Tango Opinion

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 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.


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.