Dance Technique

November 4th 2008

Some general technique hints & tips.

Get the hold right

In Modern Jive, us leaders are used to grabbing hold of the follower's hand, and that's about it as far as hold goes. We may occasionally put our arms around the lady (!), but usually it's a handshake hold. In contrast, AT uses two types of hold – open and close. Both holds are called 'Abrazo' ("The embrace").

  • Open hold is quite like a standard ballroom hold – man's right hand around the woman's back, woman's left arm in contact with the man's right arm. Man's left hand slightly out to the side, fingers curled around woman's hand.
  • Close hold is – as you'd expect – much closer. Ideally, the man and woman's torsos form a triangle, looked at from above, with the man's right side touching the woman's left side, and his arm across her back and in most cases, with the hand on the other side of her body.

Most people start out with open hold, and may move into close hold as they get more confident / comfortable. Coming from MJ, such a large level of contact may feel strange – but don't worry, that's how the dance goes.

Some more notes on the embrace.

Don't lead with the hands

On a similar note, it's important to remember that the handhold (man's left, lady's right) is pretty much decorative - it's not the main lead.

You lead with the body (chest, or centre), you don't lead with the hand. So, this means that:

  • Leaders: don't wave your left hands around trying to lead - the left hand should be pretty much stationary relative to the body.
  • Followers: don't follow the hand, focus on following the body lead. Don't provde tension via the hand, and don't use the leader's hand to balance on.

Stop moving!

In Modern Jive, followers often move / change weight automatically to acknowledge the beat, even if there's no lead to do so. We can get away with this - to a point - in Modern Jive, because a lot of moves aren't so dependent on where the follower's weight is - "footwork is not important" as Ceroc tells us.

This does not work in Tango.

In Tango, it's vital that the step is taken on the correct foot - the leader needs to know which foot the follower is on at all times. In fact, the leader controls this with the lead.

It's a common mistake for an MJ follower to change weight, usually in the belief that they're being helpful, without any lead. This confuses the heck out of leaders, and I speak from experience here. The best way I've found as a leader to avoid this is to sloooow it down. And then slooow it down some more. If it's slow enough, followers will almost have to follow. Once you've got a follower used to this following lark, you can then speed it up as required.

The overall lesson is simple: only follow what is led.

Avoid hi-jacking

In MJ, some followers "play" - to varying degrees, to interpret or take the lead. Again, you can (sort of) get away with this in MJ, because it's a looser dance. In AT, the connection is more intense, more difficult to recover, and thus more distressing to the leaders if the lead gets hi-jacked.

Of course, voluntary transfer-of-lead is fine, as is deliberately leaving space for interpretation / playing.

Stand up Straight

We're taught (or learn) to lean over quite a bit in Modern Jive; a typical Jive posture is quite crouched. Unlearn this, and stand tall and proud!

There's a lot of background information about tango posture. The simplest way to imagine the posture of a Tango couple is of an upside-down "Y". The chests are touching - or close - and the legs are further apart.

As the saying goes, "if you're not comfortable with breasts, don't do Tango".

- David Bailey, November 4th 2008