Monday, February 06, 2012

Why I stubbed my toe, and what it means to you


Last Friday afternoon, I learned a lesson when I stubbed my toe. It's a lesson that I teach others, and that ties in well with my feature article for today.  Please don't cringe; I didn't stub my toe on some hidden furniture leg.  There were no hard surfaces.  I stubbed my fourth toe on the carpet.  Can you imagine that?  

I had been doing my Friday writing at home, lost track of time, and then realized that I had only one hour to get an important errand done before the weekend. I rushed to freshen up and change my clothes, and while I was moving in one direction, barefoot, to grab a sweater, I suddenly had an idea that I wanted to make sure I remembered, so I changed directions abruptly, mid-walk, to go to the dresser and write it down on an index card.

Turning mid-walk on my left leg, in the opposite direction of where my weight had been heading, I naturally lost my balance and caught my weight clumsily on my right foot. My fourth toe jammed in the pile of the carpet.  I'm lucky I didn't do worse!  But as I always say, dancers and other people who have a good command of their balance usually manage to save themselves from many common injuries. But still - c'mon, Helaine! (As in "YOU should know better than that."  And I should!)  The bruise didn't show up till the next day, but it was sore! Of course I still managed to take my Friday evening barefoot beach walk, and have my pedicure Saturday morning.  :)

Why did this happen, and what can we all learn from my goofy move?  

The only way I know of for us humans to safely turn is when we are "in axis" - that is, with our central vertical line truly vertical.  On one foot, on both feet - it doesn't matter. That means that our vertical axis remains still, in one fixed place, until the turn is complete. Conversely, a WALKING STEP is the transition between the old location of our axis and its new location.  (Is this follow-able?  I'll put it on my list of things to demonstrate in video on TangoMojoTV.)  

Painting by Saretta Wool

I always underscore to my students:  "a pivot and a walk are by definition two separate moments". When we try to transition (walk), while we are turning (pivot or similar), we throw a wrench into our body's physics.  Can't do it without consequences. Those consequences could be falling or almost falling (in my case, stubbing a toe), or a tango man's stepping on the lady's foot, or his forcing the lady to lose her balance by leading her to walk while she's still pivoting (so common!).

You can explore this concept, at your own risk, to see if you agree!  Experiment with moving, slowly stopping, and pivoting to change direction on one or both feet, and observe your own axis as you turn.  Where is your weight when you feel most stable turning?  Next try turning mid-step, but be careful!! Look what happened to me:  a blue toe!

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