Tag Archives: Learning

Too Much Talking

The most important aspects of Tango were learned while listening, not while dancing.

A common complaint from Tango students around the world seems to be this: “There was too much talking and not enough dancing.”  During group lessons and private lessons, people just want to dance.  We get it.  However, we also think it’s safe to say that the same people who complain about too much talking are also the same people who are fixated on steps.

The most important aspects of Tango were learned while listening, not while dancing.

Graciela Gonzalez teaches an incredible workshop for LEADERS.  She is well known for her workshop for followers, but the one for leaders is quite special.  There are opportunities to practice the concepts taught, but it is the explanation of these concepts (hence a lot of talking) that are the most important.

Our most dramatic Tango-changing moments happened when teachers in Buenos Aires were TALKING and explaining the concepts, history, or culture of Tango to us.  That’s not to say changes didn’t occur while dancing and practicing, but the biggest changes… those happened while LISTENING. Unfortunately, people see classes as the only place to practice.  Instead students should learn/understand the concepts (listening), try the concepts (a bit of practicing), practice the concepts (in a practica), and finally embody those concepts (in a milonga).


STICK YOUR BUTT OUT – Part II

Now that we got your attention with the last post, we can add some clarifications.  The phrase “stick your butt out” was used only because it is the most used comment to refer to women whose butts APPEAR to be sticking out.  We never learned, nor do we teach, women to stick their butts out.  What we learned, and it was from MEN (we never learned from Andrea Misse, but we can guarantee you she does not teach women to “stick out their butts” either), was the concept of pulling your hips back.  There is a HUGE difference between the two.  If you stick out your butt out, you generally lean forward and bring your chest downward.  You are also arching your back if you have managed to keep your chest upright.  However, if you pull your hips back (and maintain your chest position), your back does not arch or collapse.  This is the way women can create space “downstairs” so that there is space for the legs and they can eliminate the incidence of chipped toenails and self-mutilation (often happening during plain old walking, crosses, ochos, and adornments).

Take a look at “everyone’s” favourite dancer and you will see that Geraldine is doing it too:

We’re not telling you blog readers what to do or believe.  But we are sharing a major gem with you – a gem that comes from women taking control of their dance and allowing Tango to evolve slightly.  Since learning this (along with a few other concepts that will be shared in future posts) and applying it, K now owns her axis, her balance, and her dance.


STICK YOUR BUTT OUT

That’s right.  You heard it here first.  Stick it out!

Often when discussing the Nuevo vs Traditional debate, we hear that Nuevo is an “evolution” of Argentine Tango.  We have already made it clear that we do not agree.  Nuevo took the concepts of Argentine Tango and CHANGED it.  CHANGE being the operative word and hence leading to the idea that Nuevo is a separate dance and not to be mistaken for A.T.

Anyway, this is not the point of this post.  What we want to talk about is the EVOLUTION of Argentine Tango; the very little of it that we’ve seen and come to understand as Tango dancers and lifelong dancers.

STICK YOUR BUTT OUT

Throughout our readings of blog posts and websites, we’ve often heard how women should NOT stick out their butts when they dance.  We’ve heard that women should stand straight with their pelvises directly under them – their backs should be so straight that they may even come into tummy contact with the man.  We do believe that this once was the expectation for women and yes, you can see it in many videos of the milongueras.  Take a look at this one and pay particular attention starting at 1minute 11 seconds where you’ll see Adela’s shoulders actually surpassing her back and butt:

We do want to clarify that we love the dancing in this video.  We are only trying to point out what we are talking about.

One of the ways Tango has evolved is the role that women play in the Tango partnership.  Although we understand that Tango has always involved the man taking care of and showcasing the woman, older videos seem to tell a different story.  It’s not that the woman wasn’t showcased or held dear, but rather that the man was the one who really knew how to dance and the woman was a by-product of the tango partnership.  Where there exceptions?  Of course.  Was it a rarity?  Absolutely.

If it is so that men practiced with men, what about the women?  The level of dance for women, it seems, was not expected to be very high.  This doesn’t mean women couldn’t dance extremely well, but there was little focus on her technique.

Oh no.  That “evil” word: TECHNIQUE.  Technique, in our books, does not entail learning how to do adornments or “performing” with your legs.  Instead, technique provides different methods to ensure your body feels comfortable, is properly aligned for the dance, and as a cherry on top, looks good.

When women decided to take control of their role in the Tango partnership, this is when we believe Tango EVOLVED.  If a woman is interested in being on her own feet, maintaining her own axis, and providing space for the dance, then a woman will “stick out her butt”.  On a purely physical level, women have pelvises that naturally tilt in a position that causes their behinds to stick out slightly.  Secondly, putting this type of pelvic-tilting body onto a pair of high heels will create an increased tilt.  Therefore, asking a woman to flatten her back/behind is in fact asking her to do something completely unnatural for her body in that situation (if her body is “naturally” aligned to begin with – and many bodies are not “naturally” aligned).

So what does it mean to “stick out one’s butt”?  It does NOT mean arching your back or tilting your pelvis more than it naturally tilts.  What it does mean is pulling your hips back over your ankles so that the line from your hips to your ankles is perpendicular with the ground.  How else can a woman expect to maintain her own axis if this line is slanted towards her partner?

This idea was a huge “AHA” moment for K in Buenos Aires and combined with two other concepts (to follow) were groundbreaking for her.  To give you a hint, there are four concepts that most tangueras are taught which were all proven to be wrong for K in Buenos Aires.  The first one: don’t stick out your butt.  The second one: put your weight forward on the balls of your feet.  The third one: collect your feet/knees/thighs.  The fourth one: don’t move your hips.  All four… WRONG.  Or in other words: not beneficial to one’s dance if what you are seeking is a comfortable and efficient Tango.

Stay tuned…


Sweating and Tango; Something is Wrong

After reading an excellent post on My Tango Diaries about odors and sweating, we were inspired to write about sweating from a different perspective.

Unfortunately, we cannot remember where we heard or read this:  Argentine Tango is one of the most efficient dances that exists.  We tried googling it to no avail.  Regardless, we agree with this (possibly imagined) statement completely.

In our pre-Buenos Aires times, we were quite the profuse sweat-ers.  Jorge insists that K doesn’t really sweat at all, but that’s only in comparison to him.  Don’t do it – don’t believe that sweating is only reserved for larger-bodied individuals.  When Jorge el Flaco sweats, he drips it and it doesn’t take much for him to do so.  For this reason, it never seemed strange that we used to start sweating after only the first song of a tanda.  We had heard the “efficiency” comment, but we didn’t know how that made any sense.  That was until we began learning (from our maestro) in Buenos Aires.

Our pre-Buenos Aires Tango was a muscular affair.  Our backs were tense, our legs and butts were flexed, and most of all, our arms were tight and ready for all the leading that was supposed to happen through them.  When we finally learned to relax our bodies, activate our core and arms rather than flexing them, and in other words: to lead/follow properly, we finally stopped sweating.  That combined with relaxing the legs and making room between them, putting our weight in, and thus our hips over, our heels instead of the often taught idea of having your weight on the balls of your feet (weight in the balls of your feet = flexed toes and legs), and using our bodies to lead/follow rather than arms, resulted in our understanding of Tango being the most efficient dance.

If you are sweating easily and feeling tired after a couple of dances in a cool room, you are without a doubt using your body incorrectly in Tango.  Clearly, other circumstances can create sweaty situations and a bit of moisture is only understandable.  Pay attention to your body and attempt to feel what your muscles are doing – from the tips of your toes (ladies, are your toes gripping the floor?) to the top of your head (is your neck stiff and your head stuck in one position?).  Tango is all about the embrace.  You cannot possibly enjoy a beautiful embrace if you are flexing muscles and have tension throughout your body.

As as aside… whether or not you sweat, remember to be showered and wear deodorant EVERY TIME you go out to Tango.