16 March 2011

I'm coming in for a landing...!

A few months ago, I wrote,  "Landing her first." It was one of the most important things I've learned in leading tango. It was about my needing to wait until my partner's weight settled before moving on and leading my next maneuver. That was one part of the equation.

I now write about the other part of my "Tango movement formula"—I have to (first) let her know what I'm doing to make it easier for my tango partner to follow...

Inadequacies (in the beginning)
When I first started dancing tango, I had my moves memorized well and tried to lead them. Most of the time, my partner wasn't able to follow. I had attributed it to the myriad inadequacies of my partner (e.g. Lack of experience, didn't know the moves, etc.)

A couple of my partners did tell me, "I didn't get that." I wondered... If I executed my moved well, why weren't they getting it? Studying the matter, I realized the errors of my ways. It wasn't my partners' lack of following experience. It was my lack of leading skill that was the inadequacy.

Epiphany (letting her know my intentions)
My great epiphany was that, "In order for my partner to follow me, I need to let her know what I'm doing!"  If my partner knows what I'm doing, it'll be easier for her to follow. Simple enough to articulate, not so easy to do.

Mechanics (How do I do it)
I learned to shift my weight with my lower body, and to send signals with my upper body—Smoothly!

  • Shifting weight: I stopped rushing my movements, and took my time. When I started something, I made sure to settle all my weight on a leg–stop–then move on
  • Control: I became aware of all of the things my body was doing. I made sure that I was precise and deliberate. Improved muscle tone helped a lot
  • Isolation: I learned to isolate my upper and lower body. This allowed me to have a steady upper body, which facilitated consistent connection, while my lower body moved and put my upper body into the direction I was leading towards
  • Integration: The combination of weight shifting, control, isolation, all had to come together. I just went out and endeavored to do them—all at once. It took lots of practice and patience. It took lots of trial and error. I also had to give profuse amounts of apologies to my partners. It was a difficult transition. But the goal was worth pursuing

By transmitting my intentions to my partner with the appropriate commitment, it made it easier for my partner to follow. In turn, made it easier and more natural for me to lead. 

When the combination works, the tango becomes one beautiful thing.