Tango Argentino > Ugly feet

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Peaches, Jul 24, 2009.

  1. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    The last time I went dancing (too long ago *sigh*) that the way I use my feet is...still...hella ugly. They're functional, and I try to be very careful to keep my weight towards the inside edge when stepping and standing, and I try not to let them just be there (actually thinking about then and dancing all the way down to my toes),but they still don't have that polished, beautiful look. I notice it most when I'm taking my weight off a foot to move it to the next step, I tend to roll to the outside. It just looks messy and sloppy and inelegant.

    Any tips, ladies?
  2. emeralddancer

    emeralddancer Active Member

    I am getting this same thing from my pro for ballroom. inside edge, use the inside edge. grumble.:(
  3. DancingMommy

    DancingMommy Active Member

    How do you normally *walk*? Because that influences how we dance.
  4. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member


    I admire all AT women who dance backwards in heels.

    The following women, whom I've danced with and watched, have excellent (and elegant) command of AT technique and use of (AT) tango feet. Susana Miller, Alicia Pons, and Jennifer Bratt sometimes have workshops that talk about this as part of their "Women's techniques" classes.

    Alicia Pons
    Susana Miller
    Jennifer Bratt
  5. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Heh. Well, I tend to walk on the outside edges of my feet. It's something I've been trying to deal with and overcome wrt dancing.

    Also, FYI, I am being conscious to keep my knees together. I've finally kicked the bowlegged habit. I still can't get my feet pretty, though.
  6. DancingMommy

    DancingMommy Active Member

    I roll out on my heels, so I have to be super conscious of that and roll myself in further than I normally would in the heel area. Then I have to make sure I'm not as "turned out" in the toes because my regular stance is a 45 degree turnout.
  7. wonderwoman

    wonderwoman Well-Known Member

    I notice how "ugly" my feet look in cha. Am. tango is just as bad. I suspect it will take me years to start having pretty feet.
  8. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Are your feet turned in at all as you stand and walk? (toes pointed across your body rather than away from your body) Its very hard to maintain that inside edge thing if your feet aren't at least straight. (and this could be because of the hips, not the feet)

    Conversely, some teachers teach what I think is an exaggerated amount of moving the hip back first to move the leg. This can also result in difficulty keeping the foot flat or on the inside edge depending on the structure of your hip and leg and the amount of turn-out you have naturally.

    Also, if your hips tilt (dropping the hip of the working leg and allowing the other hip to get out of alignment to the outside... kinda sitting on it) as you walk, it might make your foot roll to the outside.

    As you walk, don't let your heel get placed further to the outside than your toes, This can happen in side steps... you place your toes and then allow some slight continued movement as you settle the heel so that you end up turned in. Then your next back step on that leg is off.

    It might also help if you don't think so much about pointing your foot all the way through your toes. That may be causing your feet to sickle. (I have a friend who was a diver.. his feet could point far better than mine, but they were sickled when pointed) Think more about caressing the floor with the metatarsal and big toe than about pointing the feet. This will help give you an energized foot without excessive tension.

    Do this experiment... sit in a chair with your legs outstretched and your feet about 12" apart. Try to find a chair deep enough to support your legs almost to the knee to avoid strain on the knee from the weight of the upper leg. If you have alot of trouble with your knees, you can probably do this with something that continues just barely past your knee, but don't do it on the floor because contact with the floor will affect how you hold your foot.

    With your legs stretched in front of you about 12" apart at the foot, point your feet and toes as hard as you can.

    Without changing your feet or legs, move your legs together. Are your heels still apart when your toes reach each other? Where are your knees pointing? (notice I deliberately didn't give you a position for your knees til now. This was so you held your legs in the position natural to you)

    If your knees are not pointing straight to the ceiling, roll your whole leg (from the hip) until the knees are pointed straight up, and see what that does. If you can't get your heels together without rolling the leg, then your feet are definitely turned in from the hip. If your toes and heels were together with your knees pointed outward, then you are quite sickled in the feet.

    Once you have your knees pointing straight up and together, without changing your leg try to press your heels together after your toes touch. Do NOT roll the legs into turnout to get the heels together. Keep the knees pointed upward.

    If you got to this point, now press your feet together (still without changing your legs) so that your ENTIRE foot is touching along the side. NO gap between the toes and heel where your arch is.

    Now if you got to this point, without changing anything else - your legs are together, knees, heels, big toes, arch area... knees pointed at the ceiling - try to keep your heels together and move your toes apart WITHOUT rolling the leg. Move ONLY your toes apart. This may be very difficult. (you may flex your feet SLIGHTLY)

    If the pulling you feel in the outside of the lower leg/ankle/foot during this exercise is new to you, then you probably have never used the ever so slight twist in the foot that keeps you to the inside. How hard it is for you to get your heels together (then whole foot including the arch area) much less move your toes apart, without changing your leg, may indicate how much you have a natural sickle (roll to the outside) to the structure (or habitual use) of your feet and ankles and also might tell you something about how your leg sits in the hip socket.

    That slight twist in the foot is hard to explain but easy to simply show by placing your foot there. (alas, I can't do that from here) I've found for many people, when I move their foot into that position and tell them to hold it there, they look at me as though they've never held their foot like that or felt those muscles working before. I think women particularly have a tendency to be turned in because of the way our hips are, and then not using the muscles on the outside of the leg and foot compounds the pigeon toed effect.

    I've seen some lovely (and well known) dancers whose feet sickle as they walk (especially backwards). Depending on the structure of their hip/knee/ankle and foot joints, it might create too much unnatural compensation in other places to change it.
  9. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    If you are somewhat bowlegged, you may be accustomed to feeling some stretch in the muscles I was talking about, but not accustomed to feeling contraction or having the muscles work. (I'm knock-kneed, so its all the opposite for me)
  10. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    I have to ask the question, who said you have ugly feet? You can't see them when you are dancing.

    Women are bombarded with magazine images of how they are supposed to look in order to be considered attractive. We become hypnotized into buying the latest miracle cream that will wash away whatever we have that doesn't meet the standard.

    We are falling for the same trap in tango dancing. The young girls who were lucky enough to have ballet classes are dancing circles around us with all the men we would like to have as partners. We want them to make us feel beautiful and especially when we are wearing our expensive tango shoes from Buenos Aires. Those shoes are supposed to guarantee we will have beautiful feet and get more tandas. Then we can be happy.

    We eventually realize that we have to accept ourselves as we are. We may not have the whitest teeth, the clearest skin, or the longest legs, but we can feel good about ourselves. It has to come from inside.

    The tango world, thanks to the technology of YouTube, has given us an impossible standard to achieve. The exhibition videos of professionals leave us yearning to be like them and to have what they have, no matter what the cost. What we often fail to realize is that we don't have to be like them...with pretty feet. Those feet may impress but they don't contain one drop of the true essence of what tango is about. All those embellishment, high kicks, and fancy feet are for show time. They are to rope you in so that you will part with your money for lots of classes. In the end you are no better off.

    We women have to do the best we can with what we have. If we didn't have ballet training for years when we were young, we're not going to become overnight sensations at a milonga. We have to find ourselves and then be who we are...ugly feet and all. It doesn't matter who is watching us or what they are thinking. We can be a first-rate version of ourselves rather than a second-rate copy of someone else. After all, it's better to authentic.

    I had dance classes from the age of five and have been a social dance teacher for twenty years. I never heard in all my years of dancing to dance on the "inside edge" of my foot. If I had, I would have questioned the teacher about why I should ruin my feet. No dance should abuse or injure in its proper execution.
  11. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    I know that I am not female, but I am well known for training muscles and for creating exquiste feet of follows. The above are a coupel of good points from Zoops. Further it to say, that simply practicing standing w/ the feet together, then "caressingly" pointing front/side/back "from the hip" maintaining a leg turned in action/feeling will help tremendously. That being said, the following by Jan is tantamount.
    This is not to say that one doesn't have a sense of what feels/looks good, only that, save for proper tech and kinesthetics, there are many ways of looking good.
  12. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Have you ever noticed that some of the most elegant and famous older performing tangueras wear basic black shoes in classic styles and are rarely, if ever, seen in high stilleto heeled fancy shoes? They don't WANT you to focus on their feet. Fancy shoes tend to take your eyes OFF the "whole person" and especially off the couple.

    So I totally agree with Jantango about accepting yourself and not worrying too much about whether your feet look like the pros. That's why I added the bit about how it may create other problems to fix it, especially if its related to the shapes and joints of your leg/hip/ankle/foot

    However, if you are rolling to the outside because of something about your execution, or a misuse of your muscles and joints, then it might be worth analyzing (if for no other reason than to avoid stress to your joints). For instance if its because you allow your hip to keep traveling past the proper center in a side step resulting in the heel moving further after the toe is placed. Or if its because of excessive dropping/lifting or twisting in the hips (resulting in a curve in your axis) as you walk. Or if its because some muscles somewhere are weak.

    One of the things I learned from skating (which may not be totally applicable to tango, although it certainly seems to be for ME) is that much of what goes wrong in the legs and feet is actually a RESULT of something going wrong with the hips. In the long run, your feet are just attached to your leg. Your feet can't be pretty if the rest of it isn't right, no matter WHAT you do with your feet.

    As you may know, skaters deal a great deal with the whole inside and outside edge thing, but what isn't intuitive is that, in skating, to avoid falling too far over, when you are on an inside edge, you actually press with the outside of your foot. Likewise, when you are on on outside edge, you press on the inside. People don't need to do both when walking down the street, so typically the muscles that would do one of these 2 things are stronger than the muscles to do the opposite, depending on how the legs are set in the hip socket and how bowed or knock-kneed the knees are. (and how much the person is unconsciously compensating for these things or taking the weight in all their movements, resulting in walking more to the outside or inside of their foot)

    So if its bothering you, I would find someone who can help you determine whether there is some technique issue you need to deal with about how you use your hips and leg, and not try to fix it by "fixing" your feet. Unless everything else is great and you just have the "floppy-fish feet" thing going on (and that's not what it sounds like) the rolling of the feet is likely a result of something else, not a thing of its own.

    But I also second Jantango's question "Who told you..".
    I mean, you can't see them yourself because you aren't looking down, right?
  13. spectator

    spectator Member

    I think it's still nice to strive for elegant feet though, when you watch the way the feet move just during simple walking minus embellishments you can feel the quality of movement. At some practicas I used to go to they had mirrors up so every so often you could check your posture or how your feet look.

    I think elegance is more important than prettiness, and I also know that some people watch the feet when they are deciding who to dance with. That made me paranoid enough to spend a lot of time practicing walking and doing ochos with no decorations in front of a mirror a few years ago. I think it worked as it is something that people notice and comment on. I'm still working on it actually! Isn't it so that walking is the hardest part?

    maybe it's just a matter of practice and experimentation?
  14. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Every time I have ever tried to check myself in a mirror while dancing with a partner, I've immediately made a mistake or mis-followed something because I took my attention off my partner. Mirrors are great when you are practicing by yourself, but how do you check anything in them when trying to follow? Always backfires on me!
  15. spectator

    spectator Member

    Aha when you are dancing in a ballet studio with floor to ceiling mirrors on three walls you can't miss catching a glimpse of what you are doing! But a lot of the work on how to walk and do ochos was done solo- Maria Rivrarola (cringe! name dropping, not deliberate she's just someone I really admire) says to practice on your own for a bit to get the fluid motion going.

    oh yes and i forgot a long time ago our teachers used to video us dancing so we could see where our postural or walking problems were (and also to show that we weren't as bad as we thought we were), that might be something worth doing too- it really helps you see the difference between what you think you are doing and what you are really doing...It might be that it looks better than you think as usually we are our own harshest critics...
  16. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I had the opposite experience... video showed me that I wasn't as GOOD as I thought i was! Now I watch video like a horror movie... squinting through my fingers with my hands in front of my eyes. ;)
  17. Nybz

    Nybz New Member

    Hehe, I think I'll try squinting though fingers for my next video.
    Thanks for the tip Zoopsia59 :D
  18. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    I agree mostly with what y'all have said regarding feet.

    If it's a structural or functional problem stemming from the legs and hips...and you walk that way normally...well...that's going to be harder to deal with than if you've just made some technique mistakes.

    But regarding black shoes...that's probably more personal habit and tradition than people actively thinking "don't look at me feet". If you really want to take attention off your feet- stick to neutral shades of shoes. Anything that contrasts will draw attention to your feet (including black). (THis was always my understanding of why in ballroom you wear neutral on the feet- so the whole leg and body line is emphasized rather than feet.)

    Have you ever videoed youself? Sometimes you think something looks really bad and it doesn't (and sometimes the reverse also). But being able to watch yourself on tape will be able to give you an overall view of your body in motion that you and a teacher can't really get any other way.

    That being said, one of my favorite saying of my main teacher is that he'd rather dance with someone who is pigeon-toed, bowlegged and forgets to collect than someone with an uncomfortable embrace....so unless you are going for that "performance look".....

    I'd still work on being elegant and making sure the feet aren't causing problems in the actual feel of the dance. We all have to accept that there's going to be parts we are unhappy with or have to keep striving for.

    I'll never have feet as nice looking as Alicia Pons et al (partly due to foot problems that keep me from working my feet in the way that those ladies do) but I don't expect to ever have to perform for an audience so that's ok with me.
  19. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Elegance comes from within. It's an attitude about oneself which is demonstrated in the way one moves, dances, etc. Tango should be danced with elegance.

    Ballet feet seems to be the latest fad in tango. Wearing stilettos with the heel tip raised off the floor is not natural nor appropriate for tango or any other social dance. Teachers with ballet training should forget their ballet barre exercises and teach what is appropriate for the social dance floor.

    Feet have become the focus instead of the embrace. If the embrace was primary for more dancers, they would worry less about their feet and concentrate more on feeling the music. Tango is, after all, a feeling that is danced.
  20. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Yeah, well, I'm a damn farm girl/tombow--minus the farm--who loves tango. I love the music, and the feeling, and the connection. But no matter what, no matter where, no matter what the context, "elegant" just isn't me. Period. Never has been, never will be...at least not without some serious effort.

    Elegant, for me, is not going to happen by relaxing and feeling the music and the embrace. Feeling the music is never, and has never been, something of an issue for me. It's the fact that I look like a tomboy who should be in cutoffs, and i move about the same. The only way I'm going to get elegant is to think about it, and work on it and practice it. Like I do the rest of my dancing.

    FTR, I know how my feet look because most places I dance have floor-to-ceiling mirrors on at least one long wall. If the guy is short enough that I can look over his right shoulder, I catch glimpses from time to time. I don't like what I see. I'm not saying I'm trying to be perfect, or go for "ballet feet" (where did ballet ever come into this? when did I ever mention bringing my heels off the floor? hell, i use my heels all the time. i'm not talking about ballet, I'm talking about pretty tango feet.), or work on my feet to the point of ignoring other, more important parts. But I want to be elegant, and beautiful, and part of that--for me--is how I hold and use my feet. It's something I have seen and admiried in other dancers, and is something I would like to strive towards. Why is that so damn hard to understand?

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