Monday, 27 April 2009

A class on musicality

Long ago (well not that long, but it seems like long) I went to a lesson on how you physically express musicality. It was pitched at recent beginners, and the first half was all walking alone.

It was pointed out that when we walk, we start the movement at one time (in relation to the music) and end it at another where the next step starts, but at what point we pass through the middle is a choice. I don't remember the examples or exercises exactly, but the way I'd explain it to myself is this: If you are stepping on the ones of a waltz, for example, 1 2 3 1 2 3, you might pass through the physical middle of the step, when your feet pass each other, at the 2, or at the 3, or in the temporal middle at 2½, or somewhere else. It's up to you — what do you hear? Try it as you walk round the room.

Then try to lead and follow it, as we did in the second half of the lesson. It was one of those lessons where I went “oh, ok, that's how it works, now I get it, what fun!” — it wasn't necessary to be told twice. But I did need telling once.

You may think it's obvious. I didn't.

It made a real difference, was within my powers at the time, and would have taken me forever to work out for myself. The kind of simple-but-necessary information that enables someone with very basic skills to dance in a more satisfying way, mainly for herself but also for her partner. Free of metaphor and mumbo-jumbo, too.

Realising that that stuff was possible, and might be led, made an important difference to how I followed, and it also gave me options for musicality of my own.

[Since someone is bound to ask, it was Tom at the Crypt, one of the odd Monday-night lessons he does occasionally when Paul and Michiko are away. If you want my opinion, he is a talented and intelligent teacher. But his lessons are rare, and are never advertised, so you will never be able to take one intentionally, unless you take the Monday beginners' course, which is always him. I do know what his last name is, but since their website - El Once in the links - makes it a secret, it would obviously be rude of me to do otherwise.]


Game Cat said...

Hmm. Interesting.

Someone (a woman) once described to me the interlude between stepped-on beats as "the journey" and that thinking only of the "destination" (i.e. the step) half-blinds us to fully expressing the music.

You can draw out a step, toe caressing the floor; sweep majestically through; or firmly but carefully pad the floor. There is so much texture one can add, inspired by the music and the mood of the moment.

My question is - do many women value this? And if so, what technical skill would she need, assuming a competent leader, to listen to and respond to this? And of course how can I find them?

ghost said...

Nice simple description that can actually be used in practice :o)

Sadly "it wasn't necessary to be told twice. But I did need telling once" seems to sum it up well. Most people aren't told the once. So leaders don't lead it and followers don't experience it (or they don't know it exists and figure it was a lead for double-time etc that went wrong).

The one interesting exception seems to be nuevo. It's not too hard to lead a woman who's done salsa to start wiggling her hips in different ways. They do seem to appreciate it (at least it can be hard getting some of them to stop!)

londontango said...

I have done musicality classes and they seem to go over my head. Probably because my way of learning is different. My dancing is intuitive and I try to fit in with my leader. There is no thought involved, only feeling. Feeling for my partner and feeling for the music.
I think if one can understand the musicality and learn how to work on the beat, well that is a start, but Tango music is very complex and one might want to dance to an instrument or the singer which adds a completely different nuance to the dance.

ghost said...

What I particularly like about MsH's description is I believe it also applies to choosing to dance to an instrument or singer ie where do you put the "middle" of each step?

londontango said...

@ Ghost
I don't know where you put it until you are dancing and then you just do it. See, I am totally useless at trying to explain these things. By the time I had a lesson on musicality, I was already intuitively dancing. I am sooooo glad that I am a follower and don't really have to think about these things too much!

msHedgehog said...

@GC - nice. As for how many - I have no idea, and can only speak for myself. I notice it. The technical skill she needs is nothing much more than knowing it's possible and experiencing it once or twice, it's not at all difficult to follow once you start listening for it - assuming it's there to be heard. You might be able to find them by watching for a difference between one step and another, I don't know. If they don't value it they won't do it.

@Ghost - that would make sense

@LT I'm different. For me, understanding it is the easy way. I get annoyed at finding I've wasted a ton of time trying to divine by instinct something that could have been clearly explained and demonstrated in less than an hour - even if I got there in the end anyway. That's Just Me. There are a lot of things about dancing that genuinely do take a lot of time and practice - I'd rather spend my time on one of those.

ghost said...

Reminds me of Keeping your Feet Together or Not


"My partner tested the same movement in social dancing later and found that the other followers he danced with did not seem to know what to do with the same lead; it seemed to be a fairly common problem he had not been aware of."

Game Cat said...

One more thing I noticed - some women really like to make use of the in-between-steps to play. It may be a simple adornment or something more complex, but always inspired by the music. They tend to like (appropriate) pauses more then other is space you allow them to express themselves in.

Just sometimes, a woman who knows you well enough will start to throw it back at you and you will feel you have to respond. It's almost a conversation then. Very very nice.

Now I can't wait for Friday ;-)

londontango said...

@ H
You are correct in saying that there are things about dancing that take a lot of time and practice. Even I needed a lot of practice, which is why I went out 5 nights a week for 3 years. When it comes to music or musicality, that has never been an issue for me and I am able to move to music naturally, so for someone to explain it to me doesn't work for me in the same way as being shown a move. It is just a different way of learning. We all learn in different ways. Because I now have the basics down(forward, backward, side, ocho and giro)I am truly free to enjoy the music with the help of my leader, and the music has always been my focus from the beginning.
@ Game Cat
Sometimes those pauses also get used in ways that cannot be seen and only felt. :-)

msHedgehog said...

Yes, you are quite right - people learn different ways. I would never ever have been able to dance five nights a week, and it's unlikely I will ever want to (well maybe for one week, if it was the right week - but not for long). I know what works for me when I want to learn something, there are some strategies I can use and some I can't because my mind just doesn't work well that way, but I hope I don't delude myself that what happens to suit me would suit everybody - it patently doesn't.

Game Cat said...

Londontango - Congratulations.

As a result of your last comment, you may have single-handedly rendered the floor at Negracha tomorrow night gridlocked, as hopeful idiots pause all over the place like hobbled lemmings.

On another note....offline we need to compare partner lists. ;-)

ghost said...

Reminds me of the final scene of the film "Michael" where everyone's frozen in time and the angels dance around them merrily :o)