Dancing Silence

Robert Farris Thompson in his seminal work: Tango: The Art History of Love, states; “Dancing to tango, chock full of pauses, means knowing how to respond to endless rogue commas in the music.”

Unlike most other dances (cns. Milonga), in which you push full throttle to the end and “cut” on the last two beats, Tango is full of fits and stops throughout the dance. Paying attention to, massaging, even reverencing these “rogue commas” is what allows the dance (as well as the dancers) the opportunity to breathe, to feel, to sink deeply into the mystery.

These rogue commas are not only intrinsic to the music of tango but also woven into the step sequences. Every Tango sequence has a beginning and an ending, an opportunity to pause, collect, breathe and begin anew. If one dances through or over these commas, one tramples on the soul of the dance and starves it of feeling, the oxygen for Tango.

It is this space in between, the stillness, that is the heart and soul of the dance. To quote the famous tangero, Carlos Gavito: “The secret  of Tango is this moment of improvisation that happens between steps. It is to make the impossible thing possible: to dance silence.”

Dancing silence, is what I believe T.S. Eliot names as the still point:

at the still point, there the dance is….
Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance,

and there is only the dance.” The Four Quartets.

These quotes for me distill perfectly the essence of Tango: creating out of the silence, the stillness, a perfectly sculpted movement that will evoke as well as contain, the pouring forth of the heart’s fullness.