The official title of the final musicality workshop was The freedom of expression. The emotional and the human side of musicality in tango. Olga said last week that it would be all about finding our own personality in the dance.
I’ve written at length about where I think I’m headed, but I was very curious to see what perspectives Olga would offer, and whether that might in any way change my expectations and aspirations …
The initial exercise was very Pepa-like! Stand in front of your partner for a whole song, not dancing, not in embrace, just holding hands and maintaining eye-contact.
For the first round, I got to do this with M. As she’s a friend, and we’ve danced a lot together, the eye-contact felt more natural and comfortable than it would have done with a stranger – but it’s still probably as much sustained eye-contact in three minutes as we, or any friends, usually have in the course of an entire evening!
Doing it with a relative stranger next was a different experience. It only really felt awkward, though, in the ‘what are we meant to be doing?’ sense. Which was surprising, because this is a woman I’ve spoken to very briefly a few times, danced with in class once or twice, and shared one tanda with at the Spitalfields milonga. Three minutes of continuous eye-contact should have felt very weird, but it didn’t.
The next exercise, too, was straight out of the Pepa playbook: hug each other for a song, the only instruction being to ‘feel each other.’ (Though not in the #MeToo sense, I think.) I did that with K, again a woman I barely knew, and again it only really felt awkward in the ‘what is the aim here?’ sense. Otherwise it felt perfectly comfortable, which is pretty amazing in BT;AT terms.
We did a few other exercises where one partner was trying to convey a feeling through the embrace, and the other was either trying to feel it or change it.
Overall, I found the exercises we did were a little abstract. We didn’t dance at all (except as a warm-up before the class). I’d have much preferred it if we’d been dancing, and the leader’s job had been to communicate his feeling of that music to the follower, and then the follower had used last week’s techniques to try to communicate a different feeling to the leader. That would have been a more concrete approach.
But my view on workshops is if you get one useful thing from them, they are worth doing. And from tonight I got two useful things.
First, the idea of me trying to communicate to my partner the feeling I get from the song. And trying to sense how the music makes her feel. How practical that is, only time will tell, but I do like the idea of it, and will next time make a conscious effort to try to convey that feeling to my partner. I mean, I think that must happen anyway, but doing it consciously is at the very least an interesting exercise, and at best will communicate itself at a whole new level. It’s something I’ll try with M first, to see whether she feels it communicates, and then with other followers.
Second, Olga said the primary feeling we’re aiming to convey by the embrace itself is: reassurance. You are ok. This is ok. You can express yourself with me. I think that’s a very useful thing to have in mind when inviting the follower into the embrace, and entering it.
Thinking about the musicality series as a whole, it wasn’t what I expected. It was less about the music, more holistic, and somewhat more abstract. Weeks one and two were the closest to my expectations, and really helpful. Granted, I’ve only risked playing with those with M so far, but I can certainly do them when dancing with very experienced followers. Week three solved a mystery for me! Week four was more abstract, but I definitely got two worthwhile things from it.
Overall, it was a really thought-provoking mix, and I’m very glad I did it.