28 July 2011

The music dictates...

A few years ago, I always wondered, that after years of learning technique I found my tango still wanting. My dances ended with a feeling of "Coldness." I looked and searched for the reason. I found it in the most ubiquitous and permeating elements of tango... The Music

A boring dancer was I
I had a vast repertoire of steps and patterns. I knew how to lead. I knew where to place my weight, I knew where her weight was. I was not lacking of things to do. Despite all of this, I could not get over the feeling that when the tanda was over, I was not fulfilled. Because, I did not see my partners totally happy. It looked as though they had just finished a very long tedious activity. It dawned on me—Despite of what I thought of good technique, I was monotonously boring!

Being a former ballroom dancer, we went through drills and exercises to the point that we could do dance moves without the music. The thinking was that we could dance to anything. To a non-ballroom dancer, this would seem a bit absurd. But, In ballroom dancing's defense, a lot of it has to do with technical perfection. This was a training technique to be ultimately competitive.

A total change in perspective
In order to make my dancing more "enjoyable," I did a data-dump of my previous learning techniques. I changed my perspective to focus on tango,  and just tango.

I embraced the techniques native to tango, it's dynamics, it's nuances. I listened to the music. I got over the Tango technique part quite well with lots of patience and perseverance. The music however, was a different problem to handle. I couldn't get over the "Old" feel of the music, no percussion, sometimes, the singing voice I found distracting. I kept at it as I accepted the fact that if I need to be proficient in tango, I need to appreciate tango music to dance to it.

My tango music epiphany
This was a major turning point for me.

Despite my self-confidence in leading and passable tango technique, I still felt like I wasn't dancing. Rather, I was simply "shuffling" across the milonga floor. One day, I found the answer. I internalized the music! It made a world of difference. Allow me to explain...

The music dictates
The answer was simple. As I danced, I listened to the music and channeled the mood of the music through my dance. So, if the music was slow, I dance slow. If I the music was fast, I danced fast. If the music changed pace, so did I. It if were an intense piece, say, a Pugliese, my tango was intense and passionate. If the music was sweet, like Canaro's Poema, my dancing reflected the loving embrace for my partner—I matched my mood and movement to the music.

-  -  -

I've found my tango now to be much improved. After this small improvement, I no longer leave my partners with a glazed look. They leave me with a smile, and my heart sings.



cassiel said...

A very nice post! Yes, you are right! Tango lives from the music. Therefore it's nearly impossible to understand DJs playing non-tango music.

Kind regards form Germany

Anonymous said...

Thank You. What a good description of how learning to internalise and move without thought to tango dance music can give something beyond words, linking you with others that feel the same.

Limerick Tango said...

Added to my list of posts to read before you d...

Elizabeth Brinton said...

Great post!
But you have never once been "tedious" to dance with, being a person who is always learning, open to more, and very into the music and the moment. Thanks for this one, destined to be a classic.

AmpsterTango said...

@ cassiel, anonymous, Limerick Tango, Elizabeth: I thank you very much, and I'm honored.

Manuel said...

I really do agree that expressing and feeling the music together is one of the ultimate goals in tango. On the other hand, getting there is so much easier after learning all these technicalities, as long as it doesn't distract you from this goal. I believe it's been time wisely spent.


PS: I made a website on technique, structure and analysis, please feel free to comment or criticize.

It's here:

Manuel said...

Now clickable: http://users.skynet.be/fa550465/

Chris said...

"Tango lives from the music. Therefore it's nearly impossible to understand DJs playing non-tango music."

Cassiel, every tango DJ I have heard in Buenos Aires and milongas worldwide plays non-tango mixed with tango. This is no impediment to dancing tango... or to dancing any of the other musics played.