An Easier Way

7th August 2009

(More Next Steps articles.)

Just about everything in this world is easier said than done, with the exception of 'systematically assisting Sisyphus's stealthy, syst-susceptible sister,' which is easier done than said." ~ Lemony Snicket.


Tango is remarkably dificult to learn well.

I blame the "Seven Dwarfs syndrome". Name the seven dwarves. Don't worry I'll wait while you do...

What happens with most people is they name about 4 - 5 dwarves, and then start repeating them.

There's a similar problem with basic posture / embrace. There's waaaaaaaaaaaaay to many elements for your brain to keep track of. So even if someone read out a list and you did each element as you were told, what you'll probably find is that by the time you get to the fifth thing you've stopped doing the first thing.

I have a vague theory about being simultaneously manhandled into position by three or four skilled people, but in practice the odds of there being that many teachers on hand is pretty slim.

We're all doooooomed

I don't think it's possible to go directly into a "proper" posture embrace if you don't already know it.

So that leaves learning it a bit at a time. First learn to relax your shoulders. Then stop looking down. Etc.

There's a problem with this too. There's synergy between the various elements. Which means that doing one part right while the rest is wrong will usually mean that the part you're doing "right" is actually wrong (compared to the finished ideal) and indeed can feel anywhere from awkward to painful to downright impossible. And it actually is impossible to do some elements without the others in place.

So if you can't do it all at once and you can't do it individually - how on earth do you do it?!

There's two options that I can see (well three if you go with the cadre-of-manhandling-teachers concept). The most common one is simply to go with the learning it in pieces as above. It's clunky, awkward, and occasionally painful, but gradually it comes together.

F. M. Alexander was faced with a similar problem. Through experimentation and I presume a fair amount of luck, he was able to find the order in which you could learn the pieces of his system that "worked".

Not trial-and-error

The second option: although I'm uncertain what the actual order for tango is, my advice is this.

  1. Start with relaxing your neck. Gaze forwards not down.
  2. Then relax your shoulders
  3. With your arms hanging down, turn your hands outwards so your palms are forwards. This will gently open out your shoulders. Don't pull them back.
  4. Relax your lower back so your hips go to a neutral position. If you had a tail it would be pointing straight down.

It's important that this is about relaxing into the position rather than trying to adopt a fixed position. Think more gently dipping into a hot bath

and not about assume a rigid pose.

Start with 1. Then do 1 and 2. Then 1, 2 and 3. Keep checking that you're relaxed and doing them all. Build up to doing all 4.

Now start adding the rest of the technique you've learned to it, one piece at a time making sure you don't loose any of the above or become tense. If you find the piece of technique you're adding feels awkward / painful etc, then stop. You need to add some other stuff first before it will work. The rest is trial and error, mainly because different teachers teach in different ways and are going for different outcomes. You should however be able to apply the concept to the Embrace, walking, pivoting and so forth.

Good luck. Feedback and suggestions welcomed to


Just in case you were wondering: Grumpy, Sleepy, Doc, Dopey, Bashful, Happy, Sneezy

 - Christopher O'Shea, 7th August 2009

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