T-A-N-G-O: It Truly Takes Two (plus some Waltz)


Hello, friends, Alaina here with a weekly update concerning my dancing progress with DP.  My last two lessons were on Waltz.  He said last week that he was thinking about dancing Rhythm for our next lesson.  It must have slipped his mind because it was Smooth again this week, not that I mind.  Yesterday, our main focus was Tango.  Mainly, we focused on connection and hold.  The hold for American Tango is very different, than Waltz.  In Waltz, the lady’s left arm goes in a nice crook on the man’s arm.  Nick kind of described it as a sort of depression.  In Tango, your left hand hooks under the man’s right arm near his armpit.  Your thumb acts as the actual hook while your other fingers sort of bolster the man’s right arm up.  I teasingly call this hold the “armpit hold” because your thumb is practically in his armpit.  On a personal note, this hold made me very embarrassed and nervous when I first started dancing because I felt it was invasive of the lead’s personal space.  Now in Bronze group classes’, if the instructor allows it, I shove my hand in position, and the guy feels awkward.  I asked Nick why the hold was so awkwardly specific.  Well, in Tango, the lady is more on the man’s right side than in other dances.  The armpit hold provides a more firm connection, and makes the lady stick more to that side.

In the Smooth dances, the lady’s sternum, what Nick calls center, is directed towards the guy.  (On a side note, I’ve referred to center as just below your belly button.  You constantly have to keep that up.  Now, I think center just refers the center axis of your body.)  This isn’t very easy because your sternum must be directed towards the guy (Remember, you’re on his right side.), but your hips must be squared towards the front.  In Tango, I was working on a school figure called “the doors”.  Nick was emphasizing how I must keep my sternum in its proper place and send it to him as I step outside of partner.  For the record, “outside of partner” means the lady steps completely free of the man’s right side while still maintaining hold.  For “the doors”, I must not only do this, but my knees have to be facing the same direction as I pivot outside of partner and back into hold.  It’s very difficult, but as I’ve said before, what’s the point of learning steps if you can’t do them flawlessly?  Yes, I am a perfectionist.

The last portion of the lesson was dedicated to Waltz, but directing your center carried over.  In Waltz, my big problem is holding up my arms without raising my shoulders.  The basic concept is to just move your arm muscles into whatever position it needs to be in while you stubbornly shove your shoulder muscles down.  Another teacher told me to think of myself dancing with a lead vest on.  Easier said than done.  I also concentrated on keeping my legs slightly bent while I rose.  It’s a bit of a habit due to ballet.  Rising in the Waltz, as far as I know, is done on the balls of your feet.  In ballet, rising is known as relevé.  The dancer is up on the balls of his or her feet while both legs are fully straightened.  In Waltz, the knees are still slightly bent even when at the height of the rise.  I actually didn’t know that until last week’s lesson.  Now, it’s something I have to consciously focus on as it is very difficult to break habits formed in ballet.

Overall, it was a productive lesson.  Nick as a teacher is very technical, but very encouraging.  He’s not effusive with his praise, which I actually prefer.  But, he’s very quick with those “good jobs” and whatnot.  We laugh a lot in our lessons as well.  Going on a tangent, Nick told me he had a very sugary lemonade during his lunch break because he was more hyper than usual.  Normally, I can match him when it comes to hyperactivity, but he surpassed me yesterday.  He even got me to do a lift, which I did against my own volition.  He asked me if I could stretch and extend my leg while holding it in my left hand, a common stretch exercise.  I did, and that gave him the idea for this very random lift.  I held my leg while he picked me up by the waist.  All the while I was emphatically saying, “Put me down!  Put me down!”  No, I don’t like lifts of any kind.  They make me nervous, and I’m afraid of being dropped.  I don’t care how strong the guy is or how apparently light I am, I don’t like them.  But, it was done in good fun.  I wouldn’t have my lessons any other way: lots of technique with an equal amount of goofing off.

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