Contracontrabody Movement Cross System?

#1
One of the biggest improvements to my Tango has been learning to do contrabody movement. For example, when your right foot goes forward, your shoulders twist a bit clockwise as viewed from the top (left shoulder goes forward). You do it naturally when you walk.

I don't know what the opposite is called, so I'll call it contracontrabody movement. An example of this is when you want to put more force into a punch, you'll step forward with your right foot as you punch forward with your right hand and shoulder.

So I get this for parallel system. Now that I'm doing it more consistently, I can lead double time steps with much more ease. Many leads just seem to flow better. It can also be a fun embellishment to overemphasize contrabody motion. Two experienced lady instructors independently said my walk had greatly improved recently, I assume due to doing contrabody movement.

Fortunately, contrabody as a lead for parallel system is the same contrabody motion for the lady, so we are in sync.

What I haven't been able to find is what about cross system? If seems the lead should be doing contracontrabody motion in that case? Or does the lead stick with contrabody motion and "force" the follower to do contracontrabody motion? Or should it be a rocking embrace, where you'd open a gap on the left side of the embrace and then the right? Or is it best to compromise and keep the shoulders square to the floorboards and stop their motion?

Thanks for any insights or video links!
 
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Mladenac

Well-Known Member
#2
We all do contrabody movement when walking, it is natural.
BUT, when we need to do it consciously we have a lot of problems.
Only the thing in cross system when leading cross (cruzado) the lead should be more subtle.

The more awareness you bring to your lead the better.
And over time you will be able to focus completely on your partner dancing.
 

LadyLeader

Active Member
#4
Yes I know the question - have been sitting and discussing it trough the nights. Theoretically in cross system one in the couple should be doing ipsilateral movements if the upper bodies stay together but if both continue do the contralateral movements the left/right shoulders should do some kind of together/away movements. (Ipsilateral /contralateral were the terms I got from a English speaking friend - dissociation is the contralateral movement)

In a real life situation the cross system positions are not so clear because you usually are not exactly in front of your partner and in most of the situations the follower is doing small ochos. This is Oscar Casas version


Somewhere 2005 Fabian Salas told us that the leaders need not to dissociate - at that time he had not solved the dissociation question for followers. With other words you can dance tango at high level without dissociation!
 

Gssh

Well-Known Member
#5
Interesting question - i will have to dance about it, but here are my first thoughts:

Biases: i tend to dance counterbalanced, no offset, parallel, close embrace.

I tend to think of the counterbody movement not as something that is about the shoulder, but about the hip. It is associated with the opening of the pelvis that is in my opinion the core of (one kind of) good tango walk, i.e. the leg hinging at the ribs, and the movement of the leg being driven by the back muscles.

The key difference between the cross-system and the parallel system is in my opinion not that we moved from 2 tracks to 3 tracks, but that we are dissociate - as long as we maintain dissociation and move "diagonally" we will stay in the cross-system, when we are aligned again we end up in parallel (modulo that our feet are in the way and all that). So it seems natural to me that the role that dissociation plays in our walk has to change - if we walk straight we need to dissociate to free up the hip, but if we walk diagonally we basically already on one side of the contrabody, and we don't leave it.

basically i think that this is a illusionary problem caused by using the 3-track as the reference for what the cross-system is, and not the dissociation/movement diagonal to the shoulder line.
 
#6
One of the biggest improvements to my Tango has been learning to do contrabody movement. For example, when your right foot goes forward, your shoulders twist a bit clockwise as viewed from the top (left shoulder goes forward). You do it naturally when you walk.

I don't know what the opposite is called, so I'll call it contracontrabody movement. An example of this is when you want to put more force into a punch, you'll step forward with your right foot as you punch forward with your right hand and shoulder.

So I get this for parallel system. Now that I'm doing it more consistently, I can lead double time steps with much more ease. Many leads just seem to flow better. It can also be a fun embellishment to overemphasize contrabody motion. Two experienced lady instructors independently said my walk had greatly improved recently, I assume due to doing contrabody movement.

Fortunately, contrabody as a lead for parallel system is the same contrabody motion for the lady, so we are in sync.

What I haven't been able to find is what about cross system? If seems the lead should be doing contracontrabody motion in that case? Or does the lead stick with contrabody motion and "force" the follower to do contracontrabody motion? Or should it be a rocking embrace, where you'd open a gap on the left side of the embrace and then the right? Or is it best to compromise and keep the shoulders square to the floorboards and stop their motion?

Thanks for any insights or video links!
Hey there!
You are looking at what is called locomotion, in body mechanics. As you have already felt, it the way part of how the human body moves, a evolutionary pattern that when you tap into it, you movement becomes much smoother, because it is more energy efficient.
What happens at the base--our feet--is following that twist lets call it. Meaning that, ideally, when we walk our free heel steps closer to our body's central line, because of locomotion, this allows for the hips to align without strain. If you notice though walking down the street you see many people stepping away from the central line, it will look a bit off, like a penguin walk.

Now with all this in mind think of people running... There locomotion is at its max, and therefore very obvious. Which means that the body can create that twist at that extent and still travel forward no problem. If we put those to elements together.. in a cross system you tap into locomotion--it will happen anyway better to be aware of it. For the cross system to be successful and smooth, make sure you are stepping close to your partner's axis and that you are still aiming to travel forward and not from left to right.

Lastly, a few concepts, that can help you, are:
1) The "motor" of your movement is not in your legs it is around your diaphragm
2) With this being said, forget about your legs pushing you forward and instead focus on making them move your hips through locomotion
3) Your arms are the extension of your body not only a frame
4) Make your dance more quiet

Videos and resources:
Frey Faust: Bautanz: If you are athletic: Ido Portal: Body mind Centering school--There are some videos online but you can find plenty of their classes in the US: https://www.bodymindcentering.com/
Pete Blackaby: And if you like swimming: Total Immersion
Podcast one of the many with Terry Laughlin--Great notes on biomechanics: https://tim.blog/2017/10/29/terry-laughlin/
 

dchester

Moderator
Staff member
#7
One of the biggest improvements to my Tango has been learning to do contrabody movement. For example, when your right foot goes forward, your shoulders twist a bit clockwise as viewed from the top (left shoulder goes forward). You do it naturally when you walk.

I don't know what the opposite is called, so I'll call it contracontrabody movement. An example of this is when you want to put more force into a punch, you'll step forward with your right foot as you punch forward with your right hand and shoulder.
I call the opposite movement, the Frankenstein walk.

Believe it or not, some people do naturally walk that way, (and it's hard to get them to stop doing it).

Personally, I view CBM as a form of cadencia (walking with style). My advice is to use it when it's helpful (or you're going for a certain look), and don't use it when it's not helpful (I know, not exactly earth shattering advise, but it's all I have).

 

opendoor

Well-Known Member
#8
One of the biggest improvements to my Tango has been learning to do contra body movement. For example, when your right foot goes forward, your shoulders twist a bit clockwise..
Being honest with you, break that habit. Its totally wrong. Simply take it as a first inkling of your incipient body awareness. (Such counter rotating caminadas only are done in tango solo performances, before bullfights, or on the catwalk of fashion exhibitions).
Tango Distance said:
So I get this for parallel system...
Parallel system consists of three different walks on three different tracks: in front of each other, right outside, or left outside. Consider the left outside position first, its step n° 3 in Pugliese´s 8-count basic. The leaders shoulders twist 35-45° clockwise, when the right foot steps forward. As a result of this dissociation, the leaders and the followers shoulders now are aligned parallel again. And they should remain parallel as long as the dissociated walk will last: no oscillation, no wobbling, no counter movement. The lower body walkes dissociated, the upper body is aligned to the follower.
If you walk right side out, your shoulders would remain twisted counter-clockwise as long as you walk that track.
If you should walk vis-à-vis in parallel system your shoulders are not allowed to oscillate against your lower body when stepping.

All this counts for tight and open hold, of course. The aim is to walk smooth, calm, elegant, cool.

Tango Distance said:
..What I haven't been able to find is what about cross system?
Same with crossed system. No oscillating counter rotation. Only turn your upper (!) body as far as to allign parallel again with your partner.
 
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#9
The aim is to walk smooth, calm, elegant, cool.
I think the aim should be to indicate where I stand or go to, indicate where I would like her to stand or go to - and during that to dance.
But of course, explicit counter body moves would generate disturbing waves - an imagination of moving smooth and elegant might do the job.
 

ArbeeNYC

Active Member
#10
One of the biggest improvements to my Tango has been learning to do contrabody movement. For example, when your right foot goes forward, your shoulders twist a bit clockwise as viewed from the top (left shoulder goes forward). You do it naturally when you walk.

Thanks for any insights or video links!
That rolling gait is part of normal walking but the extent of the "roll" varies. You see it exaggerated in some guys who want to effect a "tough guy" walk - that deliberate rolling of the shoulders that vaguely resembles the gait of a large cat, a tiger, for example. If you notice it, it's affected. [There's an excellent example of this in one of the (very silly) Ace Ventura movies, where Jim Carey's character rolls his shoulders excessively as he walks.] There is some of that in tango walking because that's the way the body moves but you don't want to emphasize it or do it deliberately. I can't recall seeing any video of any of the old milongueros doing it. If you're walking straight ahead in a tango walk, I would think you'd want your shoulders not to twist too much about the vertical axis.
 
#11
I mostly agree with others who say that contra/contracontra body movements are not so important in dancing. I think though that they are good when you are learning to distribute the movements' echoes through the body. In the beginning I just moved my feet - teachers asked me: How does she know you want her to take a step too - i think today there is a lot of information in my palms about my feet positions.

Another possibility is to spice up your dancing with these two systems. Here Horacio is using contrabody for the right back step and contracontrabody for the left. She mostly the contracontrabody.


Stop the video at feet landing to check or run it att .25 speed to see the positions clearly
 

RiseNFall

Well-Known Member
#12
@Tango Distance, first, major caveat: I dance a lot more BR Tango than I do Argentine Tango, but to a certain extent, dancing well is dancing well. I was taught the terms as "contra-body movement" and "same side leading". While CBM is natural, some of us don't move the way we would be expected to--my current default walk across the room shows some CBM, but not involving all of the typical body parts. Thus, what would be a subtle, normal, unforced amount of CBM for most people while dancing just isn't for me. I realized recently that it had in fact become much easier for me (yay!). Until it did, I tended to introduce a certain amount of unwanted tension and stiffness while working on it.

I cannot answer your original question, but I'm hoping that I have given you some insight as to why you are getting a certain amount of pushback about something that seems to have improved your Tango so much. I'm guessing that you are like me and had to work at something that comes more naturally to a lot of people.
 

TomTango

Active Member
#13
Hey @Tango Distance! Great job using contrabody movement to make your tango feel better. Let me try to address what you want from your post.

  • I've been using "co-body" movement to denote the opposite of "contrabody" movement. Don't think it's the scientific term, but it gets what I mean across
  • I'm delighted you're using contrabody movement as a means to emphasize the lead on double-time steps. I think it's really useful for this.
  • Moving "in cross system" is a really large category of things. If we're talking 3-track walking without pivots, I'd generally keep my upper body dissociated left or right, and any contrabody sway/cadencia would be very minimal if present at all. If we're talking traveling back ochos with pivot, then I use co-body movement to lead the pivots when stepping. In fact, I think back ochos are the best place to see co-body movement (for the lead) in tango.
Here's a fun video showcasing using contrabody/co-body to lead double time (or quad-time!) movements in both parallel system and cross system. It's really hard to see the internal contrabody movements if you watch the shoulders - watch the hands on the open side of the embrace instead.

 

opendoor

Well-Known Member
#16
I think the aim should be to indicate where I stand or go to...
Nope. Leading is a different kind of animal. Simply ask the girls what they prefer, seesawing or a calm upper body!
Here's a fun video showcasing using contrabody/co-body to lead double time..
You´re cheating, vals isn't tango, and leading back8s in double time should not result in oscillating shoulders but wiggling hips!
 
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ArbeeNYC

Active Member
#17
Here's a fun video showcasing using contrabody/co-body to lead double time (or quad-time!) movements in both parallel system and cross system. It's really hard to see the internal contrabody movements if you watch the shoulders - watch the hands on the open side of the embrace instead.

Video is dreadful though. They're playing at tango.
 
#18
There are many good ideas flowing here, so I'm going to break my responses into separate posts.

RiseNFall I think you are right and thank you for your response. I'd expect for some (many?) here contrabody motion came naturally or quickly, and some might not even realize they are doing it. I suspect some others are worried I'm over exaggerating the motion.

Multiple instructors tried to get me to do contrabody movement. I would think hard about what to do, and wind up doing cobody movement. The instructors assured me it was one of those things where it is hard to do if you think about it, yet you do it naturally when you walk. Finally, 2 and 1/2 years into Tango, I had a small class teaching contrabody movement. Something clicked, and I could do it. It was just a few steps at a time at first, but now I can do it pretty reliably walking forward. It has been a great thing, it feels great and seems to make double time steps happen easily when walking forward. Per my instructors, I was not doing it before (possibly was even doing cobody movements).

If I hold my shoulders with my hands (to take out arm swinging motion) it looks like my shoulders move around +- 1 cm to +- 2 cm, depending on how big the steps are. When I was finally able to do it in class, my dear wife (DW) called the instructor over, saying we weren't doing it. We were doing it, but it was subtle enough she wasn't detecting it. I have done it with other ladies, even exaggerating it to be twice as big, and they can't tell anything different is going on when I ask. I think generally I'm subtle with it. For now, I'm only using it to walk, but was thinking whether it could help other parts of my Tango, hence this thread.
@Tango Distance, first, major caveat: I dance a lot more BR Tango than I do Argentine Tango, but to a certain extent, dancing well is dancing well. I was taught the terms as "contra-body movement" and "same side leading". While CBM is natural, some of us don't move the way we would be expected to--my current default walk across the room shows some CBM, but not involving all of the typical body parts. Thus, what would be a subtle, normal, unforced amount of CBM for most people while dancing just isn't for me. I realized recently that it had in fact become much easier for me (yay!). Until it did, I tended to introduce a certain amount of unwanted tension and stiffness while working on it.

I cannot answer your original question, but I'm hoping that I have given you some insight as to why you are getting a certain amount of pushback about something that seems to have improved your Tango so much. I'm guessing that you are like me and had to work at something that comes more naturally to a lot of people.
 
#19
Chrisa Assis, many thanks for your great post. I think the part where you are on one foot really illustrates contrabody motion very well, and would make for a good class exercise for teaching it (YouTube link jumps to the action at 4m21s):

This gave rise to some experimentation, I encourage everyone to try this. I stood on one foot, and moved similar to how Chrisa did contrabody in her video (it just seemed to happen for me, I didn't have to think hard, but when my DW tried it she did cobody movement). Then, as contrast, try doing cobody movement. I did it with my hands on my shoulders to avoid swinging arms.

With cobody I found I either needed to push off the floor with the "free" foot, or twist via my standing foot. I could feel my foot having to grip the floor and twisting force in my knee. In contrast, contrabody didn't require traction with the floor, and the knees could be much more relaxed. Contrabody could be done on ice!

Another fun variant was to jump rotationally back and forth, via cobody and via contrabody. This was easier in a way in that it was split weight and not standing on one leg.

In both cases, I found I could twist roughly 3x as fast using contrabody! This makes sense to me. In skiing you can turn much faster if your shoulders and skis twist in opposite directions. Learning that was a huge improvement to my skiing.

Yet another advantage to using contrabody: It uses your core muscles, which are at a larger radius from the axis of rotation, than using your leg to twist.

Finally, contrabody motion is yet another way to communicate to your partner, and allows your partner to respond more quickly. It's not a secret handshake, it is leveraging something we do naturally when we walk (but can forget to do while Tangoing).
 
#20
TomTango: That's a great video for responding to my question! It looks like he does some exaggerated contrabody (or cobody) to indicate some quick forward steps (leader's frame of reference). The link jumps ahead to the action starting at 29s. Get ready to quickly dismiss the ad that covers their feet.

That I can tell, he does cobody or contrabody himself to match her contrabody for the quick movements. Tricky, but it looks like he was getting a good result. I can only aspire to leading at that level! BTW, TomTango, I thought that was you in the video at first!

Just to hit the other side of the coin, I agree with LadyLeader that it looks like the lady in her video is doing some cobody movement.

I think I'll try to replicate (at much lower speed!) some of the stuff in TomTango's video and see if I think it makes for a more natural feeling lead or not.
 

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