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HOLY WEEK is not exactly the best of times to be lost in a dance described as “the original dirty dancing.”

But I was going on holiday to Buenos Aires, the birthplace of the tango – and I was not about to pass up the chance to live out the romantic fantasy conjured by that tango sequence between Gabrielle Anwar and Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman.”

It has always been one of my all time favorite movie scenes – when this retired blind lieutenant takes the lady in his arms and they are lost in the swell of the music and the sway of their bodies. I fell in love not only with Al Pacino’s fearless character but also with the idea of how a dance like tango could make even a blind man see. Since then, I’ve been intrigued by this dance, which began around the 1800s.


It wasn’t just Pacino that infused excitement into the scene, I soon realized, for apparently in Buenos Aires, the tango was indeed considered more like foreplay to what could happen later in the evening. Lonely men would frequent bars and gambling houses, socializing, drinking, gambling and looking for “romance” in the company of women of ill repute by trying the steps of the new dance. Experimentation, regardless of taste, lewdness or even obscenity was the order of the day in terms of “dance steps.”
The tango broke a lot of taboos. In that era, it was considered risque for a couple to dance in front of each other, with the man’s right arm touching the woman’s back. Here was a dance that incorporated a close embrace, cheek to cheek contact, chests touching, legs invading each other’s space, seemingly in a long conversation of love and passion. Along with flirtatious looks and caresses, it was the ultimate example of promiscuity and sin!

But it all sounded so exciting – and I was more than ready to be whirled in a dance which, I’ve heard it said, could be “thrilling” with the right partner or “nasty get-your-filthy-paws-off-me” with the wrong one.

My sisters describe me as independent and willful but also incurably romantic. I wondered which of this was me when I dared to be drawn into a dance of “four legs, two minds and one heart.” Could a semi-cynic like myself actually allow a total stranger to take control over my body, or even my heart?

“Dancing tango is like learning to speak a foreign language,” says Marion Krauthaker, director of Caminos de Tango Ireland. “At the beginning it feels awkward and you don’t really know what you are saying, nor do you understand what people are trying to tell you. Then you master some basic sentences and you are just thrilled. Being able to share these precious words with other people is so rewarding. Later on, you can have more philosophical conversations – and the feeling is just pure delight. But then again it’s all a question of personality. With some people you never want to stop talking, with others you run out of arguments, and with a few you just don’t get on.”

The “language” needs to be relearned with each new partner, I also discovered. The experts say the tango takes a lifetime to master as it is full of subtle emotional nuances and gestures that alter even the basic eight steps that make up its core choreography. A person’s tango repertoire is only limited by his or her creativity and emotions.
Maybe that explains in part why it’s a dance that appeals mostly to older people who have the patience and time to explore its many subtleties. This is not a dance for everyone.

Ambassador Rey Carandang, our gracious host in Argentina, has a vast collection of tango music, ranging from deeply sensual to furiously angry. He claims there is a tango song for every mood and personality.

They say when you first hear tango music, you don’t immediately love it. But when you start dancing to it, you can’t help but get lost in it.

My first attempt to dance the tango was with my high school classmate Carmella Gana, to the tune of “Fernando’s Hideaway.” Suffice it to say that it was all drama with no actual dancing involved. Later I learned that this is the way most women and men learn, by dancing among themselves. Only later, when they have enough skills not to embarrass their teacher, are they brought to dance with the opposite sex. In Buenos Aires, the top tangueros spend the first six months of lessons just learning to walk the right way.

So tango I did in Buenos Aires. And I’ve had mixed reviews regarding my partnering skills. On the one hand, I’ve been told I have the makings of a dancer. On the other, I’ve been called “stiff” due to my tendency to lead. Believing that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, my favorite compliment was when this very good dancer/acquaintance of mine whispered that I have the makings of good dancer – all I needed was a strong partner.

I admit I was thrilled. I wondered about the double entendre there. But then, as I’m as quick learner, I realized that after all, that’s what the language of tango is all about – “innuendo.”

Is the language of tango for me? Can I let go and, as they say, “Lead from inside the body and not just my head…?”

Typical tango, it’s a question that pertains not only to the dance but to life as well. Like most women, I enjoy getting swept off my feet, so I guess I’m ready to tango. And like any independent strong-willed person, I’m just waiting for a strong partner to lead the way.

By Leica Carpo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:01:00 05/15/2010

Stepping, also known as step dancing, is a percussive dance where the performers utilize their dance movements and bodies to make complex rhythms and rounds. The dance and music is created through stepping motions, stomping, voice, and slapping of the body parts. Generally, stepping is performed in groups, though it can also be performed by a single dancer.

Drawing influence from tap dance, marching, gymnastics, and Afro-Caribbean dances, the dance began in the mid-1900s in African American fraternities. Specific inspirations for this dance include African foot dancing and the military close-order and exhibition drills performed by soldiers with their rifles during basic training.

Any type of attire can be worn during the performance of stepping, but traditionally boots or tap shoes are worn to help produce more sound. Female groups sometimes wear high-heeled shoes. Canes, sticks, and other rhythmical objects have been added as well, in recent years.

The National Pan-Hellenic Council and its member fraternities have popularized stepping. It has also been featured in numerous TV shows and movies, including A Different World, Sister Sister, School Daze, Drumline, and Stomp the Yard.

[youtube src="n1gtCjLWpuc"/]

Also known as:
Steppin', Step Dancing

Originator:
African-American Fraternities

Popularized by:
National Pan-Hellenic Council 

It's really strange while interviewing some students at my high school (Kentridge) it occurred to me that all 15 of the males that I asked, If dance was a sport, answered with a NO. When asking them why they replied with, "They don't have dance on espn, and you cant compete in dance." I don't know about anyone else but I know I have seen dance competitions on espn. But anywayz when I asked the 11 girls if the considered dance a sport 5 replied with a yes (those 5 are on my schools dance team) and 6 replied with no, its a hobby. I always got angry when people wouldn't consider dance as a sport. What can sportsman do that dancers cant do? I mean really, put me on a football field and see how I do. I might not make ever field goal or make a touchdown but I bet I'll do better than you think. Then put a football player in a dance class room. Lets see them try and do three turns on 1 foot!


SPORT(sport) n. 1 active play, a game, etc. Taken up for exercise or pleasure and sometimes, as a profession: football, golf, bowling, and swimming are sports.

-Webster's New World Dictionary

After thinking I realized that there is a very big difference between dance and sports I think. Dance is MUCH more challenging in many reasons. One of them being this...

In sports you try-out to do one thing. In football, you have your running backs quarterbacks halfbacks etc. In basketball you have your point guard, shooting guard, forward, center, small forward etc. In soccer you got forwards, midfielders, goalies, defenders etc. In dance you have...THE DANCER. You don't have the turner or the splits man or the jumper or whatever. Everyone does everything. Everyone works that much harder. You have to be able to do EVERYTHING, and there is A LOT to do.

Another difference is...in sports there is always the IDOL. I mean dance has PLENTY of idols but in sports its sort of like the best dunker the best goalie the best field goal kicker. Everyone looks up to that person. Its sort of like for sports, once you hit the top, there's nothing else for you to do. You've made it. Your the best and that's all there is. Since your better than everyone else there is really nothing left for you to do. In dance its not like that. There is no top, there is no best. If you by chance get to the top there is always people right under you who if they sneeze will rise above you. Everyone is fighting for the ONE title, and when you have hundreds and hundreds of people fighting for the same thing, there's no best, there's no stopping at the top, there is no top, there's just dance.

I guess in the end you really cant classify dance as a sport. You sort of have to classify it as dance. Dance has been around forever and it will probably still be around until the end of time. Its what keeps everyone sane I think. I think its beyond sports and games, its a way of living. Like some say... dance is a life form :-)

7 Secrets of Super Performers
(Improving Your Performance Skills)

If you are a dance student, chances are you are probably preparing for a performance right now. You’re working hard to learn the steps and remember the sequence so that, by the time you get on stage in front of an audience, the dance will be second nature. But performance, as you probably know, is more than steps and sequence. These things could be perfect and the presentation will still bore an audience if the performers are not engaging and enjoyable.

Some students seem like natural performers. They know how to “work a crowd,” they dance with energy, and seem to move with joy. Certainly, experience as a performer plays a big part in this. Like anything else, practice in performance allows one to learn what works and what doesn’t. “Natural” performers, however, seem to know something that others do not. Here’s a list of some of these secrets. Actually, some of them may not seem that secret (I really couldn’t resist the alliteration), but perhaps you haven’t put much thought into them before. As you work toward your final performance be sure to put these skills into practice with as much (or more) diligence as learning the steps.

Super performers…

Never dance alone, even in a solo – The word performance implies that a dance is not only being executed but witnessed as well. Including the audience in your performance first and foremost means that you must not forget or ignore that they’re there. If this makes you nervous, it may be useful to know that according to The Anxiety Treatment Center (Chicago area), involving the audience can actually lessen your anxiety or stage fright. (You might also read this article by Sanna Carapellotti offering tips for managing negative thoughts in performance.) The second application of this principle is being aware as you dance with others in a group. Involving the audience or the other dancers on stage with you can be manifested in different ways including making eye contact, directing your energy to one person within the audience or offering your energy to the others around you, and using or responding to the energy of others. None of these are things that you DO so much as things you FEEL and THINK as you perform.
When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.
~ Wayne Dyer ~
Super performers know… the eyes have it – Facial expression is important in dance but often people talk only about smiling in a performance. While a smile can be important during certain types of dances, not all dances warrant that expression. In fact, facial expression often has more to do with the eyes than with the mouth. So, rather than focusing on a “smiling” expression, I prefer students to practice an “open” expression with their face. Although THINKING or FEELING this concept is at least half the battle, there are some things you can DO in this case. As you perform, engage the muscles in the face by slightly lifting the eyebrows – not to a comical extreme, but in a way that is comfortable and easy to maintain. It is the same expression most humans use when making eye contact and really listening to a friend or speaking excitedly in conversation. This is why audiences respond well to performers who utilize this technique. Also, truly see, look, and take in the world through your eyes as you dance. As for the rest of the face, be natural. Relax the lower jaw. This will facilitate a smile that comes easily but is not plastered to your face, or aid any expression befitting the mood of your dance.
People come to see beauty, and I dance to give it to them.
~ Judith Jamison ~

Even the ears must dance.
~ Natalia Makarova ~
Super performers understand musicality – The concept of musicality can be quite elusive, everyone has a different way of thinking about musicality and there is great discussion on this topic elsewhere online. I will offer my thoughts but perhaps others will contribute as well: While counting can be important sometimes for finding moments of precision in a dance, musicality in performance is expressed through more than just counting beats. In fact, while counting, it is easy to forget that a beat includes not only the sharp “tap” of a particular rhythm but also the space between those taps, just as all movements include transitions and shifts of weight between desired “shapes” of the body. Exciting and musical performers fill these spaces in the music and movement, not letting the energy or intent drop between shapes or between counts. Enjoyable performers also utilize dynamics in their performance. Resisting “sameness,” as they dance, they incorporate crescendo and decrescendo, sudden or gradual changes in the quality of the movement, that often reflect or work within the accompanying music or score. Choreographers utilize music in different ways and a good performer will seek to understand what part of the music (rhythm, melody, counterpoint, etc.) the dance-maker is using as inspiration in the movement. To do so, it is always helpful to have at least a basic understanding of music composition or theory but THINKING about what you FEEL and HEAR in music and applying these to your dance practice is the first step in bringing musicality to your performance. In fact, a performer can be musical even without dancing to music!
The more you understand the music, the easier you can dance.
~ Orlando Gutinez ~

The audiences ears hear the music, and their eyes see you being that music. Dance is the music made visible. You ARE the music!
~ Morocco ~
Super performers ooze confidence - Some confuse attitude with confidence. Attitude is something which is acted or portrayed. Just as any role would, attitude requires a level of confidence to be played well but, it is simply a layer or a persona the performer wears in his/her performance. Confidence is trust in yourself and in the situation but, it is not centered on the self. Trust in yourself and your fellow dancers is the practical side of confidence and comes from preparation and experience. The work you put into the dance steps and sequence, the time and effort you put into class and technique, the build up of experience on stage or of situations in which you must improvise or think on your feet. These things allow a performer to trust. The more conceptual aspect of confidence lies in the idea that exuding confidence does not require one to act in a self-centered manner. In fact often it is quite the opposite. Dancers with confidence give a lot of themselves without dwelling on what the audience is thinking of them. This allows the performer to focus on making good use of all that preparation, overcome mistakes when they arise, and concentrate fully to the performance itself. I hope this demonstrates that confidence is not something that someone either has or hasn’t. You can actually discover your confidence with many of the same techniques used to reduce performance anxiety or fear. (If you haven’t checked out the article link above, I strongly urge you to take a look at this write-up on stage fright for methods of unearthing your confidence.)
Don’t be afraid to be amazing.
~ Andy Offutt Irwin ~
Super performers are actors as well as dancers - Just as musicians understand the music, actors understand the context within which they are performing. Dancers, therefore, are familiar with the time period or origin of the dance, they understand the emotions of a piece or what the choreographer is trying to express or intend.  Like actors, engaging performers, also “suspend disbelief” or, make the audience believe something even if it is not true or actual. Dancers pretend to be happy, curious, confused, or angry even when they are not. Much of being a convincing performer is making something seem real even to yourself – evoking emotions that were not present a second ago. Being real in acting also involves discovering what is natural or of human nature. In acting this might be conveyed by not ignoring a prop as it accidentally falls to the floor. In dance, it may be finding that natural smile as mentioned above. Becoming an excellent performer requires investigation of and experimentation with behavior (guided or otherwise).
Long experience has taught me that the crux of my fortunes is whether I can radiate good will toward my audience. There is only one way to do it and that is to feel it. You can fool the eyes and minds of the audience, but you cannot fool their hearts.
~ Howard Thurston ~
Super performers are secretive – This also relates to the idea of dancer as actor. Although acting is about revealing something to an audience, a good performer knows that playing one’s hand all at once is not a good idea. As a dance performer, you don’t always have control over the content of your performance. The choreographer ultimately is responsible for this. However, it helps, as you perform, to imagine you are keeping a secret from the audience. Think about how it feels to withhold something you want to share with someone else and apply that type of contained excitement or knowledge to your dancing. There may be natural points in the choreography in which you might build toward or reveal portions of this secret — like opening birthday presents one at a time. This may seem like a somewhat abstract idea, however,  I’ve found this imagery to be useful for depicting the fun in dance without relying solely on happy or joyful sentiments. After all, not every dance is happy but they can all have their secrets and the use of this technique has made for some compelling performances.
Remember that dance has a dimension beyond the physical. The body-as imperfect as it always is-is only part of the picture. Your energy, the quality of your movement, your feeling about the world, your dance spirit-that is what we see under the lights
~ Dance Magazine 3/05 ~
Super performers dance beyond their kinesphere – Kinesphere is a word used in dance that describes the space surrounding the body. It is the imaginary bubble that encircles your frame in stillness and as you move. Again, dancing beyond this bubble is something that you must IMAGINE as you dance, not necessarily something that you DO. Moving with a sense of directing or expanding your energy beyond your kinesphere will not only make you a more engaging performer. If practiced throughout your classes as well, projecting energy beyond your fingertips and toes, out through the top of the head, from your eyes, or even from every cell in your body, can improve your execution of the movement as well.

So, what are YOUR secrets? What makes a performer enjoyable to watch? How do you engage an audience? In your observation, what qualities do great performers possess?
When it comes to the requirements for pleasing an audience, all the knowledge and instruction and apparatus in the world is worth less than one ounce of soul.
~ Ottawa Keyes ~

Being a good dancer consists of a number of different factors. There are the physical elements – flexibility, movement and co-ordination – combined with the mental elements: creativity, memory and passion. How do you show emotion through dance though? A dancer’s body is her or her instrument, and using body language – often in an abstract manner – can be used to portray many different feelings and emotions on varying scales. Whatever type of dance you practice, it is very easy to overlook the emotional aspect of dance in favour of perfecting physical movement and routines. However, the ability to arouse and convey emotional feelings through movement will take your dancing skills to another level. This article explores some tips to convey emotion through dance.


“Let the movement tell the story.” Antony Tudor (1909-1987)
Your body can tell a story. If you are following a routine to a set story, the danger is to get too focused on getting this right. Upon repeated rehearsals, a dancer might become too focused on the original story, start to know it too well, and get too deeply involved. According to Tudor, this can then lead to a loss of impact. Tudor therefore asked his students to forget the stories’ emotions and to concentrate on the movement. He felt that after many rehearsals, the emotion was already built into the movement.

Make the right shapes
Making curved shapes can be soft, comforting, and warm. Straight and forceful movements can be strong, fear-inducing and angry. A successful way of creating movements that convey certain feelings is to imagine the emotion you are trying to create. Then you need to improvise a natural movement that comes to you when you think about that feeling. You need to then extend that movement to all parts of your body. Think about how each different body part would react to that emotion. Think about your arms, legs, stomach, toes, head, neck and everything in between. Think about each body part separately if that helps. Then try all body parts together.

Listen to the music
Listen carefully to the music you are dancing to, and break down the meaning behind each bar. This may involve more than just learning and understanding lyrics. Think about the qualities and style of the music. Is it in a major or a minor key? Are some notes played softly, and others with force? Are some bars lively and staccato? Others may be slow and flowing. The mood of music can change throughout a piece; make sure your dancing reflects this. Convincingly dancing to a piece of music will involve a thorough understanding of its lyrics, its style, its roots and its story.

React to your audience
You want the audience to understand your dance movements. Therefore, you need to make sure you acknowledge they are there, and react to them. If you want them to feel the sadness you are conveying, look at their expressions and reflect these in your movements. If you were breaking bad news to them, you would expect them to react badly. In turn, you would react back. Try to imagine how they are feeling from watching you dance. Listen to any feedback you receive and break down the reasoning behind this.

Use your hands and fingers
Dance is visible in every part of your body – no matter how small. Being at the tips of your body, your hands need to be an extension of the moves you are making with your body – right through to your fingertips. It’s easy to forget about finger movement – but clenched or limp fingers could leave your moves looking unfinished. You will know when you are feeling true emotion as you will feel it right though your body to your fingers and toes.

Attend acting classes
Acting and dancing are closely intertwined. When performing as a dancer, you are also playing a character. Attending a separate dramatics class will help you to learn to be more expressive – through gestures, body language, speech, noises, movement and facial expressions. Acting classes can vary in cost – amateur dramatics classes are often very cheap, others you may have to save or borrow money to attend, such as this one. Either way, it is worth attending an acting course as it will give you a basic grasp of how to express yourself.

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