Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tango is NOT a conversation!

The leader speaks.  You listen.

"Just for a change, shut up and listen, okay?!"

"This is not a conversation.  It is a soliloquy.  I talk you listen, alright?"

Above, I am quoting the archetypal leader, La Música

She (La Música) is really tired of speaking and too many of the dancers not listening or thinking they are not allowed to listen because of their role.  La Música is really, really tired of it.  She'll calm down in a second.  She just having a Richard Wagner moment--a bit out of control.  At some
milongas La Música has to do some deep breathing for anger at nearly every cortina, and that may explain why the DJ plays the cortina for so long for Her.  That last tanda by Osvaldo Pugliese nearly brought her to tears. 

"Don't they hear my dear Osvaldo's dynamics?" La Música laments. 

"They do they do better with changes of the music's tempi when they are with their intimate partner in bed than on the dance floor!" she adds sarcastically.

Sometimes the divine Música cries for us, sometime She cries because of us.

Presently, much tango teaching seem to be two extremes.  On one hand there is the man leads and the woman must listen to Tarzan rather than the music primarily.  The other extreme is pretending as if tango were a conversation in which the woman* can respond to the man--kind of but not really.  Even in this liberalized version of lead/follow, the rol feminino is muzzled and forced to listen more to the body language of her partner than to the divine Voice,  La Música.  This in not a man's fault, either.  What are "leaders" supposed to say that women to which she should listen?   In the present and common teaching paradigm of endless phrases and sentences to memorize (steps), many teachers might try to teach "leaders" the exact sentence (step), which then the  "leader," in turn, must say to anyone who will listen!  [Thank God I was not born a woman!!!] With prerecorded sentences comes prerecorded listening.  So even if it were true, that men and women were having conversations on the dance floor, I am afraid that this analogy is nothing like the wonderful conversations I have had with others over a cup of coffee or in the street.  Tango is nothing like my real conversations.  Maybe yours?

Dance, and especially dancing alone or in tandem with a co-listener, is a non-verbal sculpting of emotions from the music's profound soliloquy.  Great teachers will teach you how to listen to the music and help you discipline your body to follow Her Voice.   The tango-class treadmill and money-press for counterfeit dancing is to learn a step and sentence and then spew it out no matter what the context.  No matter how beautiful the "sentence," without learning how the music leads us, what we have done is not touching our innate humanity.  Instead, we are at risk of becoming colorful tango parrots, which are indeed impressive, but parroting does not touch your latent dancer and wonderfully crafted music-driven-humanity.

This is a new century.  Shall we wait for the next one to consider that tango presents use with a psychologically profound concept--better yet--a spiritually profound concept, that both roles start with listening. The best listeners have touched the hem of the divine. That's the tango that keeps bringing me back for more--the divine kind.

Tango is a conversation in some ways, but the analogy is very problematic in tango.  Both Yin and Yang roles indeed are interchanging information but not anything like a conversation.  Both must listen to the music and how it affects each other's bodies and souls.  If we are listening to the Music and to our partner's reactions, wonderful things start to happen.   If either role is listening to the music but not feeling the other's emotional reaction, then in a sense we are dancing alone.   A grammatical way of understanding this is to imagine Music as the subject, and we, the dancers, are the object of the sentence:  "Music dances us"  (subject / verb/ object), not "we dance to the music."  In the second sentence (and the normal way of talking about the divine Voice) the Music is made out to be the indirect object.  But She is the SUBJECT!!!  

I know it feels good to say, "tango is a conversation," but is it really helping new dancers understand the magic?  Usually a soliloquy a dramatic conversation on stage that is meant for the audience of listeners. But if one sits in the audience and chats and comments and has a conversation with the person next to them, is that the "conversation" we are talking about in tango?  If we want to use the analogy of a conversation, consider how the word "intercourse" was a perfectly good word for "conversation" at one time.  Now it tends to mean sexual intercourse.  And look at how much more sexual expression rather than tango demonstrates a more parallel example of the give-and-take of a good conversation:  Speaking, listening, paying attention to each other.  Tango is magic, but I just think the conversation analogy is not doing much good for those who really want to understand what more experienced dancers are talking about.  If you are a beginner, you have every right to be confused with this analogy.  Tango dancers simply are chatting too much to each other and not listening to the soliloquy.

For many centuries we believed that the universe revolved around the earth.  Dancers still believe that we are the center of the music universe and that the rol feminino is the moon rotating around the "leader."  The center of the universe in not the earth, and the center of the universe of dance is not the rol masculino

Do you hear that?   La Música is calling in the other room.  Let's go!  She can lead us.  We'll both listen to her, and I will listen to how you hear Her soliloquy.

*The terms "woman" and "man" in tango are the only exception in my language use in which inclusive language is not acceptable.  I refuse to desexualize or neuter tango.  Too many little girls will grow up harmed by the psychological doors that are closed by exclusive language, such as "A student that graduates from our school can do most anything he wants."   However, no little girls are being harmed by the description of the man's role/woman's role in my blog.  Tango is the language of Yin and Yang dancing with each other.   (Yang is not male; male is part of the bigger idea of Yang.  Yin is much bigger than female animals upon the earth.  Westerners don't get this concept very easily.)  Tango is a dance of seduction.  I am not against women seducing women and men seducing men.  The Yin and Yang, male and female, marcando y seguiendo continue even if someone wants to avoid a sexual connection to tango. 

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