Daily Archives: April 22, 2009

Dancing and Its Allure

I’ve been dancing or taking dance lessons in one form or another for many many years. When I was a wee child of four I took tap dance for a breath or two, enamored by the colorful outfits more than anything. I barely remember it and my mother had some health issues then and couldn’t keep me at it.

At various times as an adult I took jazz dance, Afro-Brazilian, samba and many years of belly dance. I’ve taught belly dance for the past year and a half and am accomplished enough, though I would not consider myself excellent. I would need to be much more fervent about practising every day and taking advanced workshops, which are often too pricey for me. But the moves are second nature to me and no matter if I’m dancing in

The thing about most of these dance styles above is that they are performance dances. You don’t dance with a partner and they’re meant to be watched. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t dance them with others and sometimes this has happened in belly dance, where musicians will play a piece, several women come out and dance and sometimes mimic each other’s moves. A dance can also be choreographed for a group of dancers in any style, whether ballet or belly.

Though these dance forms can be choreographed but overall you learn various moves and then can mix and match as you please. Put a shimmy after a chest drop, or go from a hip circle to a chest circle to snake arms and back to a chest circle. There is no set routine and move.

I took a dance step into the unknown this year and have just completed a beginner’s class in Argentine tango. This is like all dance, a dance to be enjoyed and of course one that can be performed and watched. Where I went from formulating my own moves I was now learning to follow. Of course, I could have learned the lead part but chose to stick to one. And tango is indeed always a partner dance. It’s as far as you can get from belly dance.

Tango involves subtle but clear movements by the lead with a hand and palcement of the foot. And it is mostly if not all about the feet, the step and the movement of them in tandem or separately. What I find interesting is that the lead chooses what step you might perform but the follow gets to do the more elaborate steps.

For many of us it was our first time but it seems that quite a few had taken at least beginning tango before and some were intermediate dancers. There were some leads who moved too fast, some who didn’t indicate the move clearly enough and follows who would anticipate or not follow. That was my biggest problem; I tended to try to anticipate the move. If you’re learning one step, that’s fine because you’re just repeating the step. But if you’re learning to dance tango, which means the order of the steps can change, then anticipating will have you going in the wrong direction from your partner.

Only a couple of the leads (all men in this case) were arrogant about their knowledge, which ticked me off. They were intermediate dancers and I was a beginner for the first time. It’s one thing to ask your partner to relax and let you lead; it’s another thing to keep correcting in an arrogant voice and then tell your partner that she’s nervous. I wasn’t nervous but I was learning and trying to memorize the step, try to get the tempo right and try to follow.

The instructor, Peter, of Dance Addicts (in Burnaby) is a good instructor, funny, relaxed and easy to approach. Because he is such an accomplished dancer and lead, following him is a lot easier. When I can afford it, I’ll take more tango. It will take a while to become accomplished enough at it. Like belly dance, or any other style, all dance takes practice.

Dance is always about flow (whether it’s jerky, stop and start or like water pouring) and grace. Belly dance and tango have a commonality in that they are both sensual dances. The accomplished dancer doesn’t just have feet being placed in the right spot tot he right style. They also have a particular style and grace, which is shown throw line of body, personalizing/flair/sensuality, tempo, movement of feet, hands, arms and head. Dance is always about the whole body, whether part of it is active or passive.

Only the last two classes of the eight-class session in tango started to feel like dance. We weren’t just getting the steps down, but putting them together to music. I closed my eyes for several dances, trusting in my lead and did find it made it better. Instead of anticipating¬† I tried to feel what his body was telling me in the direction to move. It was fun, it was work. I have a ways to go yet but it’s another form of dance and one thing I do love, it’s dance.

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