domingo, 26 de outubro de 2014

Samba dancing: to what kind of songs?

Samba is mainly a culture evolving around MUSIC. Samba is the name of the whole cultural set involving dancing, a national-regional narrative, etc, but it always evolved around a very specific type of syn-coped music. The music is the less negotiable of the elements of this culture. Meaning that: even if the ways of dancing have changed through time, the specific samba music swing and beat remained the central element. Of course, the music itself suffered alterations, but the specific samba beat and swing remained the basis of ALL samba culture. Now, i know that ignorance about samba culture is widespread around the world, but its good to know that this is a pretty solid and mature form of culture, highly documented, with a number of academic and scholar appreciations, a ancient historical tradition, and that`s why most “international samba dancers” often look stupid doing their “thing” while dancing to american pop music or rock n` roll.  Actually, a style of dance is always - without exception - characterized by the kind of music for which it is suitable. This is right for waltz, tango, break dance, son cubano, etc. Thats why the name of the dance is the same as the name of the music! It should be obvious even for a kid. Eventually movements of one dance can be borrow and suit to dance to other songs, but the fidelity to the MUSIC is the only thing that remains preserved as the FUNDAMENTAL aspect of a dancing style. That`s only the most elementary thing about dancing. 

I honestly think that samba de gafieira is the most mature form of art coming from samba tradition, and it has elements of tango, swing and others, but all integrated in the spirit and culture of samba - that is, in parallel to samba MUSIC, CULTURE and POPULAR EXPRESSION.

So repeating: The most mature element of samba culture IS the music, and therefore one need to give (big) explanations when suppose dancing to samba listening to a Caribbean song or to Adele. Actually, if you are dancing any other type of song, with a different kind of beat, is safe to say that you are NOT dancing to samba. Here there is a documentary from BBC where one can learn about samba culture (which is mainly about samba MUSIC):

International Ballroom samba dancers have a very particular approach of dance: they simply do not feel compelled to listen and to translate the music into their movements. It doesn't matter if the lyrics are sad or happy, they always have the same facial expression and do random figures. They think of the dance as a way to achieve a score. This is maybe the reason it is not the kind of dance someone would actually do on a dance floor, where people look for a partner to have fun and use the music to free their body expression. It's a very artificial expression of dance, fitted only to competition standards.

domingo, 5 de outubro de 2014

What is true technique? How International Latin Ballroom distorts the technical basis of Latin dances

What is true technique? According to Greek etymology, the word comes from art. In the modern sense, technique means the set of procedures used to achieve a result that is true to a methodological matrix. In the world of dance, technique is a word used with a bit of both senses. It means a form of order, orientation, which takes the dance out of the realm of chaos. This is also close to the meaning of "art" given by the ancient Greeks. A technical dancer is one who knows how to structure his body and its movements according to rules. The rules exist to connect the dancer to a fixed structural basis. The aim of the technique in dance is not killing the inspiration, but to establish a base. In dance as in other sciences, to acquire "techniche" means to take control over the fundamentals. The base and the fundamentals gives the dancer control and resources for his reading of the music. 

Many Europeans and dance professionals from the rest of the world think that the classic ballet gathers the maximum of knowledge concerning the technical development of the body. This, of course, is based on a simple prejudice. Dance is not acrobatics. The Technic spirit of a dance must develop in parallel to the spirit of the music that is danced to, and not by simple correlation to rules for flexibility and balance. These last are just one more resource, an aid. Classic ballet should always be present in the study line of a dancer, but it should not be always the main line of his study. To lend the line of breathing and movement of ballet to dance to salsa is not just a recipe for ridicule, it is also a technical lie.

However, it is undoubted that techniques of tap dance, classic ballet, jazz, can help a dancer of any style. That true we do not contest. However, the boundless boldness of the international federation of ballroom dancing to establish their own rules to regulate and define the Latin dance - Tango, rumba, samba - can only be a recipe for the grotesque. It is the opposite of what technique means. While techniche serves to establish rules that connect the dancer to a homogeneous artistic line, faithful especially to the music and the culture, the arbitrariness of international ballroom can only: deliver a distorted version of the original dance. 

 A major goal of any dance study is to give technical naturalness to the movements of a dancer, unifying the dancer and the music. The rules of international Latin dances do the opposite: they give artificiality to the dancer's body structure, making it a mere stereotype, i.e, something that he doesn't really knows, but tries to imitate following alien criteria. This is super exposed in some aspects: the fake smiles, the clown faces, the exaggerated contortions and the forced movements of the hips. To see the difference, just compare the subtlety of a Cuban dancer when she moves the hips. International practitioners seems like a circus owner that visited an exotic country, and now try to present them to his impressionable audience. In a globalized world with many youtube videos available, however, it is harder to deceive people. That is why it is faded to become a recreation to old men.
I will speak in another post about the technical root of  samba. Here, I will only say that the technical rules of samba are faithful to a body personality produced by the mixture of African, European and indigenous movements, which today are part of Brazil's personality: the Brazilian typical swagger, or "ginga", is a way of referring to it. The video below shows this personality in an intense and mature technical expression:   ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................