Last Wednesday’s Intermediate Class at Sidewalk Tango introduced the concept of Suspension in the Embrace to us. David and Di talked about the embrace and the pause and the opportunities these generated. They moved from tango music, selected Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune from the play list and turned the lights down to a pinky glow. David mentioned that Debussy once described music as, ‘The silence between the notes.’
I was still sidelined with my hip and watched the couples quietly exploring this moment in the dance. I longed to be out there on the floor with them.
However, it got me thinking, and next morning when ‘negative space’ popped into my head, I realized that if I can’t dance it, I can think it and write it.
I learnt that the leader draws his partner into suspension, a pause. It’s a moment to hold and transform the pause into a gathering point or a threshold. It is time, hanging in space, isolated in the now but with resonances of the past and the opportunities of the future.
This pause is wide reaching. Isaac Stern, the conductor, talks of ‘silences which give the form’ of a piece of music, echoing Debussy.
Suspended time is not unlike the visual artist’s concept of the negative space which exists around and between two objects. In this case, the space has a strong role in the whole composition and is about the rightness and balance of the positioning. Negative space can often create a presence or image of itself such as the obvious case when two vases placed side by side will create an image of a face between them. In tango there is not only a temporal pause but a pause in space where the embrace and the position of the dancers’ bodies speak their own language.
I discovered that the Japanese take this concept further with their principle of ‘ma.’ Very simply, this refers to the space or interval between two structural parts and a consciousness of these two elements. It is also about what takes place in the imagination of the person who experiences these transient elements and it’s in that that I found the connection to tango deepened. I really liked the idea of the imagination and mind engaged in this suspended moment between two people. There’s an interesting sense of being both within and without the body.
Then in The Age on Saturday (28 February, 2015), I was reading a discussion by Kathy Heyman on writing dialogue. She says that the author and the reader listen to the silences and pauses between words. It is the silent subtext flowing beneath the words which draws the dialogue and narrative along.
To complete the circle and return to last Wednesday’s tango class, I found it very interesting to discover how far that word, ‘suspension’, took me into the wider artistic world. It deepened my understanding of a very specific layer of meaning. I’m thinking about a feeling of height, lift and poise coupled with the suspense of being open and quiet. I flow into this moment.