A tanguero without solid technique has no floor on which to release his or her emotions.

I know there are people who claim that tango is all about emotion, not technique. I continue to disagree. A lifetime of dance tells me that the ability to fully express yourself is based on a foundation of solid technique. We build up the muscle memory so that in the milonga we can forget about it and just dance. But the technique is still there.

I can be happy with the simplest movements, executed with the utmost grace. Walking can be sublime. And I noticed two strengths I need to walk nicely: abdominal strength and foot/ankle strength. Of course, there are many ways to gain this strength. If you want to strengthen your feet, check out Jennifer Bratt’s foot exercises. If you want to strengthen your abs, do some crunches. Or hang out in plank position.

Then, while you are walking, think of keeping your abs engaged (not sucking in your stomach, just flexed and firm). Keep your hips relaxed—don’t let your abs pull your free hip up. As you step, control your foot at the ankle. Use that ankle strength to roll through your entire foot—whether stepping forward or backward. I believe that (1) keeping your torso lifted while (2) controlling your foot will go a long way toward a nice, smooth walk.

Not that those are the only elements you need. They are just thing I have been paying attention to. There’s also the issue of not bouncing up and down. And arriving right on top of your foot, balanced, whenever you transfer weight. It helps if you actually push off the floor with your foot when you step. One of my favorite exercises is based on that idea. Maybe that will be the first thing I share, as soon as I can convince someone to hold the camera for me.

Until then, happy walking!


6 thoughts on “Technique

  1. We are both writers. We have passion about what we write. It is important to have good spelling and grammar. But without our passion we have nothing. I imagine we both are lovers. I hope that we love with all our hearts and minds, and I hope that our technique makes it all the better. But without our passion, our technique is nothing. My best moment in tango is when I hold a woman, no matter how old or young, comely or plain, as the only woman in the world. There is no technique to open your heart to the transfer of energy between two souls, but technique will help to transform this moment to be sublime. And when this happens technique seem so important, and I can for a moment agree with you. However after a moment’s reflection I will return to my heart: Passion was what made us take flight, to soar; technique allowed us to fly high and long.

  2. What lovely words and thoughts Mark!

    MT, we completely agree with “…the ability to fully express yourself is based on a foundation of solid technique.” It’s so true. And is that your quote at the beginning? It’s great!

    Perhaps you might rethink the idea that your abs should be flexed in Tango though? We were specifically taught by our teacher in Buenos Aires that your abs should NEVER be flexed (not in social Tango anyway). The core should be engaged, but this is an entirely different thing. When you tap on our tummies, you will not feel flexed or firm muscles. However, in order to keep a well-aligned posture, we will have some muscles engaged in a relaxed (non-flexed) way.


    • It isn’t my quote–I forgot to credit the author:!/Tango_Argentine

      I have question for you: What does it mean to “engage the core”? Can you explain what happens in your body when your core is engaged? (I try to avoid using that phrase, because I think people use it without having a clear sense of what it means, physically.)

      • That’s a good point and a good question… It is a difficult and somewhat elusive term. In the past, we’ve attempted to research what it means in dance, but to no avail.

        When we do use the term “engaged core”, we describe it by first saying what it does NOT mean. Thus, engaging your core does NOT mean flexing your abdominal muscles. For example, if you lift your arm to point at something, your shoulder, bicep, wrist and fingers are not all flexed. They are being used (or “engaged”), but they are not all hard and tight. As well, we define the “core” to mean the abdominal area AND the back.

        How do you think of an engaged core?

        • I try to avoid using the term “engaged core,” because I think it confuses the issue. I try to identify exactly which muscles I am talking about (especially because many people mean different things by “the core”). I would actually include pelvic muscles in my definition of the core–but in a class setting, I try to name and point to the different muscles I want my students to use.

          Also, I think you would be hard pressed to find an anatomist who would approve of your definition of an “engaged” muscle. Muscles are either flexed or relaxed—there is no in-between state. You may not flex every single muscle in your arm to lift it, but the ones you “engage” are flexed. It is easier to explain what I mean by “flexing the abs” in person (i.e. I do not mean flexing all of the abdominal muscles at once), but I do mean that some of the abdominal muscles are flexed. They have to be.

          • Yep, very true. Muscles are flexed or relaxed.

            The problem with saying flexed is that people often think of “flexed” as squeezing the crap out of their muscle. When you tell someone to flex their bicep, they will flex it until it’s hard. So there is a huge difference between touching your left shoulder with your left arm – which results in a “lightly” flexed bicep – and tightly flexing your bicep. In both cases your bicep muscle is “engaged” but it’s a completely different effect.

            In the end, we’re probably saying, thinking, and teaching very similar concepts in regards to the “core” 🙂

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