I love tango because every dance is a story, with plot and character working together to create something beautiful and magical.
If we characterize plot as the leader, the Fred Astaire, and character as the follower, Ginger Rogers, it’s important not to make the mistake of thinking that character has the lesser role. To paraphrase Ginger Rogers, ” I do everything he does only backwards…and in heels!” Character is mistaken for the weaker partner — but in fact, in screenwriting, like tango, the role of the plot is to frame the characters and make them look good
What story we do tell when we “dance?” Everything we do is shaped by our inner story, which tends to carefully stay within the borders of our expectations. That’s why so many dance films (Shall We Dance), and non-dance films that feature dance (Scent Of A Woman), use the dance to show the character transforming into an expanded version of themselves.
In preparation for the tango I performed with my teacher, Tim Shalnev, last Friday at Fred Astaire Studios, we discussed how each of us should have a story in mind about the dance to add to an intensity to the performance.
In the story I danced, my partner is the love of my life — and emotional poison! This dance is our last encounter before I say goodbye, and never see him again.
For Tim, he is always dancing jealousy. Our joke is that when we begin he whispers, accusingly, “I saw you with Jose,” and he dances his “jealousy.” His intensity is obvious when you look at the steps of our tango, which he choreographed.
In tango, the leader always choreographs, and a good partner responds to the prompts.
In writing it’s the plot that prompts the characters’ responses.
It’s a hard lesson to learn but perhaps the metaphor of tango will help you tweak your current perception and give character work the weight it deserves.