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Getting lost in the icing?

posted Mar 18, 2014, 5:02 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Oct 21, 2018, 12:28 AM ]
"Don't get so preoccupied by the icing 
that you forget the cake."  

The above quote is from one of my favourite bloggers Terpsichoral who in a recent blog discusses how we always need to focus on the "cake" i.e.,  the fundamentals of good technique , rather than get lost in the "icing" i.e., optional technical and stylistic differences.

And there are many such differences. To mention just a few...
  • Should I adopt a 'V' or full chest to chest embrace ?  
  • When walking forward, should I point my feet or walk heel first?  
  • Where should I put my left arm in the embrace  over the shoulder? around the leader's upper right arm? (follower)
  • Should I open or close the fingers of my left hand? (follower)
  • Should I point my head over my partner's shoulder or angle it towards this face? (follower)
  • Should I brush my feet together as I giro or not? (follower)
So how not to get lost and confused in the maze of these differences ? I fully agree with Terpsi's advice to always analyse whether a particular or preferred way of moving in Tango is fundamental or optional.
tango analysis technique
Here's some questions (paraphrased from her blog) to help this analysis...

1) Does this help me to walk in a balanced, musical and elegant way  that communicates where I am to my partner?

2) Does this help me to be balanced, grounded, and clear in my direction?

3) Does this enhance or hinder fluidity of movement?

3)  Is this particular way of moving fundamental to the above aims - or a choice made by my teacher based on tradition, aesthetics or or simply a personal preference? 

These questions may seem simple but they are often not so easy to answer.  To do so it is helpful to experiment with, and compare, different ways of moving. This requires removing  personal biases based on past instruction and habits formed over time. With such analysis is also helpful to become more anatomically aware: to increase our understanding of natural body movement and alignment, and the  muscle groups that are activated when we move in certain ways. 

Unless you are a professional dancer or physiotherapist, all the above ain't so easy!  It takes time and effort! Hence the Tango truism that "Tango is a lifelong journey." 

It is however the very complexity of Tango and the need for exploration that makes this particular dance so enticing to many. It is certainly true that these qualities  keep your brain, not just your body, active - yet another health benefit of Tango. 

So let's embrace Tango in all it's complexity!

Make sure to eat plenty of cake 
The icing do partake 
by conscious choice
not by Pavlovian trait!