anastasia merkulova

Dialectics of Dance

On tango, folk, freedom and sense
It's a bit unexpected and probably weird to read an article about Argentine folk in a tango blog, isn't it? Feels like you already want to escape - in the same way you escape from the dancefloor to the bar when a DJ suddenly starts playing chakarera in the middle of such a lovely milonga, right?

But wait a sec. Tango and folk are actually very much about the same.

When I'm asked how it comes that I've got the folk so deep under my skin, I always preach about some key notions that are actually very familiar to all those who dance tango.

Folk is about freedom. Freedom to be yourself whoever your partner is, and whatever his/her technique or emotional state are. That's in fact what we often complain about while we are dancing tango. In dancing folk you can be ultimately free as you are, not bound by a close embrace and you can afford this luxury of being non-dependent. But at the same time folk is about such a profound contact that I had never experienced in tango.

Surprise! You would ask how it is possible, being free - but tightly connected to your partner, standing not in a close embrace - but at the same time keeping the deepest contact?

Paradoxical, but true. It turns out that it's sometimes much easier to feel a person standing in a couple of meters from you rather than the one you hold close to your chest.
How it is possible, being free - but tightly connected to your partner, standing not in a close embrace - but keeping the deepest contact?
Folk is also about acceptance. Folk-community is growing up rapidly, and I start to hear from non-folk people – "Gosh you are all so advanced, and what shall we do? We will never catch up" Everyone remembers his/her puppy childhood in tango, and all the issues and complications associated with it, and of course it is difficult to become an awkward newcomer again.

But here is the insider's hint.

Folk-community is very generous in acceptance. The reason is the above mentioned freedom and the possibility of contact. When you are free and ready for contact, believe me it will be already interesting to dance with you, regardless of your level of mastery.

As a proof, in folk I have never heard the lamentations that we are used to hear in tango: "I'm a beginner, nobody notices me", "what shall I do to be invited to dance", you name it. Indeed a good technique gives the depth and variability to express oneself. But me personally, I desperately love to dance folk with the beginners.

Because it's an incredible pleasure to touch a person with your warmth and to feel in return how your partner opens up and goes wild in your hands. It's very similar to sex, but the hands are much longer. They reach the opposite walls.

But the most interesting starts when at some point something clicks inside you, tango and folk snap-lock together like two pieces of one puzzle, and an infinite "back and forth" cycle begins.
Everything is interrelated, it's true. The dance is the language.
And all of a sudden you learn ...

... in tango – how to hug as in the folk.

When in a marathon I find myself clamped in unfamiliar or not very comfortable hands, I repeat to myself - "Hey. Stop. Embrace like in chakarera ", and – miracle! - my body instantly feels relieved. I remember again how to hug my partner as if I had huge wings, and how to listen carefully to what he is telling to me from his inside. folk – how to upbuild yourself around your inner axis, like in the tango.

The cult of the right posture in tango is so great, and the two idols, the Axis and the Balance, are placed on pedestal to be worshiped day and night. When the people come to folk after such a strictness, they tend to go mad right away inhaling the intoxicating air of the freedom… until the very moment they understand that to control their body in order to get that notorious ease and smoothness of movement they actually need the same steel axis inside. Otherwise, the freedom turns into anarchy, and the dance for some reason looks like marriage games of the squids. Antidote to squid-style? Collecting internal muscles and letting the external ones flowing down loosely. Just like in the tango, right?

... in tango – how to stretch yourself from inside to tie the hands and feet to your center.

As in the folk, yep. I first learned this exercise in a folk class, and stretching the imaginary elastic band from your center to opposite directions helped me a lot to consciously turn on the body and to make it feel wider and bigger.Making the same exercise in the tango, I was amazed how this hands'n'feet connectedness made my response to the lead much much quicker. You feel like wearing kind of magic wingsuit - apparently, to make it easier to fly a few centimeters above the dance floor.

... in folk - how to take energy from the floor and pass it to your partner. How to... well, you got it.

In the tango we are used to hear about grounding and working with the floor, about continuity of the energy flow from the floor and up to the partner, and from the partner back to ourselves, in such a vertical cycle. While in the folk most of the movements are often viewed to be looped horizontally. Forward, to the partner, back to yourself, and so on in a circle. Not up and down, just back and forth. But if you just try to combine these two approaches, the energy hula hoop turns into a huge rotating sphere that breathes and pulsates at every step you take. With the due intensity of attention, even one dance can take you far far away up to pure catharsis.

And so on, and so forth. Every time I encounter such overflows of meanings from the tango to the folk and back, I can't help to scream out desperately: "Damn, why did nobody tell me before it is possible to do so here as well?" - and I watch my teachers laughing at me, each in his/her turn.

Everything is interrelated, it's true. The dance is a body language. And as every language that you begin to learn, improves the knowledge of other languages, in the same way your body develops its inner vocabulary with every new body practice you try. Therefore - salsa, kizomba, lindy hop or folk, whatever - just allow yourself to look a little wider.

Your body will be very grateful, you'll see.
Author: Anastasia Merkulova. Photo: Anya Semenouk, cover: Vladimir Tarasov.
Opinions expressed in articles within this blog may not coincide with those of the editor.
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