This is some of the work we've been doing in my Tango Fundamentals class this summer. We are six weeks into this class, with four more to go. I usually wait and post the review as a page, but I'm going to post this much on my blog so that you all read it before coming to class this week ;-) I'm working on the steps we've done, and will post that ASAP, with updates until the end of classes.
The hips needs to be positioned correctly both from front to back, and side to side. From front to back, the hips have to be aligned in such a way as to take stress off the lower back, while tilting slightly back. This alignment really comes from using the psoas and other core abdominal muscles (I think this will take another blog entry, so hang onto that thought for the moment) to lift and stretch the entire back, so that each vertebra can rotate slightly, with ease.
The way that Georgina got my back into the right position (the first time) was to lift me from my rib cage, until my lower back relaxed, but I had a very lifted, stretched feeling in my abs. Once you find this position, it doesn't vary, but remains uniform throughout the dance.
The side-to-side motion of the hips changes with each step, in the shape of a pendulum. The pendulum motion aids in changing weight and staying on balance. The point of the hip motion is to position the hip joint above the foot arch to maintain balance more easily. It is NOT a hula motion and it is NOT Cuban motion. It helps the dancer to use ALL joints for movement, from the neck to the foot, rather than the knees.
same motion (both forward/back and side/side) is used by men and women,
but it looks different because the pelvic bones are shaped differently.
Similarly, a woman with wide hips and a woman with narrow hips will do
the same motion, but it will look VERY different.
The point is that there is not a correct LOOK, but a correct ALIGNMENT:
don't try to make it visually match another dancer whose body is not
similar to yours.
Keep both of them slightly flexed. This aids in balancing the body. Try not to put extra stress on your knees and quadriceps. Keep your knees as together as possible, but focus on keeping the ENERGY in between the knees, whether you can touch them together or not. If you are feeling a lot of work going on in your quads, adjust your hips further back. I've noticed at the milongas that a lot of people dance while crouching a little bit. Tango is not tennis ;-) and we need elegance as well as balance. Remember to stretch up the entire length of your body WHILE keeping the joints released.
Your feet stay in a V, with the heels together all the time. The "free" foot keeps contact with the floor for energy and balance. In heels, the ankles touch each other, big toe down on the floor. Guys, think about your big toe maintaining connection with the floor in the same way (it will look different because of the heel height). I think of this as a "kick-stand" that provides extra balance.
Oscar and Georgina say 1% of the weight is on the "free" foot. I'd agree with that. The weight on the foot is balanced, 1/2 on the ball, 1/2 on the heel. The weight is also balanced down the center line of the foot, although the ankle energy focus is towards the other foot. If you tend to roll in, think about connecting with the outside edge of your foot. If you tend to roll out, like me, focus your attention in, towards the big toe.
steps are ALWAYS heel toe (do you walk down the street toe heel?). Side
steps: the heel usually hits right before the ball of the foot, but it
depends on the step. Backwards, the foot hits toe heel. If you relax
your ankle right before you step, the correct, "normal" anatomically
efficient movement will usually happen in all directions.
Keep your solar plexus lifted all the time. It does NOT tip up and down; it remains the same during the dance. When I lead, I aim my solar plexus a tiny bit above straight ahead. If I tilt my solar plexus down, the follower's feet suddenly get in my way, because I have directed their energy down, rather than out.
The energy of the dancer connects the partners at the solar plexus, even when dancing in styles where the solar plexus is not always touching. I prefer a small V embrace, where the dancers are not facing each other squarely. I still keep my energy towards my leader. When I dance open embrace, I follow all of these postural rules; the dance doesn't change when it opens up unless we get sloppy and sacrifice posture and connection for (poorly-executed) fancy steps.
Contrabody position, where the solar plexus and hips rotate slightly away from each other, is not a big movement. It is small but occurs in every movement, just as it occurs in your normal walk (if it doesn't occur in your normal walk, we need to work on your non-tango locomotion for improved efficiency off the dance floor ;-) We worked more on this in the intermediate class (for those of you taking both levels), so I'll focus more on this in another entry.
Reminder: next session of classes will begin in early September,
both in Portland and Vancouver, WA. If you'd like to sign up for a few
private lessons between sessions, now is the time to do that. If you
have never studied with me before, I am offering a "first class
special" of $10 off my regular rate for one private lesson; as always,
if you buy four at a time, you get a fifth one free!