Tango Basics: Posture

10th April 2009

The first in a series of discussions of the basics of Tango.


I have being dancing Argentine Tango for over four years, and believe some of the very basic things of the dance are posture, embrace and walking together. If the first two are spot on then just taking a single step at the right musical time can feel just great. From the first step you know the dance is going to be wonderful.

For me it is always worthwhile going through a checklist of what you are doing. Some days you just want to dance, but I feel strongly these should be revisited often. Habits are easy to acquire you do not notice that, I just wish changing them could be as simple.

So for this article I thought I would concentrate on the aspects of posture to keep an eye on. Even after all this dancing I do not get all of these right all the time especially when in motion. I just have to settle for getting the majority hopefully 100% of the time.


The shortlist:

  • Alignment
  • Head Up
  • Chin Up
  • Shoulders Down
  • Shoulders Level
  • Chest open
  • Elbow Down
  • Left Arm Relaxed
  • Left Hand height
  • Right Arm Straight
  • Fingers Together
  • Hips Neutral
  • Knees Flexed
  • Feet Under
  • Feet Balanced
  • Heels together

Posture Details

  • Align in front of partner heart to heart, don't reach above your comfort area (on toe tips)
  • Head up and straight, no tilt, or leaning on partner
  • Chin in neutral not point down, or pulled foward bending the neck
  • Shoulders pulled back and down
  • Shoulders level especially left
  • Chest is open, no rounding in of shoulders
  • Left arm elbow pointed down, no turning at shoulder "over the top" like arm wrestle
  • Left arm no tension, no squeezing, shoulder level. It holds no more then own weight.
  • Left hand should be about Follow shoulder height
  • Left inside forearm face partner heart, this envelopes partner
  • Right hand flat across back, no squashing
  • Right arm just below shoulders, not low to prevent partner's leg reach
  • Fingers together no webbed hands
  • Do not tip hips back and arch back.
  • Do not lock out your knees
  • Do not bend at angles from waist, keep feet under you.
  • Weight on front half of foot
  • Keep your heels in contact, unweighted can be slight behind standing leg
  • Hips are heavy, increase gap to ribs
  • If taller lower embrace in arms, rather than stoop

An exercise

I was given an exercise to help raise the torso. This is beneficial as it lifts the point at which the solar plexis is pointing. The direction of this point is where the Follower should be stepping to. The Follower should always try to remain in front of the Lead (excepting the promenade). The solar plexis is the point they will be returning to. So for a giro, if Lead keeps moving this the Follower is to keep stepping in that direction.

Use exercise to raise ribs before dance, and just lower your bottom half. It increases the gap between the bottom of the ribs and your pelvis.

The exercise is very simple. Wrap your hands around your opposite shoulder. So like a very high arm cross. From behind it looks like the old gag of snogging yourself except both hands are at shoulder height. Breath in deeply and exhale slowly, then lower arms. You should notice a lift in your rib cage compared to before the exercise. Now take up the embrace.

A Close Embrace

There have been many arguments over how much lean should be given in the embrace. One extreme style 'apilado' is sharing weight. What works for me though is this description:

The embrace is like an airport hug where you are meeting someone special after a long break. An airport hug does not lean on partner, equal pressure is given and met in middle. Neither partner is off axis, or will fall over if the other moves away. Each partner does need to project to the other though.

As a practica exercise hug your partner then just change the arm on the open side.

And finally

I am by no means an authority. I do not teach so this is a guide based on the things heard and advised to me in workshops over my dancing time. I just hope this is of help to someone.

Above all I wish you get the rewards tango gave me.

- Marcus Wornast (Tanjive), 10th April 2009

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