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Tango Indulgence

“There are no full stops in nature; neither is there absolute silence. The world and everything in it would have to stop breathing. Musicians and dancers know perhaps better than anyone else about this subconscious hum that accompanies us in ordinary and extraordinary life. Composer Carl Nielsen spoke to this when he said, ‘For what is … a rest? It is a continuation of the music; a cloth draped over a plastic figure, concealing part of it. We cannot see the figure under the draping, but we know … that it is there; and we feel the organic connection between what we see and what we do not…. The rests, then, are just as important as the notes. Often, they are far more expressive and appealing to the imagination’ (Fisk and Nicholas 1997:216). Dancers and musicians are constantly playing with pauses, creating the illusion of stillness or silence, balancing interpretations between moments of overpowering sound and movement and those illusory moments in which there appears to be nothing.”
Anya Peterson Royce, Anthropology of the Performing Arts (142)

One of my favorite parts of tango is playing with pauses, creating those moments where, to an outside observer, it looks like we’re still. But within the embrace, I can feel the hum of energy. I can feel our breath and anticipation, and even in the quietest moments I can feel the music all around me.

Argentine tango, danced socially, is quite a bit different from the passionate display you see on stage. For me, it is expressive and playful and all about becoming absorbed in the music, finding and feeling that balance between overpowering movement and the illusion of stillness. To illustrate, I offer you one of the only videos I’ve ever seen of (gulp) me dancing tango, from about four years ago:

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2 Comments

  1. An interesting quote…

    Are the moves in tango very exacting and prescribed? Or, is it something like jazz where the performers can improvise with each other within limits?

    Good job dancing.

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    • Jazz is a good analogy. At its most basic level, tango is walking to the music. Anything beyond that is improvisation (within some limits).

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