Musicality

I really wish the bloggers over at Movement Invites Movement would consider turning on their comments! I have questions, want clarification … I can’t even find an email address for private communication. (Am I overlooking something?) So I guess I’ll just post my questions and thoughts here once again.

The most recent post on their blog discusses musicality. This was at least somewhat inspired by the comments on a post on Tribulaciones de Milonga about what qualifies as tango. (I just want to pause a moment to say how beautiful I think the writing style is on that particular blog, and how nice it is to have a compelling reason to exercise my Spanish skills!)

Back to Movement Invites Movement: The main question I have is why they insist on this continuous movement they talk about.

This is a difficult concept to explain (or even show) to people, especially those who do not understand music and/or dance at some level. We can only point out that if the steps are arriving early or at the beginning of the beat and arriving on the beat “dead” (the step “ends” there – sort of like a wedding march), there’s a good chance the dancing is S.O.S. style. Continuous movement through the walk, for example, is not S.O.S. style. Movement INVITES movement – lack of movement or movement that is jerky/cutting kills the movement.

I think I understand what they mean (thank goodness for my lifetime of dance and musical training!), but I don’t understand why. Musicality does not equal rhythm, but a rhythmic dance with sudden movement is not necessarily amusical.

(As an aside, the term “sudden” as I used it comes from a dance theory developed by Rudolf Laban that divides up the quality of any movement into four categories: weight, space, time and flow. A movement can be strong or light (weight), direct or indirect (space), sudden or sustained (time), and bound or free (flow). I believe that the kind of movement our fellow bloggers are looking for has a sustained rather than sudden quality. They may be objecting to something more specific, such as a strong, sudden, bound step. If I have misunderstood, I hope they will correct me.)

So what I don’t understand is why this sort of movement can’t fit in tango. I know that, personally, I enjoy the sustained movements. I like feeling the larger phrasing in the music. This might come out in a sense of a beginning, middle and end to the movement that fits with the musical phrase. It might be a connection between sustaining a movement as the music sustains a note or feeling. In any case, I really do enjoy this kind of dancing. But I also appreciate leaders who identify very rhythm-oriented orchestras and play with those rhythms. I wouldn’t want that kind of dancing all the way through most songs, or very much at all with certain orchestras, but if there is a lot of playing around with rhythm in a prominent way in the music … why not translate that to the steps? I would not, of course, want to lose the dancing that happens in the rest of the body along the way, which may or may not have the same feeling that my feet have.

Am I making any sense?

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5 thoughts on “Musicality

  1. Don’t make us do it!!! (Open comments we mean 🙂 We will ponder that option (or add email)… but for now we will try to clarify. First of all, we love the dance theory you mention. Wow! Yes, we think you nailed it pretty much on the head (although the steps/movement can absolutely be “strong” too). So why not in Tango? The best response we can think of is that that kind of musicality translates into an un-evolved (or quality-less) Tango – a Tango that was developed (generally) in little time, with little “training”. It was OUR un-evolved Tango until we could see, understand, and move the musicality into our dance (and it’s still far from perfect). That aside, musicality is one of the pillars of Tango and it is what we see in the (few) videos of the milongueros. Can’t you see the difference and quality in dancers who dance with “that” musicality?

  2. MT, MIM, the “sustained quality” is what I think creates that musicality we are all striving for. The confusion about quick or sudden steps has more to do with the type of music we are dancing. When we dance to fast music, arriving at or stepping on the beat is what gives the quality of musicality, since there is very little “lag time” or “empty space” between beats. But in a slower, more cadenced song, arriving on the beat and waiting for it, even if for 2 nanoseconds, appears empty if we are not engaged in the waiting. Even if we are just standing facing each other, there should be an intention towards each other, a movement of energy, even if physically we are still. When we “just stand there” waiting for the next lead/step/beat, it is “empty” and thus non-musical.

  3. MIM: I still don’t quite understand the “why” of your reasoning. I mean, the sudden/staccato movement that you seem to balk at is one quality in a range that can be drawn on for musical movement, at least in my experience. I guess I don’t see why you find this quality of movement to be antithetical to musicality.In an effort to understand, can you show me an example of a video that you see as very musical and one that uses sudden movements and is not musical? It would also help if you could identify exemplary moments in the video. In turn, I will try to show you an example of a video that I think demonstrates musical tango dancing and still incorporates sudden movements.(This is when I wish we could just hop over to a room to practice and discuss these things together! It’s so much harder to communicate this sort of thing online!)

  4. Johanna: In my mind, there is a different between being engaged through the dance (even in pauses) and what Laban called “sustained” movement. I believe you can dance to the rhythm with sudden movement quality, in the way that MIM opposes, and still be engaged and moving energy in the way that you describe. Because I know what you’re talking about in terms of intention, and I agree wholeheartedly.

  5. We’ve made our attempt… 🙂 You can check out our blog for the post.Joanna, we like what you added about being “engaged in the waiting”. That also is a key to good musicality (along with being a good Tango dancer!).

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