Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ask Helaine: How can I control my left arm?

Today’s question comes from Robert Bononno in New York City.

When dancing, especially when turning or moving sideways, I have a tendency to let my left arm drift out of position toward my partner. Is there a way to train myself to keep it from moving forward short of tying it in place with a piece of rope? Or is this something that comes with lots of practice?


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Thank you for your question, Robert.  Interesting challenge!

I see this problem as a gift to you, because it highlights two things much larger than the detail of your left arm . . .  that can catapult your tango to a new level!

The solution is NOT going to require a great effort to control your arm
(which brings to mind this scene from “Dr. Strangelove”, an old Peter Sellers movie:  http://youtu.be/JaTR46iU1Do).  

NOR will it require many months of practice.  

It will require one or two simple, but important, shifts in your FOCUS. Try one or both of these to solve your left arm problem:


1)  Knowing you from one of our online home study programs, I’d say that you now have enough command of basic technique and vocabulary that it’s time for you to:

Shift your attention off yourself and onto your partner.  

This concept taken all the way* transforms a man’s tango. But for right now, all I’m asking you to do is stop worrying about your left arm, and pay attention to your partner’s right arm, making sure she’s always comfortable.   
*I devote a whole teleseminar and week of practice to this concept in my 7 Steps to Unshakable Tango Confidence program.  

When you enter the embrace, start with your left palm facing your own left cheek, and your arm outstretched toward the center of the dance floor just enough so that your partner’s right arm hangs gracefully relaxed from her wrist and shoulder, with her elbow pointing almost downward toward the floor.  While you’re dancing, make a habit of taking care of your partner to assure that she is always comfortable - especially right now, her right arm.  

To see some examples of a comfortable position for your partner’s arm, notice the lady’s right arm in these two videos that I’ve shown on my blog
http://youtu.be/tvdCSp-mXoA  Adrian and Amanda Costa.
http://youtu.be/iK-pD1HTOrs  Sebastian Jimenez and Maria Ines Bogado.

I chose couples that use a classic salon embrace, rather than a stylized one (such as with the man’s left hand elevated).


Remember too, that when your left arm presses forward, you force your partner’s right arm and upper body away from you, and you break the Circle of Energy (see approach #2).  Your partner’s elbow will go back behind her “side seam”.  If you remember Tip #4 in my free e-course, “9 Surprising Tango Tips for Men”, “Is your own left hand sabotaging your giro?”,  I talk about how a woman’s molinete becomes a mess when her elbow goes back.  Our feet tend to follow our elbows, and therefore, if her elbow is back, it's likely that she will also stray toward the center of the room as she walks backwards. 

Managing your own arm becomes effortless when you focus on taking care of your partner’s comfort and wellbeing, like so many milongueros do in Buenos Aires.

You can spot-check occasionally to make sure that your palm is facing your cheek, and more importantly, that your partner’s arm looks relaxed and graceful, and is not scrunched up like a chicken wing!


2)  The big picture about your embrace:  The Circle of Energy

Here is the bigger part of the gift this problem is giving you.  The fact that your arm is “drifting out of position” is a red flag to you that you are losing the focus of your communication with your partner inside the embrace.

Rather than juggle your attention between the various individual parts of your technique, start reducing your focus to a few big concepts. The big concepts will encompass all the details.  You can start today with this one.

In this case, the big concept is: 
The embrace is a Circle of Energy.  It’s where 99% of your relationship with your partner takes place.  

Shift your focus off of what you have to do - and keep it on the quality of your relationship with your partner, and on your presence towards her and hers towards you, as you interpret the music together.  This will keep your focus inside the embrace, and the Circle of Energy will naturally be present.


By following my points 1) and 2), you may temporarily lose something in the variety of figures you use in your improvisation, and you may momentarily forget how to do a sequence you just learned. But I guarantee you that your musicality will not suffer and your connection with your partner will improve.

And your right arm will behave itself, without your trying to control it!  

Please let us know what you implement, Robert, and how it works for you.
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