Tamara Talks the Tango

June 15, 2008

Hi everyone!

These last two weeks have been super interesting. I started taking a class in “physical expression for the stage.” The focus of this class is how to create and convey energy that the audience will perceive from out in the house. Since I started this class, I’ve been trying to pay extra close attention to these concepts, and it’s amazing how often they come up and how important they are! For example, last night one of my tango instructors was explaining the difference between two extremely similar passes. Since every pass in tango is initiated by the man, it’s mandatory that the man knows exactly what the signal is that he must use to suggest to the woman that she should do what he’s imagining will come next in the dance. And it’s equally important that the woman be hyper sensitive to minute details and subtleties. In this particular case, the pass was for me to step forward and push my partner’s leg ahead of my leg, along the ground, with the toes of my leading foot. Normally, the woman would do this same pass stepping over the leg of her partner, possibly adorning the step with a sassy flick or a sizzling pause at the top. Anyway, it turns out the difference in the signals is simply whether the man directs his energy up or in a downward spiral.  It’s not a question of pulling the woman up or pushing her down (which would be clunky looking and irritate the woman’s balance); rather simply a matter of momentum, balance, energy…incredibly like tai chi, actually.

In another example, I just saw a flamenco performance in which the woman who was dancing totally blew everyone away. This woman had the ability to stand perfectly still and excite the audience as though she were perfectly landing from a quadruple pirouette.  At the beginning of her performance, she walked slowly in a circle, stopped at center stage with her feet strongly apart, and did nothing but stare at the audience for a count of 8. The potential energy of her un-moving body had all the kinetic impact of an avalanche surging from the stage. Then at about the count 7.8 of 8, she raised one eyebrow and the entire audience gasped simultaneously. Seriously, it was that intense. Then she slowly and deliberately gathered up her skirt and flew into ridiculously impressive series of rhythms and gorgeous arm movements, maintaining the same level of energy and flooding the theater with it. The whole place was ecstatic.

I think this idea of communicating energy, whether to your dance partner or to an entire audience, regardless of how large, is one of the most important elements of performance, and of dance in general. If you don’t buzz with the essence of every one of your movements and send that pulsing into the universe for anyone watching you to feel, you’re not really doing it quite right. And it doesn’t feel as good for you either.