1a. Walking Together
This first page is the most wordy and may be the most difficult to understand of all the pages in this tutorial, and doubly so if the student does not have prior dance experience. The reason is that the content is general to all Argentine tango dancing. Be patient and the instruction, both general and specific, will by degrees over time become clear.
This may appear obvious
but it is important.
Maintain an upright posture,
keeping your chest forward,
head stretched up, and
shoulders down and relaxed.
Do not allow your back to arch.
Keeping your stomach muscles tight
and hips tucked keeps your back
straight. Your weight should stay
on the balls of your feet.
Try to maintan a sense of
compression wherever your arms
meet the body of your partner in the
Later pages will be more easily comprehended. In this tutorial Argentine tango will be taught in open position, as distinct from the chest-to-chest close position, because it is easier to dance in open position (slightly apart). Later, when the student becomes more familiar with the dance, he or she can easily adapt to close position **. Let's begin.
Leaders (men) usually walk forward and followers (women) backward when dancing Argentine tango. Here's an attempt to describe how the parties move together.
THE LEADER pushes the follower ahead of him by using good dance frame, which is the structure dance partners create with their bodies that allows them to be well-connected with each other. An important part of good dance frame is the use of the chest. The leader should think of his chest as the part of his body that he uses to push the follower ahead of him as he walks. Check to make sure your chest, not your stomach or your hips, is the forward most part of your body. If your stomach or hips are pushed forward more than your chest, you will have difficulty pushing the follower ahead of you and you will walk into her.
Another key aspect of good dance frame is the position of the arms. Keep them firm and in front of your body. Do not allow them to be loose or to bend beside or behind the body. If you push forward as you should with your chest but allow your arms to be too loose, your dance frame will collapse and you will again walk into your partner. Try to maintain a constant distance between your chest and that of your partner.
THE FOLLOWER should also concentrate on staying connected with her partner through the use of good dance frame. Keep your chest forward, even as you step back, and keep your arms firm (without tensing them) and in front of your body.
Maintain a sense of compression where your arms meet your partner's body in your embrace (see picture, left). Preserve this sense of compression (or in other words, stay connected with your partner) by waiting to step until you feel your partner pushing you backward. If you anticipate and step before you feel him pushing you backward, you will step slightly away from him. When you step away from him, even slightly, you will feel the compression in your embrace decrease, i.e. you will break your connection with your partner. In fact, you should gently resist to your partner's pushing before you step in order to maximize the sense of compression between you and your partner. While your eyes sees these words and your mind understands them, it will be awhile before it is clear what your body needs to do.
This practice of waiting to step until you feel a lead to step (in other words, not anticipating the lead) will be important in every figure you follow in tango. When you do step, extend your leg as far back as it will go without stepping away from your partner. Extending the leg fully back makes room for your partner to take a full step forward, and it looks grand.
A style of walking for the
leader: To achieve the
effect shown above, imagine
the toe of the stepping foot
fastened to the floor while
a puppet string attached to
the same knee is pulling up.
KEY POINTS: Tango dancers, especially when they are first learning to dance, have a tendency to look down at their feet. Resist the impulse to look down because looking down will compromise your posture. When you look down, your chest collapses and your body bends, instead of being upright as it needs to be.
Leaders, once you feel somewhat comfortable walking with your partner, focus on the music as you walk. Respond to the rhythm of the music, making your steps slower or quicker, shorter or longer, in response to the changing tempo or feeling of the music. Followers, focus on staying connected to your partner as he responds to the rhythms so that you both move together to the music. If you respond to the music, simple walking, without any turns or figures, can be very pleasurable and beautiful.
** It is close call whether to teach the open position rather than chest-to-chest (close position) right from the start. The student should be aware that at almost all milongas (Argentine tango social dances), most leaders and followers dance in close position, which in most aspects is the same dance as in open position only closer.
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