The Tango Lesson for Virgins

December, 2009

Hot Tango FeetTeaching tango this morning to virgins – pure beginners, I had them first just walk as they normally would walk, in a circle, the line of dance, which is always counter-clockwise. Next, I had them walk applying sensory awareness techniques that are commonly used in guided meditation, Feldenkrais, Pilates, Alexander technique, and the oldest known practice of SA on earth, yoga.

First, I directed their awareness to their feet and the lower extremities in general. Watch how you step when you walk without thinking about. Now, consciously direct your feet how to step, various different ways:Cool Tango Feet

—heel first, then rolling toward the instep, metatarsals, toes touching last.

—or ball of foot first, then, without dropping your body, roll down slowly into the full step.

Feel your weight distributed over the entire foot. Notice if you tend to pronate or supinate.

Now slow it down, so that you feel your body’s center of balance at every centimeter of locomotion. Pick up your foot slightly off the floor, standing balanced on the other. Move the airborne foot slow and close to the body, poising (or shaping) the foot for how it will be placed, heel or ball of foot first, whichever you decide.


Imagine you are a panther stalking its prey.

Imagine home base for the two feet is together touching, even when one is in the air slightly (this is the collection, all important in tango).

Sometimes bevel the stepping foot (bend it like a wing, as if you pronate when you walk, which means you step first on the inside of your foot). Place the metatarsal of the big toe, then the big toe, on the floor before you slowly roll down the rest of the foot. Imagine your foot is a big paw grabbing the floor soundlessly. All the while you are balancing and preparing the other foot to do the same motion.

Notice how your knee leads your foot. If it doesn’t – if you lead with you foot, you are marching. Focus on the knee for a while, letting it be the pilot for the rest of the leg. It should be flexed, softly.

Keep moving now but try to never have both feet on the ground at once – have one always slightly in the air ready to mindfully touch down. Put your mind in your foot. It’s OK, even better, if “in the air” simply means a little centimeter off the ground. Or even brushing the ground—but no weight on the foot.

Keep your arms relaxed at your sides, never stiff.

Direct your awareness to your lower and mid torso, finding your own center of gravity (the dynamic place that helps you balance the rest of you without falling over one way or the other). Feel your spine or axis running through your torso and center of gravity. Stretch it up without hyper stretching. Feel it’s power (all messages and information run up and Synchronize Tango Feetdown the spine). Stop mid-step now and then and pause and listen to the silence.

Now move again, slowly, placing your feet with determination to ground them, grabbing the earth as if your feet are claws. Feel that energy of grounding to the earth. If you do fall over, come back to your center and keep on. No recriminations.

Pause. Listen to the silence.

Next I had them break down into partners and do this exercise together, switching roles as leader and follower. Very informative and useful to the technique of tango.

How does it feel to put your mind where your feet are?

The lesson, or moral of the story: tango builds on natural, organic movements of the body. It asks you to move according to body mechanics you’ve known for ages. It is not like tap dancing, say, that asks the body to step out of its norms (because, for one reason, tap dancing arose from the urge to drum, to beat). Tango asks you to drop all notions of dance, to stay out of your own way. And just dance. Naturally.