Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ask Helaine: What do you mean by "Don't pull us off-axis"?

This week's question comes from David in Texas:

"In our 'Insider Tango Tips from Buenos Aires' program, you tell us men:  'When you pull our upper bodies off-axis ... and make us lean toward you. ... you make us lose our comfort and security.'

"What about apilado or volcada? Or are we talking about a different quality of movement to produce those off-axis positions versus 'pull our upper body'?"

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Thanks, David, for giving me the opportunity to answer your question from its three different aspects!

1) Tango "apilado" means “piled on”, or giving body weight to each other, which requires surrendering one’s axis and depending partially on the other for stability. It creates a particular energetic dynamic in the couple.

This posture does not occur in classic Tango Salon, which is what I teach, write about, and prefer to dance.  While I prefer to dance tango mainly in close embrace, it is with each partner maintaining his own axis throughout the dance.  In Buenos Aires, I may adapt
to a milonguero who dances "apilado" , and I can really enjoy it . . . but it definitely compromises my pleasure. 

2) Volcadas are also not part of classic Tango Salon, nor are they part of Milonguero Style.  This figure is more typical of Tango Nuevo, though it originated in earlier forms of tango.  Many dancers of the Tango Salon and Milonguero Style have gone "eclectic", adopting such Tango Nuevo elements as volcadas (off-axis inward) and colgadas (off-axis outward), linear boleos, etc. Some of these movements were originally parts of older forms of tango, but were subsequently discarded, and then adopted by Tango Nuevo innovators.

Personally, I don't like dancing with volcadas and don't teach them.  Unless they’re led discreetly and with refinement, I find them aesthetically and psychologically rather vulgar.  They force the woman to surrender her weight and let the man swing her free leg open and/or forward as if he were playing with an object.  I don't enjoy the feeling in my body or between my partner and me during a volcada, and I don't like what it looks like!  If I see a man leading volcadas on the dance floor, I will usually not dance with him.  In my most recent 3 months of dancing frequently in milongas in Buenos Aires, I have encountered a total of perhaps two volcadas in all of my hundreds of tandas; it's rarely led by a strong traditional dancer.

Puente:  The late, legendary Carlos Gavito
with beautiful Marcela Duran 

Traditional tango sometimes employs out-of-axis moments, such as the "puente" (bridge), which only work when the tanguero offers rock solid support with his body, knowing how to protect the woman's spine, and the woman engages a strong core!

3)  Your question about “quality of movement” was more specifically what I meant when I admonished our tangueros to take care of their partners’ axes.

In my comment that you quote here from in the “Insider Tips”, I'm referring to men who with their embrace pull the woman off her center, and she has no choice in the matter because he uses physical force.  Excellent dancers give the woman the choice of where she keeps her weight.  I can dance with a man who usually dances apilado, remain in close embrace, but keep my own balance if he is a skillful and well-mannered dancer.  

Or I can "surrender" my weight to him if it feels good to me.  At the end I expect him to put me back in my axis before he releases the embrace, so I don't have to use muscular effort to get back to my feet from "leaning on" him.  If a man doesn't do so, it's a weakness in his leading, and creates discomfort and even an awkward moment for his partner.  

I always want to be dancing with men who understand and respect the woman's axis. (We will dedicate a whole week to cultivating the skill of “Mastering the Woman’s Axis" in the “Intimate Dynamic Dialog” section of Tango Improvisation Mastery, starting at the end of April 2014.)

When you can fully understand, respect, protect and guide the woman's axis, you can become a very fine dancer!

David, I hope that helps you understand my comments from Tip #18 in the “Insider Tango Tips from Buenos Aires”.

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