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Connected Movement: introducing the basics of Argentinian Tango with the benefit of Alexander awareness.

Presented by Loretta Manson at Friends Meeting House, 8 Hop Gardens, London.

Saturday, 17th May 2014 

By Jacek Kaleta

In this write-up I would like to share some of my impressions and what I learned from attending the workshop on Tango and Alexander Technique.

The workshop was fully booked with about 16 participants.  2 more women than men, which reportedly is a pretty good ratio for a Tango event. About half of the participants were AT teachers, and there were only a few people with little Alexander experience. However, for most of us it was our first contact with Argentinean ďSalonĒ Tango, so we were all pretty much in the same boat.

We had the benefit of being introduced into the fascinating world of Tango by a teacher of both Alexander Technique and Dance. Loretta led the workshop gracefully, and although she had obviously planned its structure, everything flowed beautifully and naturally.
 

 



 

All our work was always done with the music in the background. The music had a walking pace quality to it, with easily discernable beat, usually fairly slow, sometimes bit more brisk. After introducing ourselves and short introduction by Loretta we began our first exploration with walking on our own, trying to get the feel for the flow and character of the music and the natural pauses it provides.

It seems that understanding pauses in Tango is one of the essential skills. The movement is naturally determined by the music, so if thereís a pause in the music, we reflect this in our movement. This pause can be of different degrees. Sometimes itís more like a comma, or hyphen, and sometimes itís more of a full stop.
 

 


We were soon asked to pair up and explored what itís like to ďleadĒ and ďfollowĒ. The person leading would guide his/her partner who had her/his eyes closed, in a casual way around the room. We all tried both leading and following. Many people reported how enjoyable and liberating it was to let go and just allow oneself to be led. How comfortable am I with going into unknown?

We then moved on to practicing what seems to be the most essential skill: ďTango walkĒ. They say itís a skill that requires years of dedicated practice to master. I really liked those moments of pause; it provided very welcome and useful space for Alexander thinking.

I liked the activity where we stood against each other with our palms touching. At this point men were introduced into how to shift oneís partnerís weight either by shifting oneís own weight to one side or by giving opposition with one of the hands. This could be then taken into movement.

 


How to indicate to our partner which leg is going to move first?  I found this rather challenging, but also fascinating. How do I communicate this intention? Sometimes I really felt the need to stop, and have some space to ďthinkĒ. Thankfully the nature of the dance allows for stillness, so I could always stop and think. I felt comfortable with doing this whenever I needed to stop.

It seems that people with Alexander background are in an advantageous situation when learning Tango. Some skills are transferable. For example the skill of listening to what your partner is indicates, where the intention is, or the skill of leading with clarity and direction.

 

 

We were now able to take this to explore and practice further in a ronda, that is moving around the room in the anticlockwise direction. Thatís how the flow of group movement is defined in social context. Not strictly speaking tango hold at this point, but getting there. We would face each other and hold each otherís elbows. It was clear how the idea of opposition comes in here. We had opportunity of practicing with many different partners, which was very useful. 

 
Sometimes some pairs would stop, so we appreciated how important spatial awareness is, in order to stay safe and respect the space of other people. Itís like in the AT: we stay connected both to ourselves and space and the other people around us.

 

 

After a break we continued with the ronda, with Loretta giving each pair specific feedback. We finished the evening with more practice using a proper Tango hold. Unfortunately time was running out and we had to finish there.

It was a very rich and inspiring event and people seemed to really enjoy themselves. According to experienced teachers Tango requires years of dedicated practice. Considering that I think we did pretty well that evening. I think that our AT background with training in sensory awareness, inhibition, direction, leading, following and opposition helped us.

So whatís the experience of Tango like? For me itís as easy to convey that as to explain what the AT is like to someone who hasnít had a lesson before. Itís experiential. From what I have seen in other people, not only my heart was touched by the beauty of Tango.

Tango is a social dance, and I found this aspect very appealing. It allows for direct connection with the person you dance with. A direct eye contact - what a change for someone who lives in London!

 



Iím very interested in taking it further. More practice would give me opportunities to continue exploring and learning about myself and how I interact with others in a different enhanced environment. Iím aware that I need to work more on indicating more clearly my intention and act with more confidence. Itís interesting how certain patterns come up in all activities, whether itís Tango or learning how to put hands-on. Improving at Tango would allow me to improve in my AT skills, and other way around.

 



It was a very practical workshop, with a very fine balance between talking and activity. Loretta shared her understanding and passion about Tango in a way that can only be conveyed in person. You wonít get it from watching it on the TV.

 

© Jacek Kaleta 2014

Note: If anyone would like details about where they could learn tango, or anything else to do with the workshop, they are very welcome to contact Loretta directly.

Loretta Manson, MSTAT
Web: greaterpoise.com
Email: lorettamanson@hotmail.com
Tel: 07949 190 595

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