Monday, October 25, 2010

Watching Dancers

After choir on sunday night, I stopped by Sonny's to try and catch a couple of dances, as the milonga ended earlier. Since that dance was a practica, and only lightly attended, I ended up sitting at the side and chatting with Sonny, while 5 or 6 couples spun around the floor.

Watching others dance is something I sometimes enjoy. It is pleasant, with good music, and interesting lines and movements to see. I have only recently begun really watching people dance with an eye towards analyzing their dancing, though.

A couple weeks ago, I had a private lesson. Since I have been dancing less, I decided I needed a little direction towards where I should work on improving. We began with some preliminary dancing around, and a little work focused on technique (I let my hip out too far on one side, which is why I tend to lose balance stepping forward on the left). However, we decided that the mechanics were in general pretty good, and I already know what to work on in that regard, even if I'm lazy about actually doing so.

So instead, we turned to the question of musicality, interpretation, and what makes a dance interesting and challenging for both lead and follow. Two things we did:

  1. Watched video of dancers, but instead of just watching for technique or timing, we really focused on how the couple chose to express the music: dancing with melodic vs. rhythmic lines; choosing one instrument over another; what aspect of the song they tried to emphasize. Perhaps most interesting, how did they link the different themes of the song together? We tried to find people all dancing to the same song, so we could compare what different couples might emphasize, and how that affected their dance.
  2. Choosing a particular song (Canaro's Poema), we listened to it several times through, tracking the different instrument lines, listening to the big changes from section to section, and just trying to think about different ways the song could be danced. Who knew that there's a dirty rhythm underneath much of this sweet song?
Although I'm still working on these things (and happily, will be for the rest of my life, I suspect), I found it interesting to sit and watch these dancers last night from this perspective. They had all taken part in a class earlier, and were focused on a particular turning pattern (waltz-like). It was fun to think about where and how to turn a little swirling step into an expression of the emotion in a song.

This suggests my next project should probably be learning spanish!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Unexpectedly Delightful

I've been dancing tango for almost four years. My second and third years were pretty all-consumed with it; I was out between four and seven nights a week, and taking classes as well. As happens, my life in the last year has changed quite a bit. I have since developed a couple of new hobbies (Choir, Banjo), moved to full time work in addition to finishing my degree, and building a relationship with my special lady.

Changing from dancing all the time to dancing only sometimes has been hard in some ways. I get frustrated with a lack of progress in my dancing. I don't have enough tandas to dance with everyone I like, or to dance with people I might discover I like.

This makes an evening like last night particularly welcome. La Monita, the wednesday practica in Seattle, turned out to have delightful music, a good crowd of dancers, and I connected with several people I haven't had the chance to see lately.

This brought out the playful and creative side of my dancing (though not necessarily the smoothest technique, I must admit). I noticed a couple of new steps creeping in during songs. I was making a tighter right turn, hooking the right leg behind the left. I was playing with moving around an alternately pivoting lead foot. And I was (semi-)successfully focusing on new sections of the music for inspiration and emphasis. Maybe best of all, my follows were smiling at the end of our dances, and laughing during them.

What a lovely night!

A dream

Early this year, I had a dream.

I was hosting a party at my house (not unusual), but the music for dancing was being performed by me (on banjo) and my brother (singing). In the way of dreams, my house had extra space as needed, rooms moved about, and we had a stage in the living room, but it was still my own house.

As a result, I have been learning banjo for the last 6 months or so.  Although I am not yet close to producing tango with it, perhaps soon.

Meanwhile, here is El Choclo on (someone else's) banjo:
El Choclo