Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Learning to walk

Tango dancers will know that possibly the most important element in tango, and something that comes even before the "basic eight," is the tango walk. Men in particular spend years perfecting their tango walk.

There's a whole sub-genre of writing about tango in which people wax philosophical on this topic. An example from Loo Yeo (the full text is tagged in my delicious favourites):

As an ideal dancer you would need to be aware of your line, and be able to place your feet on it unerringly. Since your movements will be unsighted, you will need to develop your sense of proprioception, such that your limbs go exactly where you intend for them to. I call this "perfect register" where intent and movement are perfectly aligned.

So that's (one of the many things that can be said about) the tango walk. But what is the tangophilosophy walk?

Sam has got me thinking about this with his comment on my previous post. He wrote:
Compare peripeteia: turning around (from the Greek) & Peripatetic: Aristotelian (from his habit of walking around thinking).
Peripeteia also means a sudden change of events or reversal of circumstances, especially in a literary work, and peripatetic can mean an itinerant, one who travels around.

This reminds me of a few things:

A talk I once heard by Drucilla Modjeska (Australian author whose writing has a nice sense of the philosophical although she would never call herself a philosopher) in which she discussed the effect of walking upon thinking. I recall she mentioned Nietzsche as a philosopher who found it essential to walk in order to think, and in particular to produce philosophical thoughts.

An organisation called peri that was set up by Cameron Tonkin (now Cameron Tonkinwise), who was responsible for persuading me not to drop philosophy after first year at uni. As I recall, peri was an experimental performance/happening network and the name was chosen to evoke the ideas above, but also a sense of being "on the edge" - as in perimeter, peripheral.

Well, I think I can safely say that tangophilosophy is also philosophy done in the spirit of "peri-". It involves thinking while moving (following an impulse that comes from somewhere other than thought) and is a form of philosophy that is peripheral to that which gets done in institutions and academies.

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