That’s right. You heard it here first. Spread ‘em!
This post follows our previous posts “Weight in Your Heels”, Stick Your Butt Out, and Stick Your Butt Out – Part II concerning specific techniques that we believe are important concepts evolved in Tango and specifically in women’s Tango. Read it if you like. Believe it if you like. Comment if you like :)
Almost every tanguera out there can relate to K’s utter confusion when she was told to stop collecting her feet/knees/thighs. However, that is exactly what she was told and it was exactly what she stopped doing. The idea of collecting your feet (specifically in the psychotic and obsessive way women have been told to do in North America) is completely unnecessary and often kills the movement (and lead) coming from the leader. It likely stems from the proliferation of ballet dancers that came to Tango. What one dance requires a woman to obsessively keep her thighs together? BALLET!
K was told one pivotal statement (in Spanish) that helped create the change in her mind… and her legs. “Stop squeezing your ‘chichi’!!!” Certainly you can figure out the translation of “chichi” :)
We challenge you to find a milonguera who is squeezing the bejeezus out of her thighs… or “chichi” for that matter. No, you will not find one. You are likely to find a milonguera bringing her ankles together, but otherwise, her legs are falling straight down from her hip joints. Nada mas.
As for men… men need to stop squeezing their packages as well. It is so common to see really tight “culos” among North American tangueros. Men, if your pants are being eaten up by your butt, you have got a problem. RELAX! There is supposed to be room between your thighs, your butt should be relaxed, and your knees should not be locked (i.e., pulled up thighs). You will most often see gobbled up pants in tight-“culo”-men when they are paused with their feet together or during giros/enrosques.
Now K was not only told to stop the collecting and squeezing, she was told to keep her legs as far apart as possible… as often as possible. It’s not an easy concept to put into practice after spending the past couple years doing the exact opposite. However, the result is not only beautiful, it also provides another groundbreaking concept for the woman’s dance. We are not ballet dancers trying to dance Tango (although many of us may have been ballet dancers once upon a time)! Then why are we keeping both legs under our body and trying to keep our balance on one foot? Does this not reflect the image of a ballerina balancing on one point shoe exactly? And why should the woman provide so little distribution of weight for the man to feel?
SPREAD YOUR TANGO LEGS!
When a woman spreads her legs she distributes her own weight across a larger area (not because she has any weight on her spread foot, but because her free foot is far away from her standing leg) and she can begin to understand and feel the concept of being truly grounded. In order to separate your foot as far away as possible, you will need to relax the thighs and hips, and actually relax into the standing leg – thereby becoming grounded. This is how the woman gives her free leg/foot to the man. At this point the man can really feel the woman’s free leg in his hands (specifically his left hand) and lead that free leg.
The big question is: When? When do you keep your legs apart? The answer is: during pauses, during paradas, during giros, and during ochos (to name a few). When a woman squeezes her thighs together and collects her feet, she removes any option of a man entering/stepping between her legs (the speed at which a woman collects also contributes greatly to the problem). Not to mention that she is also neglecting the music that her free leg could be dancing (we are not even referring to adornments, but rather to the idea that when a woman closes or collects her feet, she should be doing so to the music – Tango Pilgrim shares the idea well HERE).
The main issue is that the majority of female dancers have been taught or have learned to collect their feet (obsessively) by squeezing their thighs together. If you have learned with the “squeeze-the-thighs” concept, it carries through in all your dance. This means, for example, when you are doing giros, you are not opening your legs enough during all your steps and you are probably hurrying to get your feet together.
Here are 3 videos to get an idea about what we’re talking about:
Andrea @ about 1min 51sec
Stella @ about 40 seconds
Geraldine at almost every “parada”
Although we are only showing 3 young dancers, you can also find the same concept danced among some of the older tangueras and milongueras. Once you know what you’re looking for, you will spot it often among many of the great dancers.