Monday, August 6, 2012

The Body as Music Contest

How's this for a great contest?  The Body as Music contest.  Imagine trying to "hear" the music by just watching dancers.  Wouldn't that be a great contest?  This is what I think distinguishes this couple pictured above, Noelia Hurtado and Carlitos Espinoza.  La Música is in charge of what they do, allowing her to dance fully and for him to dance without hindrances of a woman who is waiting for the man to lead.  She is incredible with her keen ear to musical nuances, and he is the king of the tango walk in my estimation.

But back to my contest -- well, it's only an imaginary contest for now:
  • The contestants listen to ten favorite tangos as the first step. 
  • Each tango has about the same tempo but distinct characteristics.
  • The contestants have ten guesses before the end of the song!
These rules for a Body as Music contest would be nearly impossible for contestants to distinguish music danced to waltz, salsa, foxtrot, or chachachá.  But tango's improvisational nature and connection makes this contest possible.   At least that is my theory.

Who should we choose to show the visual examples?  There are many to chose from, but this idea came to me after watching Noelia Hurtado and Carlitos Espinoza in the below video.  Notice the connection!  What a rare thing to see in performance videos.  Most performance dancers open up the embrace and lose the nuances that full connection allows.

I wish I had known about this couple earlier.  They were in Meze, France not too far from me recently.  Want to see more?  Here they are earlier this year in my back yard:

Photo Credit at top.


  1. It's a fantastic idea. You should try an experiment in real life... :-)

    Noelia and Carlitos are really outstanding. I like them too.

  2. Hi Mark
    I have just watched Noelia & Carlitos. Clearly they dance beautifully. But they are not dancing to the music I hear being played as they dance. I find that a bizarre experience. Need I say more ?

    Bill in Oz

  3. I love the idea of a body as music contest. Of course, however, I don't (and can't) agree with your throwaway comment about close embrace. You can express the music and retain many beautiful nuances dancing salon as well as milonguero. Opening the embrace slightly for a walking giro will not instantly destroy your musicality -- and, of course, has to do with stylistic choices when you are dancing and has nothing to do with performance, necessarily. You have in the past posted videos of salon dancers precisely to demonstrate their wonderful musicality (Fabian Peralta and Lorena Ermocida; Sebastian Achaval and Roxana Suarez and Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes). Those who dance milonguero style don't have a monopoly on musicality or on subtlety or nuances.

  4. I agree with Terpsichoral that musicality and musical nuances do not have to be lost when the embrace is opened slightly. Dancers of that style can, should, and do train their technique to the point that they are able to make those adjustments to the embrace seamlessly so that their connection to the music and each other does not break. Of course where this training hasn't been done there is the potential for a loss of balance or comfort and therefore a break in being in the moment. But that's a issue of training and not proof of less musicality or nuance.

    I also disagree that you couldn't do the contest you are describing with salsa or any other dance. If you're talking about how it typically is danced, then you may have a point, but with skilled and musical dancers I believe you can tell the difference in most, if not all, dance genres.

    But I would love to see such a contest also!

  5. Bill: Your problem is quite simple. Sometimes the video is delayed because of your IP or other reasons. I am quite sure that once that is resolved, you will a remarkable exactness.

    Terpsi and Joy: I agree too, Joy, with Terpsi. Opening the embrace, especially in salón or even in a hands' only or two people paying attention each other with NO TOUCH AT ALL can be full of nuance. The Erdemsels bring me to tears when I watch their dancing with is very open. I originally wanted to include others; so I must have misspoken. Perhaps I wrote too quickly, due to trying to spend less time on my blog and more time with my teen son who is on summer break with me here in German. Joy, since I have to travel often an hour one way to a milonga, I have been dancing a lot of salsa, bachata, and merengue. Through tango's influences my salsa style has dramatically changed, which includes changes to half-time or even a moment of legato slow-motion, some stillness, paradas and many exact follows to horn-lines or percussion interludes. During the moña section or improvisation latin-jazz vamps, we dance close without any touching. I would hope that these moments would give clues to what song is being played. However, improvisational dance that gives honor to the music is rare. I would easily challenge you to find step-pattern dances that truly give you clear clues of what music is being played unless it has been carefully choreographed. The contest suggested in this post would be hard enough but pattern dances would make this not impossible but very hard for the contestants! These dance lean heavily on pulses. Tango is too often a "pulse dance" even with the best dancers when forced they break away from something that has been choreographed. But wouldn't you agree that best of improvisational tangueros/-as allow multiple improvisational opportunities with interplay between the pulse? Like other latin dances, often tango is not the music but created by it. I once danced the son clave with live musicians. The bassist said he had never seen that, and wondered why he hadn't, since the clave is the center of nearly every latin dance. Don't you cherish tango because it combines the pulse, the melody, accompaniment instrumentation, acknowledges at time the tango clave (1**4**7*) or in some case, such as Pugliesse and others (*2**5**8), and even allows a type of rhythmic "harmonization" by having two different representations going on at the same time. But other partner dances such as the waltz (forward-side-together-back-side-together)or foxtrot, east-coast swing (step-step-quick-quick), or any other pattern dance that relies on the pulse so much, would make it difficult for contestants to identify the music. Perhaps I am wrong. But that is my theory, and until we actually try such a contest, I stand by my intuition on this. -- Thanks for challenging me on this. Of course my opinionated proclivities will always continue to get me into trouble. Therefore, I must reserve the right to be totally wrong! :-)


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