Tag Archives: dance to share

Tango: Press Play!

In our last post we worked on the cliche phrase “Tango Chooses You” and we came up with as an alternative “Tango Made Fun!
And we did that under the premise that the element of “play” is very important to growth and learning.
So how do we introduce more play in our classes and practices?

What is play? 

First, let’s see, when we say “play” what do we mean? 

Play does not mean mindlessly, randomly moving around without any care or thought.
Also, play does not automatically mean something silly, or something of no importance. 

So play actually happens under a theme and it requires us to feel safe in order to engage with the unknown and explore.

Let me give you an example, remember when you were kids and you would go on the slide. The first couple of times, maybe you were scared, maybe you needed to see your mom waiting for you at the bottom of the slide. Once you got the hang of it though, you could slide down on your own. And after that you started really engaging with it, and you would climb up slide, or slide laying down or head first. (haha).
That was you feeling safe enough to start playing; exploring speed, gravity, climbing, taking a risk and of course sliding. 

There is a lot of fun in all this but there is also a lot of learning, even when we get hurt!

Play in dance, can have the same effect on adults. If it is done right for us to engage in play, then it can really boost our learning but most importantly it can teach us a lot more than just dance.

How do we incorporate play in our classes/ practices?

If you have taken my online classes you will have noticed that there is a theme, and there are exercises or better said explorations that a lot of times do not have any strict rules to them. 
So if we look at our video exploring the embrace around min. 31, we start with low tone gentle movement of the hands and then expand that to the whole body. The task was to keep the movement low tone, the rest was up to you to determine; how you want to move, what part of the body, to what extent etc.

Another way to create this safe environment for people to explore, is to speak to our collective memory. Like our reach for an apple exercise (min 47), that we used to explore the connection between the posture of extension and taking a step. Reaching for food, an apple in this case, is a primitive memory. We, humans all share that. Even if it is inhibited due to other habits, it is available to us and after a few reps it will come effortlessly. Allowing us in this way to establish a comfortable/ safe base from which we can explore further. From there, we can slow it down or make it faster. Or maybe we exaggerate it, make it big or exactly the opposite, make it slow. You can play with it after a certain point, and observe and capture what each option you play reveals to you.

Notice how this is all very attainable. Though we are dealing with complex matters, we are starting from concepts and movements that are very attainable. That is key! Being able to establish a base that you feel comfortable and safe with, before you start playing, adding, twisting, adjusting.

Knowing the end!

Last little piece, but with great significance, is to know when it is the right time to stop the activity.
Think again back to your childhood, when you had had enough of the slide, you would just go to the swings and then after a while come back to the slide.
Nobody, would tell you “Oh no! You sliding is not perfect, you have to keep practicing!” That would have been ridiculous.
Well the same applies here. 

It is a very subtle feeling. I will try to describe it based on how I have experienced it, so please don’t try to follow this as a recipe.
When you feel that you are at the peak of enjoyment. There is no more excitement but there is tremendous sweetness in the activity. That for me is the perfect time to start making an exit. Gradually of course; maybe I will have another dance or two but I am mentally preparing to end the exploration.

You are balancing with overwhelm and frustration here. So on one hand you don’t want to leave when you are still excited for more and on the other hand you don’t want to push yourself too much.
Find this moment for yourselves and you will know when it is time to leave any situation actually. You have gotten all that you needed, you have shared all that you could; so it is time to call it a day..!
And remember, there is always tomorrow.

Keep on dancing 

Dance to share our humanity

Dance, is probably not one of those things your financial advisor would list as something necessary. And generally Art does not appear high in the charts of things we need to survive. And yet history, but also experience, teaches us otherwise. Art brings us close together, allows us to form communities and to identify all as one, strong human nation. And that is very powerful, once we find the courage and grab the opportunity to share our humanity.

Dance to share

All types of dances and all types of art forms have this power, to bring people together. This is why, for example, juntas in the past would burn books, prevent songs from getting produced, ban theatre productions, even stop people from simply getting together for a celebration.

Especially though the forms of art that relate to folk traditions, and Tango is a great example of that, seem to be even stronger because they are created by more people, they are accessible to more people and generally involve more people. And dance itself being a language that involves the body, gives us the opportunity to communicate and relate to one another in a much more direct way, if of course we don’t get lost in translation.

The question though is what exactly do we share? And this, has been a question that I have asked myself many times, because I think it has a lot of layers to it and the answer changes as I grow, in age and in dance.

So at first I was thinking like a special snowflake, that my dance should be showing MY perspective, MY view of Tango, of dance, of the world. (nothing wrong with that by the way)
As time went by though, I noticed that the above grow smaller, along with the need to prove myself. And I was more interested in sharing the moment.
Sharing the moment, though, means coming in to listen and to respond; building a conversation. This conversation will be painted in the colours me and my partner bring in with us. Colours of experience, of memory and of the senses. Colours that we may not even be aware of. And we trust each other, to receive those colours with care. And this is how art grows.

When presenting to an audience, either in performance or in a class, I share my colours with the audience or the students, along with colours I have managed to absorb from predecessors of the art I am representing and the art I am bringing with me. And then that group of people will need to match me with their colours. As I trust them, they need to trust me and their partners. And this is how art grows.

What does it mean to share?

So what does it mean to share? It means to trust and to be vulnerable. Inevitably if you wish for a dance form not to feel foreign to you, you need to be ready to trust and therefore create this fine balance between being vulnerable and setting expectations for your audience, your students, your teachers, your partners. Because if you don’t have expectations from them what are you trusting them with?

And the level of expectation is built along with the trust and grows along with the sharing. “Sharing means caring” as they say. It is a cliche but you know what, cliches are cliches for a reason. Any dance, any art form received with care can become universal, can move the whole world. And it all happens through us, through me and you.

How we get to share?

Well, the first obvious choice, for those of us in dance, is of course to dance. And in more general terms, to participate in the reproduction or the spreading of the art form we are involved in.

But there is also another element. The element known, in the circles of Somatic Dance and Body Mind Centering, as holding the space for our partners. In Tango this happens in the classes when you hold the space for your teacher or your partner to keep exploring certain elements with you.

But also it happens in the milonga. And maybe you have heard many teachers say this, that Tango is not just the steps or the specific patterns; Tango is the music, the history, the community, everything. Tango grows and flourishes in milongas only if the people present, hold the space for it to grow.

Only if the people present are not there, just to do intricate steps on the music, but to be with the music, in their community, being there for their partners on and off the dance floor. When we are not dancing, we are not wasting time, for Tango to grow in our communities we need to hold the space.

The importance of dance and art in general in our lives

Can we live without art? Sure I guess we can. But it would be dreadful and lonely life.

Some people who have been to Buenos Aires, have experienced this holding of the space in some milongas. They come back and are trying to explain how it was magical but they just can’t find the right words. And the truth is, it is not easy to explain the feeling. But if I had to, I would say, it feels secure, grand, and full of possibilities. Possibilities though, that don’t feel out of reach. No, on the contrary they feel so close to you because you have the whole community backing you up. Magical!

So, I have changed my mind… no! we can’t live without art. It would mean forgetting we are human.

What do you think?