Friday, 26 June 2009

Leaning

I wrote above (well, below, actually): 'I found in BsAs, and to a certain extent in Paris, that partners expect to lean into each other more noticeably: you feel the contact more firmly. It makes leading more positive as there's a better connection. It also suggests an immediate trust'. This lean is slight, hardly something you can actually see in normal circumstances. Leandro Palou teaches that couples should stand one foot's-length apart, then lean together so their upper torsos meet. Of course height, posture and girth affect this, so it can only be a general rule. You hardly see it, but you feel it: instead of constant contact, you can feel constant, if slight, pressure, and you feel the need to maintain this pressure as something precious, even as a challenge. I rarely notice it in London: in London accidental contact from the torso down to the knees is more likely, which is confusing and uncomfortable. We are mostly taught in open embrace by stage dancers, and very rarely by dancers whose practice is 'milonguero'.

In normal circumstances you can't see this, but in abnormal circumstances you can. I came across this video in which it is exaggerated. This might be a useful classroom exercise, but it certainly wouldn't be practical in a milonga. & it probably works here only because the follower has a very supple back and hips, so she really reaches back instead of just stepping back.

12 comments:

Henry (@knowtango.com) said...

I agree that the pressure, and the trust implied by that pressure, is a very important element to secure a connection. I've felt that in multiple cities in the US ...

londontango said...

Pastor used to teach this way too. I prefer dancing this way.

Anonymous said...

oh man - THAT is how to dance...

oh how I wish London girls could do this ...

personally, I don't get why people do tango if you don't do this...

jantango said...

I feel their feet are separated farther from each other than necessary in this video. A lean like this isn't the only way to connect. Their steps are too long for the tempo of the music, and they end off balance without closing their feet.

I don't know who they are, but I wouldn't recommend this as an example of how to dance tango milonguero. She has "ballet" style feet--they are open instead of straight.

I dance a few inches from my partner's feet and remain in contact with his chest in his embrace. That gives me all the information I need. I stand on my own two feet and don't expect my partner to carry my weight.

Tango commuter said...

I'm glad I'm not alone in wishing for a bit more 'lean' in London dance!

Jantango, I agree completely, and I tried to make clear that I didn't see this as a good example of dancing. I thought it might be a good classroom exercise, a good way to practice, and since it is very exaggerated it shows something that isn't visually apparent in ordinary dance. The close embrace is hardly ever taught here, and people tend to assume it just means standing closer together. There's actually something slightly insipid about tango danced like that. That slight lean makes the dance come alive.

Tango en el Cielo said...

Interesting video. Full credit to the lady, who (according to the YouTube info) was trying tango de apile for the first time in this lesson, and especially for being willing to share her learning experience with the public.
I agree with you that there isn't enough tango milonguero danced in London. I love to dance in this way, with the right partner.
But I also agree with JanTango that, for women, this isn't a good example. Look how uncomfortable she looks! Look at how her head is pushed to the left at an angle.
Look at how heavily she is leaning on his right shoulder. Her axis is not centred. He is sometimes forced to step to his right because their balance is off. Her contact is very high on his chest, and the way she is reaching away from him with her legs is distorting her back - her lower back is very arched and if she dances like this for long I wouldn't be surprised if she developed back pain. Because her feet are not below her centre of gravity she is sometimes mis-stepping and then one or other of them has to make a correction.
IMHO if she centred her contact a bit lower - centre rather than chest - and allowed her feet to place themselves under her body, her style would be more relaxed, more natural and more balanced. If this guy is her teacher it looks like he is encouraging her to depend on him too much for her balance. I wouldn't mind trying a dance with him though! (Wonder who he is).
It could be he is trying to emulate Carlos Gavito and Maria Plazaolla. I am great fans of theirs, but you have to remember that they were a professional partnership and spent hours a day practising. They developed an exaggerated apile style for performance. That isn't going to work for the likes of us social dancing in the milonga. It's not the way Ricardo Vidort used to dance. He danced close embrace as we all know but he liked the woman to carry her own weight. He would take her weight for certain moves like a calesita but not for a whole dance. I could have danced with Ricardo all night long and never felt any discomfort or strain whatsover. Sigh.

Tango commuter said...

Many thanks, Tango en el Cielo, for that detailed analysis, and for the recollections of Ricardo.

I was trying to think about a slight adjustment of posture. Ricardo may have 'danced close embrace as we all know it' but I suspect there was never any possibility of his feet or knees touching his partners' feet or knees – which tends to happen in London. Could it be that his partners danced as little as an inch or two further back, and actually reached back rather than simply stepping back? I think that dancing like this results in a slight pressure, a connection rather than a simple contact at chest level, which feels to me almost like a challenge. Here I am! Now what are you going to do? I've noticed this outside the UK, but less frequently in London.

I said I found the video abnormal and exaggerated, although there still might be something for many of us to learn there, and it might be a useful classroom exercise. & yes, I found it hard to believe it was the lady's first attempt at apilado! But surely not at dancing tango, or at dancing in close hold. I hadn't thought of the Gavito connection, although it is rather obvious.

The teacher is Igor Polk, who lives in San Francisco. There's a link to his site and blog in the list of links on my main page: the videos suggest that his teaching isn't by any means exclusively apilado. 'Igor Polk holds Russian masters degree in electrical engineering in automatic control systems. It has to do with something which can be called a Tango of Technology: Lead-and-Follow and various Oscillations and Rhythms and how things respond to it. Igor is an accomplished image analysis engineer... '. He's been teaching only since 2000. He lists 'Tete' Rusconi and Carlos Gavito and Marcela Duran, among others, as important influences.

Tango en el Cielo said...

@TangoCommuter
Here's a couple dancing apilado that I really like:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QzskN4FeDU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXQ6VfWHLSU
Laura is a friend of mine - and a great follower. I don't know her partner but he looks fantastic. If I had the choice (dream on) between dancing with him or the electrical engineer in SF I know who I would choose.
One thing that Laura's partner seems to have in common with Ricardo is that his stance inclines forward - he really gives his upper body to her - so Laura doesn't have to lean much for there to be space between their feet.

Game Cat said...

TC - thanks for a nice post that stimulates good discussion.

Personally it is the only way I think tango can be danced IF you want to be able to express the music and share that expression eloquently and meaningfully with the lady in close embrace. This requires a technical skill for men and women that is quite hidden from onlookers. For a very good follower, I can feel where and when her feet are on the floor through the torso connection. I won't need to look down.

However, "lean" should be purely horizontal. The woman should be able to maintain it without using her left arm on the man. Absolutely find it painful when she clamps down on your right and expects you to carry her. I know the embrace is sometimes likened to a "cradle" but....argh.

Anonymous said...

close embrace - should the leader move forward with (A) his chest and feet, or (B) his chest and knees.

its a small thing but makes a big difference. what do the old classic dancers do?

I'm asking because difference teachers in London insist on different approaches for their "traditional" apilado.

msHedgehog said...

With the knees thing, which you say is common in London - is this something other people have told you about or is it based only on your own experience? I'm not sure.

Tango commuter said...

I didn't say it is 'common' in London, only that it is 'more likely'. With some partners, never! With others, yes it happens, and that's my own experience. I suspect some followers step back rather than actually reaching back. Tango en el Cielo also pointed out how far forwards Ricardo Vidort leaned when leading, which is a useful lesson.