So now having discussed posture, the embrace and the first movement, what can be said about the quality of movement and connection as you continue to walk in tango? The following is based on a simple concept which may help you develop a solid yet fluid connection in your dance. When taking a step in tango, it is by feeling where your partner is, at any point through that step, that you have the option of staying connected throughout. This continual presence throughout a movement can be likened to the presence of a medium, with a certain density, that you are moving through. The density of it allows you to feel its presence wherever and however you move. Hence the idea developed here is that of helping your partner to feel that they are moving through water when you are dancing with them.
- The water game. For both leader and follower, when taking a step, imagine you are up to your chest in water. Try to feel the density and weight of the water. For followers especially try to help your partner feel like they are moving through water, through the quality of contact you provide. A good exercise/game for this is for the leader to use the kettle embrace, or for the follower to hold the leaders hips, while the leader walks forward, backward and sideways - with their eyes closed. The follower keeps their eyes open and simply tries to give the leader the sensation that they are moving through water.
A variation on this game is for the leader to begin a forward or side step and then just shift weight from foot to foot, accelerating in the middle position and slowing toward the change of direction. See if you can maintain the sense of fluid connection through this movement.
Cultivating this quality of connection first in your walking and then in the rest of your tango will give a beautiful sense of fluidity and togetherness to your dance.
- Mirroring and symmetrical 'presence'. The water analogy helps to develop a symmetrical kind of presence in the embrace, so that whatever direction the leader moves they feel an (almost) equal and opposite force; their intention is always mirrored. In physical terms it is resistance, but to say resistance sometimes creates an unhelpful association with fighting or rejecting your dance partner. 'Presence' seems to work better. When experienced, however, in contrary to fighting, this water like presence/resistance gives a quite unique and beautiful feeling of awareness of and support by your partner.
- Frame and grounding. When trying to develop a water like connection in your embrace, take care to maintain your own axis and not learn on or hang from your partner (unless that is the lead). The water like presence comes from engaging more with the floor, pressing into it with your feet and allowing the knees to bend slightly. Also the idea is to feel a sense of water, not to look like it. That means no waving seaweed arms; the structure of your frame, especially in open embrace, is crucial to providing a constant and smooth sense of presence to your partner. There can be a little play in the arm position (especially with changes of direction) - keeping your arms rigid is not the suggestion here - but try to keep any movements small. Large movements from floppy arms will dissipate the lead before it reaches the follower's legs, and rock-like arms can create a stiff or jarring quality to the walking movement.
- Why water and not, say, treacle, cream of tomato soup, or gossamer puff balls? Well, you can pick whatever medium works for you and your partner, and indeed the level of presence you invite from or give to your partner can change throughout a tango, according to the music, mood and creative interpretation. However, water, seems to be a good default to play with. You may prefer to be a little lighter, or heavier, and that's fine. (In fact, if I really think about it, my personal preference for how much presence a follower gives in the embrace, when walking, is probably about third or even a quarter the density of actually moving chest high through water. So if anyone can think of a more fitting medium that everyone is likely to have heard of, then please let me know!)
- This is not the only way. Tango can also be danced where the follower is always pushing/projecting back towards the leader. That is not 'wrong', however it does make much of the more modern and expressive movements of tango hard to do in a fluid and controlled way, particularly in open embrace. If you are mainly dancing salon style in close embrace you may feel happy to stick with the always projecting forward approach. However, if you're curious, give this water idea a go and you may find an exciting new dimension of tango opens up for you.
Tomorrow's tip: 'Use your momentum'.