26 November 2009

The hips don't lie

No, this post is not about incorporating "Cuban motion" into tango. Rather, its about what I learned in an eye opening lesson with Eva and Patricio.

I had asked to not be taught steps nor patterns. I wanted technique, technique, technique. In the span of a couple of hours, my brain ached from trying to absorb all of the corrective lessons. One lesson imparted upon me was so simple. So small. So clear. It's effect, remarkable—The weight is where the hips are.

Somewhere between clueless and passable...
As I slogged through the morass of learning tango, I was determined to (hopefully) be proficient someday. I thought I was progressing well, as I had a vast repertoire. I had become an accomplished "Step collector." Despite this, I felt that my dancing to be awkward and forced. It didn't dawn on me that my (pseudo) technique left me over/under-reaching and generally off balance. I was just compensating by muscling and counterbalancing.

I know that I had to do something and find better options.

Milonguero...
After the first couple of years of dancing, I discovered the milonguero style of tango. In this paradigm, where you are weight forward, simplistic in delivery and connection is paramount. I had discovered what I was looking for (at the time).

I have been dancing "ala milonguero" for a couple of years now, and it has worked well for me thus far. My issue at hand is variety. Every now and then, I feel like I've hit a plateau and sometimes, I feel my dance to be repetitive. It's a good thing that in tango, we switch partners often. Being stuck in this paradigm with one partner would make things really boring.

I was once again looking for improvements. This time, I was looking to refinement of technique for the answer.

Enter Eva and Patricio...
They went about my conundrum very methodically. They had asked me to dance with Mrs. Ampster. Also, unknown to me, Patricio had observed me in a recent milonga and had some observations to share.

Their method was to watch, diagnose, correct, and improve. They did that, very well.

We had a slew of observations, recommendations, and corrective actions. The one adjustment they made that made a world of difference for me was where to place my weight.

Weight placement and hips...
Where you hold your weight determines your posture, which determines what you can (and cannot) do in tango. The adjustments were very slight, their effect huge.

Hips very slightly back, your upper body pitches forward, putting your weight slightly forward of the balls of your feet... Milonguero. Perfect for dancing tight.

Hips very slightly forward, you straighten up, putting your weight vertically above the balls of your feet... Salon. Versatile and opens up new movement possibilities.

The sliding hip adjustments provided a technique that allowed for a more dynamic and fluid dance. I found myself always in balance, eliminating the need to muscle and counter balance.

I hope now that I can impart a better tango experience to my partner... We'll see if it makes a difference.

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Eva and Patricio have danced together since year 2001. Both of them started dancing at a very young age.
Eva started at age 7 as a ballet student. Patricio was 10 years old when he took his first folk dance class
They have more than 15 years of experience as professional dancers.

In the most recent years Eva and Patricio were starred in different important productions, the most notorious include Luis Bravo's Forever Tango Show; and ZAIA, the first show staged by "Cirque du Soleil" in Asia, at the Venetian Hotel in Macau. Eva and Patricio are the first and only Argentine Tango couple to be part of this world famous company.

At the moment Eva and Patricio are working in the creation of their new show, which is expected to be fully conceived and presented to the public in 2010. Meantime, the continue to share their art with people all over the world.

4 comments:

londontango said...

Nice post Ampster. The weight and hips are crucial as I found out to my chagrin at one milonga where a teacher I was dancing with just put his hands on my hips and moved me down into the floor and said keep your weight down there. I thought I had and am now very conscious of keeping it that way since then. It is amazing what a simple placement of the body and how it feels can remain in one's subconscious too! It has made a huge difference to my dancing.
I am not a fan of being given instructions on the dance floor, but in this case he is a respected teacher and has done me a big favour.

Anonymous said...

dude - this is so true. i didn't realise it but looking back at all my dances .. the hip thing is true - where you hold your weight determines you posture and ability to move.
myself i'm happy to be slightly forward most of the time, i realise a la molonguero limits what you can do - for me it is enough to express myself and the music.
next time i am dancing i will think of this - even though did once say "don't think!"

Ester said...

@londontango - how do you know all the others who give you lessons aren't respected teachers who might do you a favour?

Elizabeth said...

Ampster, What a treasure Eva and Patricio are! They always bring the community up to a new level.. I wish they would move back here.
E