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.


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