Unraveling the Mystery of the Tango Walk

25 11 2011

My new tango instructor showed me how I need to adjust my body to continue to grow in my dance. I was a bit skeptical at first, since that was the first time I had heard this suggestion,  but I figured that I may as well give it a shot. It seemed to help.

Fast forward another year or so when I started getting a stabbing pain that needed relief.  When my physical therapist developed my personalized program to relieve my pain, she included  the same thing I had been shown years earlier by my tango instructor.  Now I had two totally independent sources saying the same things and I was starting to really believe.  I began using the technique not just in my own dance, but I used it in teaching some of my beginning tango classes.

Fast forward another year or so and I stumbled across this article on running   in a recent NY Times Magazine which — again — said the same thing.  More than just a provocative article on running, I realized that it really helped me unravel some more of the mystery of the tango walk that had eluded me over the years —  though not for the lack of trying!  Yes, it may be a stretch to equate centuries old running techniques with tango — but bear with me and read on.  I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed.

Think “tango”  — the tango walk for the lead or the tango walk for the follow — as you read some of these passages lifted from the article:

” .. adopting the .. whisper-soft stride”
“”.. learn to run (walk) gently”
“.. from the waist down .. quick, light and springy, like a kid swooping across a playground.”

“They wanted to land lightly on their forefeet .. but there was a disconnect between their intentions and their movements. ..  ‘Once we develop motor patterns they are difficult to unlearn, especially if you’re not sure what it is supposed to feel like.'”

I have often been told that while it takes only ten minutes to learn a  new step in tango, in takes ten years to learn how to walk.  I am now beginning to understand why.

No, I’m not suggesting that running (dancing) barefoot is the answer.   You may have a much more natural walk than I recently had.   But it is about running (dancing) as if you were barefoot or as if you were a child just learning how to walk.   “The key .. is balance, elasticity, stability in mid-stance and cadence.”  That starts sounding like some good tango advice.

While the article argues for an unorthodox style in running, that style has produced world-class runners and has had a resurgence with the recent commercial success of the new Vibram FiveFingers – a rubber foot glove with no heel cushion. or arch support. And Emil Zatopek won gold medals in the all three distance events of the 1952 Olympics while using the same technique.  And while still others are recent converts, all of this flies in the face of the commercial marketing success of Nike and others so successful at selling cushioned support in running shoes.

Over the years, I’ve sometimes struggled knowing what to do when my tango instructors told me to ‘reinvent my walk and walk like I did as a child’ — although I always believed in that advice.   And just last month, I heard how important it is to dance with our feet underneath us.

Yes, it still seems to be fragmented and incomplete, but now I understand more.  And perhaps I’m getting better at learning what to listen for.

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One response

7 09 2013
Isabella

What a lovely and well written article. I adore the concept of ‘walking like a child’, free from all the constraints that surround us and harkening back to a time where we were ‘carefree’ and found fun around every corner. Delicious.

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