Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search of humanity, connection, love, unity, harmony and beauty, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us into individuals, but tango unites us into a team, community 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, accommodation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.

April 6, 2012

Balance and Lightness

The sense induced by the change of the body’s location and position is called the sense of equilibrium. The semicircular canal and vestibule in the inner ear are organs related to this sense. Those whose equilibrium organs are dysfunctional due to disease, drug or alcoholism cannot keep balance well. Balance can be improved through training. Woman gymnasts, for example, can do difficult movements on a balance beam. Acrobats rely on their trained sense of equilibrium to do high wire walk. Experienced dancers also have a good sense of equilibrium so they can stay balanced in complicated movements.

In bicycling one uses the wheel to keep balance. In dancing one uses the steps to keep balance. All dancers need a good sense of equilibrium, but that is particularly true for a woman because she is the one being driven by the man. The man leads her by tilting her in the direction he wants her to move. How far she moves, however, is decided by her sense of equilibrium. If she steps not exactly where she should to keep her balance, she will fall. A falling woman relies on the man for her stability, thus becomes heavy. The man may not mind if the woman occasionally relies on him for stability, but if she hangs on him all the time and grabs him tightly in every move and turn, that could be quite a burden for him. A woman must know that maintaining her own balance is the key for her to be light in the dance. Some women habitually rely on the man for balance, as a result their sense of equilibrium fails to improve.

Tango has a unique balance problem because the two partners lean on each other to form an A-shaped frame. The A-shaped frame is a stable frame in which the partners support each other. A novice woman often does not realize that her support for the man is equally important as his for her. If she leans backwards, she could pull him off his balance, a common problem for women who do not feel comfortable of leaning on the man. On the other hand, some women lean on the man too much without letting their standing leg carry the most of their own weight, thus become heavy.

Dancing in a leaning position demands strength on her back. A woman with a weak back cannot sustain in that position for long, especially if the man holds her low and tight. An experienced woman maintains certain resistance in symmetry to the force that the man applies on her in both directions - his chest pushes her out and his arm pulls her in. Some women counteract the man with too much force, thus become heavy. The woman needs to know that maintaining balance is maintaining a state of stillness, uniform-speed rectilinear motion, or uniform-speed winding motion, not doing wrestling. She must be careful about how much resistance she applies to counteract the man to avoid being heavy.

For a woman to be light in the dance the motivity of her movement must come from herself. She should not rely on the man to move her but should activate herself. An experienced woman does so by pushing with her standing leg in the direction she is led to go. Like a self-propelled mower, she runs by herself, thus is light. A novice woman, on the contrary, relies on the man to move her, and due to her inexpertness she often holds on to him tightly and moves reluctantly, thus becomes heavy. In order to be light in the dance the woman must relax her body, surrender herself to the man and synchronize her movement to his. She must not hold on to him or act against his lead.

The man, on the other hand, should avoid putting pressure on the woman's waist, as that may restrict her movement. A tall man should use his stomach rather than chest to lead a short woman, not bend his torso to add pressure on her since that could cause her to bend backwards if she does not have a strong back. As her strength and balance improve, she may sustain more pressure, lean more on the man to expand her movement possibility, or even want him to hold her on her waist. Men often see experienced dancers dance this way or that way and some may try to imitate before their partner is ready. Keep in mind that tango can be danced in many ways. One should choose a way that suits the ability of one's partner.