Turning Men Into School Boys
Eugenia Parilla is a force of nature that neither could nor should be tamed. I dare to say that there is no other woman in the world of tango with such a blunt and Dionysian expression as hers. I am reluctant to use the word ‘ornament’ to describe her unique features because we usually think about foot embellishments when we use that word. Even so, I feel that I must use the word here but with a very different meaning. Eugenia ornaments with her entire body. Every limb tells a story. It is amazing to watch but I have often wondered how it would be to dance with her. The extent to how her expressions take form in dance reverses the traditional roles between the man and the woman in the tango.
Well, actually I believe that the roles should be reversed already. Men should indeed lead, although not through force but through invitations. I believe that my role as a man is to invite the woman to express the tango through movement. I give her a direction and she answers with a quality. My task is thereafter to respond to that quality with both qualities and directions. That is how we turn into equals in the dance. That is how the dance turns really interesting. That is how women are allowed to express in tango and men are given challenges that will make them lead unforeseen repertoire and with qualities that were unknown to them. Eugenia is so strong in her expression that the male domain of the dance, i.e. leading and giving directions, turns fully subordinate. Her expression is at times so lively that the leader turns into a follower. She turns men into boys and spectators that must merely wait until the queen has had her say on the matters.
I have the most beautiful dance partner. Her body actually looks like Eugenia’s and her style of dancing is not far from there. One of the first times we danced, she “ornamented vividly”, i.e. she danced her own thing regardless of my leading. Something very fancy happened, like a boleo that would have been impossible for me to lead with the very limited dance experience I had at that time. I gave her a smile that stretched from ear to ear and exclaimed: “Do that again! People may actually think that I’m leading it!”
I am not proposing that Eugenia breaks the communication in the way that my partner did. But I am saying that it seems as if she challenges the limits of the embrace. She constantly re-negotiates the contract between male and female. She does not buy into the traditional subordinate role of the woman in tango, and perhaps that is why she looks so amazingly feminine when she dances. Expression is far more important than adhering to a particular role and Eugenia Parilla is the incarnation of that idea to the extent that I can begin to cry from watching her in a simple caminada.
Although this post is about Eugenia Parilla I want to say a few words about our experiences of how my partner somewhat whimsically kicked her legs in the air. It would be stupid to stop because it is fun and she looks very beautiful when her feet are flying high. Despite this, most teachers would have her stop. Our take has been to work with these expressions and turn them into our own, into something that is shared in the dance. This has taught me as a leader to be much more receptive and listening to her qualities and expressions, even when the dance is much simpler and definitely within the limitations of how we traditionally conceive the male and female roles in tango. It has also been a wonderful way of learning new repertoire. As I followed her movements I have learned how to initiate her extravaganzas. Our repertoire is now much richer – both in terms of repertoire and the intimacy in the embrace – than it was when my partner did her private little dance in my abrazo.
Have a look at this week’s very beautiful clip with Eugenia and Ezequiel Farfaro. He is an excellent dancer who can use his body and weight to make the woman moving. Even so, I cannot imagine that he could have a similar kind of flow and ease to his dance with any other partner than her. Although he is amazing, I still find that he struggles – in a most positive sense – throughout the entire dance. It is as if he tries to find ever new ideas, elements and qualities to give her. She accepts them, but she always gives them her own flare. He shows her his paintings as a school boy. She looks at them with admiration and then she continues playing with his expression in an even more intricate fashion. Simplicity is turned into sublime beauty. She does not wait until he gives her a new impulse, but she plays with the quality that he gave her. Her body is never still, but it is always moving towards a new expression. I believe that what makes this dance so dynamic is how Ezequiel in a sense is never in control. As Eugenia accepts the invitations to expression with such ease and instantly begin to play with the repertoire, Ezequiel must always struggle to regain control. He is a very intelligent and emphatic leader which makes Eugenia blossom with her expression. He does not tame her, and he should not. By constantly struggling he proves himself to be a dancer of high rank. Her expression in this dance is free, and what an expression it is.
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