22 January 2010

Dancing the silences and pauses

This is a follow-up to my post, "Navigation... Where it all comes together." In one of the comments, tangocherie had mentioned, "You are totally correct. But don't forget the pauses...dancing the silences. You don't have to keep up perpetual motion. Women love to pause." 

This caused me to remember one of the things my teacher taught me...

Mistaken impressions of "Perpetual motion"
When I was in my early tango days, I was under the (mistaken) impression that when you dance, you dance ALL THE TIME. Meaning, you were constantly stepping, stepping, stepping.

In retrospect, I looked like a hamster (the rodent) in a wheel. I kept going, and going, and going and buzzed around the floor. It must have been a "not so pleasant" tango experience for my partner. I apologize. I had no idea that, not only was it not good for my partner, but, it also did NOT look good. My first tango teacher called my attention...

"Stops are steps"
According to my first tango teacher, one should not barrel through the dance. I just did not get this concept. I REALLY thought that dancing meant constantly moving... like Disco.

I "Got it" when he said two things:

  • "You need to listen to the music. You move when it does, you stop when it does. Accelerate, and slow down to the flow and nuances of the music."
  • "Stops are steps." Pauses, hesitations, just not moving if appropriate count as steps
Realizing the significance, I went "Aha!" I've been doing that ever since. Of course, I've refined the technique over time.

Building tension for hesitations, stops, and pauses
First and foremost, I've learned to really listen to tango music. There are distinct silences and pauses interspersed in lots of tango music. 

Second, I've learned to build muscular tension smoothly to be in tune with the music. When the music starts to slow, I stiffen myself enough to smoothly interrupt what I was leading a split-second earlier. I do this for hesitations, stops or pauses. This gives my partner clear signals that tell her that we are changing pace. All she has to do is wait, then she knows what to follow. When we do come to a full stop, my tension releases—Like taking your foot off the car's break pedal. Which in turn is the signal for your partner that your about to move again.

Its a very, very subtle thing. Most especially when you dance in close embrace in a packed milonga. However, according to my partners, when I (occasionally) get it right, the lead for these hesitations, stops, and pauses are so clear. I've been told they like it.

An added bonus
Taking a second (or two) to hesitate, stop, and pause allows your partner the perfect opportunity to do adornos (a.k.a. embellishments) without disrupting the rhythm of the dance!

Moving is nice. Dancing the silences and the pauses are just as nice.

- – — – -

For illustrative purposes, I've included a clip of Jennifer Bratt and Ney Mello dancing to "Poema." Listen to the music, as there are very distinctive pauses and silences in this piece. Observe Ney as he hestates, slows, and stops to the changing rhythm of the music. Observe where and WHEN Jennifer does most of her adornos—During Ney's...

Note that this is a performance. His pauses will be readily apparent. Had this been in milonga, it would be very "Intensely silent."


Simba said...

I know what you mean (I think), but I don't think hesitation is a good word for it.

Hesitation, IMHO, has no place in good tango. Waiting, holding back and suspension, yes. Hesitation, no.

AmpsterTango said...

@ Simba: I think you know what I mean. I'm was just at a lack of terms to better explain it. Thank you for the alternative descriptions.

When I talk about hesitation, I'm not talking about a lead who will do something, then second guess, then change his mind. This is something a beginner would do.

(In this context) I'm talking about when someone will lead something, then deliberately slow the movement, resolutely, positively, then continue. Or, depending on the situation, shift to leading something (appropriately) different.

Outwardly, it looks like a hesitation. Inwardly (to the follower), it feels like there is no doubt whatsoever to what is being led.

Jean said...