Sunday, September 21, 2014

Musicality Paxis: Be the "Conductor"

In the last post, I suggested an "equation" for better musicality for dancers:  E=MC2.  In today's post, I will suggest a practical way to bring musicality to light in your dance.

If you did not read the last post, I am challenging what dancers call "musicality"; so it may not be what you think you already learned in a so-called "advanced" dance class.  So I will say it again:

Musicality is NOT stepping or tapping or moving perfectly to something in the music. Knowing the music is not musicality at all.  The term was invented by musicians for musicians who technically "know the music" but are not truly musical.  Musicality is something one can learn, but one must discard the notion that "knowing the music" is the music.

Musicality is the art of expressing emotions through melody, harmony and rhythm.  In tango as a dance, it is the art and aesthetic in a tandem, improvised dance.  Musicality is often accomplished by doing less.  In jazz Count Basie was known for "playing less" and creating more. Troilo is my hero in tango for doing the same.

So even if the dancers find perfect steps to go along with a wonderfully musical solo from Troilo, for example, they may have done better to have done nothing but a beautiful balance or expectant embrace at that moment.  Often the art behind musicality is knowing what to leave out.

In the example below, notice how Troilo draws emotion out of every note for his main solo, starting shortly after the 1-minute mark.  Notice how the orchestra pulls with him and how the orchestra has already set the stage for one of the most remarkable solos in all of tango's repertoire.

If you country blocks the above YouTube video clip, then click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Do NOT do this in public

In the privacy of your own home, try playing Quejas de Bandonén three times and conduct it in your own way.  The first time a band has a new, unknown piece the conductor often focuses on conducting the pulse, attempting to keep the band together. So do that first.  Eventually the conductor insists on the musicality of the piece.  Dancers need to do what conductors do.  They do not conduct every section at the same time, and dancers need to artfully limit what part of the music they are focusing on.  It should NOT always be the most obvious thing, like the melody.  In a symphony orchestra, the conductor may be concentrating on the string section, while allowing the oboe to execute a wonderful melody. The string section's wonderful swelling and diminishing volume (crescendo / decrescendo) with the solo in the foreground.  The melody may have had many notes, but we needn't try to step to them.  The oboe or anyone with the melody often stretches the timing and uses dynamics in order to express their musicality, the emotion, of the piece.

Musicality returns to the emotions that created the music.  The orchestra does not need you to be only an animated rhythm machine; so focus on the counter melodies too, allowing the melodies to be executed with freedom.  As you get to know the music better, now try to minimize all of what you have conducted in the first few tries of conducting to the music.  Instead, "motivate" the melodies with your direction.

The finale:
This is extra credit beyond the three times mentioned above.  Now try conducting the way you dance--without using your arms--the way Troilo conducts!!!  Sit down and dance with your emotions.  Close your eyes, as he often did, and pay attention to different elements in the music.  And this time notice the importance of precision at times in musicality.  During the variacion at the very end, you can experience the musicality of precision, when the tempo stays steady while all the bandoneones are defying the motoric limitations of what fingers are normally able to do.  Should dancers also be very precise during the variación?  Yes!

Now you are ready to go dance with these emotions, with precision and artfully choosing the section you wish to "conduct."  My next post:  The praxis of musicality by building "the structure" of musicality in a single tanda.  See you soon?

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