Tango Argentino > grounded vs heavy. ungrounded vs light

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Zoopsia59, Mar 24, 2010.

  1. tangonuevo

    tangonuevo New Member

    Okay. So I stayed out of this as long as I could. But I guess I'm pretty weak willed. So here goes.

    I think of "being grounded" as almost, but not quite entirely, a consequence of "arriving". When I take a step, I try to really arrive, without actually stopping, on my axis prior to taking the next step. Similarly, I expect my partner to push to her axis, but no further, on each step so that she too "arrives."

    One result is a strong, rolling, "tango walk" which is not just a shuffle. Another is that I feel where my partner is, and she feels where I am at, on each and every step. I think of allowing my partner to feel the ground through my body, and I feel the ground through hers. Grounded. It's not about me, it's about us.

    Just MHO.
  2. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member


    I'm glad you joined in! This is an explanation that actually makes sense to me!

    Oh holy crap. I feel like the ground has just opened up beneath me...in a good way.
  3. tangonuevo

    tangonuevo New Member

    Want a cigarette? ;)
  4. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    It's been about a year for me too once I realised just how much I had to do and work on.

    Yes the "engaging the core" is another mysterious term but somehow we all know what that means. And strangely I feel that the more you have to work at it within the dance the more locked up you're likely to be. In fact I've found that you need to develop muscles all around the torso so they can work together and still be fluid and that seems to be what you've achieved. The yoga plank done in all four directions is a real strengthener of the muscles needed but practise twisting too for disassociation.

    Absolutely right too, it has to become natural, normal and subconscious - shame about the smoking!

    Thanks for your thoughts and experience Peaches.

    And I should have said the same about TangoNuevo's post too.

    Grounding is all about a good tango body tone, control and posture plus walking as if you mean it, landing the feet solidly and creating new axes. Both partners together yet independently balanced. Not too much to ask is it!
  5. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Nice explanation - yes, that makes sense, that's kind of the way I see it also.
  6. ant

    ant Member

    Hi JohnEm thanks for your input. I think the only area I may still not be with you on is as follows:

    When I engage my stomach muscles, if anything my ribcage lowers.

    The only ways I seem to be able to raise my ribcage are as follows:

    - breathing in sharply and engaging my stomach muscles at the same time. I use this as a lead in certain circumstances.

    - Breathing in and pushing up my ribcage but here I am also engaging the diaphram as well as my stomach muscles. If this is what you are thinking of, then that is where I find the greatest disagreement. As this causes curvature at the base of the spine.

    It has been explained to me what is as important is to feel no hollow or curvature in the base of your spine when you think you are engaging your core because any inward curving of the back, which will result from the lifting of the ribcage, may cause pain when consistantly done during a Milonga and more long term back problems if you persist.

    I go along with this but is this not an overall posture point rather than something that relates specifically to the core. Although I agree in terms of grounding all these things have to be in place.
  7. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    OK, let's try a slightly different approach.
    But this does show how difficult it is to get these concepts
    over in words, especially something as personal and individual.

    How about thinking of this engagement as a tensioning of the muscles directly as a result of growing taller. So no artificial breathing in or drawing in of the stomach, more an increase of the distance between the ribcage and the pelvis, rather as Peaches described. You will feel taller and everything stretched, ready to work as a result of lengthening the spine. And that should not provoke any feeling of inward back curvature.

    If you cannot do that, then seek personal help and advice. Pilates is a good place to start. A personal anecdote: I have a bad back, maybe these days should say had a bad back. It's taken years of stretches, regular exercises adding to them as I go to rectify it. And I have no alternative but to keep doing them. So I was already strong and fit (strong enough to do classes in jive and swing on aerials) yet Tango needed more. And more emphasis on posture than I ever expected.

    Yes, and I've seen men in agony rolling on the floor in classes and practicas with back pain triggered by attempting a tango posture without preparation or because they have provoked an underlying back problem. I used to always end classes with back pain but additional exercise has more or less sorted that. Strangely, right now a disassociation exercise is triggering mild sciatica but that will go eventually. No pain, no gain!

    I don't know about you, but I hate to see a man's right arm low down on a ladies back drawing her in so her torso is vertical and her bottom has to stick out to find the space for the feet. Seeing the reverse curvature of the spine makes me feel her pain in the future.

    The two are virtually inseparable, but I hope this helps.

    And to be parochial, you need to aim more at Dec's posture than Ant's!
  8. ant

    ant Member

    I don't believe that the feeling you are describing is anything to do with engaging the core directly. Rather the engaging of the muscles under the shoulders.

    This is why we disgree. If you use proper technique there should be no pain in the back.

    I do not see where this relates to what we talking about other than to confirm that curvature at the base of the spine is not good and bad technique causes problems.

    I have no idea what you are trying to say here but it does not sound good and I am finding it hard to see the relevance. So for the record:

    You obviously have not taken my point.

    If you engage your core by lifting your ribcage, irrespective of what other techiques you are applying, it is going to cause back problems, due to curvature of the spine. This appears to be a problem you have had and are still experiencing. It seems to me that a method of engaging the core that does not give back problems is far preferable to your method of engaging the core by lifting the ribcage.

    I agree with the other techniques you have mentioned in passing, even if I do not always see the relevance in relation to the topic being discussed.
  9. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I wonder, did you actually try the exercise that John described? If you did, and you're still coming to these conclusions, then I think the best thing you can do for yourself is to find yourself a good tango teacher and work one-on-one to develop good posture and come to an understanding about what good posture is, and how your core is involved in that.

    You are missing the point entirely. "Engaging the core" is part-and-parcel of having good posture. It does not mean engaging the muscles under the shoulders, nor does it mean tightening your abs (thereby pulling your ribcage towards your pelvis, thereby collapsing your posture).

    You are both saying the same things...good posture = no back pain.

    I believe it was just a related point about leaders causing women to have to use improper technique and have poor posture, which leads to back pain.

    No. Absolutely not. Completely incorrect.

    If you lift your ribcage, properly and naturally, it creates good posture which alleviates back problems. It does not cause curvature of the lower spine. Not.at.all.

    If you cannot feel or envision how this is so, again, I suggest you take some serious private lessons with a good instructor.

    I'm pretty sure he meant that before learning to engage his core properly, and to have good posture in dancing and in life in general, he was having back pains.
  10. Mario7

    Mario7 Member

    I can't freaking understand why this isn't obvious..there's probably a list of other problems that 'lifiting the ribcage' will cause. Of course, I'm thinking CE but imagine the problems that lifting the ribcage causes in the embrace..I think that it's an Amerikan instruction. I think that the natural relaxed embrace of CE BsAs tango is not at all about lifting the ribcage (and then taking a year to be able to 'do it all the time')...I'm not talking about performance-like 'instruction'..OK, I'm on a rant and it's because the well-intentioned advice that I first got was that I should "Imagine a flashlight attached to my sternum and I want to point it upwards"...and the "lift the ribcage"...this made waking and turning in an embrace similar to be nailed to a cross for me.:(
    The proving evidence for me is that when I finally erased that advice and settle into a relaxed hug-like, forward leaning embrace, everything 'came together' at once.
    Translation: 'came together'...I like and enjoy my dance and my partners do too.
  11. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Ok you are obviously entitled to feel and believe what you like.

    Perhaps you should read the context of that comment again.

    And I thought you were asking for more information!

    Extending your spine and having the muscles to do so won't cause back problems. Not having the muscles to extend and maintain a straight back is what can cause the pain.

    And perhaps one further point to add is to ensure that your pelvis is tucked under your body, that reduces curvature too.

    You say that but so far you haven't given us any idea of how you might engage the core in a different way. I've had teachers talk about thinking and being tall, imagining your head being tied with a piece of string to the ceiling, trying to make your head touch ceiling, Peaches explanation and the one I made earlier. But I've added having sufficient muscle strength as a must.

    All amount to a similar aim of tensioning the body (of each partner) so they can both support their own individual balance and communicate with each other.

    So instead of just bluntly disagreeing, how about a constructive suggestion of your own.
    And it's usually me who's accused of being argumentative!

    PS Just seen your post while writing this - thanks Peaches, absolutely right.
  12. ant

    ant Member


    To lift the body you engage the muscles under your shoulder blades, keep your headand neck straight and engage your core, you will also relax your knees and ankles and depending on what enbrace you require you may also put a lean in your body but ensuring that all parts of your b ody are in alignment. It is the bit about how you engage the core that I disagree with.

    I don't disagree with what you are saying. Rather the method that JohnEm has espoused about engaging the core.

    I said that in relation to engaging the core because the way JohnEm has stated is wrong and dangerous. I believe I have clearly stated that that the other techniques he has stated I agree with and this has confused the debate by bringing in relevant techniques. The only point I asked about was raising the ribcage. Without knowing JohnEm's history he has confirmed his technique does give back problems.

    Can you explain how a leader incorrectly applying his right arm relates to posture, the core or grounding, other than indirectly by causing someone else a problem.

    If you lift your ribcage in what ever way you wish it is going to cause curvature of the base of the spine. If you do this persistantly it is going to cause you back problems.

    I would be interested to know though what muscles you do engage when you engage your core because it may be you get the feeling that your ribcage is lifting rather that that being the aim of the exercise.

    I have no problem engaging my core and I have no back problems.

    People read things differently but he still having back problems.
  13. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Because it's not true.

    Er, no. There isn't. It solves problems, plain and simple. Now, if it's being done incorrectly that's another issue altogether.

    Again, it does not cause problems (when done correctly), it solves problems. Open embrace, close embrace, and everything in between. It's about having good posture...and part of that is standing up straight and tall. Not pulling your shoulders back unnaturally, not letting your ribcage collapse...but standing up straight, keeping the ribcage lifted, keeping your back in a nice and neutral position (not tucking the tailbone under, not arching your lower back...or any part of your back for that matter), and bringing your weigh forward by leaning your whole body slightly forward.

    Except for the weight forward bit, it's good posture for life, and it's good posture for dancing.

    Funny, because I heard it from Argentines. In Buenos Aires, no less. And then from more Argentines, and more. And then my main teacher who, while not Argentine, was not American, either. And none of this is about performance-like 'instruction.' (And do you realize just how unbelievably insulting it is when you start putting things in quotes?)

    And, yes, it takes time because having good posture isn't something that most people have on a daily basis. When it came to dancing, when concentrating on something new it was too easy to slip into my (normal) bad habits and let my posture become bad.

    Not the description I would have used, but I can see it making sense. If the flashlight is attached vertically, such that it is lying flat against your sternum (not sticking out forward), then, yes...I can see it reasonable to keep that pointed upwards. As in, don't be hunched over. If you were having problems with this, why did you not ask your teacher (who gave you this advice, I'm assuming) about the difficulty?

    The two things are no mutually exclusive. You can stand tall (lift your ribcage), and relax, and have a good hug-like embrace, and be forward leaning.
  14. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    To me, it's this simple. Everyone is different. There are different sizes, shapes, weights, body types, and curvatures of the spine (among other things).

    Lifting the ribcage may be great for some people, and not so great for others. I don't know why people insist that because something works for them, it must work for everyone, or insist that if something doesn't work for them, it can't work for anyone else.

    If something works for someone else, and it's something you like, then it's worth a try. However, if after an honest attempt, it doesn't work for you, then you just have to find another way to get it done. Sure, with enough hours of practice, any skill will get easier, but if it's causing back pain, IMO you should do something different.
  15. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Well yes, of course we're different weights and sizes but there's such a thing as dance fitness, for any dance. And essentially we all have the same structure, but different life experiences, wear and tear.

    For some reason people think they can come to dance later in life and not have to work at it. Some, maybe most but not all, teachers avoid the issue and teach steps not technique. That fills classes but gives a people a false idea. For me technique should come first and it requires appropriate physical fitness. Of course in todays self-serving, instant gratification society that won't fill classes.

    Yes, you can work around it & avoid preparatory work (getting fit) but the experience you and your partner gets is not the same. In milonguero/apilado tango the connection, the ability to lead and to follow, the wonder of it, gets lost. It's like the difference between driving a european sporty car and saloon car with soft springs and no shockabsorbers (dampers over there?). It can be comfortable but ultimately unrewarding and isolated.

    So yes, you can fudge and muddle all you like but that doesn't answer the question. But then you rarely do.
  16. Mario7

    Mario7 Member

    Not a European sports car because the springs are too soft..rather than pilates there was a lot of fork lifting.
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  17. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member



    The car analogy may be a good one. Some people are going for the feel of a Corvette, while others are going for the feel of a Lincoln Town Car. Both are fine cars, just different.
  18. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    How about a threesome? Because I too really liked your description!

    Would you say then that the more common problem is that followers go PAST the "arrival" stage too quickly (can't control the momentum) or that they don't fully ever arrive?

    I would say that the former is my problem and what a great way to start thinking about achieving better control!
  19. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Actually, I would say that only people who have experienced what Peaches described know what it means. Most everyone else would think of tightening (constricting) the core muscles. I know that one of my biggest challenges is engaging and energizing my muscles without tensing them.
  20. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Huh? The back naturally has a hollow and curvature inward at the small of the back (the amount of which varies from person to person) The only way you can eliminate it is to tilt your pelvis back (tucked under).

    So I assume you mean no additional curvature from lifting the ribcage?

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