Monday, February 04, 2008

Tango: More than Steps and Patterns

I said last time that Tango is a dance of communication and connection between two people. This is why one does not need a lot of fancy steps to dance a beautiful Tango. In fact, women prefer well executed simple steps to badly executed complicated patterns.

One time at a Milonga in Costa Mesa that featured a live music, I decided to test this theory out. I set out to dance a 3 minute song with just walking, back ochos (figure eights), and front ochos, and cruzada. (women’s cross) To these elementary Tango movements, I added pauses. Sometimes, I paused for one beat sometimes for two, or three even longer depending on the music. I also used simple syncopations while walking forward. Things that beginner learn in order to get out on the dance floor.

At the end of the dance, I waited to see if there was any response from my follower. As I released her from my embrace, I could see a faraway look in her eyes, a smile across her face, and she said that “That was absolutely lovely.”

To this day according to her friend, this beautiful lady still recalls the way we danced that evening. And to give her this memorable experience, I just danced using simple, common tango steps.

Recently, after a workshop with Laura Chummers and Tate Di Chiazza, out of town participant shared with me her encounter in the streets of Buenos Aires. There while watching an outdoor exhibition, an old Argentinian woman whom she did not know whispered to her, Tango is not about steps, it is about the connection of the heart and the mind.

Kind of reminds me of the Harvard Women’s Crew team motto: “it is not the meat, it is the motion.” As the above example demonstrates it is definitely not the steps.

In the last workshop on musicality, we explored listening to music, dancing to different instruments, and pausing with simple walking, pauses, and double time steps, salida cruzadas (walking in cross walk). As the organizer, as was a bit concerned that such an exercise would bore the women. But as we the music ended, I looked around and each and every one of the women looked like they had just woken up from a beautiful dream. They were happy, pleased, satisfied.

This leads me to modify my earlier comment and say that Tango is also about the quality of the movement. The musicality of the movement be it with simple pauses, syncopations, double-time steps or with cruzadas and molinetes (walking around a partner) is what give followers the most pleasure.

Steps and patterns tend to make a follower anxious unless led and executed well by the leader. Going trough steps without connection and communication and without musicality removes from Tango the most critical element and what attracts so many of us to Tango, the experience of becoming one with one another, of losing ourselves to the music and surrendering to the embrace if even for only a few minutes.

What does this mean? It means that learning how to move with one another is more important than what we do with our feet. It we can get more pleasure from Tango by focusing on moving well. It means that dancing Tango does not need to be difficult or physically demanding.

Remember, it is not the steps, it is the motion.


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