During a tango class, we’re taught to move a certain way, depending on what we’re learning. For example, instructors tell us the importance of dissociating our upper bodies during circular movements, to relax our legs at specific moments, to hold less tension in our arms, etc. As we encounter these details, we naturally start paying more attention to what our bodies are doing.
This elevated sense of body awareness is just as important as learning any step. But once class or the milonga is over, the awareness tends to stop. Yet unlike other elements of tango, body awareness is one of the easiest skills to practice while away from the dance floor. No, I’m not suggesting that we obsess over tango 24/7, although there’s nothing wrong with that if it makes us happy.
Here’s a simple idea to get us started: Think about your sense of balance while walking or standing still.
It’s something we take for granted, and rarely reflect upon for any length of time. If we were to read any article about robotics, particularly research on designing robots that walk on two legs, then we’ll appreciate just how amazing a feat it is for the human body to do something so easily. Some really smart engineers out there are having an extremely tough time getting robots to do what our muscles and tendons effortlessly accomplish while we’re standing around texting.
So let’s think about what our bodies are doing the next time we’re waiting in line for ice cream. Can we feel our muscles making the dozens of micro adjustments which enable us to remain upright? Which muscles are we moving? Are they only in our legs, or are they also in our abdominals and back?
It may not seem like much, but consciously thinking more about what our bodies are doing – starting with a task as simple as standing still or walking – helps put us in a body awareness mindset that’ll pay off during the next tango class.