As we improve our tango and grow out of the Beginner stage, we enter an awkward “in-between” phase. Dancing at a milonga is not the struggle it once was, but at the same time, the moves still don’t come easily. We’re concentrating really hard to keep composure, and with each dance we feel there’s a 50/50 chance of either getting through it…or messing up.
During many steps, especially sacadas (either leading or following them), there’s a tendency for the torso to bob around in reaction to the movement of the legs. This sets off a chain reaction starting with instability, which adversely affects our balance. Then, the infamous tense shoulders appear as we grab onto our dance partners. At that point, tango ceases to be fun, and feels more like struggling on a treadmill that’s been turned up too high. The degree to which this happens largely determines whether we’ll “get it” or “mess up.”
Here’s one thing that increases our chances of having a good dance: Keep the entire torso, or core, steady and upright regardless of the footwork we’re following or leading.
At this stage, it’s easy for our minds get bogged down with all the technical elements we learned in class. Unfortunately, at a milonga where everything is happening in the heat of the moment, we aren’t going to remember them all.
But making a conscious effort to keep the torso steady, to prevent bobbing around, leaning back, or hunching forward, will make for smoother dancing. During this growth phase from Beginner to Intermediate, this clear, simple strategy proves much easier on the brain than trying to recall a dozen technique tips at once. With the abdominal muscles engaged and shoulders level, the core becomes stable. And as a result, we become easier to lead or follow.
Eventually, of course, we will have to juggle all those technique points in our heads. But that comes later with more experience. As we complete the current transition, focusing on core stability lays the foundation for that next stage of growth.