Tango: my life as a not-so-good leader

And you thought that YOU were the worst dancer in the world ?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Choreography workshop

I recently attended a four-hour "choreography workshop", during two consecutive days (twice two hours). It was limited to eight couples, and the idea was, for the teachers, to help the students to build their own choreography. A song had been chosen, and the teachers gave us an audio CD. It was quite funny to get a whole CD including one single song, but well, nowadays, recordable CDs are much cheaper than they used to be.

Each of us worked on this same song (Recuerdo, by Pugliese) and tried to put together enough steps for three minutes. The teacher didn't provide any sequence, we had to use the stuff we already knew. (Well of course, they helped people to refine some particular details, or make the steps more "stagy"). Yet they did provide something, and something very useful; the musical structure of the song. They dissected the succession of themes. First there is an introductory sequence of 4x8 beats. They called it "A". Then comes another, clearly separated, 32-beat sequence, named, unsurprisingly, "B". The teachers played and replayed, time and again, the "A" part, until we all identified its beginning, end and subparts.

Then they gave us some clues about what an introductory sequence should look like. "Part A is basically just the meeting of the leader and the follower; the big steps have to come later." This is where the problems began for me. I was there only because a lady had required me, at the last moment of course, to be her partner for this workshop, so I come fully unprepared, without any great ideas (and even without any idea at all...). And my partner, in quality of follower, claimed her right to fully rely upon me, because the leader is supposed to be in charge of everything. As a result, our introductory steps were the simplest ever seen on earth: she goes in front of me, I hold my hand, she takes it and comes in my arms, we make a side step, end of "A".

During these four hours, we had to listen to "Recuerdo" maybe twenty times, so I can't stand it any more and I think I'll skip it for a while at the milongas. But at least by now I'm quite aware of its structure:
Part "A", 4x8 beats, introduction
Part "B", 4x8 beats, main theme
Part "A" again
Part "B" again
Part "C", 5x4 beats, introduction to "Fantasy"
"Fantasy", 2x8 beats
"Final", 4 beats

And here is our nice choreography. No copyright, you can dance it without having to pay dividends to me:
Part "A": abrazo and pauses
Part "B": sandwich and pauses
Part "A": walking steps
Part "B": salida
Part "C": back ochos and side steps
Fantasy: front ocho
Final: close embrace

In the end, each couple demonstrated their creation, and it was video-taped for posterity. Charitably, the seven other pairs applauded our dull performance. I felt rather satisfied; after all, we did not fall, and I didn't step on my partner's toes too frequently.

The teachers also spoke about their own stage performances, and the time it takes them before a three-minute show is "stage-proof": between two weeks and two months. So we didn't need to worry if the result we got after two sessions was not as great as "Tango Pasion" or "The tango lesson". They also spoke about what to do in case of a sudden memory failure: don't stay glued on the floor with a puzzled face, improvise something until an easy-to-identify sequence of notes put you back on the track.

Yet the main question remains: What did I do it in the first place? This lady is not one of my usual partners, we don't go to the same milongas, and there is no perspective of having to perform in a short future. Well, after all, the question is also valid for tango.

posted by Pablo  # 5:26 AM
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