Recently I received a video from Anton Hecht, Darlington, England, which I want to share with you because it is fun to watch, besides being creative and clever. It could have been produced anywhere, but the film actually takes place in England at the Darlington Indoor Market. It documents a project that Creative Darlington calls “Stop-Start Tango.”
I invite you to watch it and enjoy it.
Afterward, if you are inclined, maybe you will reflect about the experience with me and find what is memorable about it. Is it the participants’ concentration, willingness, or their warmth and humanity even through their own insecurities? Is it that they demonstrate that their egos are not too fragile to dance? What does it say about individuals who are willing to participate in a project that is not about them? What does it say about the role social dance could play in a civilized and civil world? Does it make you wonder why there is such emphasis today on competitive dance which pits one against another in the name of eliminating everyone but the “best?” For me, the collaborative Stop Start Tango was more satisfying than a competition. How about you?
What do you see in it? I see an interesting juxtaposition between the formal dance and the informal aspects, between the fragments and the whole. I see evidence that one’s inner confidence can transcend what s/he is actually doing. I see how each person offers his dignity to the effort, as one by one they add unique stylistic personalities to the dance which give the dance texture. The point is, in its diversity the dance still holds together and in its dignity is its power. It ends up being a rich tapestry created one person at a time, a satisfying experience that warmly connects the viewer to the project, to the participants, to the lovely dancer in heels who danced for hours on concrete while remaining totally poised as the teacher and the tango partner to so many individuals.
What would the response be if the opportunity to tango in public arose in your hometown market? Think about it. In my hometown in the southern US I somehow imagine such a request would be met with panic-stricken faces, clumsiness or embarrassment, dismissiveness or humiliation at the thought of being asked to dance with a stranger–especially in front of a camera. Americans in general seem always in a hurry and fixated on their own world according to their smartphones. That tends to breed a society of isolated individuals who are generally uncomfortable with dancing.
But for now, we can enjoy living vicariously through the imagination that brought us this project and this video. How it speaks to us or inspires us will be different. But maybe it will make us find more opportunities for people to dance in social settings without discordant music blaring, strobe lights, oralcohol. Maybe we will help in our own way to bring social dance alive in places that make it socially safe so that it becomes permissible to interact with a stranger in dance without threat of ridicule or fear of ineptness. Maybe we can help our communities embrace an opportunity to dance together, be it in a circle dance of community or in a group dance of other sorts and purposes. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where people were unashamed to dance in order to connect with others in a civil way. Then it would not matter whether the other dancer(s) were friend or stranger, male or female, old or young. Have we taken initiative to find enough opportunities for regular people to interact and enjoy themselves, to integrate the fragmented parts of themselves, to focus on performing a movement sequence to their own satisfaction?
If social dance today is indeed an endangered species, then shouldn’t we try to prolong its life? Doesn’t it provide a civilizing and humanizing aspect to our otherwise up and down lives and discordant world? How can we help humanize the world through community and social dance? What better way is there to integrate aspects of who we are, to challenge coordination, and to concentrate totally on a sequence in order to recall and perform to our satisfaction?
Share your insights on this dance video on our social media Google+ page. Thank you for visiting our website and thinking about social dance’s place in our world today.
Kudos to Darlington Arts Council-London for pulling off such a clever and delightful “place dance” with such imagination, engagement, and integrity…..then sharing it with the world.
Brenda Pugh McCutchen
Brenda Pugh McCutchen
Dance Curriculum Designs LLC
Columbia, SC 29223