“Warning: tango contains highly addictive ingredients, such as pain, pleasure, passion, excitement, connection, freedom, torment, and bliss. In seven out of ten cases it takes over a person’s life.”
– Naomi Hotta
Connection in Argentine tango refers to the transcendent experience of feeling at one with self, partner, and music. Interactive Tango Milonga is an interactive system giving tango dancers agency over music in order to increase this sense of relation between both partners and music. Motion sensors are attached to the ankles and back of each dancer, and the information coming from these sensors are then translated into music. Like an improvising musician in an ensemble, each dancer receives musical feedback from both her movements and her partner’s. Thus, each dancer can respond to the music, receiving further musical feedback, becoming further involved in both the sound and her partner’s movements. In the above example, follower steps and kicks control the onset of pieces of melody. Additionally, the smoothness or choppiness of the couples’ movements are reflected in the music, how staccato or legato it is. This performance demonstrates a prototype, and more movement to music relations will be added as the project moves forward.
Argentine tango dance was born in diverse immigrant working class communities of Río de la Plata, combining several traditions including the habanera, the Andalusian tango, and the candombe, an Uruguayan slave dance. Argentine tango music emerged after the dance tradition, and unlike most other Western social partner dances, like salsa, no standard basic step set to a particular rhythmic figure exists within the dance. Instead, movement in each moment is the result of nonverbal communication. Tango dance couples respond to the same music with diverse rhythms, movement qualities, and figures. Tango dance musicality, i.e., how dancers engage and respond to the music, requires creative decisions and negotiations between each leader and follower. Dancers improvise their own musical interpretations and also respond to their partner’s via touch and movement.
Interactive Tango Milonga gives voice to this movement, allowing skilled dancers a novel avenue of connection, through sound. The system modifies and generates distinctive elements of music such as note onset and duration, orchestration, as well as timbral elements such as brightness in response to movement. A multi-level mapping (ie, translation from sound to movement) is employed which relates movement perceptions (e.g., choppy, smooth, busy, exotic) to similar musical characters as well as affecting the sonification of lower level features of movement such as trajectory and foot onset. The resulting sound connects not just leader and follower, but also the entire dance floor, transforming it into a sounding ensemble. Through this agency over music, Interactive Tango Milonga aims to immerse skilled dancers further into the interplay of musical interpretation and interpersonal, embodied connection.
Courtney Brown has nine years of Argentine tango dance experience, coming to the style of music and dance through her experience as an accordionist. She has studied tango dance from Triangulo Tango, NYC (2008-2011), Daniela Borgialli at ASU (2012, workshops), and from private lessons from DNI Tango, Buenos (2015). She has taken workshops from many tango masters, including Pablo Veron (at Boston Tango Society), Homer y Christina Ladas (at Tucson Tango Festival), Mariano ‘Chicho’ Frumboli y Juana Sepulveda (at ASU Tango Club), Gabriela Gonzales (at ASU Tango Festival) and Nick Jones y Diana Cruz (at Triangle Tango). She has taught beginning tango workshops at SalsaNoke, Roanoke, VA, and ran the 7ate9 Milonga monthly series in 2012, teaching beginning tango before each event. She also has run experimental sound and movement workshops both in Buenos Aires and Tempe, AZ, exploring the tango concept of connection through exercises influenced by Deep Listening, Scratch Orchestra, Contact Improvisation, and Acoustic Ecology.
Interactive Tango Milonga is made possible in part through seed funding from the Pave Arts Venture Incubator at ASU.
Arizona State University PAVE Arts Venture Seed Funding, 2015
Fulbright Award: Buenos Aires, 2013-2014
Brown, C. (2017). Interactive Tango Milonga: An Interactive Dance System for Argentine Tango Social Dance (Doctoral dissertation, Arizona State University).
Brown, C. & Paine, G. (2015). Towards an Interactive Tango Milonga. Proceedings of the 2015 International Computer Music Conference.
Brown, C. & Paine, G. (2015). Interactive Tango Milonga: Designing Internal Experience. Proceedings of the 2nd Conference on Movement and Computing.
Brown, C. & Paine, G. (2016) Digital Musical Instruments for Participatory Music: Designing Internal Experience. Music and HCI Workshop, ACM SIGCHI Human Factors in Computing Systems Conference 2016. San Jose, CA.
Demonstrations and Performances
International Conference on Live Interfaces, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK, Performance with partner, Brent Brimhall, Jun. 29-Jul 3, 2016
Pythias Lounge, Tempe, AZ, Performance with partner, Brent Brimhall, May 31, 2016
Tango for All, Ability 360 Center, Phoenix, AZ. Workshop demonstration for wheelchair tango, Apr. 27 2016
El Abrazo Practica, Scottsdale Neighborhood Arts Place (SNAP), Scottsdale, AZ. Workshop demonstration, Feb. 2 2016
SSOO Festival, Flagstaff, AZ. Performance demonstration with partner, Brent Brimhall. March. 23 2015