Tango Argentino > From Latin/Swing to Argentine Tango - Help!

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by LindyKeya, Jul 11, 2009.

  1. LindyKeya

    LindyKeya Member

    I have been dancing ballroom/latin/swing for ages, and took my first ever Argentine Tango class this weekend. I did not research the instructor in advance, although Googling him after the fact leads me to believe he was not a total quack, although I'm not sure I agree with some technique things. I mentioned at the start of the class that I was brand new, but had loads of other partner dance experience. This seemed to hit quite a nerve for him, and he was kind of in an anti-ballroom frame of mind the rest of the class (he would periodically tell me, for instance, that I was leaning back, like in ballroom -- to which I replied, "No, in ballroom we do not lean back." (And trust me - I was not leaning back.)

    I know I learn best (at least with kinesthetic stuff) by relating what I'm learning to what I already know, and figuring how it is similar and different, but this instructor was not at all helpful in that. I'd like to continue some classes, and am looking for an instructor who will work for me, but have some questions I'd like help pondering, particularly in regards to posture. My back is actually currently sore from him attempting to position my back to his liking (and not in a good, retraining muscles into something more appropriate way either). (There were other issues that raised my eyebrows too, but this was the biggest one.)

    I saw this in the thread where another beginner asked about foot position, but thought this clarified the upper body posture in a way that seems to fit with what I've observed in videos (but not what this teacher seemed trying to convey):

    This to me sounds somewhat like a posture/position for Balboa, although with the weight further forward on the balls of the feet, right?

    Can someone talk me through how you would change the lady's position/posture from say, Cha, to make it how it should be for Argentine Tango?

    Ideally I'd like to find a local instructor with enough experience in both to make this sensible for me, but that's looking less and less likely. Instructors here seem to have a background in only one, but not both.
  2. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Here's something that may help... An old thread I started that talks about posture:
    Argentine tango posture

    btw, welcome to our world :raisebro:
  3. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the DF

    Amps take on it is a good one. Rather than relating the posture to Bal, relate it t ogood posture...period. Correct posture is not straight up and over the heels; it is stright up and slightly forward over the arches of the feet. We have talked about this much in AT and even in BR threads (CPA...Corrective Posture Arc).

    As for it's relationship to cha, there isn't any. However, as for its relationship to BR, you were correct to tune out the anti-BR siege. Knowing much about kinesiology, I understood (notice I didn't say, "learned" :) ), very quickly the positions and movements of the body in AT. When asked how was I learning this, I said, "Ballroom". I was met by the same criticism that you experienced, but understood that this was from persons whom did not know proper BR. Granted, the position/s is/are different, but in good BR, the posture is the same.
  4. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Re: lean

    Hi LindyKeya, welcome here !

    My point of view: With your experience in mind you will surely be able to learn the new conceptions very fast.

    You may change the teacher, if you can affort it. But, somehow speaking frankly and clear text is better than to cosy around.

    You are familiar with kinesthetics: In a sudden moment, in a new or somehow unusual movement (f.i. turnes), your cerebellum authomatically will still prefer the patterns that you have learned earlier. This occurs within a split of a second, and in the next moment your cerebrum will correct your body hold: so you really did not lean backwards. Some teachers can realizes the first intentional trace, but then he has to reinforce, not to blame you!

    This very subtle behavior will hold on for up to three month. (I mean the behavior of your brain, may be the one of your teacher, too.)

    I think the Balboa hint is helpful for the first time, but leave Cha Cha out.
  5. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Re: Kin and Kin - What really helps ?

    These two concepts are very different:

    - Kinesthesiology is an applied approach stemming form the brain science, as from the more technically orientated cybernetics, as well


    - Kinesiology is a late offshoot of the chiropractic (osteopathy, manual therapy), and integrates other than scientific knowledge as well,

    Does it matter, anyhow? I think, everything that hurts helps. So, if someone of you has experience with another method that is specialized in dancing, as f.i Pilates, Gyrotonic, Feldenkrais, Id be interested in your opinion.
  6. larrynla

    larrynla Member

    Exactly right. Argentine tango has a natural posture, not slouching but not rigidly erect either. The shoulders-back advice should be a reminder not to slouch, but the exaggerated backward lean of British ballroom (so-called International ballroom) is the antithesis of the Argentine tango.

    Imagine a rope running from the arches up through your center of gravity through the top of your head, pulling you more upright.

    Once in the embrace trying leaning your entire straightened body very slightly forward to put just a few ounces of pressure on your partner, but no more than a few ounces. This will help firm up your connection without you (and your partner) tiring the other out.

    Laer Carroll
  7. hbboogie1

    hbboogie1 New Member

  8. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    It sounds like the teacher possibly has had quite a few experiences/challenges with teaching AT to ballroom dancers. Not that the teacher should be taking out his frustrations on a new student, but just saying I can understand where they're coming from if they have a history of dealing with people who are resistant to learning what is needed in AT.

    I've seen in it class myself - some of the people with ballroom experience have a lot of trouble letting go of the "ballroom frame". Or they, like the OP, figure they can use or adapt techniques from other dances they have learned. Just forget that, and approach AT as its own thing. It requires a fundamental technique that is just different from ballroom. I realize it can be a humbling experience if you've had years of training in another dance style.

    That said, OP, if there isn't a good fit with your AT instructor, nothing wrong with finding another one. But you absolutely do not need a teacher who knows how to teach both ballroom and AT; it won't necessarily help you. My best tango instructor has been a woman who teaches only AT. The important thing is to find a teacher who can teach well, and clearly communicate what you need to learn.
  9. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    from The Fred Astaire Dance Book - 1962
    "Raise your heels slightly off the floor, placing your weight evenly on the balls of your feet."
    Nevertheless, it is not at all difficult to find examples of people being instructed to arc their backs away from their partners.
    A while ago we had a "vintage waltze" dancer at our practica for a while. I got tired of trying to hold her up (ie her weight was AWAY from me) and she wouldn't take hints to change, or couldn't, or wasn't interested.

    Still, even if you don't have your upper body away from your partner, having your weight on the balls of your feet FEELS like it is "away" to someone who expects you to have your weight TOWARD and into them.
    Having your weight on the balls of your feet is where you start in AT. Then you move your weight even farther forward. This part however, is extremely variable depending on personal preference.

    The rest of the posture thing is pretty standard, as has been noted, being "good posture": neutral pelvis, chest up and out, head in line with shoulders and hips and knees and balls of feet.

    I wouldn't worry too much about about where your feet are. If you learn to step backwards by initiating the movement from your hip rather than knee, you shouldn't get your knees knocked or your feet stepped on (if your partner is initialting his steps correctly).

    This instructor's approach to getting you to rethink and relearn your posture may be too direct, or a bit tactless to you.

    Your choice as to whether or not you want to deal with it, or find someone else.
  10. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I am troubled by your statement that it was your first class, but you disagreed with the teacher on technique (in a dance you have had no instruction in? Really?) I am also troubled by your statement that because you mentioned your ballroom background it seemed to negatively affect the teacher for the entirety of the class (even though he is a stranger and you have no knowledge of how he usually is?) It seems unlikely that a teacher would let a beginner get under his skin that badly, affecting his whole attitude, just because she said she took ballroom. Surely you can't be his first!

    I am also wondering if your sore back is not just from his attempts to position you (if you are in reasonably good shape and do a lot of dancing, you shouldn't be sore just from someone placing your body) but stems just as much from your own tension and resistance to what he was doing

    I understand that you would like an instructor to come from a viewpoint of contrasting Tango with what you already know. This makes sense.

    However, your post reads to me that you were not keeping an open mind in this lesson. Depending on what style the teacher was instructing, Tango can have a rather pronounced forward lean compared to what you might know from ballroom. If one is attempting to teach apilado, even standing up straight would be too far "back".

    Followers especially have difficulty in developing the forward pressure required because they are traveling backwards. I even figure-skated (which involves forward posture when skating backwards to stay over the correct part of the blade) and I still had a tendency to "fall back" away from my partner in backwards steps. Keeping your pressure forward and consistent while moving backwards is a difficult thing to learn. It seems most beginner tango followers have a problem with "falling" away from their partner or giving forward pressure that seems (to the leader) to come and go. She's there.. then she's not.. she's there.. then she's not. I probably haven't done nearly as much ballroom as you have, but I don't remember this EVER coming up in a ballroom class, or interfering with my ballroom dancing. But most every follower I've taught in tango had a problem with this in the beginning, whether or not they had taken Ballroom.

    Again, depending on the style, you may have to train yourself to move your legs in a way that feels like they are "leaving your core trailing and forward". You get a signal to move, and you don't really move your whole body as a unit with your legs under you. There is an element of reaching prior to the torso moving. The extent of this varies with tango styles. But the one thing that is always true is that your body can't move BEFORE your legs in backwards steps, just as the leader's body can't move AFTER his legs in forward steps.

    I wouldn't give up on this teacher after one class, nor would I take what he says about ballroom personally. He may be a snob about tango vs ballroom. Or perhaps he WAS trying to do exactly what you want by relating what you need to change to what you already know. Keep in mind that many of the best tango teachers in the world have never had a ballroom lesson in their life. Look at the students he has worked with for awhile... do you want to dance tango like them? If so, stick with him.
  11. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Also, in Ballroom, the point of "connection" is lower into the pelvis, is it not? So even if a tango follower is not literally falling away, it will feel away to a leader who is expecting the contact to be higher, and that point of her body is further from him than the lower part that she IS putting forward. (forgive me... I only know of the exaggerated upper back arch style of ballroom)
  12. LindyKeya

    LindyKeya Member

    Well, any instructor who cannot explain a new technique in a way that is not physically painful to a student may be worth disagreeing with. Further, I disagreed with his insistence that a position that was unnaturally forward was "straight." No, forward, I'll give you. Straight, heck no.

    Fair enough. He could just be a total jerk. Thanks for thinking of that! (Also, he claimed to have prior ballroom experience - at least 20 years ago judging by his age, and "quit" when he was 16.)

    You're right -- I've never in my life felt physical, prolonged pain from an instructor's correction of my body. What I'm trying to figure out here is if the problem was the manner in which the instructor got me to that position, or if the problem was the position itself. From what's been posted here, it sounds like probably both. (And you're right that any tensing I was doing could have also contributed.)

    Yes, and that would forward, not straight.

    Here's the thing - he considers sometimes neutral (anatomically straight) to be "back." Now, I realize one may tell a student they are leaning back, to get them to lean forward, but he seems to have a general confusion of the situation. At two separate points, when my back was in the exact same position he first told me I was leaning "far back, like ballroom," and later that this same position was the "perfect position, with a nice straight back." (Also, Balboa can have quite a forward lean, although the positioning of the lower back is different - I really honestly know the difference between back, straight, and forward.)

    Interesting - that seems to be another strike against him, as his legs were definitely moving before his body.

    "forward pressure" where? Where would a lead feel a follower giving him forward pressure - on his chest? And actually, I have quite a bit of figure skating experience under my belt too - and the forward pressure involved for skating backward, or doing something like a back spiral is not something that should be felt in any way by someone holding your hand - it's through the legs, feet, and maybe lower back).

    Here's a real question for the collective wisdom of the fora: In ballroom/latin/swing/salsa, it is desirable (yea, necessary) that the follower take up the arm space she is given, giving some tension (but not too much) into the lead's hand on her back. Is this not the case for Argentine Tango as well?

    Well, here's the thing - I WAS looking to change what I know. I have no problem with that.

    I regularly teach several forms of swing, and often end up with girls with lots of prior ballet experience. Knowing that, I now know exactly how to coach them to fix the posture/spin issues they normally have - once I see them manifest those issues - I don't make preemptive negative stabs at ballet. I also don't have to rag on ballet to do it -- I can help them take what they already know, and mold it into what they're trying to learn. (And I am not an expert at ballet - just know enough to "treat" these issues.)

    And do I want to dance tango like most of his students? Well, I guess not. It was a beginning drop in class, but many people had been attending this class religiously for months - and yet were seriously struggling. The woman who was "helping" teach the class was not someone who's dancing I want to emulate either, as she was completely incapable of doing more than the basic by herself, and the instructor actually corrected her incessantly during the lesson.
  13. LindyKeya

    LindyKeya Member

    Well, depending on who you ask, can be from the thigh up through the lower ribs. But in Bal, it is quite high, with the lower body away, and that is something I can already do - so, how similar/different? That was closer to the body position I was starting from, which is certainly not back.
  14. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    In my opinion, no, it is not - a follower that does that would feel like she is pulling away from me.

    The basic logic of the lead in tango is that the follower feels the leaders intent through his chest, and moves (mostly) on her own power to wherever the chest goes.

    In close embrace it is easy - the communication goes directly from chest to chest, and the arms are mostly decoration.
    In open embrace it is a bit counterintuitive - the embrace ideally does not have any tension, but instead the arms are like the feelers of an insect - they are used to communicate/feel what the chest is doing. Of course, to feel something there needs to be an actual constant physical connection, but the energy should be always be towards each other - it should feel like "we are paying attention to each other".
    What i as a leader like to feel in open embrace is her body and her left arm communicating with my hand and arm, preferably by her arm resting on mine and making contact through the whole length of the arm.
    If i give a follower arm-space without using my chest to give her an impulse to disengage it is usally a sign that i feel her pulling me, and me trying to avoid being pulled.

    I don't think this is something that is possible to diagnose over the internet. The right posture in tango is something weird - i don't even think that backward/straight/forward is a productive way to talk about it. I try to think in terms of if the couple has overall a neutral energy, or if either the leader or the follower is pushing or pulling. Nobody should feel pushed or pulled, everything should be balanced. Even if we share one axis it does not feel like we are pushing each other, but it feels like we comfortably rest on each other - like leaning on a doorframe when chatting - i am not trying to push against the doorframe, but i rest my weight on it, and i have to keep my balance and intention active, or i will fall down.

    Lets for example talk about walking- when we stand still the energies are neutral - in open we are both on our axis, in close we both lean to the same extent on each other so that we are again overall neutral.

    When i start to walk i "push" her, but she "yields" exactly the same amount, so that we both move, but there is no change in the overall energy - i don't push her through the movement, she doesn't pull me by moving more than i do, but instead we move connected and independent at the same time, using the communication through the chest/arms to keep moving in sync.

  15. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Then this really is all you need to know. If his "assistant" needs his constant correction, and was not just a member of the class he was simply using to demonstrate (but usually when an instructor needs to demonstrate with members of the class, they rotate who they use) that's not good. Or if she really was capable and he corrected her in front of the class, then he's a jerk because no one in the class would respect what she has to say if he acts like she's always wrong.

    It sounds like NO ONE in this situation was having any FUN in the class. Not the struggling students, not the assistant, not the teacher, and certainly not YOU.

    Find someone else.

    If you don't want to dance like him, his partner, or his other students, then there's nothing worth going to him for.
  16. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    And this is a serious warning sign imho - i always look at the senior students to try to figure out if a teacher is good at teaching, and this doesn't sound very encouraging. (thought drop in beginner classes are in my opinion very, very difficult to teach well - i personally think that a structured beginner series or a few privates are much easier).

  17. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I did very little partnering in Ballet (I'm assuming that's what you meant by Bal), so I can't really say how it compares to relative positioning to a tango partner. (I did go disco dancing with the ballet guys though!)

    I took ballet, but started in college and actually struggled a lot with basic technique because I am naturally very turned in and tight in the hips. I looked good in movement across the floor (to the untrained eye) because I moved my upper body and arms so gracefully, and I had plenty of ballan (shoot... remember the pronunciation, but not the spelling.. nothing I type looks right) But at the barre, my shortcomings were extremely apparent.

    My own personal experience is that ballet is more UP than tango and that skating made for a better cross-trainer. Ballet tends towards often having a straight supporting leg and possibly a bent free leg. Tango would be more the opposite... A soft knee in the supporting leg, and an extended line in the free leg. (again, more like skating) The free leg bends sometimes as a response to an obstacle (leg wraps) or torsion (boleos) or adornments, but in preparing to step, it extends.

    I've also noticed that tango dancers who have had extensive ballet training prior to tango sometimes tend to dance more up on their toes and with straighter legs. My own PERSONAL taste is that this lacks a certain earthy, sensual quality that I like in tango. And of course, only someone with VERY strong feet can dance all night up on their tiptoes without putting their heels down (which is considered a no-no by almost - not every - tango instructor I've had)

    The one habit I had to break from skating was looking behind me when traveling backwards. But as a ballroom dancer, you are already skilled at trusting the leader to keep you safe.
  18. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately, I can't really tell from the written description... I'm one of those seriously visual people I was referring to.... ;)
    I can only throw out ideas for you to consider based on your knowledge of movement.
  19. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Nope, not quite. It is different in AT.

    When you dance tango, the connection is boob-to-boob. The lead comes from the chest. Pressure is given by the lead, and pressure is read by the follow who the provides forward pressure while moving backwards. For all intents and purposes, the arms are NOT necessary.

    In AT, the arms are used to be in the embrace—the "Abrazo." Not for primarily for leading.
  20. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    These 2 paragraphs touch on the same issue really. A skater's forward pressure would not be felt in a partner's hand, true. But the forward pressure for the tango follower is not really to the partner's hand either. You don't even need your hands to dance tango. My first instructor (now my partner) made me dance with him with our hands behind our backs. If there is no other contact (as in an open embrace style) then the leader should be feeling it consistently evenly enough that it still doesn't feel like it is to his hands coming from your arms, but rather the whole line across the body. (if that makes sense) You don't exert the pressure with your arms (pushing away from yourself) but with your body TO him. In close embrace it is totally on the body and not the hands at all.

    Remember what I was saying in another post about how the connection point is higher than the "thigh-lower rib" thing in Ballroom? If you are trying to make the connection in the area that say, America Tango, connects, an Argentine tango leader will feel you are "falling back" because he will be expecting pressure higher up and the part of you that he is expecting to feel will be further away from him than the lower area. So even though you are exerting forward pressure, it will still seem to him that you are falling backwards. (It might also result in you taking a back step when something else is being led.. like a cross)

    As for the concept of taking up the arm space given.. again... since you don't need the arms at all for most moves, you may find that the leader's arms are nowhere to be found! He might just take his right arm away and, oh I don't know... ask the forum Brits all the things to do with the free right hand... a drink? A smoke? Pocket? (we had a whole thread going down this train of thought one time)

    OK... its a joke, but the bottom line is that you don't move or push backwards in the embrace looking for his arm to create tension on to it. (there's really no way to do that while exerting the proper forward pressure anyway.. you would have to push your body back by pushing forward with your hands to give ANY forward pressure at all) If he wants you to move away (ie: increase the distance) for a certain move, he either moves himself away while keeping you where you are, or he moves you keeping himself where he is. Either way, he LEADS it.

    Your job as follower is to always maintain the same distance between your bodies unless the leader prevents you from doing so. This distance gets worked out by unspoken mutual consent at the very beginning of the dance.

    Hope this helps,
    Princess Many Words

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