Thursday, 25 August 2011

Walking and dancing

After I'd worked in India for a while, someone told me they'd thought I was Indian, a Kashmiri from the north, and therefore paler-skinned; and besides, they said, 'You walk like an Indian', which really struck me. I hadn't realised that there might be national characteristics in walking, or that unconsciously I'd adopted the walking of another country. But walking isn't the same everywhere: for instance, there's a walk that is characteristic of many Jamaicans, and Juan Carlos Copes talks on film about the characteristic walk of BsAs. (Not that I've ever spotted it.)

A friend says she likes to dance with Argentines and Italians, and in general the English are way down her list. According to Wikipedia, 60% of Argentines are Italian in origin, so you can't really make a distinction. So what have the Italians got that we haven't? It's possible they walk differently, perhaps a walk with a bit more swagger, i.e., dissociation. & certainly they use their arms and shoulders more expressively in ordinary conversation, as part of ordinary dialogue, and this must be part of the background to tango. It's not an exaggerated movement, but all the classes I've taken on this visit stress how much the upper body needs to move, and it's what I've noticed in milongas, too, although it's not particularly obvious in videos, particularly on a small screen.

& climate doesn't help: human bodies stiffen up in the cold north. Even here, a cold wind has been blowing and I'm dreaming of a long summer holiday in the south of Italy, sitting at cafe tables watching people walking, strolling in the streets and feeling physically at home, relaxed and more sensual in movement...

1 comment:

Dieudonne said...

"So what have the Italians got that we haven't?"...You have it all, and so do the Italians!

I was just thinking about this, and I don't think that it is about what the Italians have and you don't. Being aware as you are of the distinction in walking between some Jamaicans, Indians, Italians, Argentineans, English...You are well on your path to being a very good dancer, and I suspect that you already are.
Each culture as its own inherited set of cultural idiosyncrasies, dictates, Does/Don't which inform the way its members approach movement, and therefore dancing since it is our topic here.
I can tell an Ethiopian or a Turk by the way they walk (Not all of them of course).
Which leads us to the following point about Tango (dance in general): It is valuable to understand the ambient culture that gave us Tango in order to express the rich intend of the cultural expression that it is.
We don't have to do this of course to dance well, but in doing so, we allow ourselves to expand experientially in a way that I think enriches us. In other terms, we gain the understanding of a different culture from a different perspective that of dancing.
We can dance Tango steeped in the idiosyncrasies of a Londoner or a Cap Verdean if we choose, and that is fine too, except it won’t be “Porteno”, and we might not discover what we don’t know that we don’t know about ourselves.
Thanks for the inspiration!