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Walking the diagonals   Leave a comment

Walking the diagonals

We have thought many times that the phrase “Got Axis?” deserves to be emblazoned on T-shirts for tango dancers because it carries an important message: Are you capable of holding yourself balanced with your entire body weight resting on one leg? If you have waited in line at the post office, the checkout counter at the supermarket, or anywhere where you must spend long periods standing up without moving, you already know the basic skill of resting your body on one leg or taking the load off the other leg, or being on axis. As your legs get tired, your brain makes your body rest on one leg while taking the load off the other. As time passes and the leg holding the body’s weight gets tired, the brain makes the body rest on the other leg, allowing the initial leg to get a deserved rest. All of that happens without your direct intervention.

The concept of axis in tango has the same fundamental purpose: to rest the weight of your body on one leg while taking the load off the other. The underlying difference here is that instead of sinking or sitting on the load-bearing leg, you will stand up on the load-bearing leg and elongate your body. To elongate, you will take a deep breath, feeling the sensation that you are on top of your feet or on the highest step of a staircase or on top of a pedestal. As you elongate upward on the support (load-bearing) leg, the free leg will naturally hang with your upper thighs and heels touching. To properly present the axis to your partner, place the instep of the free foot against the back of the heel of the axis-bearing foot.The place where you are standing on axis at any given time is the center of an imaginary circle, which you carry with you as you move in any direction. In any instance, wherever you land at the end of a step, as you look straight ahead (your north), the half circle that lies to your left constitutes your left, or west, side. Any leg action that will favor your weight in that space would be considered a move to your left. Similarly, the half circle that lies to your right constitutes your right, or east, side, and any leg action that will favor your weight in that space would be considered a move to your right.

The half circle in front of your chest is your forward, or north, space, and the half circle behind your back is your backward, or south, space. As you learn about motion and trajectories in tango, it is important that you understand and identify the space you move to as one of four quadrants with respect to where you start from: forward right, forward left, backward right, and backward left.This demarcation of space with regard to the initial starting spot of every step is extremely critical. It helps you understand the circular nature of the dance and become acquainted with an important concept of the tango: The man makes the woman dance around him as he dances around the floor. Therefore, your partner will either be in your right or your left quadrant, never in front, and of course never behind.The dance of tango consists of walking forward or backward, and turning. Please don’t be confused by the simplicity of these concepts, but the tango is a simple dance based on a clear and logical structure.

For example, there is straight walking, and walking straight on a trajectory. When the man walks into his “north” thinking that he is dancing tango with a walk, he is actually doing the Walmart shopping cart shuffle forcing the woman to walk back with her legs open. The illusion of the crossing of the legs so characteristic of the tango is created when the man dances into his forward right, as in a salidafor example, forcing the woman to cross her left leg outside and inside her right leg. This is a consequence of the way we embrace, with the left side of the woman closer to the right side of the man. So, while the man starts facing “north” the woman is facing the man’s “southwest.” When he walks into his “northwest” so does she because her body moves in his embrace.You don’t need to know who Ionian Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras of Samos was, but it would impress your partner if you can describe the straight trajectory on which we dance the salida as a diagonal, the line that joins two nonconsecutive vertices of a polygon or polyhedron. Informally, any sloping line is called diagonal, so any trajectory with a slant or oblique direction is a diagonal.

In tango dancing, trajectory is the imaginary line that connects the starting and ending point of the couple after two steps.The following video clip for the second session of our August 2011 classes shows forward and backward walking on different diagonals. Keep in mind that the first forward step is with the right foot, and the first back step is with the left foot. From the Home or starting position, the man must open to his left in order to have a clear path for his first forward step with his right foot. That also prepares the woman to take her first back step with her left foot. A simple strategy for walking is taking two steps, one with each leg, and doing something else other than repeating the first step. In the salida, after the woman takes her two back steps, she crosses her left leg in front of her right leg with a weight change. The man has the option to do the same after his first two forward steps, or simple bring his feet together with a weight change.

At 16:00 in the video, there is another option for the third step of the man as he walks backwards: he opens to his “southwest” beginning a new salida on a different diagonal. In this case the woman neither crosses behind or bring her feet together, but opens to the man’s left shoulder. They dance repeating the sequence several times always moving on a different diagonal every time.

At 36:00, they use the first third step option with the man crossing left over right, and the woman right behind left. They proceed to alternate the third step option as they move around the dance floor always using different diagonals.

Enjoy the lesson, raise your eyes off the floor to understand trajectories, and keep on dancing more tango.

Posted August 16, 2011 by Alberto & Valorie in Gotta Tango

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