Stepping Away From the Floor

The YouTube clip under scrutiny today is doubtless the one that I have watched the most times.

If you know me, you would not be surprised to see my favourites Pablo and Dana in the clip, but you will perhaps be surprised to see them in a very modest dance. Here is no extravaganza, no flying legs, no jumping or any innovative choreography. What you see are two advanced dancers in what looks like social down to earth dance. I must say that the first time I saw the clip, my mind told me that that was all there was to it. Even so, some intuitive part of me was mesmerized.

One of the beauties with tango is how you perform the dance from the capacities that your body presents you with. My anatomy teacher from my Pilates education often said that the body is like the face. We all have two eyes, a nose and a mouth, but nevertheless we all look different. That applies to our bodies below the face too. The main map of the body is more or less the same, but its expressions vary vastly. We all have different basic conditions to work with, i.e. we inhabit our bodies and express through them in whatever fashion our anatomy allows us. We practice technique and expression as tango dancers. Some people prove to be flexible and have long beautiful flowing strides; others are more staccato no matter how they try to move. Another person gets back pains doing volcadas, a fourth person cannot get the hang of her ganchos, and a yet another dancer can pivot most elegantly. We have our skills and we practice to overcome our weaknesses on the dance floor. We work until our feet ache, and then we do some more hours on the dance floor, and slowly we progress. But why not step of the dance floor?

Pablo and Dana’s bodies are absolutely awesome. They have worn down the floor in the dance studio for countless hours, but they have also worked away from the floor to change how their bodily “eyes, nose and mouth” function. They have cultivated their bodies so that they are able to execute all the fancy stuff that they are known for, and they perform it with superior ease. Through focusing the preconditions of movement, i.e. perfecting their bodies through workout, they master the tango technique in a sense that an abundance of practice hours alone would never be enough for. In this clip, which as mentioned is absent of extravaganza, we not only see a very simple and clean dance, but we see how their bodies work with so to speak no effort what so ever. Lo and behold their balance, their closeness, their precision and perfection at every possible aspect of the tango.

Their practice has for several years inspired me to work off the floor, and my most riveting development has occurred away from the practicas and milongas. My best tango teachers indeed work with the body and movement but they know nothing about tango. Often when people ask me why I have been so preoccupied with Pilates (yoga is Pablo and Dana’s thing – which I have strong opinions about), I answer that I do it to be able to perform and experience even cleaner weight shifts. That is the essence of tango rather than flying high, and that is essentially what we see in this clip. I can only dream of becoming a master Pilates practitioner and be able to perform something as sublime as the first few weight shifts that Pablo and Dana performs here. I dare to say that this is perhaps the most technically complete tango I have ever seen. Adding to the beauty of it, their interpretation of the music is also artful.

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