Jan 12

to the abyss I say!

Cave_bing_abyss_1920x1200Recently in a conversation with a lady about musicality I described one quality that more mature leaders look for in followers. I described it as “I’d like her to follow me even if I was heading to an abyss”.

This vision originates from one of the most remarkable things I witnessed in the dance floors in Buenos Aires. Individuality and musicality are very tied and it was an amazing sight to witness dancers that had a distinctive, unique and coherent musicality. Don’t get me wrong, anyone can have a very distinct and unique way of moving. All beginners do in fact. But in order for it to make sense and present itself as artful event it needs to be rooted on solid musical grounds and make sense as a whole.

A dancer’s musicality needs to be built and nourished with creative elements upon solid building blocks. It is the life long arduous work of a creative dancer to constantly keep tuning these elements. Some times a re-thinking of some groundwork is in place, to revisit what we learned in our first classes. Other times we strive for refining tiny details that for some reason we believe are deeply important.

All these changes will reflect itself on fundamental approaches to the whole dance. Changes in the groundwork of our musicality building may change a milonga approach radically. We may shift from a more straightforward stepping on most beats to a seemingly less comprehensible way of moving like emphasizing instruments or global mood of the song. Higher level tweaking manifest themselves in how one swings rhythmically just like a jazz musician swings through a melody. As one matures these things keep driving us towards a higher understanding of the dance and music.

Now, how to bring this back to the milonga dance floor? Nothing makes sense except in the light of our connection to our lady. One can go about doing what one wants somehow disregarding our partner. Apparently that is fine for a lot of people but that is another post altogether. So we must adapt, concede and encourage musicality. Throughout our life on the dance floor we will find women that are at different stages of musicality. Reactions will range from pleased (and sometimes impressed!) to downright disconcerted when presented with less fashionable common approaches as far as musicality goes. As one grows as a dancer, it is part of our developing social interaction repertoire to be able to handle and cope with this diversity. It is also very important to remain humble and understand that we are simply exposing someone to our current state of development.

On some glorious days we will find a lady that understands us and appreciates it. A thrilling experience I cannot emphasize enough! These tandas will make all of our efforts and musical growth seem worthwhile and provide stamina for subsequent pursuits in this elusive goal. On most days, we will not. And that’s when we want the lady to follow us to an abyss. Because this involves ignoring their pre-conceived ideas of musicality and take a leap of faith into someone else’s world.

These abyss goers don’t understand it yet but they are performing a much harder task than the more musicality mature ladies. They are shutting off their clinical brains and just dancing. Just dancing. Blissful dancing.

Jan 11

Nice vals

Frank and Jenny were mentioned in TangoBora’s blog entry. I found this vals that I absolutely love by them.

Aug 10

Let yourself be surprised

As I am getting mentally ready for a weekend full of dancing – can’t say I’m physically ready – I’m inclined to share something that has been in my mind for a while now. It’s a bit long for nowadays’ 30 seconds post standard but it just might be worthwhile. It was definitely worthwhile for me to get it off my mind! Let me know what you think.

I’ve recently started to experience a trend with some of my favorite followers. They do the same mickey mouse moves on certain parts of some songs, over and over. Sometimes they do the exact same little spiel every time we dance to the same song.

I believe this is born out dancing repeatedly to the same songs with leaders that end up doing the same thing they see people do in their scene. Unfortunately, they all end up with the same rhythmic interpretation, if not the exact same steps, syncopated in the same exact way. It gets boring.

This poses two problems for a leader 1) he has a hard time getting away with something different, quiçá, more surprising and tasteful 2) he feels he has to do what they’re expecting him to do thus avoiding the ignorant/not being a cool kid vibe.

The first point is more close to my heart as I believe it can really start to stifle creativity. Early on the dancing career it’s ok one thinks – “she can do her spiel as she really enjoys it” – but after a while it becomes annoying. My mind goes something like this: “I’ve done what you’re expecting me to do lots and lots of times before so can we try something different this time? Trust me, we can even enjoy ourselves just listening to it while pausing. You know what, we are going to be the cool kids because we’ll be different than anyone else!”. You’d be surprised as to how hard it can be just to pause sometimes. It is even harder to explore together new rhythmic interpretations.

As to avoiding the feeling of not being a cool kid it only comes with time and a friendlier community. Normally friendly goes alongside with knowledge, let us remind ourselves. The leader will have normally two reactions from the ladies. The condescending “oh, that’s cute” or the “oh, he’s trying something different, let’s check it out, I may actually like it and broaden my interpretation possibilities (followers do interpret the songs too)”. I know the one I like more.

To this date only one teacher has emphasized the idea of exploring the limits of music interpretation. He had us to try not dancing to the beat at all. It’s not straightforward specially if you’re musically inclined, or so I realized. It was obviously an exercise but one that has a lot of benefits and practical applications. Subtle interpretations of the dance can come out of it so try it out. It’s an extreme but you can slowly then start going towards the beat.

Apr 10

As close as it gets

I’m still alive, thinking and living tango. But writing less. Dancing a bit less too, but alas, life gets in the way. I have been out socially a bit less than what I used to and having less flavorful nights when I do. Some politics to deal with and a busy life have kept me from fully enjoying some nights.

I don’t really have much to say so I will share with you two videos from Fabian Peralta and Virginia Pandolfi. These are recent videos shot at Salon Canning, earlier in the year.

I find their interpretation very close to the music. This is the current trend except for older milongueros it seems. And maybe Melina and Detlef. 🙂

Anyway, here’s hope that one day I can be as close to the music so that I can then detach from it.

Apr 10

Still no replies

My tango vals question still has to deserve an answer from anyone. Feel free to say it’s a stupid question. But be nice about it.

Mar 10

This is my kind of Tango

Ask every Jazz musician how they learned and they’ll tell you: from listening to records. It’s all there a lot of them will say. I feel a lot of that has happened in my tango journey. A lot of times you need to watch a lot to realize what’s happening, just like a jazz musician will only figure out why someone solo’ed using a certain scale or something in between after they themselves have toyed with that idea.

Make no mistake: All improvisational art stems from the shoulders of others. The most admired artists have themselves the utmost respect for their predecessors because in some ways they owe their brilliance to them.

This video brings me back to what I feel is my kind of tango. Deeply connected to the music, the moment and your partner. That embrace couldn’t give a damn about the proper posture and he couldn’t care less about anyone in that room during that moment. That’s what I love when I get in the zone. I just do what I need to do to pour the music out of my body, I don’t care about being judged by qualities or interpretation.

In five years I’ll still be learning from this video which probably can’t be said for a lot of other videos out there. Sorry for the outburst but I’ve just watched a lot of boring tango in the last days…

Mar 10

Musicality classes

I think I’ve figured out why I rarely get anything out of musicality classes: They’re not usually taught by people that truly have learned, studied and practiced music.

Understanding music and contextualizing tango music is fundamental to teach about the music itself. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of young teachers out there that are fanatic to the point that they have not (yet?) danced anything else in their life and do not know much more music besides tango. This makes their teachings lack perspective and thus, failing to reach the entire class/audience.

Next time you go to a musicality class, make sure you’re not going to a “let me show you what move/steps I do when this type of stuff comes up in music“. The good news is that it’s very easy to realize when you are at either situation.

Musicality development is inherently personal and everyone needs to go through the individual process themselves. What a teacher should be able to give you are the tools for that. Not just share the end result, ie, a step/move, with you.

Mar 10

Vals on 2

Does anyone dance Vals on 2? I mean, emphasis on the second beat as opposed to the first as it is normally danced to.

Is it a practice exercise you do?

Does it feel good at all to followers?

Jan 10

Unexpected musicality

I danced slightly different on one or two songs yesterday. Somehow, my milonga was not anymore based on a more typical/canonical phrasing that normally starts and ends on the beat, albeit syncopated, but it was now spanning measures in a less obvious way. I realized it at a point – boy, my face must have look really apprehensive – but just as it appeared in my dance it somehow disappeared soon after.

This is interesting to me because it means my dance is not dying but somehow evolving. It made me very happy, indeed, made my night. Well, that and also the fact that those tandas were danced with someone that I haven’t danced with in a long time. She was amazing to dance with.

On the other hand, and making it even more interesting, is that it captivates my inquisitive mind of how novelty in musical interpretation appears and develops. A lot of people learn other’s musicality or learn the basics of developing musicality, but this is a bit different. This is the real-time observation of how one’s mind develops over time. Fascinating.

Nov 08

peer pressure

No matter how much you know that you shouldn’t be affected, sharing a dance floor with people doing beautiful open moves can be tough. Yes, we want to think that is all about musicality, small and beautiful. But it still gets to you. And you want to be able to do it.

Maybe to not do it so much afterwards?