The beauty and the beast


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Lines and posture

You probably have heard those words again and again from teachers. Usually in sentences like “be careful of your lines” or “fix your posture” etc. We all know what they mean and what they are. Lines and posture are parts of the Tango technique which should be aiming for better clarity in communication and comfort. They are essential parts of our technique and we spent hours and hours trying to improve and perfect them.

However, they also fulfill a second function as well. They aim also to make us look nice when we dance. Improve the aesthetics of our dance. You probably admire those dancers on the floor with nice posture and clean, straight lines when they move. So the question that always bothered me is how much of this technique is functionally necessary and how much is only for aesthetic reasons? I mean how good should my posture and lines be to avoid pain and discomfort when I dance? And finally, what if looking good is not always a thing you should strive for in Tango?

The beauty

We live in an age where we are constantly bombarded with images. You have heard about the huge number of young girls with psychological problems due to the influence that social media like Instagram. People see images that are edited, taken under perfect conditions, and after many attempts, and believe that this must be their reality to be happy.

The same can apply to Tango. Especially for beginners, who have not yet managed to identify the depth of Tango, it is very tempting to spend hours watching images, videos, and clips on Instagram and YouTube of professional dancers with perfect postures and amazing lines that feel supernatural. It is also very possible that as a beginner you will think that this should be your goal. So you will dedicate the rest of your Tango journey to trying to perfect your technique. Because as we said… technique will help you express your emotions better when you dance. So the better your posture is, the cleaner your lines are, the better your expression will be. Right?

The beast

But then again… have you ever really paid attention to the songs you dance? They talk about pain, nostalgia, betrayal, loneliness, abandonment, and yes… love as well. But love can have both beautiful and ugly faces. All the above can be ugly faces of love. Now imagine if all those feelings were persons.

If loneliness for example had a face would you press a like on their Instagram photo? If fear, abandonment, anger, and hate had faces would like them on Instagram? If pain had a body would it have a straight-up clean posture? Most probably not.

Do you see the contradiction here? You want your dance to express emotions in music, but at the same time, you want to look like the dancers on Instagram!?!? How are these two aligned if the music is not dreamy and fairytale-like? How can you match the pain from Troilo’s bandoneon, or the energy and rage from Pugliese’s yumba with such a beautiful picture? You simply can’t!

Tango music is not beautiful. Tango music is ugly. Tango music wouldn’t be winning a beauty contest with other music genres. It would probably be given the role of Quasimodo in Notre Dame. Not the one of Esmeralda. Why would you want to make it beautiful? Why would you want to hide its real face? Why strive to look nice when the music you dance to is not?

My boundaries

The answer is that we never liked the ugliness. We always try to hide it. It is repulsive and disgusting and we turn our eyes away from it. But this is exactly the trick. Tango asks you to see yourself through this ugliness and love it. Accept it as it is and show it. It doesn’t ask you to make it look nice. It asks you to accept it, embrace it, and express it without caring of how it looks, but of how it feels.

Turning back on the initial questions when I am thinking of improving my technique whatever that might be I am always thinking. Am I going too far with it? Is it really necessary to obsess with things like for example, how clean my lines are? Is it really necessary to strive for the perfect posture? How much of it is useful for my comfort and communication? What if this perfect posture and super clean lines take out the ugly emotions I want to express? What if they mask them or hide them? Why sacrifice emotion just to look good?

I know that some might argue, that a good technique never hurt anyone. I hear you… but my question is… how much good technique is good enough and how much is too much? Is there a possibility that too much technique and attention to it will bend you in a way that is not really you, but a copy of an Instagram photo? Personally, I stopped striving for the perfect posture or super clean lines, some time ago especially when I dance to orchestras and songs that convey dark emotions. I just don’t see it fitting. I will maybe try to use such things when I dance to diSarli or something similar whose music has usually an air of elegance etc. but for the rest, I do my best to make myself and my partner comfortable when we dance and I will prioritize emotion over cleanliness and perfect technique. I won’t really care about how it looks on the outside as long as I communicate the emotions I want and we both feel comfortable in the embrace.

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango comes from a voice that describes pain in a unique way that hits you directly to the heart. The song “La ultima curda” describes the emotional turmoil and despair of a failed relationship that leaves the hero seeking solace in alcohol to cope with the pain. Could you dance to such a song like one of those Instagram dances and be able to convey the emotions it carries?

So how about you? How much do you obsess with technique? How important do you think it is? Do you ever feel it contradicts the emotions you want to express? Do you ever feel you need to “dirty” it to be true to the music? How much do you care for how you look when you dance? Do you ever feel that you just don’t care for your image because of the music you dance to? Let me know with a comment below, an email, or a PM on Facebook… oh… and if you liked it… don’t forget to share it with your friends.


3 responses to “The beauty and the beast”

  1. davidtangotribe Avatar

    What an interesting, even compelling, song. It well illustrates the tension in your question.

    My hypothesis holds that the things we consider beautiful and elegant are regarded so because they are highly functional. A well-structured body and embrace work well, so we like how they look.

    Should we interpret this song literally by staggering around drunkenly? Do we disrespect the song by dancing in an upright, elegant posture? Does the music interpret the lyrics or vice-versa? Do we want our dance to interpret the music/lyrics or to represent how they make us feel?

    My partner dance priorities are, as you say, clear and comfortable communication. On achieving that, we can look for drama in our movements to express the song in a metaphorical, if not literal, way.

    Thank you for the thought-provoking post.

    1. Christos Kouroupetroglou Avatar

      Hi David.
      Your comments are always so interesting!
      Obviously it’s not easy to mimic 100% the emotion or the lyrics of a song for every song. Also I don’t mean that you disrespect the song if you are elegant. But what I am saying is that when you dance and the emotion you want to express makes you hunch a little… or break your lines… or do something else that doesn’t look good… you should not avoid it. Try it… exploit it. Don’t be afraid to look bad if that’s what you feel like doing. And again… all this in good measure… keeping in mind that you don’t break the comfort and the communication.

      1. davidtangotribe Avatar

        Yes! Well put, Christos. Everything is a range of possibilities. If we can enrich our dance with an expression of our feelings about dramatic lyrics (of which our partner may have no understanding), then as long as we honor the higher value of our partner connection, we may take moments for dramatic expression, even ugliness, which may fall outside of “Argentine tango elegance.” I love dancing with partners who will play with the dance in this way.

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