Don’t look at me as just a teacher but as your personal cultural translator.
During my recent stay in Boston I took a workshop with a music anthropologist at ARTANGO in Brighton, MA, hosted by Fernanda Ghi y Guillermo Merlo (highly respected dancers and teachers, who are now based here). 60 students were in attendance and it was a mixture of lecture and movement workshop. I wanted to share some of my take-aways from the evening.
The style of tango dance will conform to the music. Or as I have interpreted it, that the dance is dictated by the music (like in other dance forms). I had heard this before and it was such an “a-ha”moment for me and my understanding of the dance that I was glad to hear it again. The idea is that these orchestras of the Golden Age, the 1940’s, each had their sound. So why would you dance the same way to each of them? You probably would have had your favorite orchestra (and maybe you do already) and you would have been expected to dance a certain way to that orchestra. For example, if the orchestra was more melodically driven or if it was more rhythmic (think Carlos Di Sarli vs Juan D’Arienzo) you would dance differently to them. So as teachers teach what they know this is usually heavily influenced by the sound they prefer. I love Carlos Di Sarli and enjoy accentuating long steps. Someone who enjoys a Juan D’Arienzo will be more rhythmic and possibly more sharp in their steps. You will often hear me speak of the “flavor”of the sound, ie: is the sound like smooth vanilla ice cream or does it have chunky chips and nuts in it?
So the lecture I attended, focused on discussing several aspects of music but most specifically the melody. The idea that the melody and the singers in the orchestras will incite circular and round movement. This idea of circular movements, in general, slows the pace down versus linear movements that are on the main pulse or what we dancers refer to as the strong down beats or bass line. This strong metric pulse is what propels the body and is what teachers and beginner students tend to stress and dance to (usually).
However, “fluid motions can be destroyed by these strong accents” as these regular beats propel the dancers (to move at a predictable pace), the melodies allow dancers to go “deep inside the soul”and “incite reflection and nostalgia”.
In reflecting upon these ideas it was brought up that in order to be able to really allow for the music to enrapture you, we have to be vulnerable. And Argentine Tango is about vulnerability. And culturally, in the US, we avoid this. As we avoid eye contact and touching (for the most part) we do not like to be vulnerable, let alone with a stranger. And yet I am sure an aspect of this is what captivates so many of us to choose this dance.
And with this disconnect culturally, there is a need for “Cultural Ambassadors”or “Cultural Translators”. Someone who recognizes and understands the differences and can explain and build a bridge to create understanding.
Lots of food for thought, don’t you think?
Thanks to Dr. Alfred Minetti, and Fernanda y Guillermo for a great lecture.