15 March 2009

Tango posture— A new epiphany

My problem

One of the biggest improvements I've made to my tango is improving my posture.

When I first started, no one ever taught me about the mechanics of what a good tango posture should be. I just basically winged it and made do. I thought I was doing pretty well until I found out for myself (ego aside), how wrong I was.

As it turns out, I was doing more of a tango judo hold, than a loving tango embrace. Head forward, shoulders high and circled, chest caved, arms around my opponent, preparing for a strike. I was ready to rumble! 

It was my wife, and photographic evidence that showed me the error of my ways. I made an effort to correct it. Again, with no formal instruction behind it. Just a lot of criticism, and anecdotal comments.

My "Posture" epiphany

Along comes Muma to Seattle (about a year ago). I had a posture epiphany! Her workshop was all about, technique, technique, and technique. She was mild mannered, spoke hardly any English, but had a very eloquent teaching partner/interpreter, and masterful in her art.

In one lesson, she gave us an exercise that changed how I danced, and made a great deal of difference in my leading (and following skills for the ladies).

Muma's Posture exercise

For both leads and follows: 
  • Stand up straight. Shoulders back and level
  • Hold your arms above your head. Like you were surrendering
  • Observe where, and how high your rib cage goes. This is how high and how far out your chest should be held
  • Lower your arms to your side, while keep your chest where it's at
  • Bend your knees slightly. Enough to unlock them
  • Move your upper whole upper body forward until your weight shifts from your heels to the balls of your feet
  • When you move forward, the lead caresses the floor with his toes, then lands the heel (toe lead) 
  • The follow rolls on the balls of her foot to extend, roll, land, extend roll, land

That's how the tango posture should look like. The difference is that, the leads walk forward, and the follows walk backward. Adopting this posture, puts both of you in the milonguero stance that resembles the letter "A." Beautiful and functional. This allows the leader's feet to move forward, without bumping knees. It looks like the both of you are leaning against each other. It's an illusion. Both of you are keeping your own balance above the balls of the feet. Each movement is then done with exceptional grace and elegance. This is what I try to deliver consistently.

*Note: This is so much easier to write about, than it is to actually do, and dance to. With enough practice, I'll get there.


ModernTanguera said...

Ah, yes! That exercise is a lot like one that Alex Krebs did at TangoMagic last year. I has helped me remind myself of where my ribs should be.

Alex also did an exercise for a comfortable embrace: Walk up to your partner and give them a warm hug. Keep the close side of the embrace as is, and just bring your arms on the open side out to clasp hands. It helps keep the embrace, well, an embrace. :)

Anonymous said...

Great topic, one not receiving enough blog time :-)

A caveat to follows: the butt protrusion. I think it comes from the discomfort of being so close to a stranger.

Anonymous said...

Decided to write a post on the butt thing :-)

Janis said...

This is my first visit to your blog. Your words express love for tango.

If the photo is an example of the posture you want, I hope you try a hug instead where your torso tilts forward from the waist naturally. This guy is stiff, her butt is sticking out, and they don't have their weight over their feet. Obviously, they are performing--it's not natural.

I have seen Muma in the milongas for years. What she described isn't the way I've seen her dance with milongueros. She has to describe things for Americans who want details.


Panayiotis Pete Karabetis said...

I love reading other leaders' perspectives on tango walking! Even though the principles are physically all similar, each leader can explain and apply them differently. I wish I had read your post before I wrote mine for more insight.

Pete | The Tango Notebook

deni said...

...maybe muma is really good...but MIMI is the goddess of tango posture..mimi santapa in buenos aires..she has taught all over the world and a great many of the tango teachers in BSAS...believe me, MIMI works miracles..