Tension (7 ene 2009)

It is the bane of my tango, something that has haunted me from the very beginning, something I have been aware of forever and still can't seem to shake. Specifically, it is a tension of the frame from my arms through to the upper back, chest, shoulders and neck. Of lesser relevance but still something I want to address is lower body tension in the toes and in the knees. I guess, really, I'm tense all over. It's one of the main reasons I tend to fatigue relatively quickly. A lot of energy is expended just in the unnecessary engagement of all these muscle groups.

There are several reasons my body tends to default to this, but the main ones stem from my conscientiousness in maintaining a certain aesthetic posture, from wanting clarity of intention to my partner, and aspiring for an embrace that feels present and, for lack of a better word, desirous of my partner.

The problems that arise, aside from the aforementioned inefficiency of the dance, mostly stem from what is transmitted (and, of course, what fails to transmit). The obvious pitfalls are a diminishing of fluidity in the movement, limitation of possibility in movement, and quicker expenditure of energy and possible joint and muscle fatigue. And the problems are amplified when a follower dutifully mirrors the tension. These are all physical detriments. But there are also social/interpersonal issues. For example, excess tension in the leader communicates an authoritarian approach to the follower. In extreme cases, this translates as a dance that feels directed rather than shared.

When working with David and Mariana Tuesday evening, David tried to emulate my approach as I followed his lead. The feeling was that of being driven by a moving wall. David described it as somewhat Frankenstein-ish. Solid, to be sure, but lacking warmth and humanity. This is certainly something I don't want to communicate to a partner. David made the astute point that this is not a feeling that is sensual, and as such my intention of communicating "intimacy" and "desire" become effectively negated.

I tried modifying my approach by consciously dropping as much muscle engagement as possible from my frame while maintaining the shape, and emphasizing more drive from my legs. My partner's response was that she felt she could roll through her steps better, although she felt that the clarity of my intention was slightly muffled, and in the end she didn't necessarily have a preference overall. Also, despite the relaxation I still had difficulty keeping my left shoulder from feeling some strain, although I'm aware it's a result of the kind of projection I like to have in my left arm, primarily for aesthetic reasons. I know I could help ease some of the tension by dropping it and keeping it closer to my body, but at the moment I prefer the visual balance of having a little bit of extension, and so choose this over the slight discomfort.

Despite all this, I'm not one to argue against all tension. Matter of fact, I think there are modern schools of thought that, to my taste, err too far in the direction of softness. My current impression is that this risks compromising clarity, as well as taking away from the intimate quality of the dance. In mentioning clarity, I don't want to give the impression that I advocate a forceful lead, one that is muscled and essentially bullied. I don't like arm or hand leads. I do, however, believe the arms and hands to be useful in shaping the direction of a lead and primarily as extensions of the back, where the directional intention should originate.

Obviously, this is an issue that I'm wrestling with and won't soon solve. I think beyond all the experiments with movement and dynamic possibility I'd like to make this priority one for the new year, with base aesthetic concerns (body positions and flow of movement) closely behind.

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