Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Selective Hearing

Song: Poema by Francisco Canaro
Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
December 29, 2008, The Beat, Berkeley, CA

Maestros had an information sheet on the topic of the evening:

1. Rhythm
a. Find Strong & Weak Beats
b. Hear & sometimes accent Weak Beats, Syncopations, & special rhythms
c. Selectively choose and construct individual Rhythmic flow / interpretation

2. Melody
a. Hear & react to general flow of main melody
b. Hear & move to counter melody and layering of instruments
c. Creative Interpretation of Melody through movement

3. Transitions – incl. Fills/Pauses/Breaks
a. Hear & React to Strong Transitions
b. Hear & React to Subtle Transitions
c. Capture/Predict/Create transitions and communicate to partner

4. Lyrics
a. Tell the difference between singer & no singer
b. Feel and React to Emotion behind singer
c. Interpret Poetry or meaning of song


My notes:

There are four categories/parts to every song:
(1) Rhythm
(2) Melody
(3) Transitions
(4) Lyrics

Depending on the level of dancer, he and she will interpret these elements in different ways.

A beginner will hear the pulse or traspie.

An intermediate dancer will interpret in a freer way, hearing syncopas and be more aware of changes in the music.

A more sophisticated or advanced dancer will have more sophisticated interpretations. He might hear different things and play in different ways, such as to the melody, with the "breath" of the music, with starts and stops or changes, or with the countermelody.

All of our classwork was done to Troilo's Malena.

First we danced to the Rhythm of Malena.

Then we danced to the Melody of Malena.

Then we danced to the Transitions in Malena, focusing on the fills, the runs in the middle of the tango sentences, the stops, the pauses, and the outright pauses. In Malena, there are five lines in the top section, and we were to stop at the pause and stretch the note out in our dancing, and we were supposed to also stop moving at the end of each sentence.

Then we danced to the Lyrics in Malena. It is most difficult to dance to the lyrics because lyrics are poems. Maestro read us three translations of Malena, and noted that there were subtle differences in the verbiage of the translations. This is because tango lyrics are in Castellano, with ample sprinklings of Lunfardo, a type of street gangsta slang of the 1920's/30's/40's spoken in Buenos Aires. And like all languages, it is a living, evolving thing, and subject to the interpretation of the reader and his sociocultural background (many tango lyrics are translated by non-Argentine, non-native Spanish speakers).

The translations were by Jake Spatz http://www.tangodc.com/lyrics/malena.htm, Derrick Del Pilar, and one from Planet Tango

The translations and maestro's handwritten commentary are located in the Jam Book download link: http://www.project-tango.org/TangoJamBook08.zip.

Next, we were to try to sense the emotional context of the song, whether it is sweeping, sad, angry, happy or joyful. We can associate our movements to the emotions behind the words, and try to really interpret the meaning of the poetry and try to communicate that to our partner. Words often heard in tango lyrics include "tears", "love", "hate", and "heart." Tango song structure typically follows (1) the whole song plays first, then (2) the lyrics come afterward, and finally (3) the finale.

For Followers, when you hear the lyrics, think about what you feel. You can use all of your body when you sense the swell in the lyrics. For example, you can tighten your hand around the Leader's back to pull him closer in the embrace. You can interpret/reflect what you are hearing to create tension, not just in your feet and legs, though that is good, but in your entire body.

Both Leaders and Followers can use their breath to interpret, to lift and carry our partner into the idea in the song. We can use our breath to align to the lines of the poem or to divide the phrase or sentence.

In dancing tango, what we tend to attach our movements to (whether it is the rhythm, melody, transitions, or lyrics) depends on what grabs us about the song.

Our homework is to dance to the same song, focusing on a different category in the song (rhythm or melody or transition or lyrics). To dance well, we need to know our music well. The Follower follows the Leader, but she can find ways to interpret different parts of the song that are different from the Leader's interpretation. The Leader can feel her interpretations, and respond to and accommodate them. That is how different Followers inspire Leaders differently (and also how different Leaders inspire Followers differently).

Our next concept was to take what we learned and apply it to milonga. Here, maestro played Donato's Ella Es Asi. In this song, as in all tango songs, for the Follower there is lots of opportunity to be respectful of the lead and yet still be able to work within the lead to express what she is hearing/feeling in the song. Followers should be active in their hearing, and not just wait for the lead.

Next, we did two exercises to help us get more control over our bodies, since as we danced to milonga, it was clear that our minds wanted to do certain moves, but our bodies wouldn't cooperate (either it was too sluggish or too fast, missing the beat or whatever spot in the music we were trying to dance to or emphasize).

(1) We were to stop dancing when we hear the countermelody, and then continue dancing when the countermelody goes away. Yes, this is possible to do in milonga (accommodating the countermelody). In tango songs, sometimes there are many different elements that happen at the same time (rhythm, melody, lyrics). Thus, there are many layers to tango music, and all layers and elements affect the overall phrasing. Slowing down makes us more creative.

(2) Our second exercise was to use the volcada to draw out, stretch, and accentuate any drawn out elements in the tango song. We were to do a volcada at the point where appropriate, and then continue dancing as we normally would.

Depending on whether the dancer is beginner, intermediate, or advanced, it will change what he/she hears in the music, and how it is expressed in their dance.

Even in milonga, we do not have to be stuck to the rhythm, we can focus on the melody or other elements.

Notes courtesy of Anne at http://scoutingtour.blogspot.com

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