Tango Argentino > Toe leads for every step for the man?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by LordBallroom, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Exactly. I'm still amazed by how many people still think that what works best for them, must be the best way for everyone else.
    Zoopsia59 likes this.
  2. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I don't think what Dchester said about having a preference and going with it is in contradiction to what you are saying. IME, people's preference usually comes about because it IS the way that provides them the most stability, maneuverability etc. That may not be true of a beginner who is trying too hard to "dance" instead of just letting their body move naturally, but certainly after a bit of time put in to learning, the preference becomes that which works the best with the least distracting effort.

    I think where the two of you might disagree is whether there is a universal way that provides the things you mention. Dchester's point is that it could vary from person to person. I get the impression (which may be false) that you think there is one single way that is best and would be best for most everyone.
  3. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure what you mean by energy transfer. Do you mean weight transfer of the individual taking the step, or something happening between the two people?

    In a post upthread, I asked for clarification of when you expect the weight transfer to aid in discussing the idea of the foot "landing". I think it got lost in the rest of the discussion.

    For any of this thread to make sense concerning what part of the foot "lands" or what part of the foot "lands" on the beat, we need to establish when the person posting expects the weight shift to that foot to be complete and solid over that supporting leg.
  4. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    There is another issue that comes up in coming down on the heel in a backstep. If the follower reaches with her foot pointed and the shoe heel more parallel to the floor, there is a chance that when she does put the heel down, it will pull her away from the leader slightly.

    The tip of her toe has marked the position for the final placement of her foot, but unless she has a Gumby achilles, most likely she will not be able to bring the heel down in that position without moving backwards slightly with her body, especially if her shoe heels aren't high.

    So sometimes what the leader feels isn't so much about the clunk of the heel, it's the slight pulling away in the body. I think this is one of the reasons so many followers dance on their toes when they aren't wearing their high heels. They haven't figured out how to reach, step and get over the new standing leg with the heel down without pulling back from the leader.

    I was taught by at least one female Argentine teacher (and hardly anyone else ever mentions it) that the follower should be keeping her heel pointed down towards the floor all the time. The ankle should flex enough for that position to be maintained rather than pointing through the entire foot. Not only does it eliminate this pulling effect on the leader for the follower to get her heel down, but it minimizes injuries to others by not having the heel pointed towards the dancer behind you.

    It helped me to get this into my ballet trained body to remember to skim the metatarsal on the floor in my reach instead of my toe. But I still have to think about it when wearing flats.

    BTW - I really think followers should take some privates from female teachers. So often, they only want to take from a man (it may be the only chance they have to dance with a really good leader!) But things like this are outside the awareness of many male teachers. I've had some that I found to be very good for other things look at me like a cow saying "Moo?" when I try to talk about the shoes, heels, and such.

    Many male teachers have had partners with extremely flexible legs and feet and these things don't come up. Many female teachers also don't have a problem because they dance in 4" heels and have tremendous flexibility in their feet an legs. So a male t4eacher will tell you "You're pulling away from me on every step" but if they are dancing with a follower and not watching her, they may never notice that she reaches with a pointed foot, or they may not realize the correlation. (since even some female teachers don't)

    Ladies: please don't be sexist in your lessons! Take from other women too!
  5. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I was taught that the beat is marked by the weight transfer to that supporting leg.

    The placement of the foot is meaningless until it is weighted.

    So many leaders who feel to the follower as though they are off the music are actually placing their (unweighted) foot to the beat, but their weight transfer lags behind the beat. (I call this "stepping" to the beat rather than moving to the beat.)

    So as I mentioned in a post above, all this talk of heels, toes, soles, and especially "landing" (a term I still don't like) misses 1/2 the issue. When is weight transfer occurring?
  6. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    I find the arguments in favor of landing on a flat foot to be founded on misguided principles. Bear in mind that ballroom, country, and swing dancers step either ball-flat ore heel-flat or heel-toe. These dances are made to travel, and therefore movement is designed to use the body's natural motion to provide power and smoothness at the same time. This is accomplished by rolling through the foot and using the knees, among other techniques. These dances are also stricter about being on the beat than Tango is. The time it takes to step heel-flat, ball-flat, etc., is so small as to not really be a factor. Also, it is generally easy enough to feel when the follower has changed feet, no matter how her foot landed, as long as you're both relatively relaxed and "listening."
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Love it!

    Have been resisting repeating what one of my dance gurus has said about this, but, yeah, center over weighed foot on the beat as a general principle (but as with just about anything, there can be exceptions - like - when the music is behind the beat).
  8. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    All good comments.

    I was watching some milonguero videos and saw that some of them step flat-footed when the step is small, and heel-first, when the step is large. In other words, naturally.
    Mladenac likes this.
  9. LKSO

    LKSO Active Member

    I was going over this last night to see what I actually do as opposed to what I think I do. What I do is toe placement on the upbeat, heel on the downbeat. This is also how I prefer the woman steps as I will feel the hard contact on the downbeat, not after.
  10. LKSO

    LKSO Active Member

    I meant the transfer of energy from the point of contact on the floor all the way up through to the chest, CE. This allows the partners to feel the contact, hence, the energy from each step, soft or hard on the floor.

    I don't think about weight transfer anymore as it's not really important, even though it's taught like it is. (It really isn't since you naturally do this without thinking, if you're over the age of 2.) What's actually important is that you are balanced when making contact with the floor because this automatically transfers weight as you step. You don't have to think about it and shouldn't need think about it assuming you have good form and technique.
  11. LKSO

    LKSO Active Member

    Yes, there is usually a single way that is best for most everyone because anatomically, we are all very similar. To say that everyone does it differently is an easy cop-out or an excuse for sloppy technique. If the music changes, the form of the dance should change to reflect it. However, the technique (if good) remains the same. This is why good dancers look good regardless of the form because they use good technique to drive that form.
  12. LordBallroom

    LordBallroom Member

    Another question along similar lines: What are the mechanics of moving in AT? Is moving in AT similar to American smooth Tango in which the partnership starts with the knees somewhat flexed as the move in cat like staccato strides? Or perhaps is there a slight swinging action similar to that in the Foxtrot? I took a lesson with some AT teacher and he basically instructed us to use the normal walking steps used in real life which is basically a controlled fall. His dancing was unremarkable as he appeared quite stiff. I certainly couldn't put much trust in what he said.
  13. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    Check how Carlitos Espinoza walks. There are numerous videos on youtube. :D

    You push your partner with torso, and foot lands where you need to be in your balance. :cool:

    It's difficult to tell how it's properly cause dancing with different partners and different music (orchestra or type) will be different.
    The most important is that you use your upper body to lead, and your lower part should follow to keep you in balance.
    JohnEm likes this.
  14. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    If it is a good BR tango walk, yes, a very similar walk can serve well in AT. Play down the staccato, but keep the feline aspect. The drive for the steps comes from higher in the torso than BR tango, but both share a common origin and their fundamental technique (not characterization, obviously) share much. Forget any swing action: that will lead to an over-even body flight over the legs - something we work hard to achieve in FT, but which is no help here. We want to move cleanly from one position of balance to another position of balance (unless the action we dance specifically calls for being off-axis - but we do that just as cleanly).

    Don't be put off by someone's dance appearing to be unremarkable: unless you are in the embrace, you cannot feel what it is to move to the music with that dancer. AT as a social dance has nothing to do with performance or being anything flashy to look at, but is a personal expression in body language and musicality between two people. Issues of navigation around everyone else aside, no one else is involved. There is, of course, another branch of the dance, every bit as valid at the social form - stage or performance tango - but its rules are quite different, as it is predicated on providing entertainment.

    Bear in mind that AT is not a standardised dance, and its teachers largely have no formal training or qualification as dance teachers (good thing too, say most of the tango community). You may have struck gold with yours, or on the other hand, you may not. What is that teacher's reputation within the local social dance community? Don't ask the students of a regular dance studio, get to know a few tango dancers and ask at milongas and places where experienced tango dancers dance.
  15. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    From your questions, it seems that you are trying to learn AT by approaching it via your BR background. I suggest that is a mistake. The two dances are very different.

    Most of the AT teachers tell their students how to do the dance properly, but ultimately you have to do the dance your way, and not someone else's way. Your AT teacher was correct; walk the way you walk. Use your feet the way you use your feet.
    Lilly_of_the_valley likes this.
  16. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    We'll just have to agree to disagree.

    I do agree that overall technique is mostly universal. However, I feel the fundamentals of technique do not include whether to place the toe or heel first and things like that.

    It is in the minutia of our bodies that our physical differences play a part. Everyone has the same basic skeletal structure to their feet, but there are many differences possible within that basic structure. That is why some people have fallen arches, others have plantar fascia problems, others develop bunions, and quite a few (mostly women) have extra bone!(accessory navicular). Some people pronate and others supinate. Some women can wear 4+ inch heels and others can't even wear 2" due to flexibility (or lack thereof) in the arch. Some people are pigeon-toed and others have a lot of natural turnout.

    And that doesn't even get us to how the ankle and achilles tendon affect walking!

    Extend that concept across the whole body, and you get an infinite amount of physical variation affecting movement. We aren't ballet students starting at 6 years old and therefore pliable. We are usually adults (often older adults!) and we move differently from one another after a lifetime of aging and developing habits.

    My personal pet peeve in tango instruction is that so many teachers attempt to instruct an ideal only attainable by young, flexible, professional stage dancers. They don't know how to find solutions that work for the actual students they are teaching.

    "It must be like this: _____"

    "Well, I can't do that. What should I do instead"

    Blank look
  17. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member


    I'm not sure what to say about this. You don't think about weight transfer because it isn't important. You don't need to think about it if you have good technique.

    OK. But that's true of most everything in tango. You don't have to think about it once you have good technique that you can practice consistently without thinking about it. But in trying to develop good technique, you DO need to think about it. It's part of developing good technique.

    While people have been transferring their weight since they learned to walk, they haven't been indicating to another person when to transfer weight or having that indicated to them (from a follower perspective) They haven't been doing it with someone in front of them "in their way" that they aren't allowed to shove out of their way. (and hopefully they haven't been using shoving since they were 8 or 10).

    IME, one of the hardest things to get beginner students to do is complete theri weight transfer. The leaders are hesitant because they don't want to step on the follower so they sorta indicate "go" then hold back without actually going anywhere. The follower is afraid she won't be going the "right" place, so her trailing leg.. well.. trails (hovers over the spot it left in case she has to put it back down there for some unknown reason) She's trying to keep her weight on both feet with one of them off the ground, because....

    In real life, people mostly stand on both feet. Even if one takes most of the weight, the other is also on the ground taking some weight and providing balance. I almost never see men standing around mostly on one foot, although I do see women standing with most of their weight on one foot. (usually if they are wearing heels because they are shifting back and forth out of discomfort).

    In tango, people rarely stand with their weight on both feet (followers especially don't) In real life, if you step and stop, you stop with weight on both feet, which is a totally different action than transferring your weight to the other foot only.

    So while movement should be as natural as possible, people do have to think about weight transfer because they aren't used to doing it without ending up on both feet. The reality is that in everyday life, people don't really transfer their weight in the same way, and usually with nowhere near the level of control needed for tango. In real life, if you have to put your "free" foot down, you just put it down. In tango, you're not supposed to need to just put your free foot down for balance (if you have good technique that is... ;))
    Subliminal likes this.
  18. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Everyone starts from where they are: and there are many more migrants into tango from Modern Jive and Salsa than ever there are from BR, but I never hear anyone sounding caution about carrying over unhelpful stuff from any other style. It's one of the oddities of the tango world.
  19. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    I suppose BR is more standardized that most other social dances, so their students are taught that there are correct and incorrect ways to dance. Don't Modern Jive and Salsa allow more personal freedom? I just think BR dancers tend to have greater concern for the "correct" way to dance than most other social dancers, and they need to shed that idea. I've had tango students that just couldn't quit looking like BR dancers. Same goes for ballet dancers, but we don't get many of them.
  20. LKSO

    LKSO Active Member

    I agree with what you said except that walking isn't something you have to think about since you've learned how to walk when you were a toddler. The problem is that instruction about "balance" is misguided. If you are standing and are able to walk, you are already balanced. So why is it that when people are given instruction on how to balance lose their balance? Because you start to think about something you can already do and are focusing on the wrong part of the body.

    An anecdote - I used to lose my balance all the time for the first several months. I was told that I needed to improve my balance. Then something happened: I stopped thinking about it and focused on my torso instead. Immediately, I was able to keep my balance and rarely ever lost it since. Then, I helped some other students with their balance issues. Immediately, they kept their balance and remained balanced.... until the teacher gave them instruction on how to step. That's when they started to stumble again. And then I helped them again by focusing on their torso and they were able to maintain their balance.

    So why was it that when the teacher gave instruction, almost all of the students lost their balance? And when I helped some of them focus on their torsos, they were able to keep it, except for the students whom I didn't help?

    Have you ever slow danced at a school dance? If you have, then you'll likely not have received any instruction on how to do it, you just did it. It's similar to tango, isn't it? The music is different but you were either in open or closed embrace depending on how much you liked him and he liked you. Did you have a problem walking with him?

    This idea has a lot to do with how one first learned to dance tango by focusing on the feet, not the bodies/torsos. The weight transfer naturally occurs upon movement of the bodies in any direction because the feet must be below the torso to remain upright. Expecting that someone transfers their weight without taking a step is an exercise that is done in a class but this is unnecessary on a dance floor unless you are just rocking side to side as is the intended feeling of the dance.

    No, they don't have to think about it! That's how people lose their balance, by thinking about it. It's a lot like walking on a line by looking down at the line and trying to place each foot on the line in order to walk in a straight line. Try it the next time you're walking in the middle of the street on the lane dividers. You will lose your balance. But, if you don't think about this, it's guaranteed that you're already doing all of the above.

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