Tango Homework

What I’m working on now in my tango journey . . .

After recording and reviewing a video of myself dancing, I was able to get an idea of a few things I need to focus on. It’s one thing to know that certain things feel off, or unstable, or wear me out a little too soon – it’s another thing to be able to see video evidence of what’s causing it. It’s still hard to watch myself dance, but I always get so much more information from it (after I get done wincing and cringing).


(Photo 1) The biggest problem lately – actually, it’s been the biggest problem for a long time, is my tendency to “sickle” my left foot. (See photo below of me dancing with one of my teachers, Stephen Shortnacy, of Georgetown Tango.) As I extend into my back steps, my tendency is to land on the ball of my foot then roll out toward the outer edge of my foot and through the heel. The goal is really to keep mostly on the inside edge of feet, which I’ve been able train my right foot to do. But I’ve been having a lot more trouble with my left foot. Not only does this make me a lot less stable, it can make me feel heavier on my partner’s right side and cause soreness in my back and legs.



(Photo 2) The next thing, though it was hard to get a picture of from the video, is my tendency to raise my shoulder (particularly the left) and drop my hip. I also, even though I’ve made some improvement on this, occasionally pull my shoulder blades together, which pulls my shoulders back and away from my partner. Again, this adds to my back pain, and makes it harder to lead me.


(Photo 3) And, I’m still not collecting consistently. After learning even the tiny bit I know about leading, I can tell you it’s tough to keep track of where your partner’s feet are if she doesn’t collect. I’m far better than I was, but during milonga tandas especially, I tend to overlook collecting.

So now I have a new list of strengthening and flexibility exercises that are helping a great deal. Plus I have the usual list of musicality, breathing, relaxing, walking, balance items from my "tango laundry list" to work on as well.

7 comments:

cey said...

congrats on having the courage to watch yourself! i still can't do it.. im so scared of what i might see..

Anonymous said...

good post.

one your last one about collecting - it actually helps, rather than being a chore. i found it helps fast music (double times, syncopations) or milonga.

good luck with the journey.

El Finito has the best footwork:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DpSoR-GjLU

good to watch the old masters - leaders and followers:
http://insearchoftango.blogspot.com/2010/03/today-they-dance-differently.html

Tango Therapist said...

Mari-- such courage! Most would never all others to see themselves in compromising positions! :-)

Alex said...

I did this with a still camera...at 7 frames per second (versus 30 fps for video)...seemed easier to analyze, and you can scroll through the photos quickly and get stop motion type video...

This is how I discovered my "fucked up" walk at the end of year 1...

a

Mari said...

@cey - after the first couple of times you get used to seeing yourself move and you learn *SO* much. The first time was pretty traumatic lol - but it passes quickly as you get down to business and start working on stuff. It makes things so much easier to work on - so you see results quite a bit faster. Of course I can do this, but I still have a terrible time watching myself in the mirror. *shrugs*

@anon - thx for the video links. You're right about collecting - it makes everything else easier and faster and smoother. Just have to keep at it.

@Tango Therapist - glad you think it's courageous - I was going to ask you to partner up next time! ;)

@Alex - not sure if I'm brave enough for the still camera. This brings out my OCD quite enough, so far. I did have the "holy crap, THAT'S how I'm walking??? yeeeesh.. I suck!" Then I just got back up and at it. :-)

Anonymous said...

good job! Maybe you could also do a post on homework for the ladies, regarding the correction of posture and backstepping. I live in a small town in Greece and tango lessons are available only once, every 15 days [milongas are even more rare], so any notes and advice would be much appreciated!!!!

Mari Johnson said...

Hi Anonymous - thank you for your comment! Rather than a post, I would actually recommend Maria Olivera's Tango Follower's Technique video. It's one of the very few DVD's I recommend for followers. It is very challenging, but so worth it - as it focuses on the fundamentals. Here is the link: http://www.tangosalon.com.ar/Tangosalon_Ingles/Store.html

For followers and leaders, I recommend the series "Un tal Gavito" Volumes 1-3. It's only sporadically in print - but you can usually find it on eBay - occasionally on Amazon.com etc. Carlos Gavito and Marcela Duran give great context and explanations of the movements in tango - and explain why the dance looks and works like it does. Outstanding videos! Good luck - and happy dancing!