Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search of connection, love, unity, beauty, harmony and humanity, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a community and people. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.




March 18, 2017

Dancing around the Man


Tango masters Alberto Pas and Valorie Hart first discussed this important concept in 1998: the man dances around the floor and the woman dances around the man. But many students today still don't know what that means. Simply put, it means in his responsibility to follow traffic the man often needs to step a little bit away from the woman and it is the woman's job to stay close to him.

Many women think that they dance close enough to the man but in fact they do not. Novice women unaccustomed to close embrace often lean back to keep a distance from the man. They prop with their arms against the man to create a gap. Their steps are too big, which take them away from the man. Some deliberately step away from the man in order to increase movement space or remain independent. Many never learned to dance in close embrace and don't know how to dance around the man in a compact way.

Tango is an intimate dance. To truly enjoy tango the woman needs to dance really close to the man. Close does not mean within an arm's length. In tango, close means integrating into his body and being one with him. The man dancing around the floor needs to keep up with traffic. The woman dancing around the man must stay close to him and not step away from him.

To do that the woman needs to dissociate her lower body, i.e., to swivel her hips and let her lower body face a different direction in order to dance around him without breaking the embrace. (See Dissociation and Gear Effect.) She must keep her torso connected to the man while dancing around him in a dissociated or twisted body posture. A woman who cannot dissociate her lower body often turns her whole body instead, causing the rupture of the embrace and incoherence of the movement. That is why dancing with a novice woman often is uncomfortable.

Dancing around the man also involves molinete, a figure in which the woman dances around the man who serves as the anchor for her rotation. Their torsos are connected and the woman only swivels her hips side to side in order to make four steps, a front step, a side step, a back step, a side step, in a circular motion around the man. Every tanguera knows the figure but executing it coherently so it feels musical, smooth and comfortable is not easy. In fact, most women cannot do molinete well because of the lack of training in dissociation. 

Where she places her foot is also important. A common problem is that she steps away from him to prevent her thigh from touching his thigh. But touching is what she should do to make her movement compact. The woman must overcome her fear and not be afraid of touching his thigh when she walks on his side or rotates around him. However, she needs to imagine a circle around him with a radius of one foot from his foot and always place her foot on that imaginary circle when dancing around him because while stepping too far apart from him will cause separation, stepping too close to his foot will cause her to lose the leaning position when the turn is completed.

In short, four things are critically important in regard to dancing around the man: First, establishing the concept of integrating into his body and being one with him. Second, maintaining a good embrace in a slightly leaning position to secure the connection and mutual sport. Third, spending a lot of time to practice dissociation, especially in the molinete sequence, until you are versed in swiveling the hips while maintaining the torso connection with the man. Finally, being careful about the details, including how to dance around him and where to place your foot so the two of you may always remain connected in the dance. For a woman, learning tango is not mainly learning steps but learning to be one with the man. Tango is an intimate dance. How you dance it could make a big difference.




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