You, your partner, the music and the floor.
These are the basic elements needed for partner dance.
Tango can often feel very technical. There is so much structure, rules, codes, and yet it is an improvisational dance. Sometimes in Tango we become too focused on technique and patterns which causes us to be in our heads and not our bodies. This is why Tango Contact Improvisation can be helpful.
Contact Improvisation is a partner dance form based on the physical principles of touch, momentum, shared weight, and most quintessentially – following a shared point of contact. Much like Tango, Contact Improvisation (CI) focuses on connection with a partner. This dance form was founded in 1972 by Steve Paxton. Integrating his background as a modern dancer and his studies in the martial art form Aikido, Steve developed Contact Improvisation through explorations with his students and colleagues at the time. This dance practice explores the skills of falling, rolling, counterbalance, lifting using minimal effort, how to make ourselves light when being lifted, centering and breathing techniques, and responsiveness to our partners and surroundings.
Last night I took my very first Tango Contact Improvisation class at Tango Contact Jam held at Studio Valencia in the Mission. The evening began with a short class taught by Ali Woolich and Mira Barakat (recently returned from Buenos Aires). Mira started off the class with a Tango lesson, having us focus on moving and connecting with our chests only. Even though I’ve been dancing Tango for years, this was not as easy as I thought, especially since we had to switch lead and follow. Since our group was half Tango dancers and half CI dancers it was interesting to see how we incorporated our different influences while we practiced. It was especially enjoyable to see Ali and Mira demo Tango CI at the end of the class. Their movement flowed spontaneously from an improvisational, modern style of dance to leading and following each other in a playful Tango.
The best part of the night was the “Jam”. Lucky for me, my first partner danced both CI and Tango, so at first we practiced leading and following each other in Tango. I don’t get a chance to lead very often, so this was a great opportunity to test out my leading in a very non-intimidating environment. As we continued to dance our “tanda” we began to improvise our movement and loosen up and let our connections and impulses direct our flow. Another partner I had, also danced Blues, so we played with resistance, pushing into the floor and moving around each other while always maintaining connection. Much laughter and joy ensued. As I took a break, I watched the jam. Some folks were on the ground, others in the air. Others were playing at leading and following Tango patterns.
From a Tango point of view, this class is very helpful to gain a fuller understanding of what it means to improvise and move in space with a partner. With Tango CI the focus is on connection, improvisation, listening and responding, and exploring possibilities. But most of all, it helps us to get out of our heads so that we can begin to dance with our body and hearts.
Tango Contact Jam
Third Monday’s Monthly, only $5
8:30 – 9:00 Lesson
9:00 – 10:30 Jam/Practica
Studio Valencia Map
455A Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA
Contact Improvisation is a 40-year-old dance technique with many parallels and intersections with Tango. This Tango CI fusion event offers Tango dancers an opportunity to expand their range and release. It’s best to have at lest 1 year weekly experience in either CI or Tango. 8:30pm class starts – get a few CI and Tango concepts to play with in your dance. 9pm – the music begins and you’re invited to jam/practica. Play with trading lead/follow, signaling small rides, sharing momentum. After each 3 songs, we switch partners, so you get a variety of styles, a friendly environment and lots of practice/play. Wear drawstrings rather than belts, pants loose/stretchy to go to the floor in.