Tango Argentino > Some possibly confusing tango terms

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by plugger, Dec 10, 2010.

  1. plugger

    plugger Member

    After several years of lessons and social dancing I've absorbed most customs and values of the local tango community. For a good part of that time, though, there were terms used by teachers and fellow dancers that I never quite understood. Some I still don't. To take four: "axis," "into the floor," tango as a "philosophy" and a "way of life."
    - "Axis" was only briefly confusing. It refers (I think) to the imaginary line through head, torso and abdomen to the WEIGHT-BEARING leg and foot. If this is correct, the concept is useful and easy to understand. Still, I think it may confuse beginners. For a long time, I envisioned my axis as an imaginary pole running through my head and spine, down into the floor between my legs. Ugh. And not just ugh; this error had me thinking that my axis was some kind of balance point between the two halves of my body, and that kept me from understanding that my axis, and my partner's, shifted each time we took a step.
    - What does "into the floor" mean? Gravity holds all of us down. Some great tango dancers take heel leads and some take ball leads, so that can't be the key. Does it mean, "Don't rise up as is done in ballroom waltz or foxtrot?" OK, but I NEVER rise that way in tango, and my feet are usually flat on the floor. When my teacher tells me to be more "into the floor," I'm sure she is right and that I am doing something wrong, but at times I don't know how I could be any more "into" the floor without taking a jackhammer to the hardwood. She probably means I need to flex the knees more and eliminate any rise of my torso and shoulders, etc.
    I just wish the phrase would be replaced with something clearer for all students. It's also worth noting that even when ballroom dancers rise high on the balls of their feet, they are pressing INTO THE FLOOR. Don't physics majors at Stanford who dance tango ever gripe about this fuzzy term?
    - Finally, I sometimes hear or read that tango is not just a dance but a "way of life" and a "philosophy." Taking those terms seriously, I'd like to know they mean in this context. There are (not many!) other dances that I enjoy and respect as much as tango, but I'd never consider any of them as ways of life or philosophies.
    When people use these terms, are they talking about the rules and mores of the milonga -- dressing appropriately, the cabeceo, respecting the line of dance, protecting the woman, dancing for her and the music rather than for the spectators, etc.? If so, except for the cabeceo, these values are shared by all dances or ought to be. I'm in favor of dancing a lot of tango and respecting its culture. I just wondered if the philosophy and way of life referred to something broader or deeper than that.
  2. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Re: into the floor

    "into the floor" is first of all a stylistic term. In the post-Naveira-en dancing the leading technique differs from the former styles. Any rise, every upwards directed lead was eliminated from the dancing. Chicho told this in a workshop this year in Sitges.
  3. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    'Into the floor' is used a lot in Latin dancing too. It is just as vague in that context. I suspect that the majority of teachers cannot communicate what they actually mean. If they could, they wouldn't say anything so silly.

    I'm afraid that when any dancer starts talking about 'philosophy', I want to know what philosophy he/she knows. Way of life? No, but obsession, possibly. ;)
  4. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    That sounds about right to me also.

    Of course, we could both be wrong :)

    "Axis" is jargon, but I think it has use; you simply need to explain what the jargon means. I'm not even sure I'd introduce the concept to beginners, to be honest; it may be more confusing than it's worth.

    On the "into the floor" ("grounded") bit, I wrote an entry here which you may find helpful.

    "Grounded: the myth of good balance"

    Welcome to the Wonderful World Of Tango People Talking Total Rubbish :)

    To the extent that this "Tango is everything" mantra has any validity, I think it's simply an expression of the fact that Argentine Tango has roots in the specific Argentine culture; which has associated values, assumptions and, yes, philosophy.

    And yes, those factors will absolutely shape a dance. But I'd suggest that they mainly affect the social side of the dance, rather than the technical side of things. Axis is not culture-specific, for example :)
  5. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Yeah, I don't know what people mean by some of these terms either. My opinion is that when people try to explain things from the artsy side of their brain, (rather than approaching it more analytically), you get ambiguous terms like this. BTW, not all people mean the same thing when they used these terms, either.

    In any case, this is what I've been able to figure out with some of these terms.

    "axis" - This can mean a few different things depending on who's using the term, but it sometimes refers to whether you are completely balanced on your own (on axis), vs being tilted and needing support from the the other person (off axis). It also can refer to imaginary lines, like you already articulated.

    "into the floor" - This one is an especially difficult concept, similar to the term get heavy. I have asked a few teachers who used this term what they meant, and apparently by pressing harder in some kind of way that I'm not smart enough to understand, you can press into the floor and weigh approximately 7.5 pounds more than you normally would otherwise. (OK, you got me. I haven't slightest idea what pressing into the floor or getting heavy means either).

    "tango as a 'philosophy' and a 'way of life'" - Basically, this means adopt all things Argentine (related to tango), with the exception of things that are not PC and/or things that the teacher doesn't like.

    I hope this helps you out.

  6. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    I read the article. It is a helpful explanation. I say that I am grounded when I feel that I am part/connected to the floor rather then separate/above it. And things like yoga/breathing techniques do help to understand and obtain it. I do Tai Chi and that helps me.
  7. New in NY

    New in NY New Member

    Grounded - I think of it as being on a moving subway car without anything to hold on to, so you have to really sink your weight into your feet. My new ballroom teacher explained that if you are really well grounded, you can feel asif your shoes wouldn't slip on any type of floor.
  8. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Basically, "grounded" = "stable", from our perspective.
  9. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Perfect place to post this link
    where someone actually provides data on where the center of gravity is for a human body.

    I found that after looking around after looking at this

    The Evolution Of Speed In Athletics: Why The Fastest Runners Are Black And Swimmers White

    In this article they repeatedly state that the belly button is the center of gravity. I wonder why the reviewers didn't make them supply a reference for this. Maybe it's in there among all of the other references they cite, but it's not very obvious.

    OK. Who will be the first to do the calculations for men vs women, and whether or not is does in fact correspond to belly buttons of both men and women?
  10. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Precisely. IMHO, is the best definition of "grounded."
  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Can't answer that, but even this humble dance geek/biologist with some training in physics wants to know what is really up.
    You may want to find a copy of "Physics and the Art of Dance" if you want to pursue this more. There are lots of old threads where some of us hit this pretty hard, too (hopefully with some degree of accuracy!)

    It seems that the term "axis" is used mainly to refer to a line around which something rotates. Dance instructors... well, maybe I shouldn't go there.

    Anyhow, I can point out two axes when we talk about dance: one through your body, when it is held in a more or less straight line, and one that extends from your center of gravity (see above!) into the ground (if you used a plumb line you (and knew where your center of gravity was, exactly!) could see this "imaginary" line.

    Think I'll stop here, because when we start moving and bending, it gets complicated!
  12. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    If I remember correctly from Rolfing, the human body has (or should have) a kinetic axis the runs down through the skull, shoulders, hips and between the feet. The head, shoulders and hips can rotate to a degree around it. The purpose of Rolfing it to realign the individual parts of the body on this axis. I don't know if they address where the axis is if you are standing on one foot.

    Steve, are you thinking that the center of gravity is the same as the axis? I would say not and that the center of gravity is a point, rather than a line. If the human body is leaning against something, with a straight body, the axis is still in the same place, but at an angle. Of course, a plumb line would not intersect the feet.

    The idea of a shared axis is, IMO, a misnomer. I think shared balance would be more accurate.
  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member


    1. Clothing contributed to the weight of the subjects and therefore resulted in a shift in each person's center of mass.
    2. The subjects' heartbeats caused their center of mass to shift because one's center of mass changes as the heart dilates and constricts- pumping blood throughout the body. (end quote)
    Wait a minue... they're willing to take into account clothing afffecting things (let's not even go into the fact that the heart is probably changing faster than anyone can measure or notice their center moving) but their result doesn't seem to allow that weight distribution on different people might affect it? Huh?

    I'm pretty sure the flab on my thighs weighs more than my clothes! (and what's with doing an experiment without making everyone wear the least amount possible to eliminate that influence?... speaking of things the reviewers should have nitpicked!)

    Incidentally, I didn't have that flab on my thighs 30 years ago. I was pretty skinny. Are they saying my center of mass/balance hasn't changed now that I put on 25 lbs and it's all in a 20" area between my waist and my knees? Wouldn't I have had to gain weight in an evenly distributed manner for my center not to move upward or downward on my body? I know that it hasn't because I can't begin to stuff my rear into those size 0-2 pants (even with the changes in how clothes are sized, I now wear a size 6 jean) but I can still wear old tops that were tight then.

    And does my friend who is apple shaped and busty with tiny hips and a flat bum, with her excess ABOVE her waist have the same center point that I do? What about those guys I see at the gym who are obviously on steroids who have shoulders 3 times the size of their hips and biceps the size of my thighs?

    I didn't try to figure out all their math and equations, but seems to me that deciding that there is a single point that is pretty much the center for all humans is obviously doomed. I've gotten pretty big-headed as I've gotten older, but not enough to make up for what's on my rear!
  14. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Exactly right. And exactly where I get the "second" axis.

    "Center of Gravity" or "center of mass" is a point.

    If you've ever completed a single axis turn when dancing apilado, I'd say you've demonstarted the fact that the shared axis does exist.

    Yeah, belly button center of gravity just doesn't work for me, which is why I found the paper to see where they got that (and again, I don't understand why they didn't get called on it), which is why I looked for something to substantiate it.

    As far as the comments on the actual measurements of CofG, their qualifiers look to me like pretty standard scientific "disclaimers".
  15. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Wow, there's a bunch of information available on center of gravity of the human body!

    Regarding apilado...

    Toppling[​IMG] Edit

    [​IMG] A box as it becomes toppled.
    [​IMG]Added by Yuany

    An object will topple once its plumb line falls outside of its base of support. The figure to the right shows a block being toppled over once its plumb line falls outside the base of the box.

    Individual dancers in an apilado embrace, as I define it, have a a "plumb line" or "gravity line" as described above. That is, such that they would topple if standing alone. And yet the combined bodies do not fall over. This "new" object (the combined bodies) has a plumb line somewhere, just as the bodies do when unpartnered.
  16. LoveTango

    LoveTango Member

    One can see many definitions of "axis" if checking the dictionary. I think, in Tango, the following definition makes most sense: Axis is a line around which an object rotates.

    I think, if we follow this definition, saying "have axis" or "on axis" would be meaningless, because as long as the dance motion involves rotation, the axis exists. However, during the dance the axis, this invisible line is not at a fixed location (relative to the partners).

    For example, when executing a molinete with the leader balancing on a single foot and pivoting while the follower moves around the leader, this axis goes though the point under the leader's working foot. Often, the molinete is not a simple rotating around the leader, it also involves translation,that is to say, the couple "drifted" away. Then this axis is moved away from the leader's single foot to somewhere between the two persons, but closer to the leader.

    A different example would be when the follower is pivoting during an ocho. At the moment of pivoting, the axis is through the follower's working foot.

    The shifting of axis is obvious during a volcada execution, particularly if the volcada is immediately after pivoting around the follower. To begin, the leader "erect" the follower up after her weight has been completely transferred to one foot - the working foot for pivoting. The leader moves around the follower while the follower pivots. At this time, the axis is through a point under the follower's working foot. To start the volcada, the leader moves away from the follower, thus pulling the axis away from the follower towards a point between the partners.

    I think a good dancer can subconsciously sense where the axis is during the dance and knows how to keep this axis perpendicular to the floor (thus to stay balanced). Both partners can contribute to this effect.

    - my two cents.
  17. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    The way of tango

    That is true and my deep believe, too. It means, .. oh dear, this comes out to be difficult... mmh... (So only some lose associations, but actually no definition)

    -integration of musicality, moving, stepping, standing, hearing, looking, feeling, tasting, smelling,
    -interculturality, and belonging to a worldwide family,
    -(and at the same time) feeling as an emigrant,
    -role models, and codigos,
    -room for self actualization and straightening,
    -educated and literate people,
    -a balance of melancholia (Tango), carnaval (Milonga) and buoyancy (Vals),
    -a woman for your whole life, that isn´t jealous, if you have another girl for a while, because she knows for sure, that in the end you will return into her arms again.
  18. gyb

    gyb Member

    I was also always confused by the meaning of axis. If axis refers to the imaginary line through head, torso and abdomen to the weight-bearinng leg and foot, how one should understand the claim that in apilado the couple shares a "common axis"?
  19. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    I wonder if this corresponds (or fails to) with the dan tien Definition: Chinese Origin - The tan tien is a power center located approximately two and one half inches below the naval.

    well the centre of gravity must be internal; so it must be some where between the navel and the spine
  20. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    New member abejan sent the following to me in a PM.

    The words "belly button" do not appear anywhere in the original, peer reviewed article published by Bejan, Jones and Charles. The article is available at www.constructal.org, see the 8th box down.

    The "belly button" expression was created by a reporter who wrote about Bejan-Jones-Charles discovery. This expression became popular in the media.

    Sure enough, I searched the pdf of the article for "belly" and "navel", and neither term is in the article itself.

    I'm not sure where I found the pdf, but it was on the first page of a google search.


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