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Sunday, 3 February 2008

Two angles on the tanda

… a dancer’s perspective

Before I even consider dancing a tanda, the music needs to ‘grab’ me, because if I can’t connect with it emotionally, I certainly won’t connect with it on the dance-floor with my partner. The nature of the tanda will also govern how I dance – the figures I lead, how much I dance to the down-beat as opposed to other lyrical aspects of the music (usually the violin or the singer), how I employ pauses, etc.

For my partner, the first tango will be her time to discover how I dance to this style of music – how I lead & vary figures that she’s familiar with (anticipation is the ‘killer’ of improvisation), how much time I tend to give to pauses (hence if & how she’ll decorate), the level of energy going into my leads (hence the speed of her pivots, etc). It’s also my time to determine her responses to my leads, rhythms, & energy. It’s therefore not surprising if the first tango lacks some fluidity, but there’s every reason why the remaining tangos can reach a high level of connection such that we are moving together in response to the music we are hearing, and to each other.

The cortina signals that we should go our separate ways (after I have escorted her back to her table, of course) because the music in the next tanda will be different and the whole process can start again. After all, my responses to tangos from Di Sarli, D’Arienzo, Rodriguez, and Pugliese will all be different, and the same will apply to valses from Caló as opposed to Biagi, and milongas from Canaro as opposed to D’Agostino. But that’s part of what makes tango the seductive challenge that it is.


… a DJ’s perspective

There is a range of views on the best way to compose a danceable and satisfying tanda. Well, one thing’s for sure: a haphazard collection of tangos, even from the same orquesta, does not a tanda make! At the other extreme, some DJs go to the extent of considering the beats per minute of each song when making their selections. For me, the selections are based on the feel of the music (eg. predominantly lyrical, rhythmic) and the emotional response that each piece of music evokes.

The first song of the tanda should, in my opinion, generally be a call to the dance. With the subsequent 2 - 3 songs somewhat consistent in their flavour, but not so similar that boredom sets in. On the other hand, a degree of coherence means that having liked the sound of the first piece and therefore got up to dance, dancers will not be disappointed with the rest of the tanda. I love concluding a tanda with something really memorable – a mini finale, of sorts.

Next tanda?
A different emotional response will be created. Does the energy of the dance-floor need to be raised or lowered? Are the dancers sufficiently primed for music of greater intensity and complexity? What does my DJ’s intuition tell me?

If you’re interested in the role which music plays in the brain, you will find Musicophilia, by Oliver Sacks, riveting. He was recently interviewed on ABC radio


Tanda — A set of dance music, usually three to five songs, of the same dance in similar style, if not by the same orquesta. The tandas are separated by a brief interlude of non-tango music called a "cortina" (or curtain) during which couples select each other. It is customary to dance the entire tanda with the same partner unless the man is rude or very disappointing as a dance partner, in which case the lady may say gracias (thank you) and leave.

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