Tango Argentino > Argentine Tango - Want To Learn...

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Spitfire, Aug 6, 2003.

  1. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    My tango teacher is also a yoga devotee. I only have a little yoga experience myself, but I think it is excellent for balance, flexibility, and muscle control as well as being able to relax and focus the mind.
  2. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I have not had pilates or martial arts (except a smidge of Tai Chi). The best prep/ cross train for tango I've had is freestyle figure skating. I've had habits from ballet that I had to unlearn to do tango such as worrying about turn out (which in some moves is actually awkward for tango) Pique' (ie: stepping onto a straight leg on some moves.. I can't think of much use for stepping up onto a straight leg in tango... not often at least)

    Skating is more down in the knees, and also has the advantage of accustoming you to traveling backwards (don't do much of that in ANYTHING else) although the mechanism for backwards movement in skating is very different, it does help just to be comfortable with moving rapidly backwards.

    You have to learn about rotating cleanly just as in dance pirrouettes, but with the added complication that you can travel horizontally as you spin because of infintesimal changes to various angles of your foot. Sometimes that helps and sometimes it makes things harder.

    Forward stroking in skating encourages extending the free leg, collecting between strokes, and also pushing from the supporting leg to change weight. (no push, you don't go anywhere!) You also have to pay alot of attention to what direction your foot is pointed when you step because, as Scott Hamilton loved to point out in his commentary, skates don't like to move sideways. You have to think all the way through your foot, not just because of form and correctness of aesthetic, but because its dangerous not to.

    And skating really requires balance and awareness in a way that dancing doesn't at a hobby level. Anyone can fall doing a dance, but they aren't likely to fall just walking around or doing basics. Even experienced skaters can fall doing the simplist things. You really have to be aware of everything in your body on a whole different level even doing basic moves. Its not just to "get it right". Its to keep you from suffering severe injury. (yes, I know dancers get injured too, but how many of them fall down just STANDING there or walking across the floor?) That awareness of the constant danger and risk if you aren't careful is always in your mind. I never experienced that to the same level in dancing even when doing partner lifts.

    On the other hand, the element of caressing the floor or pointing the foot much (things like Lapis) are pretty absent in skating due to the nature of the rigid boot, and there's a tendency to lean forward and stick the tush out. Since that tendency exists in tango also, you don't need a "cross training" exercise that makes it WORSE (even though its not correct in skating either)

    For followers, skating can make it hard to let go of the habit of watching where you are going and worrying about what's happening around you. You can't skate in a crowd and ignore other skaters and where they are going. The advantages of learning to move backwards could be negated by the habit of looking behind you to do it. However, for leaders, navigating a dance floor might be a piece of cake compared to a crowded skating rink at high speed. Poeple are closer together on the dance floor, but the results of a collision are less potentially disasterous

    So as with any other movement form, there are things that make it a good cross trainer and things that make it not so good. But for me, skating helped more than ballet, although ballet has its really good points too.

    The two of them made a nice combination background. I think probably the best thing is to have a background of multiple different movement forms so as to be adaptable rather than full of "industry specific" habits.
  3. jhpark

    jhpark Member

    ahh - you walk backwards in marching band! :)

    not that i ever did anything so geeky, of course... :p
  4. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Actually, no. I am saying that AT, in the barrio milongas of BsAs, has grown from the natural movements of those who dance it...w/o special or prerequisite technique, special muscle training, etc.

    BTM, I have used this analogy often in classes...that a problem with most dancers is that we have never learned to walk. That one day our parents entered into a room, and elated said, "Oh, look! He's (She's) walking! But, they never said, "OK, now that you can do that...place your weight over the arches of your feet, blah, blah...." So, most of us grew up developing a movement based on some waddle that we came up with as a toddler. Natural, yes, in the sense that it is what we do. But, correct body alignment, posturing, etc...rarely. So, as dance teachers, we retrain ourselves and clients.
  5. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Ah, exactly what I said (perhaps, less eloquently) in my previous post.
  6. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Though, I have said that I am certain that my martial arts helped my dance and vis-avis, I do not believe that one needs a particular physical prerequisite or that either one is better than another. I do believe that some sort of physical awareness, usage, and development will provide a huge boost.

    Getting myself in trouble, now, I also believe that ballet dancers have traditionally been my most difficult clients. Ballet generally requires developments that are unnatural or out of position for normal movement and/or partnership dancing. To unlearn these things, and, in relevant cases, redevelop certain things to accommodate BR or AT, I have found to be an eye-opener for most ballet dancers.

    OK....running to hide........... :car:
  7. Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper New Member

    Sounds sensible to me! I only did yoga for a little while years ago but it really helped my body and mind feel more integrated, so that's bound to help. Now, I think anything that relaxes is good. I think lots of people aquire tension/ bad habits etc.. all which impedes any effective physical movement.
  8. Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper New Member

    Fascinating stuff - esp the stuff about having to be hyper vigilant as a skater - and unlearning that as a follower. Funnily enough it was a skating performance to Piazzola's Verano Portano that got me taken with the tango!

    Agree with you about 'industry specifics'!
  9. Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper New Member

    Well, my feeling about tango is that it is primarily a 'grounded' dance. And I take this to mean more than being 'balanced and stable'... I think it is more intangible than that... can't think how to describe it, maybe that the dancer's feet legs have a certain relationship with the floor, like the 'wet sand' imagery used in T'ai Chi. Maybe physical type and personality comes into this though, too. E.g. I'm 5" 4 with not-long legs, not-poker-straight legs, not much of an ankle to speak of and dodgy arches - there is no way I'd be able to become a competitive ballroom dancer, say, yet certain types of tango suit my body type... I'm never going to be 'chocolate box' tango but then that's not my style so I'm not upset by it. I'm not over keen on milonguero style (my experience of this is that the man somehow lifts you slightly up out of the ground so that you're dancing mostly on the front part of your foot and your posture is dictated by him)... I don't like the feeling of having my legs stretched straight and having to dance somewhat on my toes.

    I've noticed in clips of Javier & Geraldine that when they're in apilado and she really extends (boy, can she extend!) she really dances on her tip toes and looks a bit like a marionette at times. *please don't send me hate mail, I'm not critiicising!!* I only see flashes of this but it's the price she pays (IMO) at times for those super human extensions.

    Anyway - I love all tango, don't get me wrong, but I default to a nice 'earthy' style. Maybe that's in the true spirit of it anyway before it entered the salons.

    So, after a long preamble, I agree with what you say about trained ballerinas. The way I see it, in my inexpert street level opinion, they are trained to be up, up up in the air... opposite of tango IMO. This must be hard to get out of. I can always tell a ballerina, they pick up tango so easily and their balance and control is to die for yet there is a perceptible 'something' - this up, up, up in the air-ness. Good for fantasia, though. And incidentally I adore watching ballet! My partner thinks it's an anachranism and elitist... but I feel that about another form of dance which will remain nameless as I don't want hatemail!

    I'm going to post a clip to the videos thread of a professional ballerina dancing a tango...
  10. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    It doesn't matter. Just complete awareness of the body - of what it can do and what it cannot. I.e. if you want to learn to touch your toes, then attend classes that will teach you such. Likewise, if there is a posture problem: Alexander Tecnique, ballet for beginning adults etc is a start. Same for flexibility. Lung capacity: swimming. Muscle strength: the gym. Although I would say, first and foremost, it should be done for inner health rather than it abling you to execute a move in a milonga recently watched on Youtube. Yes, athletes and professional dancers spend so much time on pushing, pulling, changing etc. their bodies they then come to AT with a greater awareness of what their bodies can and cannot do and the "cannots" are rectified with the same detail, dedication, patience and perseverence that was formerly used on a running track or dance studio. (Think: shows like Strictly where often times it is the athletes that fair better in the dancing than, say, the ordinary TV personalities).
  11. Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper New Member

    Agree with you, yup, do it for inner health rather than to do a specific dance move. I suppose it's just that dancing highlights weaknesses and limitations that you may not have thought of before. Wierdly, I can touch my toes no problem.. could be b/c I've not got long legs - but then I've not got long arms either so... ! Yet my hamstrings are v limited - could never in a million years do the splits or anything like that.

    It's funny, a friend said how he could tell I was a dancer (ha, not in the Pablo Veron sense - er, just that I, er, dance) because there was a control or economy of movement whereas he said he just uses his body to get from A to B. I still know I could get more where I want to be in terms of general fitness, body control with me getting back into other things. Lately all I do is tango, bit of salsa, jive, simple social ballroom - and I'm feeling the lack of anything else... used to do strength/stamina/suppleness/stretching.... been really lazy lately.
  12. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    Nothing to with length of limbs just flexibiilty in the lower back, bum muscles (glutes) and backs of legs. And, and, and... it's never too late to learn to do the splits (albeit the older one gets it gets a wee bit harder).

    Nice description ;)
  13. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    I agree though I don't think its always understood by students and even some teachers.

    ballerinas..... drool drool. nah ballerinas can tango IME. In fact I think it was Muarice Castro who said that the up-posture in tango comes from ballet and stage dancing; then; damn forgot what iw as going to say!

    post clip please I look forward to it.
  14. Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper New Member

    Oooh no - wasn't saying ballerinas can't tango - I was thinking more of the pros who spend 10 hours a day doing and how it must be difficult for them to get out of the 'up-ness' of ballet. Anyway, see the clip - have posted it - Deborah Bull and Junior Cervilia in the vids thread.
  15. Light Sleeper

    Light Sleeper New Member

    Ah, wonder why I've got that flexibility, then? What muscles are needed to do the splitz? Mainly the hamstrings? And what else are they used in? Don't really want to be able to do the splitz I don't think - eeeek! Would be nice to be able to extend like a ballerina though. (have you seen Sylvie Guillem - yikes, she can get her foot behind her ear!)
  16. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    Some people are just naturally flexible in certain areas. For me, all forward bends eezy peezy - backward bends, however: a complete nightmare and took heaps of work. Flexibility in the abductor region along with the flexibility in the muscles surrounding the pelvis can assisting in doing the splits. And then the hamstrings. Have never seen Sylvie Guillen but yeah, that whole ankle behind head thing is easier than it looks. Believe.

    Okay: ballet lines. A good start is working (note: not building) on the quadricips as well hamstrings. Stand at a counter/table etc. at hip level. Extend one heel atop it, leaving roughly half a metre space between you and the table. Point and flex toes of elevated heel a few times to warm up the calf area. Next, lift arms (crucifix-stylie) and then high over your head, palms facing away from and leading from the hips NOT the head, start to fold forward. (When I say hips I mean feel yourself growing up, up, up from the hips as opposed to rounding off the back and merely flopping forward). If you feel tightness anywhere - STOP and never FORCE. Your aim is to lie your chest stomach ALONG the leg, chin on shin. DON'T FORCE. (Yep, the capital letters: this is Heather barking yet again at her students in class..ha, ha, ha). Next: Swap legs. In time - DON'T RUSH - you're aiming for a higher worktop until you can extend so that your foot is the same height your shoulders (or higher). DON'T RUSH. DON'T FORCE. Equally, in time, with one foot elevated you'll be able to fold forward, placing both hands on floor either side of your supporting leg - again, body lying along the leg, chin to shin. Again, do same on ironing board, then have your partner shift the iron board away from your leg. Gravity along with lactic acid creeps in, and - oh-oh, there goes your leg. You're aiming to keeping it up there WITHOUT the support of the ironing board. Remember to keep the toes slightly pointed and slightly turned outwards throughout. Always remember to keep the stomach back (note: not sucked in) in towards the spine along with relaxed shoulders and imagining a long string growing from out of the middle of the crown of your head and reaching, up, up, up. I could go on and on and on and, so, PM me anytime for my tips, advice etc.
  17. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I had a LOT of trouble with that.. learning to trust my partner to watch out for everything was the hardest part of learning to follow for me. Ignoring everything going on in the room and concentrating just on him didn't come easily.
  18. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    This is one of the reasons skating was so much better prep for tango than ballet for me.

    I think this "upness" that is a hindrance happens in the lower body. There is nothing contradictory about tango and upness in the upper body.

    Although ballet requires "soft" knees, especially in jumping to avoid injury, there is still a straightness (sometimes even hyper-extended) to the standing leg knee that you don't need for tango. I've seen some tango followers who are SO up on their tippy toes with their knees locked while pivoting, stepping, or standing collected in an embrace, that it somehow lacks the earthiness and sensuality you'd expect to see.

    I have a tendency to step to a straight knee sometimes, and its made worse by tall partners who "lift" me. When I practice alone, I let my (straight) extended knee bend as I transfer my weight to it, because its harder to balance otherwise (and I'm thinking about these little details). But when I have a tall partner who is holding me up when in close embrace, balance is less an issue, and I'd have to somehow resist him to avoid it (plus, I'm using a lot of my focus just to follow, there's not much left for every little detail).

    Hmmmm... I'm going to have to think about this and how to work on it. The best tangueras (especially the salon dancers) all seem to have very soft, quiet knees. You don't even notice whether their knee is straight or bent or too much of this or that, because it flows right through the entire leg.

    Other dancers look like they have 2 rigid sticks with a hinge (sometimes a sticky hinge). That's pretty much what your leg is, but with some people, their leg takes on an entirely different look of a single flexible unit rather than the contrast between bone and joint being so obvious.

    I'm not explaining it well... maybe someone can help me out?
  19. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    Thats actually one of my pet peeves - i am relatively tall and i have worked a long time on avoiding this - the embrace should not have a "direction", so i am hyper-sensitive when i see it. What helped me to become more aware of this and to work on it was paying attention to followers clothes - if they ride up in the back during the dance the embrace has a "up" component, and keeps the follower from moving freely, and the dance from being as dynamic as it can be. Especially in close embrace it is really important to have constant re aligning and elasticity, and that will only happen if the follower is in control of herself and grounded. I am actually less worried about having a tiny bit of "down" in my embrace, not in the sense of putting weight on her, but in the sense of allowing my embrace rest on her, as long as it is aligned with the way she grounds her own weight. The same way that a followers left arm can (and imo should) rest on me - if she doesn't put pressure on my spine or limits the range of movement of my chest or adds a vector of force that is not aligned with my body.

  20. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    I always like to think of my knees as "absorbing" the impact of the step as I step back. I extend straight (or as straight as I am going to get without further massage work on my "trigger pointed" legs) and then as I move to the new position the new standing leg "absorbs" and the knee softens a little so I don't go to a straight standing leg and get either a "bounce" or stick figure look, just a smooth motion....the softening also helps keep me grounded so I can give that little extra bit of compression/resistance towards the leader before I am moving to the next position.

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