Let's talk bottom

Rewrite: 19th January 2011

Original: 14th October 2009

(More Next Steps articles.)

"Love teaches even asses to dance" ~ French proverb


While there are a wide variety of ways to walk, one thing does seem to be agreed upon - the leader has to lead it.

Now it's one thing if you don't know how to lead it; you can learn. It's another thing entirely if you've misunderstood what it is you're supposed to be doing. This article looks at a common method of following. However as is the nature of tango there are many variations. You’re recommended to explore them and apply the concepts suggested here to them.

Exercise 1

Stand up normally with straight legs. Keep both your legs straight and transfer your weight onto your right leg. Keeping your right leg straight take a step forward on your left.

Simples, right? It works and it's perfectly reasonable to assume the follower does the same thing but stepping backwards in the same way.

Unfortunately she isn't. (Or perhaps more precisely, she isn't supposed to be.)

Exercise 2

Imagine you're in a pub talking to a mate with a bar stool behind you. Sit back slightly so you're perched on the edge of it. Just enough to make staying there for a while more comfortable than standing, but not actually sitting either. You can lean your torso forward as you would in tango if you like.

Now the sneaky bit. Keeping everything else exactly the same, straighten you legs. Look at the woman in this picture. You should be like her.

Now take a look at:

See how she's maintaining her bum in the sitting on the bar stool position.

Important note.: When leading the follower to walk backwards you need her in the "sitting in a bar stool" position. Otherwise it ain't gonna work too well.

Take a look at:

- specifically, the difference between her legs and his. Her knees are soft. In order to get her to step backwards, you have to first lead her to soften her knees.

So to re-cap, you want her in the "sitting on a bar stool position" into soft knees.

Potential problems

Take another look at:

She's sitting on a bar stool, her front (left leg) has a soft (bent) knee. However her right leg is straight. This is good. Unfortunately it's quite easy for the follower to keep both her knees soft throughout the whole step. So remember to project through her rear leg as if it was yours to straighten it.

Exercise 3

Check out women's behinds at the next milonga you go to. Call it "research"...

In all seriousness, it helps to see this in practice to fully understand it. Spend some time spotting the "sitting on a bar stool" and "softened knees" and see how they work in practice.

Likewise see what happens when this isn't used.

If you can, I'd also recommend practicing this with a woman in front of a mirror so you can see what's going on and what it feels like to lead it properly.

Feedback and suggestions welcomed to dance@jivetango.co.uk

 - Christopher O'Shea, 19th January 2011

Related articles