For years, people have said that my dance background probably has made me a better tango dancer. It isn’t about the skills involved; it is mainly about strength and flexibility. I have strong feet and ankles, good balance, a strong core, a flexible back, etc. These come from a lifetime of dancing. I started thinking about how I could use that experience to help other dancers. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to try teaching a tango barre workout.
Specifically, it is a class that draws on ballet barre exercises and applies them to tango. (It is not like all of the pilates-based “barre” workouts, many of which have nothing to do with ballet.) Like all new classes, it is taking a while for me to get the feel of the class just right, but I am getting there. It’s a pretty simple approach:
- Strengthen feet and ankles
- Improve posture
- Improve balance
- Practice fluid motion
- Build muscle memory
- Build body awareness
I think ballet has a lot to offer tango dancers. It is fun to play around with the intersection of ballet and tango, to explore ballet exercises that are so familiar to me and approach them as a tango dancer. Of course, many of these exercises are inspired by conversations and classes with other dancers and teachers, so it isn’t as though I have invented them from scratch. But that doesn’t make it any less fun to play around with them!
If I pulled out my camera and started recording some of the exercises, would anyone be interested in seeing them?
P.S. Contrary to what is stated in a recent post by MIM, ballet does not teach you to lift the free hip. A good ballet dancer will drop the free hip, just like in tango. Unfortunately, this error is often overlooked by teachers and thus not corrected properly. You can lift out of the standing leg and drop the free hip, which allows a nice sway of the hips without “sitting” into the standing leg and ending up with salsa hips. On the other hand, there are differences in the quality of movement in ballet and tango, which is why my class is geared toward tango dancers and isn’t just a normal ballet class.