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Dancing with the body and brush: An artist's experience of painting live dancers with ink in Milonga

This blog is about my journey towards live motion painting. Dropping security for the unknown and exploring how to translate the beauty of movement and connection of Tango. From moving dancers to 'Moving Ink'.

Live painting of Tango Dancers at Milonga (Moving Ink) by SAB artist studio

The first line of an ancient Urdu poem, by Hafeez Hoshiarpuri, translates to “lovers will not be less”. After the weekend, curated by thelovingcollaborative I think that this rings true in all our ears.


mohabbat karne wale kam na honge

To dance tango, to be open to your partner, and connect is a courageous act of love and vulnerability. And like the poem says, from this action we are not less. Even if our love is not returned, we know our own strength, we know to hold our own axis, to move across the floor and open-up to another partner.


But when the connection does happens. Ooooooweeee. You effortlessly glide, as one organism, across the dance floor. That cannot be described by words alone. Perhaps through art…


Embracing the unknown: Transition and preparation from security to full-time artist


I have recently quit my job to pursue art. Its a big step in my life, and really I do not know how it will go. It is also like this when I approach art. You make preparations, pouring the ink into the pot cutting the paper (making sure you have enough savings!?) but ultimately I do not know what will come out. Its a wild exploration into the unknown. But a tremendous opportunity as it can be the birth of something new I could not have imagined.


When I offered my art as an exchange to the loving collaborative to attend the Tango Medicine Retreat I was blown away by their love, support and appreciate for my art. They even urged me to bring along my equipment and paint live? "Really, me, you want me to do that?" I was a little apprehensive at first. But why not? It could lead to something.


After the blessings and teachings of Tango Medicine workshops over the weekend, which got me high on love, we entered the final Práctica and Milonga on Sunday evening. I positioned myself away on the upper level our of circular temple. Our shrine for the weekend. Mainly because I had no idea what would come out on the paper, so I could focus, away from probing eyes. For the first hour I was up-and-down, side-to-side, foraging bits and bobs of furniture to set up the painting station. I nabbed a marble desk from the men’s toilet, a box once full of dirty laundry and a chalk sign board as my easel.


Once I peered down at the calm embraces of the bodies stepping, silently giggle and conversing softly, Martin, our music maestro for the weekend, sweetly picked the guitar. I was transported to some medieval banquet hall.


Challenges of painting live Tango dancers with ink during the Práctica


By this point the love had faded, and more nervousness was there. I attempted painting live dancers with ink and rice paper straight away. But the bleed of the paper can be hard to control, and with the movement of tango, there is not a lot of time to capture a live dancers. Shit. Usually, I can paint figures between 30-60 seconds, but that is when they are still!


I moved back to pencil and started scribbling in my sketch book, to build some confidence. Then

I reverted back to ink, it was still difficult. I remember the moment I made these (Figure 1 and 2) the feedback in my head was “oh boy, what is this? is that really what you got”. But looking back, perhaps without the nervous energy, letting the ink and paper settle, they are not so bad.

Live ink painting of wild Tango Dancers at Milonga (Moving Ink) by SAB artist studio

Figure 1: Cathy and Dave

Live ink painting of energetic Tango Dancers at Milonga (Moving Ink) by SAB artist studio

Figure 2: Georgina and Geneviève

Live ink painting of Tango Dancers Off-balance at Milonga (Moving Ink) by SAB artist studio

Figure 3: Off balance (Dina and Drew)


In the end, they captured the strength of these dancers, their quick and powerful movements across the dance floor. There is something to be said for painting in the moment, there is not a lot of time to deliberate. You just have to go for it.


The joy of connection in the Milonga: When moving ink and paper dance together


A turning point was when I painted Dina and Drew (Figure 4). I could see there was an emotion in Dina and Drews face as they danced. The softness of the movement slowed me down, I focused in on their energy and made a few marks with the brush. A moment later. A few more.


I shocked myself, I couldn’t quite believe what I captured. It was a joyful moment. There was an urge to do more, typically we are taught to believe more is better, I was often told by art teachers at a young age – there should be no white space, that maybe true in a sketchbook. But space is key - particular for Japanese art, where I draw a lot of inspiration from [1] - if not the for the space the dance cannot exist, nothing can exist. Space is a void, in which we can occupy with a subtle and beautiful energy.

Live ink painting of emotional and soft Tango Dancers at Milonga (Moving Ink) by SAB artist studio

Figure 4: Dina and Drew


I took the black ink out to only strength what was there, cautious not add more than that.

This piece was a particular turning point where I felt emboldened by the process. And I found my groove.

Live ink painting of intermiate and powerful Tango Dancers at Milonga (Moving Ink) by SAB artist studio

Figure 5: Marion, Martin, Rhiannon and Drew


Tango Medicine Retreat opens up new project for artist: Moving Ink


The weekend was a tremendous opportunity to delve further into my creative pursuit, combining my passion for painting and dancing, one which I did not know was possible. The weekend has opened more avenues of painting live Milonga's in Bristol and London [2]! Where sell my art at the end of the night.


It has also helped me formulate a new project for my art: Moving Ink. Where I am exploring the art of movement, energy and connection from dancers and performers (not just Tango) using ink.


I am eternally grateful for the loving collaborative for providing the platform for me to grow. And now, as an official member, I am stoked to see what collaborations are to come!


Moving Ink from Tango Medicine Retreat available to take home


If anyone would like treasure the memory of the weekend we created together, the original paintings and limited edition prints are available for sale. Prices start at £25. I am open to offers and potential price exchanges, so please get in touch if you are interested.


Moving Ink original paintings

Cathy and Dave

Georgina and Geneviève

Dina and Drew (Figure 4)

Moving Ink limited edition prints

A4 of Figure 3 and 4

A3 of Figure 5


Please keep in touch, to follow my art, book me to paint a live performance or anything else.

Instagram: @sachinbabbar


[1] 'Ma' (間),is one of three key concepts of Japanese art. It can be translated as negative space, and is considered to hold just as much importance as the positive (painted) space.

[2] Milongas by Tango Alchemy at Hope Chapel, Bristol and Tango Terra at Seven Dials Club, Covent Garden, London


Classic and modern renditions of the Hafeez Hoshiarpuri poem

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