"To Dance Silence," Gavito pt.1

OK. I am a huge fan. I turn to Carlos Gavito for a succinct quote, I play his instruction videos for classes and even - in my most deluded moments, attempt to model my dancing after him. All of which is somewhat weird as he died about the same time I started dancing, and much of his stylizing is inimitable and out of current dance fashion  - some for good reason. Consider the peculiar hand positioning and also the severe lean of the partners into each other, (neither posture is recommended by chiropractors).

Yet there is something captivating and deeply inspiring about not only his dancing but his reflections on tango. He digs into the core of what makes tango so special and intriguing, putting this into words with the same precision with which he dances.

To be clear, his most memorable performances and dances were with Marcela Duran, who was an equally important part of the duo. Gavito’s dancing with other partners (at least as viewable on Youtube) is not nearly as engaging or captivating.

During the 90’s Gavito and Duran toured as headliners for with “Forever Tango”, the tango extravaganza. Check out one of their celebrated performances. It should be noted that these are dramatic presentations and tell a story and are not to be presumed to reflect social tango.  Marcela gives some insight into the background of these performances in this Youtube video .

A more traditional example of performance tango can be found here. What makes their dancing most engaging is the infusion of what Gavito refers to as “feeling”. This intensity of feeling is expressed so succinctly in their dancing and movements; Even the simplest or most basic steps are executed in such a way as to convey the impression that the step was not the important thing but rather the feeling expressed through the step. In fact, it often appears as if the step was a by-product of the emotional intensity that was brewing in the stillness a moment prior.

Then, when they could not contain the intensity anymore, they had to release it at precisely the last moment. This is achieved stylistically with precision timing in which both wait until the last nano-second before committing to the step.

Gavito celebrates this process of shaping the space between the steps as the essence of tango. “The secret of tango is in this moment of improvisation that happens between step and step. It is to make the impossible thing possible: to dance silence.”

I cannot watch Carlos Gavito and Marcela Duran dance without being reminded of my favourite piano player, from the same age, Glenn Gould who had a similar style on the keyboard. He had the remarkable ability to create a space between each note he played no matter how fast he played them. The effect is not simply the clarity but a sense of valuing of each note that is given through precision timing; We are captivated in the inexhaustible beauty of the moment.

This ultimately ties me deeper to my spiritual roots, which esteems the eternal now as the occasion in which one experiences the divine. Only when we give our total focus to the present are we transported beyond the particulars and limitations of this realm to where the physical and spiritual blend in perfection.