Dancers or story tellers?



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Stories of research

In my short academic career and even during my first years in my Ph.D., I always kept in my mind the advice of my supervisor when it came to writing. “You always have to think about the story you want to tell,” he told me. When you write research papers you can easily fall into the trap of writing each chapter and each paragraph having in mind what is point you want to make in there. Especially when you go through the literature review. That’s the part where the readers most frequently get bored, and let their minds wander while reading. In the end, they might read the whole paper and wonder what it was about.

In another piece of advice, he also told me that your endpoint your main reason must be hinted at or revealed from early in the text so people know where you want to end up. Catch the readers’ attention by providing a vision… a target… a destination… a key message and then lead them through the different steps to get there like in a fairytale, a story where the hero goes through different adventures to get there. But always, always remember this key message… keep it in mind like an explorer keeps the compass to know where he wants to go.

Music as a story

A few weeks ago a Tango friend of mine posted a TEDx talk from Benjamin Zander where he explains the power that classical music has. His presentation is hilarious and moving at the same time and if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth spending those 20 minutes. The point he is making is that the way the music is played by the musicians is what makes the difference and what can really inspire people to love classical music. When the musician is played with fewer impulses, as he says, (the one-buttock play as he calls it), then the music flows in a way that takes you on board and you ride on a journey to its destination. If the musician doesn’t focus and stress on each individual note and creates a line of notes where all of them together have a common purpose. To get you to the destination… home. When this happens the music is becoming alive, it’s telling a story, it’s creating emotions on the way while it eventually leads you to your destination.

So it’s all about what the musician thinks when they play a piece. If they think of the next combination of 4 or 8 notes… then you get an impulse every 4 or 8 beats. If instead, he is thinking of the story they want to tell then the impulse will lead you to the end of the story. If the story has multiple chapters then maybe each impulse will lead you to the end of each chapter.

Dancing as story telling

In a Tango musicality class some years ago, our teachers showed us the part of the lecture where Benjamin explains the difference between the different stages of a musician ending up in this one-buttock playing. Then, they told us that they measure the quality of a dancer not by how many steps and moves they can make but rather by how well those steps connect together to tell a story and create a path to a destination. They measure the quality of a dancer by the length of those paths created and how well they match the story told by the music. The better you can tell those stories by linking your steps in such paths, the better and more interesting your dance will be.

In another short answer video from Horacio Godoy, some years ago, he says pretty much the same thing. Dancers with basic musicality can understand and express the music they hear at any given moment. However, if you really want to go a step further you need to see the song as a complete entity, as a story that tells you something, that has a key message. Then, and only then, you can start imagining and creating those stories with your partner on the dance floor.

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

So tonight’s Goodnight Tango is an orchestric piece with just a title. Oblivion. For me, the music feels like it tells us a love story that goes through different stages and ends up in… Oblivion. I imagine two people coming together, flirting, discovering each other, becoming passionate, and living their love with its highs and lows until for some reason getting to separate and in the end forget about each other. The video is from a performance of the song by Horacio Godoy and Maricel Giacomini. What do you think? Can you read the story in their dance? Can you feel the emotions?


4 responses to “Dancers or story tellers?”

  1. […] In the previous post I was writing about how good dancers do not focus on the musicality only in terms of the sound that they listen to, the layers of the music, etc. They go a layer above that and use the music as a canvas to tell a story about it. They have a key message in mind and lead you through the different steps to get there in a way that takes you on board on their journey. […]

  2. […] started this series of posts by explaining the impact of looking at our dance as a story telling process and continued to explain how researching, reading and reflecting on the music we hear can provide us […]

  3. […] last four post deal with the metaphor of story telling in terms of dancing. I have written about how the dance changes when you face it as a story telling process, how knowing stories behind the songs can help us in dancing and what tools we have to tell […]

  4. […] started this series of posts by explaining the impact of looking at our dance as a storytelling process and continued to explain how researching, reading, and reflecting on the music we hear can […]

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