Tango has sometimes been described as a “private conversation between two people”. But if we cut through the proverbial hyperbole, what does it mean exactly? Is it just leading/following: “I speak, you listen?” By the way, from what I can see, even when people may disagree in principle to the last statement, they are ultimately betrayed by how they dance.
However, I believe that there can be a more literal interpretation to the “private conversation” question. In November, I was very privileged to attend a class on musicality where we looked at phrasing in Tango. Without going into the technicalities of music – which I am not qualified to discuss in detail in any case – I now think of dancing to the music (from leader’s point of view) as being quite similar to “punctuations” in my movements. That is, there are occasions where I complete a sentence, pause and take a breath, before starting the next sentence, and there are times where I increase the “volume” to emphasize a point, etc. Subsequently I think leaders and followers can both become more attuned to the music they are dancing to, as well as being less hurried in all movements – just like when we are having a friendly chat, no?
Incidentally, there are indeed specific techniques (ps. I am NOT talking about embellishments or adornos) for the follower to express her “voice”, in response to a leader’s intention, but that is something which I will elaborate in future.
“La Tapera” by Donato orchestra is one of my favourite Vals at the moment, as danced by one of the most musical dancers in the current generation of maestros. The calm seen in the first 40 seconds of the clip and around the 1:10 mark followed by the subsequent “explosion” is simply marvellous!
Recently some followers questioned the value of taking classes on musicality. To me this was rather strange, which I can only put down to having experienced bad teaching in the past. In my opinion, musicality goes way beyond recognising the stereotypical generalisations for each of the major orchestras, e.g. Pugliese is only represented by his La Yumba beat, D’Arienzo means only the ric-tic-tic marching rhythm and Fresedo means always a certain romantic silkiness. Musicality in a technical sense is more to do with how we can recognise the phrasing in the music, the syncopations, the change from rhythmic to melodic, just to name a few. Ultimately, it allows us – leaders and followers – to transform a series of steps into a moving dance.
So, is there any point for a follower to learn and understand musicality?
The recent intensive workshops organized by IXI Danza, first with Hsueh-tze Lee in March and, more recently, with Javier Rodriguez and Andrea Missé in May have opened my eyes to many new and exciting possibilities.
I will try to share some of my thoughts on dancing to the beat from a leader’s perspective this time.