Dancer's Musicality - Contrast

January 21, 2018

A tango dancer has a limited but beautiful palette to draw from in order to dance musically. For example, to step on the strong beat or not is a musical choice. Let’s say I prefer to step out on the second strong beat of a phrase instead of the first beat. The choices dancers make affect the feeling of the dance, and when you feel the association between feelings and movement, you start to favor some choices over others. (Do not lose sight of the fact that technical development and figurative possibilities are in the service of feelings! And it is your feelings that connect to the music.)

 

Contrast: The first contrast to explore is the feeling of a pause as compared to the feeling of movement. Dancers who step on every beat overlook this contrast and turn a tango into a march. Pauses have a special feeling. And they can have many qualities: In a pause the feet can be still and the upper bodies still as well. Or the feet can be still and the upper bodies sway or make small partial rotations. Or his feet are still and hers are marking the music. Or her feet are still and locked and his are marking or transferring.

 

A second contrast is the speed of one’s movement: there are quick steps, slow steps, slower than slow steps. The couple may take these together or independently. The different speed of one’s transfers (the transfer from one foot to the other) express the music differently, or accent different aspects of the music.

 

A third contrast is between long and short steps. If you take the same time to take a long step as you do to take a short one, the short one feels slower, simply because you travel less.

 

And a fourth contrast is whether you travel straight ahead or go around in a circle. Staying in place or traveling forward in the line of dance is determined by floor conditions. No couple should get stuck not moving forward in the line of dance, nor should a couple let too much space stretch out between them and the couple in front. These are floor craft challenges. But turning versus traveling straight ahead have different qualities and feelings and have to do with the dancer's musicality. They connect with the music differently. A turn is more lyrical, in general, and the walk is deeper and sets the mood for the groove. And the grove invites rocking: the rhythmical movement forwards and backwards or side to side with up and down. 

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