Tertulia #5 (conversations) with Makela and . Steven: MUSICALITY

Feb 19, 2019

Topic: Musicality

Makela: Hi Everybody! Here we are again with Tertulia #5 with Steven and Makela. Steven would you like to start?


Steven: Sure. Just to recap, we’ve been talking about the priorities when dancing. The first priority is a connection to your partner and to yourself. And last week we’ve been getting into the second priority, music and musicality. Makela, you can take over from there?


M:  Yes, music and musicality. First, when dancing it is important to find the pulse (the beat). After finding the pulse, we try to identify, the first beat of the phrase (number one): the strong beat.  As dancers, we generally count a phrase in this way: one(strong)-two-three (semi-strong) four, five(strong again), six, seven (semi-strong) and eight, an then we start all over again.  Then, we talked about the difference between rhythmic structure and melodic structure, and if that’s not clear you can go to the previous conversation. We also talked about finding the different instruments when you are listening to tango. Do you want to talk about some examples of that?


S: Yes, we can identify the violin, or the piano playing chords or counter melody, the bass driving forward, these kinds of things. Something that stands out to me from what you said last week is that at any given time a particular instrument will have the melody and another instrument will have a rhythmic part. 


M: Great, exactly. You can dance to one of those instruments, following one or the other which makes your dancing interesting, surprising and rich-which is what we want. For both the lead and the follow. For example, the lead sometimes follows the piano at the end of the phrase, maybe there is a coda:  that’s a perfect time for the follow to do embellishments. We’ll talk more about that later. We also talked about the big four orchestras. Who are they?


S: Anibal Troilo, Carlos Di Sarli, Juan d’Arienzo, Francisco Canaro.


M: Yes. We talked about listening to them and finding the differences between them. What we haven’t talked much about is the BREATHING. The musicality of a particular tango will involve a particular breathing. The first priority in Tango is the embrace, the connection with the other,, and also breathing with the other: depending on the type of music you will negotiate a rythm of the  breathing,  that fits the music. Does that make sense?


S: Yes, it does. Like if a piece is slow, you might find a slower way of breathing. The pace of your breathing together will be aligned with the slower movement.      


M: Yes, and it has to be in sync with your partner. Now, along with breathing I want to talk about the pauses. Last night we had our beloved Monday class, it has a long tradition. We started since early 2002 at the Electric Lodge and now we are at MTDS (Makela Tango Dance Studio). Last night one of the things we worked on was listening to the music. I asked everyone to alternate between going really fast, going slowly and pausing for a very long time.  The pause was so long that people were uncomfortable at first and couldn’t stay connected- they would separate right away. In tango, sometimes it is challenging to keep that connection, that vulnerability and that intimacy with your friend or stranger that you just met.

What is also interesting is that the fast pace will follow one instrument, and the slow pace will follow another. When you pause you have to listen to your own heart beat and to your partner’s. Your heart beat has its own musicality. Does that make sense?


S: I think so, so lets say the melody has a faster movement, and the violins are playing that faster melody. When you hear the violins you will walk faster with the violins. But at another time in the piece the piano might be playing chords and a slower counter melody. When you dance to the piano part you will move slower. And depending on which part you are dancing to you will pause at different times and for different lengths of time.  Even though the music is still happening when you are pausing, connect to your partner and sync up in your breathing.


M: Yes. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to stop, and to pause in tango, like in human relationships, right? Talking and listening have the same importance. When dancing, you have to stop, chill, breath, and let the other person know (of course silently) that everything is ok, that you like being in that embrace, that it feels good. In that way you can re-start the next phrase renewed, reset, relaxed, ready to roll one more time. Make sense?


S: Yes, totally.  


M: Okay, so we talked about breathing and pauses. Now we will talk about ACCENTS in the music. An ACCENT is generally a strong, louder, longer sound. When dancing, it is important to identify those accents and use them to pause and breath. And let those accents be the protagonist.


S: So, you mean when you hear those accents, let them be a part of the dance. When you know when the accents will happen you can pause to bring attention to them and give them space to enter the dance.


M: Also, when the lead stops, then the follow has more space and time to show up. How does the follow show up? There is the misunderstanding, that when the follow has time in the dance, she needs to do embellishments. That is ok, but that is not the only way that follows show up.  Showing up means expanding, totally owning yourself, pointing your toes, stretching, and elongating your body. Whatever you are doing you are doing it to the maximum. One hundred percent. That’s what showing up means.


S: I’m not sure if this is what you mean, but letting your energy expand into your entire body and being fully present in your whole body during the dance.


M: Especially during the accents, yes. Now, I also want to talk about finding the right partners for a particular orchestra or type of music. Do you remember what I said?


S: I remember you saying that depending on the orchestra and song you might have a different partner for each orchestra.


M:  Exactly. So, for instance, the tangos played by the orchestra of Juan d’arienzo are staccato, fast and upbeat, therefore you want to have that kind of connection with your partner. If you are dancing to Carlos di Sarli in the 1950’s then the connection will be a more intense one. Milongas are playful and mischievous, Valses (tango waltz) are romantic and innocent. So, you will find partners with those kind of connections for each type of music. On a side note, remember that it is very important to listen to the music, before asking someone to dance. As you all know, we dance TANDAS (three to four songs), and the break between tandas is marked by a CORTINA when we clear the dance floor (LA PISTA). After the cortina, when the next tanda starts, you should recognize the orchestra or type of music that is playing BEFORE finding your partner and doing the CABECEO or MIRADA. All these terms are clarified in our etiquette page.


S: Yes, check out the blog and website for a lot more info. 


M: Yes. We also talked about listening on your own to the music. I suggest starting with Juan d’Arienzo and Francisco Canarao because the beat is very clear. Then, continue with Carlos di Sarli instrumental in the1950s. Part of listening is finding your favorite songs and dancing to them on your own. And always be open. Different orchestras and songs can be an acquired taste. The more you listen to music, the more you will find what you like.  Examples of songs I like are Ansiedad by Juan d’Arienzo and Bahía Blanca by Carlos di Sarli. Check our blog to learn on how to build your tango collection. Thank you very much, and I will see you all next week. Thank you Steven.