The Search for “Natural”

There are several unnatural body movements and concepts found in Tango. One of the obvious ones being the woman’s back walk. However, many of the movements are very natural (or can be) and that is how we teach our students to see Tango. It is also the way we believe Tango has evolved – giving women the ability to be stronger and more independent in the dance, and allowing the movement for both dancers to be more natural.  The problem is that many students are taught to dance in countless unnatural ways.

Collecting  Collecting one’s feet (or specifically squeezing the thighs) OBSESSIVELY is not natural (or necessary). Let gravity work its magic and the leg will fall naturally perpendicular to the floor, straight under the pelvis. Having legs that act like pendulums will allow the ankles to come close together or make contact between steps.

Pretty Feet In addition to being taught to collect legs obsessively, many women have also been taught that their feet aren’t pretty enough. In order to “pretty” up the feet, women are taught to pronate their feet. There are many dancers and professional tango teachers that now have completely over-pronated feet.

This is an example of an over-pronated foot in Tango:

This is an example of a more natural line:

Having natural lines mean your feet fall downwards when they are beneath you. When they are to the side, they can relax, but they should NOT be pushed downwards in order to get a more “intense” (pronated) look to the foot.

Some dancers coming from ballet may have developed this pronation in their feet, but it should not be taught and it should not be the expected norm.

Toe first How do most people walk in their daily lives? Do they land toe first? No. Humans walk in a way that has the heel hitting the ground first. Students new to Tango have enough to worry about without having to relearn how to walk.  Although toe-first can add an aesthetic variation to the dance, it is by no means necessary. Plus many who teach the toe-first technique often also teach the idea that the foot should lead (or move first) and then the body. We’re always fascinated by this. How on earth is a woman supposed to feel a man’s foot moving first?

Photo borrowed from  Simba Tango.

**We’ll always remember what one Milonguero told us: Toe first is for dancers; heel first is for Tangueros.**

Hips Forward Tango requires room between the man and woman’s pelvises. Otherwise, women, you are castrating the man. You are taking away his ability and liberty to walk forward freely. We will admit that at first glance, having your hips back is unnatural. However, if you want to hug, create space, and not lean on your partner (or have all your weight on the balls of your feet), then your hips will need to be pulled back so that your centre of gravity will be over your own feet. Having your hips back mean that your legs will be perpendicular with the ground. Leaning forward with the weight all in the balls of your feet is unnatural and painful…  and if you are not leaning forward, you are touching one another’s groins… and that is unnecessary in Tango and brings us back to the point that the man is being “castrated”.

One or Two Tracks Very few people naturally walk in one track (this being the equivalent to walking on a tightrope). Why? Because just like walking on a tightrope, it’s difficult?! We stand on two legs that are under us in such a way as to give us good, natural balance.

Over-Disassociation or No Disassociation We’ve seen students who have been taught to disassociate exaggeratedly when walking – especially when walking outside of a partner. The disassociation is so extreme that when these students dance with anyone who has not learned from their teacher, the entire balance of the couple is thrown off. On the flip side of the coin, we have (more often) seen students who have never learned to disassociate – in general or as part of the lead. These people move like cement pillars and wonder why they can’t lead any of the more demanding movements (without tension).

Overly-Relaxed or Full of Tension It is fundamentally important that dancers be relaxed in Tango. Teachers who ask their students to have firm (read stiff) arms and embraces, clearly don’t understand that Tango consists of an “abrazo” (hug). But again, there’s a natural way to be relaxed when dancing and it requires a little more muscle activation than what is needed when lying down. When it comes to being “relaxed”, here are two phrases to remember:

Hug your partner. Don’t turn your embrace into a frame.

Relaxing does NOT  equal collapsing

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

6 responses to “The Search for “Natural”

  • terpsichoral

    Can I just say that, while I agree that for tango you need to find a way to have your upper body slightly in front of your lower body, focusing on pushing the hips back is not the only way of doing this. You should just be careful that students don’t misinterpret it to mean that they should hyperextend the back and stick their bottoms up and out. Whether or not this is good for tango, it puts considerable strain on the lower back.

    • Movement Invites Movement

      You are absolutely right T. While teaching, we always stress that there is a difference between rolling your pelvis back (thereby creating a butt up and out which creates an arch in your back – which is bad) and pulling the hips back (thereby allowing the tailbone to point downwards while having a natural curvature in your back – which is good).

  • oh1yeah2

    I walk toe first even when I’m not dancing, sorry!

    • Movement Invites Movement

      Well that makes us wonder if you’re just trying to be different, sorry! We continually observe how people walk in everyday life and have never seen a person walk toe first. Either way, it’s not the norm and it’s not natural. There’s definitely some debate regarding running toe-first (there’s a great Ted Talk about it), but when it comes to walking, a study from 2010 revealed that walking toe-first requires much more energy and is far less efficient.

      • oh1yeah2

        I hope you know I was only kidding. I do, however, walk toe first when I dance, and on the street also when I’m particularly starved of dancing. I have to defend this kind of walking by saying that the aesthetics is only a consequence of the mechanics. Meaning that the point is not what part of the foot lands first, but rather to control the weight change more consciously and push forward with the trailing leg. Javier emphasizes lifting heel first (rather than the more natural lifting toe first) when walking backwards presumably to achieve a similar effect.

      • Movement Invites Movement

        Oh yes… the starved-for-Tango issue definitely gets you doing strange things in public :)

        Javier does prefer walking backwards while pushing off the toe, although he stresses that either way is fine (i.e., pushing with the toe or the heel). We do understand using the toe as a way to control the weight change, however you can control the weight change with your ankle when walking heel-first as well. All you need is to experience foot drop once (as Jorge did) to become fully aware of the control one has (or can lose in this case) in their foot while walking heel-first.

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