Rise And Fall
24th September 2009
(More Next Steps articles.)
"I didn't get where I am today by posing as my long lost friend from the Argentine." ~ C.J (The Rise And Fall Of Reginald Perrin)
So, I had a query by a student last week about whether to "rise and fall" whilst walking. My answer, briefly, was "No". (it may have been more like "Hell, no!" or even possibly along the lines of "NO NO NO, God NO, don't do it!" - but I digress).
Anyway, to frame the question correctly, this was in the context of walking continuously in a straight line, and the questioner was asking about what to do when collecting - straighten the legs (thus rising up) or keep the knees soft (thus keeping level vertically).
It's not a silly question. We do emphasize that Tango is A Natural Walk. And, in a natural walk, there is a rise motion during collection - your head bobs up and down as you walk along. If you don't believe me, just video yourself walking along normally.
However, in Tango, this simply doesn't work well - it feels less smooth, and it looks (and feels) less connected.
If you're "up" when you are collected, it is because you either stepped onto a straight leg, or straightened it after you transferred your weight, neither of which you should be doing. You should straighten the knee when reaching/extending, but then soften it as you transfer weight to it, so that your supporting leg is never straight.
The benefit of not straightening up is that you then don't have to re-lower yourself to take the next step (and you do have to lower yourself to step, because otherwise you won't be able to reach forwards / back as far).
So, you need to soften the knees when you collect - for both followers and leaders.
Having said that, if you look at some videos or stills, it may look like a dancer is collecting on a straight leg. However, when you look at this closely, it usually turns out that although their legs are basically straight at the instantt the heel touches the floor, they do then soften for collection, to produce a smooth even motion.
However, there's some debate on dance-forums about this...
Generally, the consensus is "don't bounce". However, there's some dispute as to whether a small element of "natural rise during collect" is OK or not. Smooth walking, grounded walking, is good. But that doesn't mean you always have to be 100% level in walking. If you lead - smoothly - a small amount of rise during collecting, then it's natural to follow that motion.
So what's the point of this ramble?
Well, two things.
Firstly, to hopefully clarify some aspects of technique whilst walking.
Secondly, to show that, in Tango as in much of life, it's never quite that simple. There are exceptions, there are differences, and there are caveats.
But if you consider these too much, you'll never start dancing.
- David Bailey, 24th September 2009