Saturday, October 5, 2013

Not Another Musicality! Workshop

Song: Cordobesita (played two different ways)
Instructors: Mari Black and Tilly Kimm of Orquesta Sin Trabajo
October 2, 2013, CELLspace, San Francisco

Orquesta Sin Trabajo is a tango band where the members are both tango dancers and tango musicians.

In this class, as we embark on a journey where we listen and reach, we will approach tango from the musician side and from the dancer side. We will explore what we listen to and how we express it in our dancing. There are different contrasts in tango music and we will explore how we can express these in our dance. We can create a beautiful dance without tons of steps.

Thus, for our warm-up dance and throughout this class, we were to dance doing just three things:
(1) walking
(2) rock step
(3) ocho cortado

These are the three tools we will use to explore musicality. If you don’t know how to do one of the above steps (like the ocho cortado) just do walking and rock steps.

Our song for the evening was Cordobesita.

Maestras did a demo dance, dancing to a phrase of music from Cordobesita, doing it two different ways.
  • First one: Executing steps, like a train. 
  • Second one: Dancing with each other, with music, creating a story.
We noticed the difference in the two ways they danced: timing, pauses, syncopation, energy levels, extended beats, more dynamics.

Next Maestras played a phrase from the song Cordobesita, Mari on the violin and Tilly on the piano, doing it two different ways:
  • First one: regularly 
  • Second one: with volume changes, legato, using notes and music to create a conversation.
We will explore the tools to make the difference from the first way to the second way. These are called Tone Factors, which are independent things you can do to change the sound.

Volume changes: Forte v Piano
  • Forte = Bigger Volume 
  • Piano = Smaller, softer volume
In dance we change our bodies to create forte or piano by taking larger or smaller steps. In our drilling, we explored the length of our steps, our range of motion, making big, long steps during forte and making short, small steps during piano.

Musicians change how they play a song, and we dance in reaction.

Another thing we can do to express volume is to have more energy in our forward momentum. This relates to dynamics.

Regarding length of step momentum, more compression goes with longer steps.

Moving on to play with another tone factor, we focused on Articulation.

Here, we can change how we attack our steps on individual notes.
  • For the staccato notes, we should have short steps 
  • For the legato notes, we should have long and connected steps.
The band just played. Then it was asked of the band, who was leading and who was following? During the song, the pianist was following the violinist, and the bassist was also following, but then would sometimes take over the leading, and sometimes the pianist would do something intentionally different, specifically NOT following the violin. So the musicians play off of each other.

As dancers, who do we listening to? What instrument do you usually listen to (ie, the violinist)? When we danced the next song, we were to listen to someone else (ie, the bassist or pianist or bandoneonist) to see how this changed our dance.

There are layers of music to tango. There’s always something new that you haven’t heard before, even if you’ve listened to the song many times.

Still working on expressing Articulation, we next drilled by focusing on the speed of our collection.
- quick for staccato
- gooey for legato

In the next drill, we were to express articulation by the speed of our collection, but we were to listen to a different instrument in the band.

Another Tone Factor is Tension and Release.

Here we can Be a Musician, and we can Be a Dancer.

In Tension, we fill our lungs with air to expand them, and breath and oxygen are an important part of tension.

In a song’s cadence, the last two notes, the first note creates tension and the last one releases it.

The release can be done several different ways:
- hard
- light/soft
- not release (Rodriguez)

You do not release until musicians release you (breath oriented).

Maestras concluded with a class summary and by playing Cordobesita two different ways with the class dancing.

Notes courtesy of Anne at

No comments: