March 2007: Shall We Dance by Dorothy Max Prior

Theatre nomad director Luke Dixon is one of a number of people who have realised the potential of tango, in its pure unreconstructed form, as a tool for use in theatre workshops: ‘Again and again I come back to tango,’ says Luke. ‘It’s a dance of constant dynamic, between desire and resistance, leading and being led. The tango especially opens itself to improvisation... and that makes it a tremendously versatile tool in making performance.’

Like Luke, I have often used tango and other partner dances on the rehearsal floor as a starting point for devising physical action, even if working on a performance piece with no content that even remotely relates to ballroom dance. The key tango (and indeed all ballroom dance) elements are perfect for an exploration of the dynamics of physical relationship: leading and following; call and responses; taking action and being receptive; moving as one; mirroring, shadowing, and complementing a partner’s movement; working with and working against another human body.

Back to Luke: ‘I use partner dancing for creating character, relationships, narrative and drama. With theatre nomad we’ve used it in nearly everything from our Faraway Nearby project, which collected and played with stories from around the world, to our recent Uncle Vanya. We have had a long interest in gender, and partner dancing is about gender... Partner dancing also implies an audience. The dance hall is as much about the spectator, about the possibilities of involvement in the dance, as about the dance itself. In rehearsal, it can bridge the divide between the circle of the workshop and the openness of performing to an audience.’

This is a short extract from an article in the Spring 2007 issue (Volume 19, Issue 1) of Total Theatre in which the author ‘reflects on the performance power of partner dancing’.




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