Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating culture, idea, lifestyle, and philosophy. In many ways, tango is a metaphor of life. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, 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 species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. We are humanists. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation 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 in fact they do not. Students new to tango often step away from the man in their attempt to keep a distance. Amateur dancers may intentionally save a room for them to do fancy steps. In fact, most tangueras outside of Argentina do not dance close enough to the man. They don't feel comfortable to be in close physical contact with a stranger man. They lean back, or prop with their arms and hands against the man to keep a distance. Their steps are too big. Many never learned to dance in close embrace. Their body is untrained and inflexible, and they do not know how to dance in a compact way.

The truth is, to truly enjoy tango, the woman needs to dance really close to the man. Close does not mean within an arm's length, or even in inches. In tango, close means cheek touches cheek, body touches body, and leg touches leg. In other words, she needs to integrate into his body and be one with him.

The man leading the dance must keep up with traffic. The woman dancing around him must stay close to him and not step away from him. To dance around the man, the woman needs to swivel her hips to let her lower body turn sideways, so that she can step around him. She must keep her upper body still 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 a reason why dancing with an amateur dancer 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 she only rotates her hips side to side in order to make four steps - a front step, a side step, a back step, and a side step - around him. 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 very close to his foot. If her foot is too far apart from his foot, that 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. Her foot must always land next to his when she dances around him. Even a slight over-reach or misplacement of her foot can cause incoherence of the dance. 

In short, three 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, spending a lot of time to practice dissociation (especially in the molinete sequence) until you master the skill of swiveling your hips while keeping your upper body still. (Do not cheat by turning your upper body and keeping your lower body still.) Finally, being careful about the details, including how to move your body around him and where to land your foot, so that the two of you may remain coherent 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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