Weight in Your Heels

This concept is for women only.

Continuing from our posts, part I and part II, on pulling hips back, we move onto this other crazy concept.  In order for women to properly maintain a posture that includes having her hips over her ankles (while simultaneously maintaining chest-to-chest contact with her partner), she will want to put all her weight in her heels.  “Blasphemy!” you cry.  We promise you, it isn’t.  “But how am I supposed to pivot on the balls of my feet?” you ask.  The beauty of this concept is that you are able to have your weight in your heels (i.e., your centre of gravity over your heels) while at the same time lifting them.  When the heels are down, your weight will be there, but when your heels are raised, your weight will not literally be in your heels, but your body will experience it as such.

Here is an exercise to test what we’re talking about:

(To best experience this exercise, do this in heels)

  1. Stand straight, sideways to a mirror.
  2. Lean forward (not down) as though you are searching for your partner’s chest with your own (“show off your breasts/chest”).
  3. Your weight will now be in the balls of your feet.
  4. Pull your hips back over your ankles (no arching of your back required) until the line between your hips and ankles is perpendicular to the ground (if you are wearing pants that have a seam down the side, make that seam completely vertical).
  5. Consciously put your weight into your heels
  6. Maintaining a constant level, bend your knees while lifting your heels off the ground (if you have to shift your weight, it should be extremely minor)

No need to point out just how awful these diagrams are, but we thought they might be helpful… if only a little bit :)  And yes, they are slightly exaggerated.

This is it.  You have experienced the concept of having your weight in your heels while lifting your heels.  What does this mean?  It means so many things!!!  It means:

  1. No longer gripping the floor with your toes
  2. No more excruciating pain in the balls of your feet
  3. Longer nights of dancing
  4. Dancing on your own two feet
  5. Being able to maintain your own axis

This concept was something our maestro told K during a lesson, but only in passing.  We wouldn’t say it is something you would generally hear, but again, this is a gem.

Let us add a few more clarifications though.  Firstly, if a woman does not know how to properly embrace a man (including “technically” and emotionally), pulling her hips back and putting her weight in her heels will likely result in the woman running away from the man during the dance.  That is, she will be back-leading with her upper body.  So if the woman is not “showing her breasts off” and maintaining contact with the man’s chest, her focus will be on her bottom half and the embrace will be ignored and possibly sacrificed.

If this concept still seems crazy to you, we understand.  However, the idea of putting all your weight in the balls of your feet is just as crazy.  It is impossible to put your weight in your toes and actually stand on your own two feet unless you are standing completely straight… like a BALLERINA.  That said, your weight, at a minimum, should be equally distributed between the balls of your feet and your heels.  Furthermore, the pain you are inflicting on the balls of your feet is unnecessary and torturous.

Finally, to touch on the “hips back” idea one more time…  You cannot stand straight as a woman and actually make contact with a man’s chest unless you pull your hips back and reach for the man with your chest.  That, or you can bend over at the waist – which low-and-behold has your butt sticking out in a BAD way.  Secondly, if you do not create some version of “hips back”, there will be no space between the men’s and women’s feet.  You’re damn right K doesn’t want to make contact with the man’s groin.  Hello!?  Ewwww!  That is what ballroom dancing is for – where contact is made from the sternum all the way down to the knees (we speak from our past experience as competitive International Ballroom dancers).

About Movement Invites Movement

We are relatively young Argentine Tango dancers and teachers who are married both to each other and the dance. We truly found Tango after making an 8-month Tango pilgrimage to Buenos Aires and we are using this blog to share our thoughts and feelings about our Tango experiences. We are not aspiring authors and our writing skills are questionable, but we write our truth. View all posts by Movement Invites Movement

14 responses to “Weight in Your Heels

  • tangopilgrim

    haha… let’s see if your mail box will be flooded with comments. And if you would mark the culo and Mama, the graphic would be less confused at the first look. :-)

    But 4&5 is what I learned from another maestra of the same style. Another maestra explained to a female student that woman’s weight should be over the man.

    To the contrary of common belief, human’s spine is not straight. http://static.spineuniverse.com/displaygraphic.php/171/spine3-BB.jpg. To dance close embrace (the true chest to chest way), one has to adjust the posture to the natural way. When the woman has it right, it is the most wonderful feeling (at least for me) the moment the woman embraces the man.

    Too bad, the technique is not taught (or less known) here.

  • tinatangos

    I just had to drop in to give kudos to the diagram. :) I quite like it! Very Argentine!

  • nerdfromnorway

    Please don’t take this is an attack on your main point, because it is not, but some of the technical statements seems confusing at best. If you by “weight in your heels” mean having the centre of mass above the heels, then, if you are standing still on one foot, or with the feet parallell, it is simply impossible to not have the heel touch the floor, unless you hang on to something (like a partner or a wall). Other statements are confusing as well, like this one:

    “It is impossible to put your weight in your toes and actually stand on your own two feet unless you are standing completely straight… like a BALLERINA”

    The lesser the point of contact with the floor, the harder it is to keep the balance (on your own), but you don’t have to be standing completely straight.

    I also wonder why you believe this to be true:
    “However, the idea of putting all your weight in the balls of your feet is just as crazy”?

    If the balls of the feet are the only point of contact with the floor, then if I’m standing on one foot, my weight (centre of mass) *must be* above the ball of the foot, or else I will be falling unless I hold or hang onto something. However, having the centre of mass above the ball of the foot doesn’t prevent me from moving my hips back, as long as I move something else (the upper body) forward to compensate.

    • movementinvitesmovement

      Hi Jarle,

      Let’s see if we can further and better explain this concept.

      In order to have the weight in the balls of your feet, you can either stand straight and go up directly onto the balls of your feet – which obviously does not work for Tango – or you can lean forward and you will look like the (badly) drawn image in the post (the left image). This is incorrect posture and you will be leaning or putting pressure on the man and you will not be on your own axis. In order to adjust this lean, you can pull your hips backs so that your hips are directly over your ankles. This way you will be on your own axis and you will have your weight equally distributed throughout your feet OR in your heels. Also, in this case your “weight” or “centre of mass” is your pelvis area and only the chest will be over the balls of the feet (your pelvis/tummy is your “core” and has more weight than your chest).

      There will obviously be a slight transfer of weight in order to lift your heels while your “weight is in your heels”, but your weight definitely does not have to be in the balls of your feet. As we mentioned, if women want to stop being in pain after a night of dancing, they will stop dancing on and with their weight over the front part of their feet.

      Sorry if this does not clarify things much better. This is a concept easily taught in person when it can be shown and bodies can be physically moved by us…

      Either way, you can do all this or you can do what some people suggest: stand straight, don’t pull your hips back (or in their language: stick your butt out) and have fun connecting with your partner’s tummy and groin. YUM! :)

      • nerdfromnorway

        I believe we’re in agreement, so this is just some (more) nit-picking by me because I believe your ideas can be easier to understand for more people if your statements don’t seem to contradict the laws of physics. :-)

        First of all, I assume that you use “weight in the balls of your feet” as a shortcut for something like: “the center of mass/gravity of your body is somewhere above the balls of the foot your are standing on if your are standing on one foot, or if you are standing on both feet, that the center of mass/gravity is above the balls of one of the feet, or is somewhere between the balls of both feet”.

        If I have the weight over the balls of my feet, I’m not forced to lean on the person I’m dancing with nor forced to put pressure upon that person even if I’m leaning forward with my upper body. By the very definition of what it means to have the weight over the balls of the feet, I can keep my own balance.

        If my weight is behind the area of contact with my feet on the ground, for instance above the heels while the heels are not touching the floor, by the laws of physics I’m in the process of falling unless I grab on to something, like my partner or a wall etc.
        Note that the location of the center of mass/gravity of the body depends upon the shape/configuration of the body, it can actually be outside the body if you bend your hips *a lot*. :-)

      • movementinvitesmovement

        We often tell our female students to think of their upper body and lower bodies like a teeter-totter where as you pull your hips/center of gravity back over your heels, you move you chest forward to find the balance. Their is a big difference between being on the balls of your feet and having your center of gravity over your balls of your feet (which is what causes pain in women’s feet) vs. being on the balls of your feet and having your center of gravity over your heels.

        By the way, you made a really good point about how body configurations matter. We are both very thin and it takes a lot more “fixing” for us to have chest to chest contact. If we want to have space between our feet and hips, K really has to adjust her body and so does Jorge (a slight pulling back of his hips too). If K had large “tetas” and Jorge was a little meatier, it would be much easier for us to be in an embrace! :)

  • Margo Romero

    I love you guys.

    Thank you!

    =)

  • borisvian13

    Excellent post.

    The crucial observation is in one of your comments above, namely, that the center of mass of the whole body is around the pelvis area. Well, actually it is usually a bit above, around the navel area, but you have the right approximation. So, it is almost tautological that if the hips are back the weight of the body is over the heels.

    A lot of misunderstanding comes from the fact that many people tend to confuse the center of mass of the WHOLE human body with the center of the torso. Those two centers play different roles in tango: the first one we keep for ourselves, so to speak, while with the second we share weight with our partner. (And there is always some shared weight, it might be only 50 grams but it’s there. That’s what makes tango happen.)

    Isn’t this a cleaner way to explain the situation?:)

  • simbatango

    Hi guys, great of you to promote this excellent way of dancing!

    I have to agree with the nitpick above, though, that if your heels are in the air, you can’t have the weight there. I wonder if you are partly mixing the ball of the foot and the toes? If you lean forward too much, you end up with the cog too far to the front and need to use your toes to keep in balance. (ouch!) Assuming you want to maintain the chest connection, pull the hips back, and the cog moves a little back (towards the heels), and voila, you have the weight where it is supposed to be, on the ball of the foot. Your toes are now free and happy :-)

    And this illustrates why I’m not a big fan of technique discussion in writing ;-)

    • movementinvitesmovement

      Hi Simba,

      We can understand what you mean about “technique” writing! Yikes :)

      With a bit of the back and forth discussion, it seems the idea was cleared up a bit. We do mean the ball of the foot and not the toes though. The centre of mass is over your heels – or at a minimum, equally distributed throughout the foot – and the stick chicas gives a better look at the idea. With just a slight adjustment in one direction or the other, the girl can lift her heels or lift her toes and balls of her feet. Either way, you got it right that free and happy toes are the best kind of toes :)

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