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Posts from the ‘Musicality’ Category


Knowing your music

While Pugliese has been my favourite for many years, from time to time I have felt inadequate in doing justice to the beautiful music and hesitate to ask people to dance when a tanda comes up. These days, I like to recall the words (paraphrased) of two teachers I took classes in the past whenever I dance to Pugliese and, of course, feel “free”!

Ney Melo: “Stay put until you can feel the music ‘bursting’ through and the sensation to take a step becomes overwhelming…”

Hsueh-tze Lee: “Play with the melody and slide into the next position instead of doing it in a hurry.”

Here’s an excellent example of dancing to Pugliese from the recently concluded Seoul Tango Festival. Not a dramatic piece like La Yumba, or Gallo Ciego, and with very simple (well, relatively speaking… 🙂 ) footwork but for me the most beautiful part is the mutual inter-play with the music. Need I say more!


Music and dance style

Locally, there seems to be a common misconception among many beginners and some who has been dancing for a number of years that certain types music can only be danced in a particular way. For example, one misconception is that Golden Age classics can only be danced using a close embrace. On the other hand, one can only dance tango Nuevo, as championed by Chicho, Naveria, etc., to electronic music from, e.g., Gotan Project, Otro Aires, or other contemporary music collectively known as Neo-tango (or simply as Alternative).

However, a quick search through Youtube reveals many fine examples from Chicho, and (two of my favourites) Pablo Rodriguez and Ezequiel Farfaro dancing fantastically and musically to music of “oldies” such as Canaro, Biagi, Di Sarli and D’Arienzo. Here are some examples to illustrate my point. In fact I personally find their performances to classics much more impressive than when dancing to some new-age music… It all boils down to how we are able to interpret the music using the vocabulary at our disposal, and in a way that will not disturb the line of dance (for social dancing).

Chicho dancing a D’Agostino (once the camera stops moving…).

Chicho dancing a Di Sarli.

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Musicality: when?

This is a rather long-overdue response to a question posed by Kim Soon here, where it was asked

“at which time should the concept of musicality be introduced/emphasised and worked on?”

In the following, I will attempt to answer it mainly from the leader’s perspective.

Firstly, I have to say that since I generally try to stick to the KISS principle – think Occam’s Razor – so I prefer to think of musicality as meaning simply “to be able to dance to the music”. Now, in order to do this, there are two major components, in roughly progressive order of difficulty:

  1. The structure: beat, rhythm (timing/duration), pauses, energy, the undertones/overtones expressed by the various instruments, etc.
  2. The emotional content: melody, energy, how it resonates with you as a dancer?

Note that this list goes much beyond than being able to name the orchestras and make broad generalisations about their styles, which is what is commonly taught when discussing musicality.

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Driving beat

A few days ago, in my attempt to describe my subjective feeling towards the driving beat of some typical orchestras (for the identification of these orchestras), I came up with the following (in my opinion) simple descriptions. No doubt, the purists may baulk at these over-generalisations, but I like them anyway. 🙂

  • Biagi, Roldolfo: head-on collision with a sledge hammer – in a nice way (eg. Golgota, El Recodo, Racing Club).
  • D’Arienzo, Juan: light taps on shoulder (e.g. Pensalo Bien, El Flete).
  • Pugliese, Osvaldo: ocean waves building, building until they become irresistible (here I am thinking more of the La Yumba, Gallo Ciego type of feeling, not so much Recuerdo, etc.).
  • Troilo, Anibal: punched by nails (as in hammer and nails), sometimes difficult to work out where the pain is, sometimes itchy…