Anyone who knows me knows I dance Argentine Tango. They might not know that I started social dancing with Ballroom, Latin & a lot of Swing and even a little Country & Western dancing first. Each dance—from the slow, sensual boil of a classic Rumba with its rolling Cuban motion to the high-energy frenzy of a Charleston-accented Savoy Lindy Hop—has a character that has an impact on the dancer.
I was thinking about that the other day as I sat at the side of a dance floor at a Milonga (Tango dance) checking out the clothes, shoes and expressions on the faces of the dancers. Argentine Tango dancers are ‘a breed apart’—and they know it.
The facial expressions, the bearing, the intensity, the attitude—Tango is different. Even the Argentine Vals (the Waltz rhythm dance in the trio of that make up the Tango canon) has a cerebral aspect, a bittersweet sadness that is TANGO and not Viennese or American or even in a Country Waltz.
Studying the dancers, I pondered the ‘characters’ of other dances and how, just imagining a particular fictional character on the dance floor might help me understand them better and write about them with more confidence.
The protagonist in my current novel-in-progress would be an excellent Tango dancer if she put her mind to it. Her love interest would be a happy muddler in a Tango scene, but he might become an excellent Swing dancer. It’s in his temperament and approach to life.
I can visualize one of the more interesting characters at a Latin club. He wouldn’t dance all night. He’d be selective about both the partner and the tune; then he’d wow the crowd with his subtle footwork and send his partner spinning through exhausting and spectacular/showy turning patterns. Of course he’d only ask a woman with the dance chops to handle his style and then he’d retire to the bar or pick up a girl half his age.
Maybe I need to add a dance scene to the story? Nah…but the thought process is helping me find clarity in the characters and that’s a two-step on the keyboard.