Tango Opinion

Self-Discovery through Tango

Tango is a process of self-discovery

TOUCH

Dancing Tango is sympathetic - the dancers physically experience (feel) one another, in motion, giving and receiving information through touch, proximity and electromagnetism

OBSERVE

Watching Tango is empathetic – watching the dancers stirs up emotions sufficient to draw tears or hold one’s breath

RECIPROCAL EXPERIENCE

Tango is a three dimensional, active art form. It is expression – expression can be experienced through both sympathy and empathy

CLARITY – ABSENCE OF NOISE

Clarity is what separates Argentine Tango from casual partner dances. Communication is subtle, precise, gentle and yet strong. Clarity – the absence of interference – is what makes a dancer good. The combination of subtle, clear and precise communication makes the dance sensual through the lightness of touch, but requires that the dancers acquire extraordinary skills of self-discipline in balance and movement.

ROLES

Leader and Follower have very different roles although both give and receive information through the subtle clarity and precision of their movements but the Leader guides the dance through intention and invitation whereas the Follower must submit to the dance, allowing her movements to accept and complete the energy from the leader

MISCONCEPTION

In tango our objective is not to acquire a number of patterns, steps in specific sequence, to memorize and reproduce on command

OBJECTIVE

In tango our objective is to practice and learn the skills, the art of physical self-control, to share in movement whilst in the arms of another. The harmony obtained through focus and skill of both dancers allows for improvisation, expression in three dimensions, in real time – to infinity

EUPHORIA

The ability to focus on so many elements, internal and personal as well as the external aspects of the information between the partners, simultaneously, actually delivers us and separates us from daily life.  We leave behind almost everything that consumes and surrounds us, including our incessant stream of conciousness (thoughts), to truly experience the present, the connection, the floor and the music. The floor is the canvas and the music the pallette of colors we use to create our expression

Improvisation: Leaders' Perspective

Improvisation

leader

The leader is in charge of developing the dance. While there is a certain type of accomplishment in pulling multiple patterns from memory, accomplished tango dancers will generally agree that it is superior to acquire the skills that will provide the forum for improvisation.

 

Each single step provides the opportunity for another. At any time the leader can switch between systems (parallel to cross systems) by changing weight, to provide a different perspective. Movements can change from linear to circular or circular to linear provided the set up is correct. Invasions can occur at virtually any time. The only element that restricts or prohibits improvisation is the preceding step. Each move that ends without attention to precision of the alignment of the axes limits the alternatives that can follow. Sloppy dancing tends to dictate subsequent less challenging moves and exiting through the salida and even resolution to regroup.

 

Complexity in improvisation demonstrates skills in imagination too but the underlying ability is technique: Technique that keeps the frame intact, the axis of both leader and follower uncompromised, and the practiced skill of reading subtle body language.

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Views On Competition in Tango

The Competition

Argentine Tango traditionally is a cultural, social dance; danced for enjoyment, fulfillment of the soul and replenishment of the spirit. It calms the nerves, soothes emotional upheaval, provides a ‘safe place’ to be intimate and feel love. The dance floor is where individuals meet. They leave restored. Results are temporary so dancers return regularly to re-capture the sensation of love which is a virtually indescribable sensation that combines physical closeness with an ethereal connection. The ultimate objective is the exquisite, intangible connection. The conduit is a combination of many elements: music, physical touch, movement, expression, respect, submission, and gentle protection.

 

Sue MartinSepWe can establish the elements with ease, set the stage as it were, but achieving the essence of Argentine Tango is not so simple. An occasional successful ‘connection’ encounter cannot be accurately described because no words suffice to adequately interpret the experience.

 

In America today people are not interested in the physical and emotional intimacy aspects of Argentine Tango. They prefer not to feel vulnerable and do not want to expose their innermost self with complete strangers. And yet at the same time they seem rather emotionally hollow, disconnected, and believe that intimacy is exclusively carnal sexuality.

 

Sadly, the dance of Argentine Tango is now following the course of other couple dances. The elements that once clearly separated Argentine Tango through its disciplined excellence are now almost completely avoided. It has been reduced to The Competition.

 

If the true heart of Argentine Tango is the rather esoteric unifying of persons otherwise unknown to one another, being able to express themselves in a combination of movement and music, in perfect harmony, exhibiting an intimate, ethereal connection, competition has no way to filter out the winners from the losers.

 

As one of the greatest proponents for technical acuity I believe dancing skills can be measured as they are visibly apparent to the observer or judge, but technical skills alone do not constitute the entirety of the dance. The level of connection achieved is something private and known only to the dancers.

Methods of Teaching Tango

Miriam & Leonardo Many well meaning people will argue that Argentine Tango can be taught through the written word: books, others through visual media: video.  Maybe a combination is their ideal solution.  I differ from these opinions.

 

Tango is a physical experience.  The written word is insufficient to teach a physical sensation that is not based on steps.  What really has to be taught is ‘how’ not what or when.  The sensation is passed from one person to another physically.

 

The best Argentine Tango dance experience is not about the dance per se: the steps, the combinations or sequences.  What may be remembered is the music that inspired the physical experience.  But for many the music and dance drift into an ethereal experience of pure expression.  Incredible and impossible to explain.

 

This does not include stage tango, show tango, tango fantasia, tango escenario, tango nuevo etc..  I am referring to the fundamental source from which all these variations evolved.  The aforementioned all involve steps, patterns, sequences and learned practices that may be led and followed but are not purely improvised expression.

 

For the purists, tango is an art form.  It therefore presents the same challenges all artists face.

Tango Poem

‘Tango’

written by Sue Flanagan

recited to “Pampa” by Francisco Canaro at the Tango Symposium March 24, 2013

Tango MoonlightMay I have this dance? It’s been quite a whileTango In Red

If you give me a chance I will make you smile

I promise to focus, I won’t hold you tight

And with any luck we’ll dance all night

I’ll dance with you once but you know very well

That I’m not very good, my back ochos are hell

I promised by husband I’d be home by One

Let’s give it a try while the night is still young

Tango In ParadiseOnce we connect the tango will flowTango Bliss

I have good intentions I want you to know

Now take my embrace and then while we dance

I’ll make up some moves for you to enhance

If you’re wondering why my dancing is poor,

My balance is off, no axis, no core

You’re holding me tight and I’m struggling to breathe

Just put me down, I’ll be dancing with ease

Tango ChocolateSorry, but as you were squeezing my hand,Tango Argentina

Pinching my arm, unable to stand

I held you more tightly to keep you secure

Believe it or not my thoughts are (still) pure

I like to dance with my feet on the floor

When you hold me like this we’ll be dancing till Four

When your leading is clear I want you to know

I hear what you’re thinking…

Tango BluesThe music’s inspiring, so I’ll improvise…Tango Passion

For you not so easy, I sympathize

Come here my darling, close to my chest

I’ll do the work, you take a rest

.....interlude.....

We’re moving so smoothly I'm drifting away

I cannot remember what day is today

We’ve only just met but I feel we belong

Together, forever at least for this song

Your touch is so gentle, your tango sublime

My ochos are easy, the pivots refined

We’re moving as one, caressing the floor

While the music is playing let’s tango some more.

Choreography versus Improvisation

The best gift for an artist is a clean canvas.  The artist does not necessarily have to immediately pick up his brush.  Inspiration strikes when the right catalyst comes along.

Choreography

Choreography requires skill and practice to reproduce the same elements consistently well.  There is little if any freedom in a choreographed dance.  Choreography has many purposes including showcasing, striving for a higher level of perfection of a single sequence, and comparison (competition).  The element that is missed by choreography is improvisation.
 
'Color by number' and 'join the dots' are versions of choreography:
  • Coloring between the lines, perfectly or loosely, even mixing colors still results in the same basic image.  There is nothing unique about the finished result - the design, the image was predetermined.
  • If a single figure is considered a 'dot' then joining the dots produces a more random choreography and challenges transitional skills, but each picture will contain the same elements as only so many dots fit on a page - only so many figures can fit into one dance.

 

The dancer who 'needs' choreography to achieve a dance is not using his skills to create art, rather allowing the tools to dictate the art.

Improvisation

The improv' artist uses all elements of skill - with the exception of repeating the same sequence:  An artist sketches still life subjects to develop skills in recognizing and creating shapes, consideration of the light source, how shadows are caused, the point of infinity, perception, depth and focus.  The artist who creates from within (improvises) uses these elements of acquired skill but he does not need a subject.  The artist employs imagination, available tools and honed skills.
 
What triggers the imagination?  Music.  Familiarity with orchestral styles, rhythm, phrasing and nuances will trigger mood and offer recognizable opportunities.  Moreover, familiarity with the music provides a sense of security.  Recorded music never changes; the dancer can trust the tempo, the phrasing, the cadence and the pauses to always be there and that other tunes played by the same orchestra will offer the same style.  Leading a dance by an unknown composer or orchestra takes courage as there may be nuances that catch the leader off guard.  Variations of a tune by the same name are numerous and great and can be almost unrecognizable.
 
Acquiring skills takes time but gradually they can be implemented in a natural way without planning or preparation.  True improvisation happens in the moment; compelled by the senses to initiate and provoke the use of acquired dexterity to impart expression.

 

Tango Dancers

Learning a (foreign) language can be accomplished many ways; some of us might pick up a dictionary of useful phrases – just enough to get by for a couple of weeks in a foreign country, others may enroll in college classes to learn vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure and colloquial nuances.  There are people who learn by repetition and others who learn by comprehension, and of course, there are many variables.

Tango is a language – a body language – and it can also be approached in multiple ways.

  The Tango Tourist:

A dancer who learns useful phrases (possibly dozens of them) and strings them together, trying to fit them to the music but not always successfully.  The Tango Tourist struggles with improvisation.  The dance becomes a series of prepared, choreographed sequences or figures which may be danced in a variety of orders but which unavoidably hold an element of predictability.  The dance becomes repetitive and lacks luster but the opportunity for social interaction may be huge.

The Tango Fanatic:

A dancer who takes classes and workshops endlessly, jumping from one technique to another, without appreciating the different approaches: classical, traditional, modern or historic.  Nonetheless, the Tango Fanatic develops an enviably wide repertoire of moves and an eclectic style. Dancing with a Tango Fanatic might feel disjointed and can certainly be challenging.  The dancer lacks consistency but will have endless stories to tell from a wide variety of influences.

The Tango Aficionado: 

A dancer who studies the dance through a disciplined approach.  The first step is to learn the alphabet and form words.  Next is to establish a vocabulary from which to create sentences.  Sentence structure requires grammar and punctuation.  The Tango Aficionado can select words and create sentences, paragraphs and short novels that express individuality.  Patterns are improvised in the moment, express emotion in response to the music and may be forgotten instantly.  The dance is never repeated; it is executed with precision and style demonstrating skills of fluidity, form and honed technique while conveying a personal expression.

 

At Tango Fantástico the approach is to encourage expressive and fluid dancers who can create and improvise using the skills of practiced technique.

 

Issues:

A Tango Tourist can always repeat a phrase and pass it along to another.  They may not know the skills or technique that would improve it or provide an alternate ending but a general idea can be passed around.

A Tango Fanatic may be capable of selecting portions of different sequences and splicing them together.  Variety is the spice of life but unfortunately the dance may become disjointed.

A Tango Aficionado may be hard pressed to repeat a wonderful improvised sequence – the moment is gone, the feeling has passed and the reward lingers only a short time as a residual effect.

Who has the most fun?

It depends on the personalities involved.

This is why we must allow for all tango dancers to share the floor – each was inspired in a unique way and therefore they will be drawn to the features that so inspired them.  Some will evolve. 

Who is the best?

The maestros have all endured some form of discipline, structure and measured progression.  None has arrived at a revered position without extraordinary effort in developing individual technique and skills.  And though they may have long since transcended the grueling path to success, we need to respect that physical perfection takes a great deal of work and focus, and recognize that a maestro cannot impart what took years to acquire in one or two workshops.