Tag Archives: Posture

Buenos Aires: Week 2

Buenos Aires Street

Although our intention was to blog every few days, we’ve come to realize it’s hard to post often when neither of you actually likes writing or has any real skill for it :)

We’ve definitely been enjoying our time here. It’s been great seeing friends, seeing faces from our last trip, and making new friends. We’ve been thoroughly enjoying our private lessons even though it means we feel like beginners again and there’s a decent amount of frustration involved. We’ve happily gone to new places for Tango and it has helped us to further solidify what Tango means to us.

Being Tall Sucks

This is nothing new, but of course K is being reminded how her height is such an issue here. With her heels on, she’s over 5″10 and that is taller than the majority of men who tango in Buenos Aires. Many shorter men are keen to dance with K, but she is not interested in having men’s eyes at the level of her bust (even if there really isn’t anything to see there). There are only a handful of men who are within her height range – of those, fewer still are nice dancers. Of those dancers, not all of them necessarily want to dance with K. Although K would enjoy dancing more tandas, she would definitely rather sit, listen, and observe than dancing some mediocre tandas (and she’s also had some of those).

Enjoying The After-Glow

Listening and watching are not the only reasons both of us often choose to sit down during a tanda. After dancing a lovely tanda with someone, we both enjoy taking the time to bask in the after-glow. An easy analogy for foodies like us: After taking a bite of some fabulous foie gras, why would you even consider putting another type of food in your mouth right away? No. You want to give yourself time to savour the taste and let the flavour slowly melt away.

Jorge’s Turn

During our last trip, it was K who danced the most in the milongas. Jorge was (and is) constantly working to improve his self-confidence and he often struggled with the attitude needed to draw the attention of new partners. This time around, he feels better about his dance, he’s accepting that not everyone needs to like his dance, and the organizers or staff remember him and have given him good seats at the milongas.

New Milongas and Practicas

A new friend invited us for our first (and last) visit to “Milonga en Orsay” in San Telmo. Stepping into this place, it felt like we were transported to an underground Tango scene. In all the ways the word “underground” can imply, it was dark, dingy, and rough around the edges. The floor was bumpy, uneven, and small, people chatted loudly, and others danced to music that was being played too quietly. A live band of six young musicians played one set. Aside from the bandoneonist nearing tears when one key of his bandoneon remained stuck playing the same note, they were quite interesting to listen to. The violinist was particularly impressive and we rather enjoyed hearing them play.

Today we made it out to practica “La Maria”. Without knowing it, we headed to the location “La Catedral” milonga is held. What a fantastic space – especially with light seeping in through windows high up near the roof! If Canadian children could see this place, they would think they’ve died and gone to heaven. It’s the epitome of a cool homemade fort. With lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling, an old record player, a double-leveled stage, curtains held by clothespins, a mannequin, many chairs and tables that had no match, soft sofas, and bumpy wooden floors.

The practica is actually held in the room beside the large tavern (aka fort). The floor is flat and smooth, but very sticky. The music consisted of a half-an-hour playlist of Tangos by Fresedo, Calo, and Rodriguez, along with a few milongas of Canaro… on repeat. That was reason enough to never go back.

However, let us share how seeing some of the ugliest Tango we’ve ever seen at both the milonga and the practica made us realize we didn’t belong there. These places may very well be where young dancers are taking their first Tango steps – and for this we’re excited. But why are none of these dancers being taught or learning anything about posture? The majority of dancers weren’t standing straight – from hunched backs, to heads looking down, to overly bent knees – and there was some strange Tango being danced. Although we have seen for ourselves that Tango Nuevo is definitely no longer in style here, there are remnants of it left over in many dancers and being passed on to many new dancers.

Shoes

Finally, some pictures of K’s new Tango shoes purchases… because it makes many of us Tangueras happy. These are the NeoTango shoes. K has since bought a beautiful pair of Soy Porteno shoes (picture to follow in the next post).

Neo Tango Shoes

Neo Tango Shoes

Neo Tango Shoes

Photos by Jorge


Cheek to Cheek

The embrace or “el abrazo” in Tango is really a hug.  And just like a hug, it is made up of more than just arms and chests/torsos.  The embrace also includes the head.  When you hug someone, really hug them, your heads will touch and you will be in a cheek to cheek position.  Of course, this will not be the case if there is a disproportionate height difference or you use an open head position.

Some people say that having an embrace where the arms are nearing shoulder level (for the man) is very “ballroom”.  We definitely don’t agree with this statement.  We previously wrote about being concerned before our Buenos Aires trip that our posture and embrace would give us away as ex-ballroom dancers.  Yet no one commented on it and we were, in fact, often told that we look/dance “muy milonguero”. You need only look at some of the best milongueros (past and present) to see that they dance(d) with “high” embraces.  As examples, the milongueros Gavito, Vidort, Osvaldo Cartery, and Jorge Garcia all dance(d) with their left arms high up and they definitely do not look like ballroom dancers.

Argentine Tango Embrace

A sweet hug with lots of body contact

 

 

Ballroom Tango Hold

Ewww... yuk... don't get near me!

 

What really looks and feels like “ballroom” to us is if there is a lack of contact between the heads.  Ballroom posture is all about keeping the top part of your body (from the sternum up) away from your partner.  Even in a toned-down social posture, the heads are absolutely not supposed to touch.  However, in Argentine Tango, whether cheeks are touching or a chin is in contact with the top of the head, head contact is ‘muy importante’ and the cherry on top.


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).


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.