Tango Argentino > Watching Yourself Dance to Improve

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by TomTango, Jun 12, 2013.

  1. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    My dance partner and I (I'm the lead) decided to video ourselves dancing at the end of a local practica to try to spot weaknesses in form. Watching yourself dance is rough! I immediately noticed quite a few wince-inducing form issues for me.

    I thought I'd put myself out there share the video with the community and ask for any thoughts/critiques on our dancing. Do other people video themselves dancing?

    Background: we've been dancing tango for about a year, and it was our first dance.

    Oh, and sorry about the vertical picture!
  2. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    If that was improvised, you have impressive musicality for someone who danced only once year.

    I think your main issue is that you're a bit hunched - try to raise your plexus solaris (breathe in deeply expanding your chest and you'll get the idea). That will also allow you to have a different 'cadencia' and to transition a bit more smoothly between steps when you want. And once you have that posture, why not make contact at the chest? You've got a style of dancing that would be perfect for a parallel close embrace.

    From time to time you also don't collect your feet, and that makes your axis go somewhere that makes you _forced_ to take the step, i.e. fall into it. E.g. if you have a diagonal step forward-and-right, try to make it 'clean' by making it forward then right. That too will allow you to modulate the way you take steps (even though the way you stepped here did suit the music, other music may ask for something else).

    There's also a bit of bounciness from time to time (i.e. when you end up feet closed you raise yourself a bit) but my guess is that it will go away when you work a bit on your posture.

    Personally, I'd have died to dance that well after a year.
    bordertangoman likes this.
  3. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    I watched without sound so I cannot judge the musicality. ;)

    Use the floor. Step on it.
    Your posture is very vague when dancing. Consistent posture makes your dancing easier to understand.
    It seems that you always use both legs while leading some figures.
    And some figures you performed need open embrace.
    Changing open to close and vice versa is very challenging.

    It seems that you pushing forward with you straight body or even hips.
    Some dancers call that anti walking, while some condone straight body but never hips.

    You must have forward pressure from your feet i.e. step.

    Watch Carlitos Espinoza's walk and posture.
    There many videos on the youtube. :)
  4. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member


    straighten your legs occasionally. this will have the effect of forcing your weight forward into your partner, will make your feet work harder, and a stronger connection into the solar plexus, as Sixela says. Engage your quads more; think like you are walking on an icy surface and you dont want your feet to slip away from you, plus all the above.:D
    Lois Donnay likes this.
  5. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I agree with what sixela said. You are doing well for 1 year. The posture could be better, and you should try to collect more.

    Also, (and you are doing this sometimes, but like with collecting, not enough), you want to have continuous movement as much as possible. Often, this means you have to slow down in getting (you and/or her) to a collected position, to prevent from having to stop moving between steps.

    If you stick with it, you are going to be very good, as you do have skills.
    bordertangoman likes this.
  6. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    Thanks for all the critiques and compliments everyone! It's nice to know I saw some things that others saw, but also got some info on things I missed. To be fair to my musicality, I've danced to that song a good number of times.

    I agree my posture looks hunched, and it's getting to be a hard habit to break. When I raise my chest and make it big, my lower back tends to become more rounded and stick my butt out. Rotating my pelvis helps this, but if I go overboard my hips are too far forward. I'm still trying to strike a balance. Also, I'm bent at the waist, but that may be a symptom of the chest.

    Collecting more seems to be the other big issue. Rising up when I collect is hard to not do because it feels nice, and also because it's easier to lead a weight change. Nobody mentioned this, but it looks like when I collect at the ankles there's still some daylight through my knees. Should I focus more on collecting at the knees+ankles? Also, are my knees generally too bent? Falling into steps is the bane of my existence.

    Sixela, I didn't realize my embrace wasn't as square as I thought it was until you mentioned it. I'll have to pay more attention to it!

    After posture and collection, the other big piece of the puzzle seems to be walking form. The thing I noticed most before I posted the video was that my steps had a lazy or sleepy quality to them. They lacked crispness. Some of your comments seem to hint at this, but I'm not sure what they mean. Mladenac, could you clarify your anti walking comment? Also, I'm not sure what you mean when you say I use both legs when leading some figures. Do you mean I have my weight split?

    Bordertangoman, do you mean I should straighten my leading walking leg more?

    Dchester, agreed on the continuous movement. I've been trying to make my default step size longer at the suggestion of an instructor. However, generating more power without going faster is a difficult concept for me, and sometimes I arrive at my next step too soon.
  7. Yogur griego

    Yogur griego Member

    Honestly.... you are dancing much more musically than a great deal of so-called advanced dancers where I live. It´s not only about knowing a song, having listened to it a few times. Your dancing shows that you have a certain degree of experience with hearing (not just listening) the music that is especially rare among people who have not been dancing for so long.

    What I want to add about your dancing, well, pay more attention to the bounciness Sixela is referring to. That is not necessarily only a posture problem. You should practice more walking on your own, as homework, think of an elegant, stable walk. It is good to be relaxed and not as stiff as balroom dancing, but tango is not swing dancing either. I think our movements must be flexible but also subdued, controlled, on the same level. Finding teachers who focus on these things too, instead of just step sequences, helps a lot.

    You have a lot of courage! Everything I see and read here shows that you are a highly promising dancer.
  8. LKSO

    LKSO Active Member

    It's probably that you're hunching over to create more connection with your partner as you two aren't connected very well. I sometimes do this to try to force a connection with someone who has poor/weak form. But I've learned that it's just easier to hold the woman firmly against my chest. Your partner has some things that she could work on, too, such as firmness of the torso and straight legs. I recommend that you dance with other, more experienced dancers as this will force you to accommodate and help with posture.

    If you dance with a partner with a wobbly torso or is too vertical, bending at the waist helps create space to allow your legs to move without striking the knees. A partner with a firm torso and weight forward makes it easier to not bend at the waist.

    It's not necessary to puff out your chest; just make your body perfectly aligned with weight forward. Puffing out the chest is a technique to create a connection. However, it's a very poor technique, especially if it isn't reciprocated, and wastes a lot of energy.

    And as for collecting, I disagree that it's in anyway necessary. Space between the knees also don't matter. You aren't on stage. Forcing the knees together, while it may look nice, takes unnecessary and unnatural effort which compromises the connection with your partner and the music. Just let your feet fall in a place that gives you maximum balance. If you are balanced, your partner will most likely be, too.

    Keeping the legs straight will help a lot. If you've been told to walk with knees bent, this is very bad advice. This increases the chance of tripping over your own feet and you creep about as a result. Walking on bent knees absorbs the energy from every step, making it difficult to communicate to your partner. All of this holds true for the woman as well.
    Lois Donnay and Mladenac like this.
  9. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    My posture tip courtesy of Skippy Blair.

    The "Centering Knob" is located where the base of the neck and spine connect. Pressing that knob straight back... actually tilts the chest cavity into a different posture... and also help(s) center the head directly over the spine.

    My most influential AT teacher would gently place his hand on the this same area, reminding me to not hunch over.

    Stand sideways in front of a mirror (sans shirt and pants for best effect) and do this enough that you know what it feels like. Begin reminding yourself as you go through your daily life. Also add it to a check list you run through when you are dancing, and run through that list when you are on the floor.

    And like folks are saying, your musicality is WAY above average. And I even DIDN'T think, wow, look, random ganchos.
  10. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    Yes, I mean you have weight split. It's ok to play with figures like you did, but on one leg.
    Anti walking you step with your hips forward.
    Tango walking should be more like natural walking, but more concentrated.
    When you walk you lower a bit and go under your partner.
    I usually go forward and then step, like a normal walking.

    Nice walking demo with musicality:

    I would say that musicality is good. You are listening to melody and rhythm. :)

    What I miss is dissociation in your dancing and your (both) embrace is too rigid.
    And since you want to dance close embrace, you must have body contact (not with arms).
    At it seems that you are preparing too much to perform figures.
    And you are struggling too much in close embrace.
    Learning relaxed dancing in open embrace is good precondition for close embrace.
    Dancing is quite different, but you have more space and time for correction. :)
    Yogur griego likes this.
  11. Yogur griego

    Yogur griego Member

    Well... don´t you think that is above all a question of experience and familiarity? If you adapt good habits, and keep focussing on getting the basics right you will eventually be able dance technically correct, ie in this case collecting the knees, without sacrificing the elements you mention.
  12. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    I completely agree with straight legs but disagree about knees.
    IMHO Keeping knees helps a lot about balance and control of movements.
    And later when you master that kind of walking you will have consistent walking with great balance. ;)
  13. LKSO

    LKSO Active Member

    My legs are straight, from hip socket to ankles. My knees do not naturally touch when walking or standing. I can force them to touch by bending my knees as I walk, but then I look like a runway model strutting her stuff. While some people are impressed by it (I think that's the point), it's completely useless and IMO, impedes the connection with my partner because of the added movement, which actually throws off my balance.

    Now, if my knee joints bent inward so that my knees touched when I stood up straight, this would be entirely different. Then the knees would naturally brush as I walked and I wouldn't have to force it together.

    These differences are due to anatomy. Some people have straight legs and others have inward bent knees. If the knees naturally brush together, then let it do that. But if they don't, then don't force it. Forcing it causes issues of balance, like when I noticed how women with straight legs started tipping over when the teacher told them to "brush the knees." But, these women naturally stopped doing it probably because it's inefficient and ineffective. Another bad advice he gave was walking with the knees bent because women who walked this way started tripping over their own feet, sometimes multiple times in just one song.
  14. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    Yup, that's what gives it a slightly hesitant feeling; it looks like you're a bit afraid to just commit yourself to going where you're going because your partner is 'in the way'.

    In fact, your connection means that she _will_ get out of the way so you have to learn to step as naturally as you would without a partner in the way. Of course, eliminating the gap between you two and making sure your weight is above the ball of your feet will do wonders to connect in a way that after some time will make you confident you can move in unison, and you'll probably lose that trait of your walk.

    It's all connected [pun intended].
  15. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    The point is, I think, that if you have the centre of gravity over one leg you can stretch the other bringing the other foot to the ground smoothly, but only if the standing leg is slightly bent (not inward or outward, just bent). That is what determines your natural stride length. The important bit is that when _both_ your legs are together, if they are completely unbent you'll by definition be higher than with two unbent legs spread apart (and your natural stride length is zero when you have two straight legs, and any step you take from there necessarily entails falling unless you _first_ lower yourself).

    When you collect, you don't do so out of a sense of aesthetics, but to avoid your COG from wobbling to somewhere that will force you to fall into a step uncontrollably just to avoid tipping over. What the leg actually does is immaterial (there are actually adornos that will _not_ collect your feet, when you do a lapiz or a planeo you're over your standing leg but with feet uncollected), collecting the feet is just fairly natural for the travel of the COG over your standing foot (which is the important bit, because that gives you a neutral point that can be the basis for many different steps).
  16. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    FWIW, I don't think that taking a longer step is always the correct answer. If you are the only couple dancing (i.e. a performance), then it is a good idea. However, if you are dancing at a milonga, then it might not be such a good idea, and it might make other things more difficult.

    Another way to approach the "more power" thing, is to think of it as moving with more confidence. Sometimes you are a bit too tentative, (which is pretty normal for someone at the 1 year level).

    (and BTW, we won't talk about how sucky my dancing was at the one year level)

    Mladenac likes this.
  17. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    Your dancing should describe the music and to fit the floor.
    It's possible to describe the music even with smaller steps. :D
    As a teacher I would only suggest that you step with more naturally i.e. with more confidence.
  18. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    Don't. Make it natural (but don't step hesitantly 'under' your follower, see above), i.e. just comfortably straighten your extending leg before transferring weight over it. The lower you are positioned (which also means that with two feet collected you will have knees that are bent more), the more your natural stride length will be large. It's only too short if _both_ your legs are still bent when you've taken a large step.

    It's quite normal for people to have a problem in the beginning in which their side steps _are_ natural but their forward steps are too short (out of fear of stepping onto the other partner). It takes trust in the mechanical connection of the embrace to overcome that. If you move, she will, and the only danger you have of stepping on her is indeed if you step 'under' her before moving your body instead of moving your body with forward intention to indicate where you want to land and _then_ step, in one smooth movement.

    Of course that all also means that _both_ your natural stride lengths should be adjusted to each other, but that's 'tuned' by adjusting the embrace and relative height of the partners. If she can't take a back step with leg extended (assuming she doesn't make it too long by incorrect pelvis rotation) while you can take a forward step with leg extended, she's too low with respect to you.
  19. Yogur griego

    Yogur griego Member

    Be more careful with 1:02 .... if a different woman reacts with more energy, your testicles will not be too grateful.
  20. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    You sure about that? :p

    Mladenac, I really liked your walking video. I'm shooting for about that stride length while walking. I run into trouble when pausing, like Jorge does in the steps around 1:05. I feel pulled forward, and it's hard to maintain counterbalance. Either I'm making my partner feel like there's another step, or she's not giving me enough resistance. I'm going to try to leave my trailing leg behind slightly longer and see if that helps. Also, i'm going to use the video as an example to all my friends who insist they don't have the "body" for tango.

    I think collecting at the knees is probably the least of my worries, so I think I'll abandon it for now.
    I was trying to put this into practice yesterday, and realized that the reason I feel like I need to step under my partner is that if I don't, I have the feeling that I'm toppling her over, like her upper body is moving faster than her lower body. Again, it could be my fault, that I'm so used to stepping under that doing anything else feels weird. Or, it could be justified. That's one of the pitfalls of dancing with one person a lot: you both embody each other's bad habits. Perhaps feeling like my step size is small is an illusion and a symptom of shuffling steps, and simply making my steps more elegant will fix this.

    Yogur: Agreed. Every great tango dancer needs a nickname, but I don't know if I want "Castrato" to be mine!

    This has been really fun and humbling picking apart my dance like this with a group of people. Sort of a crowd-sourced private lesson. If everyone enjoys it too, I'll post a follow up video where I try to embody some of your suggestions.

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