Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ask Helaine: What is "Intention" in tango?

Today’s question comes from a tanguero in Canada:

"Dear Helaine,

"What is "intention" as a way of dancing tango?"

And he elaborates on things he’s heard, giving me examples from several articles.  Later our tanguero sent me a link to another article, saying:

“So far this is the only written long explanation of intention that I have found.”

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Thank you for this important question, tanguero!  

With the variety of facets of content that you've been reviewing, some of which don't directly address your question, I can see why you could feel perplexed or confused.  The long article looks pretty complicated, so I'm not publishing the link here!

"Intention" is a key concept and practice in tango that I believe belongs in a beginners' first lesson.  And when you "get it" in your tango, you are going to feel like a million bucks, and love dancing tango so much more.

My concept of intention is very, very simple:  It’s the power of your body’s drive to move.  

Whether you're a man or a woman, or whichever role you're dancing, Intention is critical to your communicating clearly with your partner.    

Tango intention, the energetic force behind our movement, comes from the area of our diaphragm when we’re moving forward or to the side.  When we’re walking backward, our intention comes from the area of our kidneys.

  When we move forward, which will be your first concern as a tanguero, it's as if we had the powerful locomotive of a train behind our solar plexus. At the same time, we ground ourselves with every step and never rush.  

I'll give you an exercise from my introductory training session, whether it’s done live or in my online home study programs.  This is the only exercise I use to describe forward intention to absolute beginners and 12-year veterans alike, and I've been using it since my earliest years of teaching.  This exercise is so effective that new beginners doing it need 2-3 minutes of practice to "get" Intention; so you know it’s indeed a simple concept.

Here's the exercise:
Walk as if you have a shopping cart in front of you, full of heavy groceries, and push the cart with your diaphragm or solar plexus (no hands).  In the actual exercise, I "provide the shopping cart", giving resistance to your body with my forearm at the level of your diaphragm.  I can feel whether you're using the full power of your desire to move, or whether you're holding back.  Holding back, for reasons of politeness or worry about disturbing your partner, doesn't work at all in tango.  I usually encourage students to try doing it to an extreme - exaggerate their intention, not speeding up, but rather staying on the beat of the music - and when they think they're "overdoing it", they've usually got great intention. You can do this exercise at home with a friend who "provides the shopping cart".  

Intention must be combined with what I call "the split second difference in your tango", another concept I teach in the same lesson.  Without employing the super-grounding "split second difference" in a walk with strong Intention, you'd create a momentum that makes you rush forward, which doesn't belong in Argentine Tango!

If you really want to master intention, and have a powerful and penetrating (tangueras: powerful and alluring) tango walk forward, backward or to the side, and temper it beautifully with "the split second difference", I'd recommend my online program, "Advanced Tango Fundamentals", or the entire “Tango Improvisation Mastery" online home study program, of which "Advanced Tango Fundamentals" is the first Section.

Let us know how this exercise worked for you!

I encourage everyone to leave your comments in the space below the article!

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