Friday, 7 October 2011

Too much musicality?

Does that sound sacrilegious? Is it hard to imagine? Can you conceive of situations where too much focus on the music might ruin the social dance?

Finding this concept difficult? That's not at all surprising.

For some years, we and others who love social tango, have been critical of the emphasis which some dancers and teachers place on "doing steps", even mini-choreographies, at the expense of the music and the other dancers at a milonga. We are not alone in the belief that the social dance-floor of the milonga is not the place for dancers to act out their aspirations for the stage - their flamboyant and erratic movements interfering with the flow of the dance-floor. Besides, any experienced dancer will tell you that dancing with someone who is struggling with fancy steps is no fun at all. Connection and musicality are far more enjoyable.

Yet some recent experiences in Europe illustrated to us that the social dance experience may also be compromised by dancers trying excessively to interpret the music. Dare we say that some try to play - perhaps a touch  too cleverly -  with the minutiae of the music.

So, what could be wrong with trying to do justice to the music? Nothing at all. Dancing is a physical and emotional response to music. But it seems that when the intellect gets too involved in this process, the social dance suffers.

A joy in tango is dancing with a partner and being carried away with the phrasing, rhythms, melodies and interplay of instruments in that great treasure-trove of music. However, like most things in life, this can be taken to an extreme. Trying to represent each and every nuance, syncopation and off-beat contained in a piece brings with it the danger of a stilted dance experience - for the couple and for those around them on the dance-floor. The dance is then in danger of becoming an intellectual, interpretive exercise. One can simply try too hard to be musical.

Milongueros such as Osvaldo Centena and the late, great Ricardo Vidort are just two examples of playful and fluid musicality on the social dance-floor. It's pretty safe to say that they danced what their bodies felt in the music. As a result, their dance is a fluid and comfortable experience. (Pat speaks from personal experience of dancing with El Oso).

So, returning to the initial question. Sadly, in some respects, too much musicality in the dance is indeed possible. The intellect should not dominate the dance, whether it's by over-analysis of the music, or attempts to reproduce certain "steps". Anything resulting in a stilted and contrived dance, will be in conflict with social tango.

7 comments:

MIM Tango said...

We couldn't agree more! Over-doing musicality is something we have observed to be very commonplace in North American Tango. The main issue with it is that it prevents the dancers from finding real depth in the music.

Jani & Kristina

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

That is an interesting phenomenon, Jani & Kristina. Any idea what might be behind this?
Pat.

http://www.movementinvitesmovement.wordpress.com said...

Of course, we can only speculate... but we think it has a lot to do with there being a stress on steps/figures rather than on walking. Plus a detachment from the music - either from not understanding the lyrics or not letting the music get under your skin. Finally, there are many teachers who teach musicality (yay!) but who teach "micro-musicality" (boo!) which is exactly what you seem to be talking about when you mention over interpreting the music. It definitely becomes an intellectual affair where the "devil is in the details"... in a bad way ;)

J&K

Tango Salon Adelaide said...

"Micro-musicality" - now there's an apt expression!

tangocentro_wa said...

Each to his own, and I think that there are any number of dancers, certainly here in Perth, who enjoy their dancing, without having any idea about the music, who literally cannot tell a waltz from a tango, and definitely, cannot tell one orchestra from another. So the recent exposure to the nuts and bolts of tango music will for many, just be lost in confusion, and very soon forgotten; or for some, may turn out to be an obtuse way to open the door to a love and appreciation of the music, which is surely for each dancer, a key to a more refined and extended enjoyment of the dance, and hopefully with more to give to the partner?

Anonymous said...

dance from the heart. not the head.

Navalpotror said...

I completely agree!

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