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Tango Heaven

February 25, 2012

Dinzel’s Workshop on Improvisation…

How fortunate to be in BA for Dinzel’s special class. The disciples were very excited about this upcoming event before our departure to Mendoza. We were relieved to know that we would be back in Buenos Aires in time for me to attend.

By the time I arrived to the studio, there were already 12 couples dancing in one of the 2 small studios, where, on other days, 4-5 couples pose a major traffic jam. When the class began, just a few minutes past 10 AM, there were about 40 dancers present. It was already quite hot and humid, and the small ceiling fan would soon become an illusion of temperature control.

After a very brief, yet eloquent introduction, Maestro Rodolfo, began the day’s work by guiding us into the history of quests for liberty and freedom, which can either manifest through violent revolt or through art. It follows that Tango is one of the artistic forms of liberation. He reminded us of our unique personal journeys which have led us all toward Tango… and the sanctuary it provides for the exploration of our desires or to escape the “prisons” of our respective cultures, vocations, etc.

Sharing and empathy were explored through hand to chest exercises.

Woman’s eyes closed, right hand on his chest. Feet are stationary, but the body bends, twists and sways according to the chest movements of the leader; Man’s eyes closed, his hand on her chest. Repeat to yet another beautiful tango instrumental.

Improvisation expanded: “Only when I understand the structure can I de-construct and then create anew.” Rodolfo explained the importance of “double command” or what they would call “interleading” in New York. He described the communication, which begins ALWAYS with listening, and must be shared equally between all partners regardless of gender.

Men with eyes closed are led by women, in rapid aggressive moves. Collisions encouraged, so that “men would appreciate what it feels like to be a typical woman dancer…” who may feel like she is being used as a battering ram. (This actually happened to me in NYC.)

Next, Rodolfo discussed our grounding, our expectations and our need to understand reality. We had to understand the limitations of the human body. To that end, we were all paired off to play a game of “Wire doll.”

We took turns molding and shaping our partners, like wire and clay, we pulled, raised and twisted their bodies as they balanced frozen in new designs.

Significant attention was also placed on head position, feet and finger extension. After this, we were placed in larger groups and took turns forming the entire group into large human sculptures. This was a very sensuous experience, which also required a great deal of strength and flexibility. We worked while yet another sumptuous piece of music played. Our pieces should have been photographed, however, we were also learning a lesson about existing only in the moment. It is sufficient to have only the memory.

The discussion of play evolved into an exercise of child like behaviors and blissfulness. We worked on simultaneous improvisation and alternating improvisation which could be done step by step as a chess game or in clusters where one partner pauses while the other carries out numerous steps. Changing partners and dancing with various intentions culminated with our dancing alone- with invisible partners… our fantasy partners. We spread out between the two small patios and the patio, and played as though no one were watching. It was exhilarating and inspiring… all inhibitions had seemed to evaporate and we became 40 adults who were back in kindergarten playing pretend with grandiose theatricality.

We also learned how to dance while one person keeps one foot in the same spot at all times, and feels/observes  for openings in which to step with the free leg, between the partner’s circular steps. This requires balance maintenance of body weight on one leg while pivoting and rotating.

One of the many fascinating things about Tango is how dancers don’t step on each other’s feet and how each can begin to assume the location of the other’s legs. Rodolfo shared his secret… he studies the “volume” of the partner, creating coordinates for her body parts. He can stand in front of her with eyes closed and precisely touch her wherever she commands.

We studied new partners bodies from front, side and behind. Then, holding hands, face to face, side by side or back to front, we took turns reaching to touch parts of the body with eyes closed. I found this exercise surprisingly easy.

Next, our Maestro addresses our challenges with personal boundaries and the comfort of our own skin and our own volume.

Everyone took turns standing in the center of our very crowded circle to receive caresses and massages all at once form all of the other dancers. Groups crouching on the floor worked on the feet and legs, while others spontaneously leaned over the others to run their hands over the hips, torso, neck, faces and scalp.

At first, a few of the tangueros were timid, but eventually everyone volunteered, entering the circle with some hesitation; however, exiting the circle was done rather begrudgingly. It was indeed a very delightful experience… afterward, we all reflected each other’s sweaty, disheveled glow.

Rodolfo went on to explain that Talent can only be appreciated in “camara lenta” or slow motion. He played a series of Astor Piazzolo to inspire us to dance exceedingly slowly. This truly tests the strength and balance of dancers… and I was pleased to be able to execute these languid dances, knowing that only weeks ago, I had begun to regain my core strength and balance on heels.

We also explored the meaning of qualifying dance steps, defined by three components: length, velocity and angulation… combining variations of all of these creates the artistry, tension and musicality of a performance.

“It’s not what we do, but rather, how we do it!”

Several more walking exercises led to the finale… we danced together as one tight ball… yes… 40 people, most of whom were strangers, slid and pressed against each other, weaving arms and legs between one another, crawling, lunging, prancing. We were like a large sea creature, pulsating to tango nouvelle. Arms and hands gently swept over faces and shoulders, hair was swept in all directions. When the music stopped we were instructed to dance with whomever our fingertips happened to be touching… this could be someone 2-3 persons away… and the dance continued for three more songs. We were all satisfactorily drenched.

Rodolfo described the overwhelming sensations and emotions that would sweep over a man of the early 1900’s, as he held a woman so closely in a tango embrace. He astutely described how, over time, people have become desensitized to sexuality, as it has become so overtly and vulgarly displayed in such a ubiquitous fashion. He called on us to rekindle that sense of awe, wonder and passion through our dance. He asked us to continue to play like children, while appreciating as adults, the privilege of experiencing our femaleness or maleness through the sensual relationship of the two. Before we proceeded to the dance exercise incorporating richer sensual gestures, we were treated to a special performance. Rodolfo’s son and his partner, wearing their sweaty work out apparel, danced an exquisite tango, displaying innocence, intimacy and the magic of this man-woman thang!

The 8 hour session ended with a 40 minute reflection period, “to allow us to better able reintegrate to the outside world once again, and to the quotidian life…” Each dancer took a few moments to express their impressions. At least half of the dancers are professional tango performers and their comments were emotionally profound. One of them likened the experience to his spiritual quest through yoga. Another, who had returned to the studio after a many years of success explained his conflicted feelings during the workshop, realizing that his dancing had become “contaminated by commercialism and misplaced priorities…” He requested private time with the maestro afterwards to begin his rediscover the dance, the craft, he had once loved. Many dancers expressed thanksgiving and their joy at celebrating this dance in such an intimate and enriching way. Most of all, attendees were celebrating Rodolfo’s recovery. He had been confined to the ICU for 4 months and many feared he would “have left to organize the greatest Milonga in heaven.” Tears were shed. It was a moving experience and we are so grateful to have ended up in Buenos Aires so unexpectedly and yet at such a perfect time.

What is business but a dance between two companies?
What is life but a dance between people?
— Jeannette Potts, M.D. - Dr. Tango
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