Seeing Music: Personifying Different Genres
"At what moment does it become a dance?"
"At the moment that you become aware of how you are pushing off the ground." This was how my first class with Gaston Torelli began in 2016. I have been dwelling on that idea since then and the depth of it is still infinite. Why do we dance? Because we want to express something that we feel. And what is it that makes us feel? Music. The moment I feel an emotion in response to music is the moment when I notice how I am pushing off the ground. I hear the deep base of an African drum and my pelvis sinks into my legs, joints softening, limbs becoming heavy, my movements rhythmic, spine swaying. And if I hear the sound of a violin piercing through the air, it is like my bones become hollow, and my muscles propel the body the way a wind would push into the sails to propel a ship.
Over time I came to see that all dance is really one and the same dance, whether it is with another person or alone, in high heels or barefoot. The body is the same, we all have two arms, two legs, a pelvis, a spine. The possibilities are limited. All dance in its fundamental state has at its core: steps (side steps, back steps, forward steps), arm movements (up, down or to the side), leg movements (up, down, to the side), etc. You get the idea. What ultimately shapes the way the dance looks is the specific music and its instrumentation. All movement evolves in response to music. New movements and genres of dance emerge from the desire to illustrate a particular sound and rhythm.
In my own work I use particular types of music and sound to tap into new possibilities of movement. Over the years I have developed an understanding what kinds of music trigger what movements and which sounds connect me with which emotional states. This is how my musicality as a dancer developed. I became aware of specific songs triggering magical states where I covered expansive emotional vistas. It was not intellectual, I didn't think that the song was good, it just possessed me. One of the first such experiences was at a dive bar on 80s music night in Dallas ten years ago. The dance floor was empty as it was early in the night. The DJ put on Bjork's "Sensuality" remix and before I could even think of potential embarrassment of being the only one dancing, my body was practically levitating off the ground, pulsing in slow motion in mid air. I was suspended in a cloud of blue light and I felt very clearly that all of my movement was tied to her voice. When the song ended I felt like I had woken up from a dream.
To this day that song always produces movement in my body and since then there have been hundreds of songs that possessed me: at milongas, house parties, ecstatic dances, ballet classes, dancing solo or with a partner, blues, fusion, salsa, swing, you name it. The genres and styles of songs that move my body and allow me to access that magical state keeps growing, there is just so much good music out there! I was pondering with someone the other day that perhaps this kind of dance should be called "songing," since the physical stylization of movement is based on the desire to illustrate the sound of the specific song.
So from that perspective, I looked through the two hundred dance videos I have compiled over the years to see which ones I feel best achieve the task of illustrating a non-tango song using tango vocabulary. In each of these I see the song, I feel it in my body through watching the movement of the dancers.