Cadencia

2009 July 22
by Simba
 by Kanaka
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License by  Kanaka’s Paradise Life in Hawaii

If you have to ask, you will never know.

Luis Armstrong when asked ‘what is jazz?’

–You see, that is not the way to make it ‘swing’ in tango. I was looking out onto the group of people standing around us with question marks painted all over their faces. —Well, I don’t know the right word, but the corresponding to swing in tango. They were bouncing up and down for each step, like in many other dances; swing and folk dance were probably what they had been somewhat exposed to before.

–You make it swing by changing the weight, but staying in the same level. I explained and demonstrated, knowing it was really a crude simplification. It was not the time to start talking of phrasing and movements of upper body, but I think they got the idea. The caricature of what they were doing made them smile…

So what would be a good word for it? Cadencia? Canyengue? Tango? –You see, to make it tango Nah..

It has been said about tango that your feet dance the rhythm, while your body dances the melody. Which is well put, I think. It is fascinating this constrast between the hastily moving, intertwining legs, playing games while the upper bodies are calm in a loving embrace. This contrast is essential to the dance’s almost hypnotical attraction on the spectators.

Seeing the dancers flowing around the dance floor, the music arriving in waves. And the dancers surfing on these waves. Breathing with the phrases Doing their thing. Not rushing it. Not controlled by it, but somehow following it nevertheless. While the feet go ric-tic-tic-tic-tic.

And that is the essence of the cadencia, I think. This flowing motion of the bodies. Waves, pendulums. Rising and falling. Apparently cadencia comes from Latin and means fall, so I could be on to something here.

With many foreign dancers (like myself), the dance will appear and feel a little stiff (duro) or flat (chato). A perfomance can be very good in the sense that it is well coordinated, dancers always in balance, synchonized and moving to the right place in every step. Flawless. Still there will be something missing. And what is missing, I believe often to be the cadencia.

I once did a variant of a simple backstep that I learned from a milonguero with a friend at a practica. She looked at me, horrified, and said: –It felt almost like we were falling. Well, that was the point… Falling safely in my embrace. Feeling the cadencia.

In fact one of the best compliments you could possibly get is to be told that you have cadencia by someone who knows what it’s about. Not that I suggest that I really know. Well, at least I am trying. And I write this despite the fact that it may be the proof that I will never get it, I have this sneaky feeling that it is with tango as it is with jazz. If you have to ask…

7 Responses leave one →
  1. 2009 July 23

    I think “cadencia” has to do with “inhabiting” the movement. One of my tango partners always comes when they play a vals because he says I have “swing”.

  2. 2009 July 23

    So how do you inhabit the movement? I think it is hard to define, and everybody does it slightly different from everybody else. But it gives the movement life, so to speak, so I guess inhabiting it could be a good description.

    Also, does this mean that you think cadencia in tango is a corresponding concept to swing in — well swing?

  3. 2009 July 23

    I love me a dance partner with cadencia. I love the word. I love having it. It’s like being rocked like a baby in perfect rhythm to the music. It’s …. aaaaaaah. ok 🙂 Sorry, I was having a “free association” moment based on the word cadencia. 🙂

    For me, when someone has cadencia, it’s like having rhythm in their bones. Knowing and loving the music helps. There is kind of a swing and sway. And it’s always based on the down beat.

    Gosh, it’s so hard to talk about cadencia actually.

  4. 2009 July 23

    And yes, I think every dance has its own cadencia. Its own way to fall on the beat. The swing in swing is a good comparison.

  5. 2009 July 24

    I love your burst of emotions, Tina, thanks for commenting!

    I was considering writing more dry, factual prose, and did a little research, but found out that a more associative writing fitted the subject better. Your comment on use of the down beat is interesting.

  6. 2009 July 25

    ‘…bouncing up and down for each step…’ reminds me of me at a class with Tete and Silvia last December. ‘You’re dancing like “una hormiga”‘ he observed, ‘try to dance more like “una tortuga.”‘ Still amuses me, and I got the message.

    As you say, most kinds of dance want to fly. But Tete wrote of tango ‘…before everything, its support is the floor because it’s in the floor that it finds energy, and it’s on the floor that one dances the music.’ Think low!

  7. 2009 July 25

    Haha, brilliant! I was going to write about being grounded some day. Clearly a related concept and thus topic.

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