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Susana Domingues portrait
This is an opportunity for me to share aspects of my teaching philosophy as well as my personal opinions on issues regarding the art and intricacies of Tango. Enjoy!

Select a topic...

~ Is the Dancer a type? ~
Having a physical response to music is one of the most basic human behaviours. When people hear music that has a strong percussive element, the most natural response in most, is to move some part of the body, be it if for nothing else but to tap their feet or to smile. Although some common characteristics can be observed in those who eventually become proficient dancers, I don't believe becoming a dancer is privy to those who possess those traits. And there isn't a 'type' of person that becomes a dancer. Observing dancers over decades, I've seen people of all types (introvert, extrovert, etc) compelled to dance and have watched persistence pay off even with those who had been quite challanged at first. I believe many, whether they realise it or not, come to dance in part because they have experienced or witnessed the perfection and simplicity of being completely in a moment of dance. The ability to move your body, and a willingness and ability to truly be in the moment is the only requisite for dance.
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~ Dancer's Euphoria ~
Dancers will often comment on experiencing a sort of high feeling. Kind of like the high you get when you do any kind of aerobic excercise. This feeling of 'flow' or of well-being that is experienced by those who exercise to the point where their brain releases beta endorphin and enkephalin often motivates regular exercise, almost as if one is addicted. This certainly is the case with many dancers, they just need to get their dancing fix. Professors of psychology, Howard E. A. Tinsley and Diane J. Tinsley at Southern Illinois University performed a study on leisure and found that individuals experiencing leisure to the fullest felt the following qualities. Any dancer will tell you that when dancing to the fullest one experiences most or all of the following:
  • A feeling of freedom
  • Total absorption in the activity at hand
  • Lack of focus on self
  • Enhanced perception of objects and events
  • Little awareness of the passage of time
  • Increased sensitivity to body sensations
  • Increased sensitivity to emotions

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~ Tango Student - Tango Dancer ~
Sometimes the qualities that make a good dance student are exactly the qualities that hinder his/her dancing. Even a very good teacher with an excellent curriculum and structure can fail to get results when a student learns only what is imparted by the teacher. Sometimes teachers who display their own dancing prowess but offer a poor teaching structure manage to produce a surprising number of good dancers. The student is forced to work at sorting out, understanding and incorporating the information presented without help, (since help is scarce of ineffective). This environment forces a somewhat protagonistic student attitude. This protagonistic quality or attitude toward dance is consistent in successful social dancers. There is also the possibility that only those students with a predisposition or some kind of 'head-start' will flourish in this type of environment. Nonetheless, it is curious and worth noting.

Perhaps a student's best approach to any teacher's instruction is to not only submit to the class structure but also to engage a curiosity to independently discover more about what is presented. This occurs while maintaining a confidence in the teacher's skills and knowledge. When this confidence no longer exists, the instruction is no longer effective.

We've arrived at the obvious importance of combining practice with learning (practice at tango socials, not just kitchen floor practice). When the student's 'dance time' is solely undertaken under a teacher's supervision, it does not give the student adequate time to incorporate the knowledge imparted. Many dance classes always present new material in order to keep the students stimulated and interested in coming back. When the student does not give themselves time to incorporate the knowledge before moving on to new information, they eventually quit instruction from that teacher before they've acquired all of what the teacher could have imparted.
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~ Dance and Self-image ~
For those with a desire to dance, the effort is often so closely linked to their self image that it is important for teachers to be gentle in their approach. Yes, be persistant and consistant with technical aspects of the dance but gentle in delivery & presentation. This might be acheived with a simple shift away from presenting what students "must do", towards "what tango needs", so that students encounter technical information with a motivation to belong, rather than view it as a personal failure.
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~ Floorcraft & Embrace ~
While I discourage opening the embrace unless a step really requires it (and then only minimally), I don't focus strictly on steps that require the least amount of room on the dance floor in a strictly close embrace (though some teachers do). Generally I encourage my students to aspire to something more than that, including a constant, quiet embrace with fluid connection that allows for stimulating possibilities even in challenging navigational circumstances. The student is expected to apply their own practice time, until the concepts distill into personal, practical applications. Without independent practice time, classes becomes a weekly entertainment, amusing movement puzzles, where the students do not get past the mechanical aspects of steps.
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~ Plateaus in Progress for Beginners~
Most students experience plateaus in their progress, usually once they have been exposed to most of the common concepts in tango. A plateau that lasts several weeks can happen when the student knows what to do, but the body hasn't caught up to mind. It can at times be quite frustrating- not fun at all! But as playwright Vaclav Havel said "Isn't it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties?". When you are most frustrated, you are probably on the verge of a breakthrough. It is important at that stage to tolerate the learning process, trust that the clouds will clear and of course, practice, practice, practice.
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~ Plateaus in Progress for Advanced~
Plateaus in progress for advanced students can endure for much longer than beginners - months, years. At this level progress appears to happen in increments. With the major concepts tackled, it is details that provide the breakthroughs. These breakthroughs appear decptively small and perhaps are not as motivating because they involve returning to ground that's already been covered: the basics.

Every time a dancer redisocvers a basic detail in their dance that needs improvement, s/he must go back and find all the places where this detail can be applied. It means reinventing your dance through this small detail, so it's really not a small thing at all. It's quite exciting. Classes can still provide the structure in which to do this because In tango - as in ballet- the very same steps or exercises can teach us at various levels. It's as if each step has deeper levels where concepts reside. The beginner floats at the top, approximating only the superficial aspects of the steps. The more advanced dancer attaches to one detail at a time in order to delve into deeper concepts that apply here and perhaps in other effects.
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~ The Fastest Road to Learning Tango ~
You probably guessed right: Practice. Practice. Practice. However, there are several ways to err for even the most enthusiastic student.

1) When a student dedicates a sufficient amount of time to the fundamentals, s/he progresses more quickly at the higher levels. Students who progress too quickly to the intermediate level frequently experience a longer than usual plateau in their progress at that level.

2) It takes time for students to finally decipher why they receive conflicting methods from various teachers. Do these teachers have technical style differences or are they actually teaching the same techniques a different way? Progress is slower when receiving contradictory messages about the tango fundamentals. Beginners will assume any confusion is simply a result of their own limited knowledge - not always entirely true. It's better to stick with one style until becoming somewhat proficient, leaving the possibility to explore more easily later. But for a particular individual, the urge to explore early in their tango journey, various styles and approaches is irresistable, so off they go, doddling in the haze of uncertain possibilities for some time. And bless them for sticking with it - and this individual so often does. For eventually, in time, they too can become proficient and enjoyable dancers. However, for students who are very enthusiastic to take regular classes from more than one teacher, here is a logical guide. For every regular teacher you take classes from, add another weekly session of unsupervised practice with partner(s) - not just kitchen floor practice. If you don't add more practice time, don't add more teachers. It will get beginner and intermediate leaders in a muddle and can delay follower's progress as well.

3) When the student's 'dance time' is solely undertaken under the teacher's supervision, it does not give the student adequate time to incorporate the knowledge imparted. Learning new moves before unsupervised practice time is given to the previous, does not provide optimal progress. Again, practice must be in the form of a tango social (not just kitchen floor practice)

What others say: It is said that for martial arts masters, because the secrets of their art could hold a man’s life in the balance, the master considered with great seriousness the dispensing of such secrets. A martial arts master was said to have uttered "if you want a student to learn nothing, show him everything". Miguel Angel Pla puts it like this: he asks students to compare between the response of a kitten and the response of a puppy, to a flock of birds on a lawn. The kitten instinctually sets its sights on one bird and attempts to capture it, while the puppy will run at will towards the entire flock, scattering all and capturing none.
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~ Musicality ~
I think it's impossible to teach anyone to interpret music. It is a contradiction in terms. Interpretation is individual. Trying to teach one to interpret music, is like teaching a person to be free. You either feel a certain way or you don't.

Tango dance as an art, has a history, habit and culture. As your tango teacher I can run you through that history, teaching you techniques and steps that have been prominently done, or done by prominent dancers. I can give examples of what timing I or others might give to a step or give examples of steps one might do at a particular point in the music. But just as a school teacher wouldn't expect poetry from students who lack a knowledge of grammar, I wouldn't expect musicality from students who are still very preoccupied by the mechanics of steps they are doing. So I'll then hope that you practice, practice, practice until you can stop thinking about the mechanics enough to be more aware of the music.

Now, I studied music for about 17 years, and I would be irritated by anyone telling me how to dance to the music. But lately I have seen some pretty interesting musicality classes, in which the teacher explained a bit about the musical structure, had students listen for various elements in the music and just generally helped them to hear more of what is going on in the music. Later they can draw on this enhanced awareness while they are dancing. This can only be good.
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~ Words for Dance ~
Isadora Duncan was quoted saying, "If I could tell you what I meant, there would be no point in dancing it". What an interesting thought. Why should she dance something that could be expressed more effectively with words? Martha Graham said "Dance is the hidden language of the soul". Gregory Bateson sheds light in his 1967 essay, "Style, Grace and Information in Primitive Art": "if it were the sort of message that could be communicated in words, there would be no point in dancing it. But it is not that sort of message. It is, in fact, precisely the sort of message which would be falsified if communicated in words, because the use of words (other than poetry) would imply that this is a fully conscious and voluntary message, and this would be simply untrue." (you can read more on this by Mr. Bateson in his essay "Style, Grace and Information in Primitive Art" found in his book "Steps to An Ecology of Mind".) Ballantine Books, 1972.
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~ The interplay of masculine & feminine ~
(for expedience I use he/she, man/woman where others might prefer 'male-identified', 'female–identified')
Tango is an interplay of masculine and feminine energies. The most distinguishing factor of woman is her ability to bear a child, which for a healthy child requires gentleness, empathy and sensitivity; traits that are essential in both roles in tango. It's no surprise why men would be attracted to this apparently female domain, if for no other reason but to be in the embrace of a woman. But for tango to happen, there is an interplay of male and female energies. Male energy has been described as spirit, female energy as creator; he's the arrow, she's the cradle. In improvised tango the man as leader proposes ideas and the woman as follower gives them form. And if he is paying attention, the forms she gives to his ideas are the inspiration for his next idea. This in turn energizes her responses. Both are having an effect on the other, both are energized by the activity and advance it forward, so there's more than just mutual empathy going on. The two are protagonists in a stream of consciousness expressed not in words but in movement.
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~ Machismo ~
Unless it reflects it's current society, any regional dance runs the risk of turning into a dated folk dance rather than remain alive as part of popular culture as tango has. If tango had remained a dance where "Machismo" still ruled, it would have relegated itself long ago to a folkish muse. Both the leader's and follower's roles are vital; two wills collaborating in a non-verbal dialogue. The follower does not dance by force of submission. The follower's role gives form to the leader's ideas, placing a greater importance on her technical prowess and knowledge of how her body moves. Only in truly embracing her role as a follower, can she discover her powers as a dancer. Then this nonverbal dialogue can occur.
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~ How Strict are the leader/follower roles ? ~
There are degrees of rigidity in the leader/follower roles. When first learning, both partners will only have the skill to execute their roles in the strictest sense. Because the partners are so preoccupied with learning the rudimentary aspects of their role, their dancing may lack sensitivity at first. With time and skill the dance can become more of the dialogue described above.
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~ Individuality ~
Much of a string player or a horn player's concern when mastering their instrument is tone production. When listening to several players, we might note the lovely differences in tone between players of the same instrument. Similarly with dance there is an aspect to how each person moves and holds their body which is all his/her your own. As we progress in Tango we discover what we are bringing to each dance by knowing how our own body moves within the vocabulary of tango elements.
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~ Floorcraft ~
Everything covered in my beginner course keeps leads travelling with the line of dance and can be executed on the social dance floor without fear of clogging traffic or disturbing another dancer's experience. Advanced dancer's skills enable them to see beginners before beginners see them, and ample time to move around them if necessary to avoid collision. Beginners are somewhat dependent on the gracious attitudes of more advanced dancers who understand the challenges of good navigating. However, the dance floor has multiple lanes of travel, the outer lane typically preferred by more advanced dancers who dominate the lane becuase it moves faster than the inner lanes. Beginners are therefore recommended to dance in the inner lane(s) and not to coss into other lanes while dancing.
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~ Abandoning Patterns ~
While teachers must strongly emphasize the walk as the starting point to learning tango, is it wrong to teach students patterns before they have mastered the walk? Of course not. A music teacher will rigourously emphasize practice of scales but will also allow the student to play a little song, despite their rudimentary skills. Music and dance need to be experienced as a motivating pull to further learning.

Other theorists emphasize exploring the vast range of walking and turning possibilities available as soon as possible, rather than teaching beginners set patterns. They hope this will more quickly result in moment-to-moment improvisation for the leader - more musically inspired choices. But asking beginner leaders to choose from the 6 possible steps (right foot forward, side, back, and left foot forward, side, back) at any given moment, can be immobilizing if done too soon. This approach is better utilized after achieving a certain level of proficiency - once you've got your sea legs.

When we first learn a new language, we are taught short useful sentences before we fully understand grammar. That's how I view beginner patterns. Partner dancing has inarguable early concerns for the leader. Beginner leaders usually feel the urgent desire to lead something interesting, even though their walking technique and comprehension will need several years to be proficient. They want to enjoy a few commonly used patterns which work with the flow of the dancefloor and can provide at least a few moments of joy in the here and now or they'll quit in frustration as many do. In the context of these patterns, if the teacher and student emphasize the walking technique, musicality and improvisation, them, these will be cultivated and will only get better with time.

Scientists such as Gregory Bateson who study human learning processes indicate that only through moving to higher level patterns will students understand the logic of the previous level of information. Dr. Richard Moss described this effect with an analogy of the cartoon with two fish who have just jumped out of the water and one fish is saying to the other, "That stuff, Stupid! That stuff!" as he points down to the water. Advocates of "only the walk" are 'preaching to the choir' and the 8 count basic and/or other set patterns were probably part of what helped them early on, to get where they are now: sitting in the pretty position of the theorist.

I say leave beginner leaders to their set patterns and let them deconstruct these when they are ready. They will abandon patterns in their own due time - it is the natural course.
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~ Tampering with the Tango Hold ~
There are certain tango steps that, to be executed, involve lowering the man's left arm and distancing from the partner. It reminds me of the open hold in salsa dance, which I've also been dancing since the 80's. Depending on the step being done, I can momentarily enjoy this, but mostly I love how different salsa and tango are from each other. I guess that's why I've been reluctant to fusions (I admit, I don't much care for the practice of applying tango embellishments to women's salsa styling either). Tango's hold is one of its exquisite distinctions. The reason why for so long (130 years), male tango dancers didn't do right back sacadas, they only did left back sacadas. It's probably not that they hadn't thought of it. To do it comfortably it's necessary to lower the man's left arm, and they likely didn't enjoy the appearance of that. Tango isn't a science. It doesn't always follow logical paths. Being an art, it's more about history, habit and culture. So we as tango dancers end up imitating what others before us have done and are still doing. I think there's a desired balance to achieve. How much branching out can we do and still say we are within a style, still say it's tango. I like the word "branch" because it reminds me it's possible to explore at moments here and there, while still being part of or "rooted" in a style, in tango.
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~ Habits That Hinder Learning ~
1) The incessant need to intellectualise and "figure things out" before attempting them.

2) Intolerance of confusion and escape to intellectualisation: This point and subsequent quotes I've taken from Frederick Perls and while I have taken his statements completely out of their context, I feel they apply well to dance students' experiences while learning, particularly the inability to stay in the moment when that moment happens to involve confusion. If the dance student can tolerate the confusion, it will clear and a deeper grasp results. "The most difficult part ... is to abstain from an intellectualizing and verbalizing of the on-going process. ... The intellectualizer is in the position of being split between an explaining onlooker and the experiencing performer". Frederick Perls also said, "If your attention is divided between two objects of interest, you cannot concentrate properly on either". I find these statements very relevant. Many students flee the process of learning-by-doing, which is so necessary in dance, towards intellectualisation. That tendency towards intellectualisation may perhaps be a habit they seek to tame through dance. The frequency with which I encounter the "incessant intellectualiser" in my classes leads me to put special emphasis on this point.

3) Unwillingness to set one's own methods aside until a new concept is learned. Once understood, one's own processes for incorporating concepts into the dance can return.

4) Replacing practice time with more classes. It is important to release from interaction with the teacher(s) in order to practice. Forfeiting practice in favour of more classes can lead to needless confusion and frustration.
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~ Quotes on Learning Processes ~
The following 3 quotes from Gregory Bateson, Anthropologist, Social Scientist and Cyberneticist (1904-1980) can clearly be applied to students learning dance:

  • It is a commonplace of learning Psychology that while the subject will learn (Learning 1) more rapidly if he is reinforced every time he responds correctly, such learning will disappear rather rapidly if reinforcement ceases. If, on the other hand, reinforcement is only occasional, the subject will learn more slowly but the resulting learning will not easily be extinguished when reinforcement ceases altogether.

  • Educators have strong opinions about the value (positive or negative) of training in rote learning. "Progressive" educators insist on training in "insight" while the more conservative insist on rote and drilled recall.

  • No amount of discourse of a given logical type can "explain" phenomena of a higher type. [I find this quote very relevant to points 1-3 of the Habits That Hinder Learning section above]
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~ Tango's Tragedy and Irony ~
Why the attraction to it? I've described my own attraction to Tango music by explaining that I've found in it a joy which underlies that sadness we hear, and that dancing tango can have a cathartic effect on the sadness we feel toward life's hardships. But I wonder if this has been more the experience for the tango dancer outside of Argentina, its birthplace and current hub. In Vancouver, as in many North American dance scenes where tango has grown, where "milonga life" has grown, going dancing several times a week is fun, enjoyable. But still, embedded in the lyrics, if not the harmonics as well, is a sense of tragedy and irony. So I return to the questions: Why the attraction to tragedy and irony? What does it offer? How does it enrich us? I think Dr. Philip Gold of the US National Institute of Mental Health may have said it best while addressing colleagues in Japan: "The tragic and ironic visions facilitate the process of grieving [the loss of a cherished dream or loved one] in a way that the comic and romantic cannot. Neither espouses a perfectionist ideal where triumph over adversity and attainment of a relatively unambiguous, pain-free existence is seen as the ultimate and perhaps only appropriate aim of living. An aesthetic of the tragic and ironic visions is that individuals can continue to celebrate the beauty of existence and the wonders of an interior life and external connections despite being surrounded by unanswerable questions, ambiguous dilemmas, and the certainly of loss and death. Viewed in this way, each life is infinitely valuable despite and perhaps even because of its immense vulnerability"
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~ Rose In Teeth ~
Dr. Eric Lindborg: "My wife and I dance tango and she is Argentine. We recently were wondering aloud about the origin of the image of the tango dancer with rose in teeth. It is not part of her cultural memory. Any suggestions or leads on where to get more information on this?"

Susana Domingues: "Hello Eric, the rose in teeth is a Hollywood idea of Tango. Perhaps one of the Valentino movies will display a rose in teeth. I know that in "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" Valentino dances a "torrid" tango with a whip. In Argentine Tango, all that passion is encrypted in the codes of the dance movement and not displayed on the face or in such gestures. If in fact the rose in teeth did not start in Hollywood with Valentino, perhaps it can be attributed to North America's tendency to confuse Latin American culture with Spanish culture. Perhaps Flamenco dancers have been known to do this, however, I believe some would say that even they have too much grit for the rose in teeth. If you do manage to find the origins of the rose in teeth image, please share it with me."

Dr. Eric Lindborg: "Susana-- Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my inquiry. I thought I would update you regarding my final conclusions on this: All sources I've found seem to confirm that the popular image of the rose in teeth of the tango dancer was a Hollywood creation. Uniformly Rudy Valentino's tango in "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" is attributed as the origin. As you already noted this was not a tango tradition then or now. I've found no additional background on the story of how the rose came to be included in the movie scene. It does seem that the rose in the teeth may be more traditionally a part of flamenco dancing and that the movie folks unfairly melded spanish flamenco lore with the tango. A secondary question then was why the rose in the teeth for flamenco dancers. Once again popular culture provides a clue with Bizet's Carmen dancing the flamenco in the cigarette factory. Seems that this version began at or shortly after the opera's premiere in 1875. Bizet's inspiration for the opera was a novella by Prosper Merimee published in 1845. A first description of Carmen portrays her as seductively strolling with a bouquet of acacias while holding an acacia flower in her mouth. And of course for both Bizet and Merimee the real sources are the wild gypsy women. So the final conclusion is that we can blame it all on the gypsies."

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~ Style ~
When we speak of a Style, it's implied that we also speak of a history. The dance style called "Argentine Tango" refers to what dancers have done in the Rio Plata region for over 135 years. "Argentine Tango" is a historical collection of movement patterns and positions that share a particular esthetic and are set to a particular style of music, also called Tango. The future Argeintine Tango may or may not include all of what is being danced to tango music today.

There is no doubt that this collection of patterns, has developed over the years. There is also no doubt that it has been the influence of individual dancers and musicians of Tango which has evolved the character, quality, esthetic, etc. of tango. However, those individuals have passed through Tango's history, perhaps not first hand, as few Tangueros are over 100 years old. But they are able to pass through a history - to pass through an experience not entirely their own, through the patterns. These patterns, they have observed or been taught either by dancers who have experienced part of the historical progression of Tango's movements, positions and esthetic first hand or by dancers who in turn experienced it through another dancer. Understanding this, then role models become of great importance. Role models have done exactly this and as a result, provide a living example of the style.
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~ Personal Style ~
If we continue on the issue of style to the question of personal style in Tango dance, the answer again involves, history. This time a personal history. After having passed through this history of patterns we call Tango, there will surface personal tendencies, preferences for one step or another, preferences for one character of movement or another, and mannerisms which can often result from physical aspects such as body type. These become what we consider personal style. These cannot be taught, they are a result of a personal history with Argentine Tango.
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~ Styles of Tango ~
With so much new activity in the Tango scenes in the Rio Plata region and worldwide, various styles of Argentine Tango are evolving quickly. Some dancers are being labeled with style names that they themselves do not wish to adopt. Other dancers openly advocate one style or another. There is also no denying the effect that the recent influx of Tango tourism to Buenos Aires will have on future styles of Argentine Tango... and so the evolution continues.

In local Tango dance scenes outside of the Rio Plata region, it seems that those who dance ONLY one style want to gather more to join their style. Each group seems to call out to beginners "pick us! pick us!". Yet how can a beginner make such a choice when they have only just learned the basics of moving forward and back. Styles have varying philosophies each with their own methods and logic. Newcomers to Tango may adopt one philosophy today, then change to another along the way. And so goes each individual's Tango odyssey.

If we asked Tangueros around the world, who are the world's current role models in Argentine Tango dance, we would probably come up with names such as Osvaldo Zotto and Lorena Ermocida, Miguel Zotto and Milena Plebes, Gustavo Naveira and perhaps some of us will still remember Juan Carlos Copes and Maria Nieves.

These dancers are technically capable of dancing many styles of Tango and incorporating various into their social dancing. Most probably, they do not "live" in only one of the above mentioned styles at all times.

There are more names than actual styles. Here are a few: Salon style, Canjengue style, Urquiza style, Tango Orillero, Tango Liso, Tango Milonguero or Tango Apilado, Close Embrace style, Tango Fantasia or Stage Tango, Tango Ballet, Club style, Tango Nuevo style, Cosmotango style, Liquid Tango style.
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~ The Genuineness of Performing Choreography ~
I do not know why I love to perform. Blaise Pascal said "the heart has its reasons which the reason does not at all perceive". I also enjoy performing an improvisation just as much as a choreography but have struggled with the idea of whether Tango choreography is really a genuine expression of one's self or if rather, just a more effective way of entertaining an audience in certain settings, through a subtle kind of story telling.

Tango dance performances that are completely improvised do have a powerful impact. One of the loveliest qualities of tango is the immense weight of its many possible patterns and the fruit they inspire from moment to moment, something like blossoms that rest on the surface of a complex system of tree branches and roots below. Despite the many merits of improvised Tango dance, I still enjoy a well choreographed piece. It has been said that choreographing robs Tango of important aspects of its true nature. Perhaps it does, but I believe it also presents to an audience, other aspects of Tango that might not be seen otherwise.

I hope you'll enjoy these few excerpts of a wonderful metalogue called "Why a Swan", by Gregory Bateson (Anthropologist, Social Scientist and Cyberneticist), published in Impulse: Annual of Contemporary Dance, Impulse Publications, San Francisco, 1954. In it the writer uses the image of the swan in the ballet Swan Lake, to describe the relationship between dancer and the image the dancer depicts. These excerpts also touch on the experience between performer and audience and the ritual aspect of performing, which the entire metalogue itself describes more carefully. While I've tried to show only the most relevant excerpts, reading only excerpts is an injustice to the metalogue's beauty as a whole, and I highly recommend reading the entire metalogue in the book "Steps to an Ecology of Mind".

    Father: .....the whole of fantasy, poetry, ballet, and art in general owes its meaning and importance to the relationship which I refer when I say that the swan figure is a "sort of" swan-or a "pretend" swan.

    36 lines down:
    Father: Let us suppose I ask the dancer, "Miss X, tell me, that dance which you performed--is it for you a sacrament or a mere metaphor?" And let us imagine that I can make this question intelligible. She will perhaps put me off by saying "You saw it--it is for you to decide, if you want to, whether or not it is sacramental for you." Or she might say, "Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't." Or "How was I, last night?" But in any case she can have no direct control over the matter.

    4 lines down:
    Father: ... I'll start again. The swan figure is not a real swan but a pretend swan. It is also a pretend-not human being. It is also "really" a young lady wearing a white dress. And a real swan would resemble a young lady in certain ways.

    Daughter: But which of these is sacramental?

    Father: .. I can only say this: that it is not one of these statements but their combination which constitutes a sacrament. The "pretend" and the "pretend-not" and the "really" somehow get fused together into a single meaning.

    Daughter: But we ought to keep them separate.

    Father: Yes. That is what the logicians and the scientist try to do. But they do not create ballets that way--nor sacraments.
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