Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating idea, philosophy, culture, and lifestyle. In many ways, tango is a metaphor of life. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit 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 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. If you share this conviction, please join the conversation and let your voice be heard, which is urgently needed and long overdue.

Together we can awaken the world.

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 duty to follow the line of dance the man needs to step a little bit away from the woman, and it is the woman's job to keep up with him and stay close to him.

Many women may think they dance close enough to the man but they do not. Students new to tango often step away from the man in order not to be too close. They need extra room to move their untrained body. Many don't feel comfortable to be in close embrace with a man and lean back or prop with their arms and hands against the man to keep a distance. Some may intentionally do so in order to do fancy steps. Their steps are too big, which often take them away from the man. Many never learned to dance in close embrace and don't know how to move their body around the man in a compact way.

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 chest touches chest, cheek touches cheek, and leg touches leg. In other words, she needs to remain in the embrace, integrate into his body and be one with him.

The man leading the dance needs to keep up with traffic. The woman dancing around him must stay close and not step away from him. To do that the woman needs to swivel her hips to let her lower body turn sideways, so she can walk on the side of him without breaking the embrace. (See Dissociation and Gear Effect.) She must keep the torso connection and rotate only her lower body. If she cannot dissociate her lower body, then she has to turn her whole body, which will cause the rupture of the embrace. That is why dancing with a novice woman is uncomfortable.

Dancing around the man often 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 rotates her hips side to side in order to make four steps - a front step, a side step, a back step, a side step - circulating the man. Every tanguera knows the figure, but executing it in a coherent way so it feels smooth and comfortable is not easy. In fact, most women cannot do molinete well because of their lack of training in dissociation. 

Where she places her foot is also critical. It should be placed not too far from his foot, otherwise it will carry her away from him - a common problem of those who dance in big steps. A novice woman often tries to avoid touching her partner's foot. In fact, that is what she should do. When walking inline or on the side of him, her foot must land next to his foot. When doing ochos or giros around him, her foot should be placed about a food apart from his foot in order not to lose her leaning position, hence weakens the torso connection. Even a slight misplacement of her foot could cause incoherence of the dance.

In short, four things are critically important: First, establishing the concept of dancing around the man, which means 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 keeping the upper body connected to the man. (Do not cheat by turning the upper body and keeping the lower body still.) Finally, being careful about the details, including how to move around him and where to place your foot, so that the two of you may always remain connected in the dance. For a woman, learning tango is 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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