to see the steps use the possibility to slow down Youtube player. 
It works on steps 50% or 25%

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Actors advice to a tango dancer

An actors advice

In an earlier posting I presented the idea about the similarities between the acting and dancing processes. With other words the actors have the script, their lines and all their skill is needed to blow life to those lines in the way the director points out. In dance we have the choreography, the steps and the dancers skill will get those steps to come alive while the choreographer is showing the direction! These two are quite similar processes, aren't they? 

Even when we do not cooperate with a choreographer on the social dance floor the actors advice can still be useful for us. I think we can agree about the actors strive for true and meaningful emotions, gestures and movements to express the character and his life and the same seems to be valid for the dancers too; they are also searching a true expression, a true dance where the movements are meaningful. Below you have three suggestions on acting aspects which I think could be valuable for the dancers too!

1. Investing in the moment

There is an old tango saying: Dance as if there is no one watching! In other words it is about focusing on music, partner and dancing in a way so you are not aware of the onlookers. 

Robert Carnes video is about how the actors can train themselves so they can identify the most essential aspects, the issues which are critical for the performance. The training makes them capable to change their focus when needed and you can as a dancer to do the same! You can broaden your capacity and choose to focus on an essential aspect, to an internal aspect of dancing or the aspects and emotions you want your dance to express. In that way you develop your dance and it can be better for you and your partner. 

2. The range of emotions in your service

To be able to express the emotions presented in a song the dancer needs to have access to the whole range of emotions within her/himself. This need can push us to search the keys to the locked areas within us and make us to grow as human beings. In his video Robert Carne gives the growing actors training advice how to increase their emotional registry. He uses the films but a tango dancer could pick different songs and explore the emotions these songs are carrying to the listener!

The following questions could help you to find a way to a more open inner landscape: What does he mean by the emotional muscles? How could you train the fibres? or find the keys?


3. You are not listening!

This listening feels now to be the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of connection!

A Finnish milonguero, Kristian Salikoski, has written his thesis about tango. (available in Finnish) In this context he points out how essential a touch is for the tango; a touch to understand the other person. It is a listening touch between the partners and this ongoing listening is part of the unique connection between the tango dancers. You reach to the other person and when you touch your partner you do it deeply focused and your senses are fully active.

This quality of listening is also part of the acting process!

In the video below you get the story how an actor is fine tuning is listening. When he understood what the deep listening means he could start to train the skill but still it took him several years to complete! To understand what the goal was gave him the direction to work for and I am sure kept him motivated during the years!


The Best Acting Lesson in the World sounds to be the best Dancing lesson too!

Personal experiences

It can be hard to recognize the processes taking place within oneself; what is happening and what is the content of an experience. Here I describe a few situations which I think are related to the connection: How well I am/we are connected to the music? or How alive is the connection between us, between me and my partner?

Meaningful steps

The feeling of meaning when taking a step was an early experience for me and since then it has been the guide for my musicality. Actually the first experience was the opposite: every now and then I felt how ridiculous it was to march alone at home to a tango. Little by little I understood that these feelings were created by the changing relation my steps had to the music. This became an important tool to monitor how well my steps were related to the music: the good steps generated a positive feeling, a low key satisfaction, meaningfulness but the unsuccessful steps were connected with feelings of ridiculousness or discomfort. I was lucky to get this tool which creates a joyful relation to musicality without anxiety.

Feeling the flow

During the 15+ years I have been dancing a few moments have been deeply different. The main features during these tandas have been a feeling of flow and a strong unfocused concentration. The feeling we/partner and I shared seems to have been visible even to others because for most of the cases someone came afterward and spontaneously told us how great it looked. The words they used made a match with the feeling I / we had during the dance.
An other way to say it is: When we are connected - there is a flow and it is visible.

To choose a state of mind

It seems that I can switch between mental states during a tanda, roughly between two states. Sometimes when the dance is not going on easily, when I am tired or not engaged in the music there is a possibility to gear it up by deciding to dance better. If I do an effort I can feel the change and my partner has comment on that too.

Develop your emotions

I share Robert Carne's opinion that the actors need to have access to a large range of emotions and when it is so it enables them to express those emotions in their work. This is the way I understand the dancing too and therefore I have tried to train myself in emotions carried to me by the songs. Instead of watching the films I listen to tangos and let my body express the emotions which the song is releasing within me. It is a mild or wild solo experience and the outcome will be later modified to a form suitable for a pista.

More than once a follower has told me that an uninteresting song got emotional content by the relation I had to it. She could recognize my positive attitude, emotions and she got a better experience herself.

Kristian Salikoskis theseis - I am sorry but the content is so far available only in Finnish. He has later on continued to to explore the touch aspect in dance but I think the basic idea of touch is valuable to us all.






Sunday, December 20, 2015

Choreography: The connection and advantages

The connection

A dancer can get clear advantages from the work on choreography according to the Joy in Motion blogger. (JinM) Your ability to create a strong, living connection between the steps, the movements, the choreography and your body, your personality can grow dramatically when you are working with choreographies. You can experience this connection as the difference between the mechanically taken steps and the same steps deeply touching your heart.

Joy in Motion  puts it in this way:
“The physical aspect of the dance is not about putting something in the body; it is about encouraging something to arise from the body.”

This happens on several levels. It is a very physical, very technical thing, but it is also mental, emotional, relational, and musical.

After I had this realization, I began to search for the feeling, the intention, the essence of each choreographed phrase in a very personal way.

According to JinM the results were visible immediately and her dancing was also complimented by the teachers. This convinced her that this awareness is important and one of the main messages in the posting is that a choreography work is a good training method to grow your skill in good connection. She did it and you can do it too!

With other words there can be a huge difference between the steps taken and the very same steps which have come alive. That's the reason why a good choreographer is so passionate about the connection - it is all, the most important goal to work for. Only after the steps have come alive he starts to pay attention to how to polish the movements and to create the ultimate precision.

I have always thought that there is a fundamental difference in the mental state of a choreography dancer compared to an improvisation dancer. I have some vague memories about a difference between musicians who were used to play from sheet music and who were able to carry on a jam session. The first one needed a stable structure but was unable to let an intuitive improvisation process to take over. The participating brain areas for these two mental states varied; some areas were activated for one state but were shut down for the other and the ability to switch between these two requires some learning and training.

This may still be true but from the Joy in Movement viewpoint the two types of dancing are similar by sharing the search for form/dancer connection. If the improvised steps  lack this connection they are as mechanical and dead as the choreographed dance with the same failure. In my mind this idea boiled down to this: the degree of connection is the degree of life in the dance!

Quite often an unsatisfied audience is calling an improvised dance for too choreographed when something is missing, when the dance feels too mechanical. After reading JinM's posting I agree that it is more accurate to call this for a connection error, too vague connection or something similar.

Dancers vs. Actors

I haven't ever worked with a choreographer so I am only vaguely able to understand the aspects JinM blogger is writing about. To get deeper I relied on my usual strategy and tried to find a more familiar situation with same structure making it more easy to broaden my views. After a while I landed on the process actors are going through when they are preparing for their next role.

Most of us have seen interviews were an actor is telling about the research work: all the reading, visiting locations, working in certain milieus, learning gestures, way of talk and so on. It is not only information collection but it is also about building up different skills needed so they can create a true character. As audience we just see the tip of the preparation ice berg but the huge hidden part of it makes the character and role true - we do not see it but we do feel it.

With other words the actors get the script, their lines and all their skill is needed to blow life to those lines in the way the director points out. In dance we have the choreography, the steps and the dancer's skill will get those steps to come alive while the choreographer is showing the direction! 

Quite the same isn't it? 

I can understand the reasons why the huge amount of work is motivated when the actors want to embody a role and now it is also easier to understand that the corresponding areas need to be addressed even in dance: among them the physical, technical, mental, emotional, relational and rhythm/timing areas.

Here some short interviews with several well known actors how they work for the connection between the script and their role:

If a good actor is able to create it so why a good dancer couldn't create a similar experience?

You can read the blogger's entire posting at Joy in Motion page!  Click here!

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