Do it like kids

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Artists without technique

After my post about technique and emotions, there was a comment that you need to have a well-developed technique to express emotions. The reader’s comment started like this…

Imagine a singer without breathing technique. A ballet dancer who cannot do pointes or split , a painter who doesn’t know the techniques of colours or perspective or drawings ! 

and it continued by saying that you need technique and good physical condition to dance. When I asked if she was mainly referring to professionals she said that she was not and that her comment was for everyone. This made me think. It challenged me. Is it really so? Is it not possible for someone to express emotions through art if they don’t have proper technique? Is it possible to have artistic expressions of emotions without training in your technique? Is it really the technique the thing that is missing?

Interacting with pure emotions

I visited a friend’s house the other day. They have two adorable kids and we were playing with them all the time. It is impressive how a couple of game hours with kids can totally change your mood. For better or for worse. I mean you leave the house full of smiles or with a headache from the cries. In any case, you are overwhelmed. But how does this happen? I mean how can you feel so happy after some time with children even if they don’t speak and even if you can’t have a super impressive conversation with them? I never really made the connection until recently.

Children can teach you a lot if you pay attention to them. Children, especially babies and toddlers, haven’t yet developed the intellectual ability to think and restrict their emotions based on social context. A baby will cry no matter where it is if it needs to be fed, or if it is bothered, ignored, etc. Moreover, it will also smile and laugh no matter if it is in a serious or relaxed situation. Children don’t yet have social filters for their emotions. They don’t think about what others will think or how they will come across to others. They don’t give a shit (or maybe they do… but only a literal one!).

This is why they can exhaust you and fill you up emotionally at the same time. They constantly express unfiltered emotions, laughing, crying, smiling, jumping around, etc. When you interact with them… when you pay attention to them… when you are there for them, you need to receive and handle all these emotions. This is not an easy job. It leaves a mark on you. A smile or a tear on your face.

Childish art?

So what about the artistic expression of emotions? Expressing emotions through art (music, dance, painting, sculpture, etc.). Do children possess any high-level artistic technique? What kind of tools do they possess to artisticly express emotions? If technique and tools are necessary to express emotions, then how do children manage to do that without special training? Your kid can sing a song and you are full of joy… Your kid draws a home with some sketchy people and you think this is your own Picasso painting. How are they able to use artistic expression without proper technique and even so, touch people emotionally? Some might say this is not art… but many parents will probably find these the most moving art pieces in the world.

So is it the personal connection that brings the emotional value? Is it only their parents who can be moved by such acts? If that’s the case go and spend some time on YouTube, TikTok, or any other media watching videos of babies and toddlers singing and dancing around. Why do you have a smile on your face after that?… Why can those videos move you?… How can they become viral and touch so many people? It’s not about personal connection then. It must be something else.

Social filters

It’s all about expressing emotions naturally… unfiltered… without second thoughts. It’s the honesty and the pureness of the expressed emotion that makes it so moving for so many people. Basically, it all comes down to mostly social filters in emotional expression. Our image, our social context, our friends, and our community, all play a role in filtering our emotions. They all make us think about what we do. Is it going to look good? Is it going to feel good? Is my partner going to assume something wrong about me? Will the other dancers see me as a crazy person… or as a creepy one? You may not realize that all these thoughts work as background processes in our minds. So our emotions are expressed filtered… suppressed… toned down… masked and that’s why they are not communicated correctly. However, just because our message is not communicated correctly we think it is our technique that is the problem.

Think about it. There are so many examples of art masterpieces that touch people every day and yet they were created and they are performed by people without much proper technique training. Songs that touch your heart with lyrics written by common people without some special education. Paintings created by amateur artists hanging on walls of their houses or their friends. There is so much art out there that truly expresses emotions and touches people and doesn’t come from specialists or professionals. It comes from common people who just felt the need to say what they felt at the moment. Let it out. And that they did. Like children who just feel something and just express it in any way they can.

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The hidden problem

So coming back to the question in the beginning. What does technique have to do with expressing emotions? I dare to say nothing. You can express emotions even without technique in your dance or your art in general. You just need to let yourself be free to do so. Like a kid. So then why do we need technique? As I wrote before technique in Tango helps in maintaining comfort and clear communication in our dance. But this communication is only the result of your expression. First, you need to express something and then it will be communicated. If a child doesn’t cry… it will not express its discomfort. Babies don’t have any technique… they just express an emotion by laughing, crying, etc. It is their parents who have the technique to figure out what is causing this emotion and respond appropriately. Babies rub their eyes when crying instinctively when they are tired and want to sleep. This is not a technique learned. This is only an expression. It is their parents who learn the technique of reading those signs and responding.

So technique is learned and it’s about communicating what you feel. Either sending or receiving and understanding a message. But if there is no message, this communication is simply meaningless. If there is nothing expressed in the first place, nothing is communicated. So technique is only the tool to communicate the emotion. But not to express it. We already have the tools to express our emotions… our voice, face, bodies, movements, etc. We are born with the ability to express emotions embedded in our core system. Somehow as we grow we learn to suppress this ability and we think we lose it. But it’s there. We just need to become children again to find it and start… dancing!

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is a song that sounds quite happy. It is a milonga after all! But if you read the lyrics you realize that it relates a lot with the theme of social filters hiding our true emotions and identities. It’s talking about a woman who now crosses the streets of Buenos Aires hiding her real self, being a “faithful copy of that iconic image” she once was.

So how about you? Do you ever try to tone down the emotions you want to express in your dance? Do you ever catch yourself applying those social filters? Did you ever cross the line and dance like a child? How did it feel? 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.

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