Tango Tools and Energy Flow

I've been trying to broaden my tango (technique) world. At the recommendation of friends and teachers online and off, I have been filling my tango tool box with musical embellishments, improving my technique for my boleos (high and low), sacadas, leg wraps, ganchos, and volcadas. I'm learning to give the energy I receive from my leader back, rather than almost absorbing it (or so it was explained to me) - so it feels a little like keeping the energy in the loop. I feel more elastic in my technique - though I'm sure there has to be a better way of describing it. At the milongas, I follow what I'm led, when there's room, including high boleos without my usual consternation. I've asked for help from teachers, watched videos, practiced, practiced, practiced.

One of the most revealing experiences I had at the last milonga was when I felt my partner "hear" a high boleo in the music. That's awkward isn't it - "I felt my partner hear" but how else can I describe it? I was turned with my back toward the wall - an empty space - so he led the boleo very big. I could feel the music, and his reaction to the music, almost coil around us and the sharp change of direction that led the boleo was like a bolt of lightening releasing the wound up tension. It was perfectly 'in the moment' of the music - the only boleo (or big move of any kind) of the tanda. It was exhilarating. Still, as beautiful and exciting as it was, and even though I followed it with all the energy he'd put in, it felt unnatural for me. Like I was playing dress-up for a minute in someone else's clothes. It felt perfectly natural in the music - not forced, just not natural for me. Maybe that's what all of this really comes down to. Some things/moves/techniques don't feel like me.

I want to feel natural at the milonga. Instead, I felt oddly conspicuous. Don't get me wrong, I did feel a bit accomplished, even graceful, but obvious. Out of the flow.

In my lessons and at practica I was really enjoying learning and practicing these great, dramatic moves. I thought that my excitement and enthusiasm would carry over into the milonga. I wondered if I would finally "get it". One of my teachers tells me that I consistently dance too small, too quiet - almost timid. I don't feel timid. Only my partners can speak to how timid I feel to them. But small and quiet keeps me in the flow where I want to be most. I can keep the energy flowing back and forth in other ways.
Karin of Joy in Motion, in her comment on my last post, made me think of things in those terms.
She wrote:
"The movement may slow or even "stop," but the energy doesn't go away. If anything it intensifies because now it's being contained in a smaller area. I think it's the same when it comes to withholding or making it smaller like what this post expressed. Especially when your partner is expecting something bigger or grander like what they normally get, doing it like this really surprises in the nicest way. Sometimes in conversation with another person you actually lower your voice instead of raising it to elicit more attentiveness and sensitivity. The truth is in the intersection/resolution of opposites."

As far as the embellishments go, the more I learn, the fewer I do lately. I've seen followers, especially in shows and demonstrations, tap out nearly every beat with their leader and it gets me wondering if there isn't an opportunity being missed. If my leader and I are both tapping out the rhythm - who is dancing the melody? I had been under the impression that, though there are no hard and fast rules in tango, the follower dances the melody. I like that feeling. That it takes both of us to express the completeness of the music. If we're both tapping out the beat - who is dancing the violins, for example?
Who is painting the silence?


Mark Word said...

Wonderful post. The higher boleo is only possible when you trust your leader not to do something unsafe. If you trust him, you do not have to know that the wall is behind you. Unfortunately some leaders not only are not watching but don't know their own strength in leading this dangerous move. A new partner for me is always an unknown for dangerous moves. Or how about a bad-day-at-work boleo from someone I know? Danger, danger! :-) Leading is always an art more than a science. Regarding melody/rhythm: Let me suggest something as a musician. Have you ever seen a conductor´s score? That is tango-to-the music--the score. You may notice that I have you on the rhythm and I am on the melody. But mostly more likely when I am dancing the bandoneón's melody, you should listen to the violins' or cello's counter melody, for example. There is a choice for you. Leading is not conducting. The MUSIC is conducting but we appear to be doing the conducting. The music always rules. Music causes dance, not dance, the music.

Mari said...

Mark - thank you for your insight. Regarding what you wrote about melody/rhythm - I've noticed that you alternate, depending on the music, what "instrument" you're on, and which one you're leading. Quite often however, the leader chooses for me (what instrument to lead me on, or rhythm vs. melody) and while I have some options for movement within that - depending on the partner, I am frequently limited. It can feel akin to being "marched", if that makes sense. Sometimes I can work within it and sometimes I can't. Thankfully it's pretty rare.

Anonymous said...

We dance who we are. Your intuition tells you that those embellishments are not natural for you. I feel the same way.

There are many who are happy to teach them to those who want to pay for them. They are really unnecessary for the social floor. With a steady diet of tango for exhibition, it is no surprise that so many want to consume it. Once you see that most dancers in BsAs milongas dance all night without one leg wrap, gancho or volcada.

Tango is a feeling that we feel inside. No one says we have to demonstrate our feeling for the music to others. Tango is between two. Our energy is shared only with a partner.

I wish you could have seen Antonio Cejas dancing last night in Lo de Celia. Your teacher would describe his dancing as quiet, but I call it pure tango with feeling. The woman in his arms enjoyed every moment.

Dancing tango is not about proving what you know or that you can dance. It is a secret between two that no one hears.

Anonymous said...

I really agree with Jantango.

Kirra said...

I have been told that embellishments are like jewelry you don't wear everything you own at once, just a few chosen pieces.
I have also heard that embellishments are like chatting; if you are quiet so are your moves. As Jan said, you dance who you are.
Maybe some nights you feel more chatty and other nights more introvert.
The leader leads the 'what' and the follows dance the 'how'.

Jacky said...

Jantango says exactly the felling of tango in the milonga with our partner, something very different from the practica. Of course we want to look nice but to see a couple really together in the dance is very beautiful and very rare in our milongas ( not BsAs of course).

Unknown said...

Mari, no one can tell us how we should feel. Either in life, or in tango.

David said...

There is something to be said for knowing who you are. While there's nothing wrong with big moves when there's room, it doesn't obligate you to do them. I'm one of those who actually think the low boleos look better than the high ones. To each their own, and embrace your own style.