Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating philosophy, culture, and lifestyle. 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 and species. 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 the 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 may think that they dance close enough to the man but they do not. Students new to tango often don't feel comfortable to be in intimate physical contact with a man and prop with their hands against the man to keep a distance. Many step away from the man because they need extra room to maneuver their untrained body. Their steps are too big, which takes them away from the man. Many have never learned to dance in close embrace and don't know how to move around the man in a compact way.

Tango is an intimate dance. To truly enjoy the intimacy 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 so the two may dance as one coherent body.

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 dissociate her lower body from her upper body, i.e., swiveling her hips to let her lower body turn sideways, so she can dance around him without breaking the embrace. (See Dissociation and Gear Effect.) While rotating her lower body, the woman must keep her torso connected to the man. A novice who cannot dissociate her lower body often turns her whole body instead, causing 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 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 critical. Stepping away from the man in an attempt to avoid touching his leg/foot is a common problem of the beginners. The woman must overcome that unnecessary worry and dance around the man in a compact and coherent way. However, keep in mind that tango is danced in an A-shaped frame. To maintain her leaning position, the woman needs to imagine a circle on the floor around the man with a radius of one foot from his foot and always place her foot on that imaginary circle when she dances around him, because while stepping away from him will cause incoherence, stepping too close to his foot will cause her lose the leaning position when she completes the turn and faces him.

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 maintaining the torso connection with 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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