Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Science of the Embrace

Social tango is a dance of touch. Social tango dancers need no visual cues. A recent research article on touch has made me rethink tango. There are a few things that I now realize. First, I realize (the obvious) that the tango embrace communicates emotion far more than most of us realize. And secondly, I am intrigued with how the researchers called the person touched the "decoder" and the one who touches, "the encoder."

Many dances seem clearly dance-dyads of "encoders" and "decoders" (leaders and followers), but if social tango is truly a dance of touch, lacking visual clues, then perhaps tango is NOT a dance of encoders and decoders. In tango we touch and are touched. Much research has been dedicated to voices and facial expressions to convey emotion. The "voice" of emotion is the music in music-centric improvisational dances like tango and west coast swing. There is no speaker/listener, leader/follower or encoder/decoder in touch. Touch is egalitarian. So perhaps I overstate that tango is a dance of touch, but if I am right, then we should pay more attention to how we truly communicate (both encode and decode) through touch.

I have the summary of the research below.  The scientists found that strangers merely touching a person on the arm can accurately convey complex emotions--even with no visual clues.*

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Endogenous or Exogenous Tango?

Chicho Frumboli and Roxana Suarez
Sybille, my wife, and I had this discussion at dinner on our balcony about a Parisian film maker, Roberto, whom we know.  Roberto has worked meticulously to put together the feeling of tango in  many short films of dancers at European encuentros.  He also films at some tango festivals, which unlike the smaller events, includes star performances and visually appealing moves of many of people which attend these events. Films of stars dancing may take only a few hours of editing to produce.  Roberto's preferred theme is filming about endogenous tango--the internal feeling of tango, his passion. He has a talent for showing how people share​ those hard-to-catch elements that surround tango beyond just the dance, beyond the flashy moves. He captures the embrace, smiles, requests to dance without words.