Looking in the Mirror

Physical basis of pleasure in dancing on the example of Argentine Tango. By Igor Polk, 2005 May 30

Home | San Francisco Tango Clubs | San Francisco Tango on-Internet | Weblog | Contents | Links-Blog | Comments | Photo


This place in Blog

Other articles you might be interested in:

Lead in Open Embrace;

Relaxation and Tension. Boleo;

Vision with the touch - scientific and technology methods.;

3 levels of dancing;

Musicality in dancing;

What is dancing;

Dancing and Freedom;

Tango as Art;



What happens when a dancer wants to look good? He looks in a mirror. A mirror is something which tells you about yourself how good is it what you do. You watch yourself from an outsider's point of visual view.

Are there other means to tell you about yourself? You can direct your internal eye of attention into your own body. What to look at? Move your hand in the air. You hardly can feel what does it do. Now tense your muscles, stretch you joints. Suddenly your arm, leg, foot, the whole body become "visible" to you. Maintain moving with "visibility" feeling tension and stretching. If you lose "vision" for a moment, find that mini-muscle, adjacent or remote joint, move the whole thing a micron, change the angle so that "vision" comes back. Welcome to a world of your own body!

Manipulating with tensions in your muscles and keeping joints and muscles stretched you can create an appropriate "mirror" to "visualize" each of your movements. It may require paying attention to other muscles and joints, not participating as much in a movement as one might think.

Is there something else? Each of your body parts has more than 1 muscle and it has mass. So you can scientifically speaking make that part "oscillate". My favorite example is Brazilian Samba moves. Cuban movement with pelvis is another example. Belly dancing. Corte in Argentine Tango. Oscillating movements can be very complex or very simple, but all of them are incredibly "visible" to your internal eye and deliver great pleasure when you do it right. To do it right you only have to master a synchronization technique of participating elements of the body. Of course, that involves training to obtain the skill or to develop additional muscles. All oscillating movements are done in this way: one component accumulates energy while another releases it, then they change roles, and so on.

As soon as it has been found how to do it right, the oscillating movement becomes very easy. It requires very little energy. This is called "resonance". Each resonance has one most important feature - one or several "resonance frequencies" - how fast you are to do the movement to feel right. A little bit faster, a little bit slower, and ... Boomms, here you are! It happened. Now maintain it. This is a sign of doing it right - it becomes easy. Very easy, as if it happens itself.

If you move the center of oscillation of the oscillating part to another point in space, or change tension in the surrounding muscles, or change the geometry of participating elements, the "resonance frequency" will change too. That is another way to achieve and manipulate it. Not changing the rhythm, but changing mechanical parameters of the involved and surrounding parts of the body. Because variation of the parameters changes the theoretical "resonance frequency", you are able gradually transform one oscillating movement into another one. You can incorporate additional "things" into the movement. Once they are in sync, they variate the movement - it becomes a dance.

Resonance as phenomena has one amazing property. Once you do a rhythmic movement with one part of your body, another part which has the same "resonance frequency" will resonate, vibrate, and start oscillating with large amplitude. So, it is only matter of finding the right rhythm, tension, and geometrical structure ...

Here I have to say about damping. In order for one part to resonate when another oscillates, the propagation path should not damp. The best transmitters are solid, so your arms, legs, abdomen, everything should not be totally relaxed, but as I would say, alert. Make your body a spring! By the way, one of the ways to make it alert is rotation. In a well alert body, a tap with a toe is transmitted well right through the chest to your partner!

What happens if you sharply stop the movement? Any movement including an "oscillating" one? It generates "a rebound" of all muscles, bones, and organs in the involved area. It happens because they have mass and are connected to each other resiliently. Each one of them and all of them together start to vibrate and oscillate and you feel it!

The art of dancing includes an ability to make every part of your body visible to you, vibrating, and responding. You body become an orchestra with bright sounding instruments for one important listener - yourself.

There are 2 ways of dancing Tango. In first, you do not have a strong physical connection with your partner. A female dances herself. She becomes a "Super Oscillator". Man introduces controlling influences to change kinematic and dynamic parameters of the "Super Oscillator", providing extra supply of energy when needed.

Gloria and Eduardo Second way is when you create a strong connection with the partner either in open or in close embrace. You establish a "transmission path", and then you are able to listen to the orchestra inside your partner. When I dance, I can "see" absolutely any part of my partner's body which she is willing to show me through her art of "making a body an orchestra". However, establishing the connection, you combine your own orchestra to the orchestra of your partner. In order to have pleasure they should "sound" in unison.

Even more. Establishing strong connection, you establish new pairs for oscillations. You are creating more instruments! And there are many more of them possible than just in a single body.

This is why I love Argentine Tango. This is the only dance known to me in which the main topic is the art of combining two bodies together to listen to intense dance inside a partner and to establish a "combined orchestra".

If you have not mastered dance - you have to have a glass mirror to control what you do. When you mastered dance you are able to "look" inside your own body. When you dance in couple, all what you do is reflected in your partner's body and responds. Your partner becomes your mirror. You are looking at the partner and you are looking at your own reflection. And if it feels right, it is beautiful.

Tango: Looking into Each Other.A mirror must be polished. First of all, the surface - connection must be smooth and perfect, never rough. It always has to have uniform properties to transmit signals without any loss of information and energy. Make your connection points and surfaces tight. If it is loose, very fast and short movements and microforces will dissipate, vanish there. It is pure physics - high frequency signals dissipate on micro gaps. "Ting-a-ling" connection introduces "information noise": you do not know if it is a signal from a partner, or just foreheads bumping into each other. So, keep it tight! Where could the connection points be? Anywhere you want - hands, chests, cheeks, forearms, abdomens, foreheads, fingers, feet, thighs, you name it!

Having perfect surface-connection you already have a mirror. Thanks to natural body inertia and resilience you are able to observe yourself in the mirror of your partner. All micro movements and micro forces  totally unnoticed by themselves become visible and obtain great sense in connection with your mirror. You have not just a mirror, you have a telescope!

But to have a perfect surface is not enough. Behind it should be a reflecting substance. Preferably precious. Then it is crystal clear, and shines, and sparkles in all rainbow colors including ultraviolet. You find a counterpart there who attaches herself to you, reacts to you, and bounce the light and balls back to you. Each single impulse you make gives rise to avalanche of vibrations, oscillations, emotions in your partner and between both of you. And then ... pause. Observing and enjoying post-effects in the bodies. You stop, but dance still resonate inside you: Wow-Wow-wow-.. Unexplainable, imaginable only to those who experienced it.

And the dance goes on. A way of steady flow of an improvised symphony by a combined orchestra all night long while feet hold you up ...

* * *

Here is a discussion of this article clarifying terms and ideas. The main topic of the discussion is relaxation and tension. Boleo technique has been touched. Here you will find another opinion on the subject, clarification, and where I was wrong in the article.

* * *
Here is the link to Pulse article supporting some of the ideas. ( Pop-ups!, therefore - in new window)

* * *
August 2008 issue of the Dance magazine published an interview with Donald McKayle, former partner of Martha Graham, and a dance teacher. Here is what he said about rhythm:

".. It is not the sound that they are making with their feet, arms, or body. It is how the body moves through space. How one moves is largely determined by the natural orchestration of the body's rhythm and pulse. I want dancers to feel rhythms and counter rhythms internally and let those inspire their movement..

I do not use counts or what I call "digits." Counting can be a crutch, a distraction that interferes with the feeling processes. I speak the rhythm: Ba da da de, ba da da de. If they are with me -- speaking the rhythm -- they don't have time to count and are more inclined to internalize the rhythms like a new language."

Isn't it what tango Candencia is about.. ?


Go to the Top

My name is Igor Polk. I dance Argentine tango in San Francisco.

Copyright©2003-2006 Igor Polk
San Francisco Click - the Virtual Tour magazine and pictures