20 April 2011

Dancing 'Grounded'

Dancing Grounded
After dancing tango all of these years, I (every now and then) hear the word "Grounded" applied to dancing tango. I've always have wondered what term "Grounded" meant. Depended on whom you ask, or what you read, the definition varies. Their definitions varied from the deeply philosophical, enlightened spiritual, and the completely benign. Very few meant anything that I could coherently understand.

That being said, I now write about what dancing "Grounded" means to me...

My definition
Landing each movement with your weight resolutely and confidently until your weight settles and stops, before initiating the next movement. This gives my partner the feeling of completion and closure for every phrase of movement... a period ending every sentence. It gives me the opportunity to wait for my partner to respond to my lead before I continue to lead on.

My technical discussion
I achieve this weight settling feeling via the following:

  • Upper Body—Maintaining an Intensely Silent Embrace:  I keep my upper body contact consistently in contact with my partner. The embrace is loving, firm, yet comfortable. I try to avoid any extraneous upper body movement. That way, my partner can take cues by whole body leading, rather than from just impulses, pushes, pulls, from the arms, etc.
  • Lower Body—Controlled whole leg movements: Imagine taking one step... The ball of the foot, first contacts the floor. The controlled landing begins. My calf tenses with my quadriceps to move and center my upper body's weight over my leg. My upper and lower leg muscles then take my whole body weight, centered over my foot, then lowers the heel to gently, but resolutely contact the floor. The downward movement continues until my whole weight settles--and stops. End movement, continue next...

Grounding the rhythm
The technical part, challenging as it may seem, was only one part of the equation. The other part was incorporating it into the rhythm. I needed to learn how to move with the music. It was a practice + trial-and-error exercise. Incorporating rhythm with the movement and settling weight was very complicated for me at first. After many tries, I was able to vary the technique to make it work with slow, fast, staccato rhythms. After that, I learned to smooth the amalgamation of movement to make it flow. That is, the moving, landing, turning, landing, etc, etc, etc.


What works for me is a combination of interpreting the music appropriately, with controlled whole body muscular movement. It made a big difference in my tango. It also had the side benefit of developing good leg muscle tone.

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2 comments:

Tangocommuter said...

I think the need to emphasise being 'grounded' in milonguero is because a lot of tango teachers have at least one foot in the world of classical ballet, which is always trying to fly, and where defying gravity is admired and praised. Unconsciously, perhaps, teachers import this predilection into tango, where it doesn't really belong. & of course jive is a 'jumpy' dance, too. 'Being grounded' probably also means a smooth dance, rather than a 'jumpy' dance. &, as you say, contact with the ground emphasises the beat, which is important in improvising in close embrace!

I know 'Tete' Rusconi used to emphasise the importance of the ground. In one interview he said: 'Tango is danced in a variety of ways, but principally one gets support from the ground because one finds energy on the ground, and it's on the ground that we dance the music.' He told me: 'Dance like a tortoise, not like an ant!'

As for the 'deeply philosophical, enlightened spiritual...', no, really?

Peter said...

Since this is my favorite tango blog, I'm eager for a new entry.