One of the first things I heard in a class is that “Tango is a wonderful dance of improvisation. Here is our first pattern.” ?!
In my initial training, and for quite some time, I had the impression that we had to make every step perfect, placing it just so. And, sure, for elegance and crispness, we practice and strive for that.
In real-world social dancing, one or another partner may misstep. We want the freedom that we can (must!) make our steps and any extra little adjustments fit what actually happens, not some idealized figure.
So, we take a step and discover that it was too short or too long or misplaced. What can we do?
- Leaders — we often need to relax the embrace to give our partner freedom of movement to adjust and recover balance. (Sometimes we need to firm up the embrace to support a partner’s or our own compromised balance. See the last list item.)
- Followers — if we can pivot our hips to directly face our partner, and momentarily drop our weight toward the floor, we can often recover balance in a quiet, unnoticeable way. If we must adjust our position to stay within a partner’s misplaced embrace, take two extra little steps. The first simply unweights the heavy, out-of-balance leg so that it can step to a new, better position and once again become the heavy leg. With this, we are still on the heavy-leg that our partner expects.
- Leaders — we have the freedom to reposition or to catch our balance with the light-leg acting as a kickstand. We keep a quiet torso, aside from the slight position adjustment to get into balance. We hide from our partner any footwork below.
- Both leaders and followers — we are told to be our own independent source of balance and movement energy. Yes! Ideally. There is a respectful, not upsetting way to “use” our partner to help with movement and balance. First the no-no way. If we push or pull, press down or pull up, especially asymmetrically, then it hurts balance or fatigues muscles for both of us. Instead, we want a sense of compressing our partner within the embrace, plus sending our focus of compression down into the floor. It is much like grasping a large diameter pole in both hands, and compressing everything down toward the floor with soft joints from hip-to-floor.
It is more important to protect our connection and balance than to conform to a set figure.