Everyone who understands tango knows that it’s not about steps. It’s about the experience of flying, embraced, inside music. (!)
We know that the embrace, like any good hug, is beautiful on its own. But the embrace alone, standing still, is not yet tango. It is when we touch the notes with our steps, or our flying legs, that we experience the miracle of connected motion.
In the same way that physical disruptions of the embrace can disrupt the experience of connection, so can too much repetition of sequences. The delight and charm of tango do not arise from mere mastery of a physical relationship or good choreography, but from taking a wondrous journey together. Tango’s wonder is improvisation: the discovery of sympatico relations between movements and music.
We can dance the same songs every night for years because of the possibility to discover new relations between movement and music. We can do this because each dance is unique, because we create it anew each time. Improvisation must be authentic and spontaneous or tango becomes rote and dead. Either partner can kill it: The Mark through routine and the Revel through automatisms.
Most Marks are frustratingly stuck with a small number of sequences. Most Revels realize this after dancing several tandas with any given Mark. No matter how much she enjoys the sweetness of his embrace, or his technical skills, the wonder fades away.
Most Marks berate themselves for inability to remember new sequences from their classes, and may give up on classes because they feel it’s a waste of time. Most Revels stopped going to classes a long time ago because there wasn’t much in it for them.
In truth, keeping improvisation alive is not about learning new moves. For Marks it’s about taking risks and for Revels it’s about moving in a way that makes space-time for your partner to think and change.
I am ferociously committed to improvisation. When I perform I tell the DJ to choose the music and I refuse to plan how we will start or end the dance. I commit myself to creating a dance which authentically responds to the music, space, and participants. As a Mark, I used to stop dancing mid-tanda in shame because I found myself repeating a sequence I had used in the previous song. Now I freeze mid-step and force myself to go another way. I have been told that my dance is extremely complex and Revels know they have to be sharp if they want to dance with me. As a Revel I am often told by surprised Marks that they danced things they never did before or that they did things they hadn’t pre-thought. I move in a way which elicits these discoveries. In performances, and with some partners in milongas, I dare to share responsibility for the creativity when my partner’s falters. I have techniques to disrupt repetition and to inspire new directions.
The current historical moment of tango is one in which improvisation is considered less important than elegance and social behavior. But we are all getting bored of dancing only ochos, giros, and crosses. To reintroduce our inheritance of the complete tango repertoire is a communal project. Marks can’t introduce new elements unless Revels work to be ready. You can be part of this global movement to restore our beautiful tango to its full glory.
- Inspire your friends to grow with our PDF guide, “Improvisation isn’t about Memory, it’s about Trust”. Download and share it with everyone you love to dance with.
- Urge your community to assess their movement vocabulary by taking the Lexicon-Test.
- Commit to expanding your vision of improvisation by studying the systems of improvisation for one movement every month through the KnowledgeBase Encyclopedia.