Tag Archives: Posture

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…


Waiter Hand Hold

Waiter Pose

The waiter hand was observed numerous times in Bueno Aires… and there were numerous times that we heard teachers (of Argentine Tango) mock this kind of hand hold in classes. We have never liked this hold and have never understood why any man would want to hold his hand this way. On a purely esthetic level, it’s visually ugly. On a male ego level, what are you trying to say?

In a culture that prides itself on its machismo, we came to understand why this hold is disapproved of and we were given this explanation: The man’s left arm represents his virility. What are you saying, men, if you let your hand flop over into that “in-fashion” waiter hand? Is your manhood not functioning properly? Similarly, if some of you men are raising your left arm far above your head… Keep dreaming. No one believes you ;)

In addition to this, we were told that the positioning of the man’s hand speaks to the equality between the man and the woman.  That is, the arm should be in a comfortable position for both the follower and the leader.  When a man places his left hand folded over the woman’s hand, it makes you wonder what he thinks of women (i.e., lesser than?) because he obviously does not want to provide her with comfort.  Perhaps one famous exception was Gavito who was known to say that the woman plays an equal part in the dance and yet he had an “I’m-Above-You left arm hold and he was famous for putting women in back-piercing leans.


Tango in Buenos Aires (Part IV)

The Elusive Embrace

Now the mother of all dances was the one K had the night she had 5 dances. This far older man (maybe mid 70s) came in much later. He danced maybe one tanda, K saw him and thought, “Shit!  I wanna dance with him.” :) His posture was amazing, he was so smooth, and so musical. Well K couldn’t believe that when she looked at him, he said yes (with a bit of surprise on his face :). The minute they went into the embrace, K knew that THIS was The Elusive Embrace she has been looking for and only felt (slightly) once before.

An Argentinean was visiting Toronto and he went out dancing one night.  K had the pleasure of dancing with him three times that night.  He was not a very advanced dancer, but he had “the” embrace… an embrace that is not felt in Toronto.  It is this embrace that Jorge & K are on the hunt for and plan to discover before leaving this Tango land.

So as we were saying, K knew that this was going to be THE dance of the night.  The embrace and the dance were like honey… It was like dancing on clouds. K felt so protected. The embrace was so soft, as was his core. He didn’t use his left hand much with K, but it’s likely that he uses it with the women he needs to. He definitely uses the right arm (using the elbow to lift or place) and he uses the right hand which in all honesty, was more than K needed or likes, but it was fine by her :) He complimented K after the first dance and then asked if Jorge was the novio or esposo. Then he said Jorge’s dancing is muy lindo… muy milonguero!?!? Holy crap! That was such an amazing compliment coming from him. After the second dance, we were stopped right in front of Jorge’s area and Carlos (the milonguero’s name) looked over at Jorge and gave him a thumb’s up regarding my dancing!! After we finished dancing, he then spoke a bit with Jorge and he kissed us goodbye at the end of the night.

We also experienced the same Elusive Embrace in our private lesson with our very young Tango teachers here.  One dance with each one of them and we were in Heaven… and truly determined to find this embrace for ourselves.

More about “The Elusive Embrace”.  The best way we’ve been able to describe it is this way:  A leader with The Elusive Embrace feels soft and light, but is very strong, is very present, takes care of the follower completely, and leads gently, but with 100% intention.  A follower with The Elusive Embrace also feels soft and light, is very present, is always right “there” never anticipating the next step, and has a soft strength in her core.  The Elusive Embrace is pure Tango Heaven.

Posture

In Toronto, Jorge (and also K at times) have been told that everyone in BA would call us out on our dance background.  We were warned that our posture would be slightly criticized for being so straight (hmm… like Todaro?!) and being “ballroom-like” (we have been criticized in Toronto for our posture… as well as complimented).  We are happy to report that Jorge is being told over and over again by locals at different milongas that his posture is really good. Not one single person has asked us if we have a background in dancing or ballroom especially.  We are truly happy about this because we were slightly worried that something was “wrong” with our posture.  Our private lessons here also confirmed that our posture is good – only that we need to relax the tension in our arms and shoulders, keep our cores activated and strong (but soft tummies!), and continue to be soft in our leading/following.

Overall Comparisons Between Hometown and BA Tango

Truth: No one owns Tango.  Truth: We, in particular, do not own Tango.  Truth: Tango comes from this city – the city of Buenos Aires (no need to nit-pick and bring up Uruguay).  We are currently in this city and we have danced at (only) six different milongas.  Here is what we are observing so far:

1)      American/Alternative version of Tango do not exist here, except by foreigners and young dancers who like dancing at places like La Viruta (a post will follow soon on our thoughts at viewing the dance floor at La Viruta)

2)      Nuevo Tango is either not being danced at all in the traditional milongas or it is being danced by one or two couples in the middle of the floor (while the older locals look on in disgust)

3)      SOS musicality does not exist in the traditional milongas

4)      Local dancers who have been dancing for years respect the dance.  Even the younger locals who have obviously been attempting to truly learn Tango are respecting the dance.  What this means is that dancers are not trying to create their own personal version of Tango (which is seen over and over again in North America).  They all dance ARGENTINE TANGO.  They dance musically, they dance for themselves, all to the best of their ability.

We have only been here for 2.5 weeks and we are baffled by the amount of dancers in our own tango community who have been to Buenos Aires and return home only to continue dancing the way they do.  They have witnessed how Tango is danced here.  Did they not take in anything while they were here?  Or was their goal simply to come here and watch how other foreigners dance and then pick and choose what they wanted to take from their observations?  That said, after having spent a night at Canning followed by La Viruta where the floors are packed with foreigners, we have a better understanding (since so many foreigners spend their time dancing only at these places).

Read more about our experiences in our previous posts: Tango in Buenos Aires (Part I), Tango in Buenos Aires (Part II), Tango in Buenos Aires (Part III).