by Igor Polk, June 5, 2016 - May 19, 2014
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What are the other ways a human body possesses to "hang from a tree"? It may hang on a tree branch with arms and legs. There are 4 combinations: left arm - left leg, left arm - right leg, right arm - right leg, right arm - right leg. For each of these positions, there are several positions of torso, depending, for example, where a free arm is trying to reach, twisted to the left or right. In each of these positions torso will experience different twists.
The large arc from a hand to a foot is the major form-defining element of a pose. The origin of it is "Monkey Model".
While upper torso is most suitable for climbing, the lower torso was transformed by evolution for the walking and running function. It may be better to call it "Dinosaur" model since we do use our "tail" in the same way running of two legs, but it does not sound nice. Let me call it a "Horse" model.
Upper torso, thanks to the monkey side of our functionality, is very suitable to support running function. There are four walking-running modes: Up-Hill and Down-Hill, Forward and Backward.
Let us consider the process of walking down- and up- hill in stages: see the tables below. If you want to try it yourself, the hill should have significant slope. Stairs will work as well, but slope is better.
Toe-First Short-Step Tango Walk
As you can see the sequence is matching: there is a preparation stage and a careful step stage. The main body arc of Parada-down-hill and Liberty-down-hill are matching. If two people are placed torso to torso to each other and walk down-hill, they will be moving synchronously. What is described here is a sequence of "Short-Step Toe-First Tango Walk". This walk in a couples dance can be done forward and backward. An individual step will be called "Toe-First Short Step".
Abbreviation of the step is 1). To master the Toe-First step imagine walking on tip-toes.
Body-First Tango Walk
As you can see, there is a step stage and a completion stage. What is described here is the second tango type of walk: "Body-First Tango Walk". An individual step will be called "Body-First Step". Abbreviation of the step is 2) on the diagram above.
Rhythmic Opposition of Toe-First and Body-First Steps
One step of these walks will shortly be called Toe-First Step or Body-First Step, Forward or Backward. Mechanically, these steps are very different. One more difference I want to turn your attention to is the different rhythm of these steps. There are two stages in both, but the Toe-First has the Preparation-Step sequence with the actual step in the second phase, while the Body-First has the Step-Completion sequence with the actual step in the first phase. In a dance, especially if you start combining these steps and dance to music, it does matter very much! More about this later.
"Knee-Lock", "Hip-Bump", and "Hip-Push"
It looks like a human leg has two similar mechanisms which are called "knee-lock" and "hip-bump". They transform a leg from an "unlocked", "flexible" state with maximum sensitivity but high load on muscles, to "locked" state with minimum sensitivity and readiness for movement, but preservation of muscle energy for balancing, because the leg is stiffer.
It seems that the during the transition from the "unlocked" to the "locked" state, an ample amount of energy is used and a push is produced. The transition moment itself has a specific "click" feel, and it is easily felt by a dancer himself and his partner. If one steps with large steps, this click is the last stage of propelling forward, following the release of energy from a twisted pelvis. It is possible to step relatively small, like going uphill, and produce the "click" without very much muscle effort. The FEELING is like stepping large, but the step is actually small. This property is valuable for crowded-floor social tango. The "click" does not happen by itself. An effort must be made to produce it.
During steps, the moment of the click is approximately in the middle of the step, so if a step is 1/4 (4 steps per measure), a click will be in 1/8. For tango, this timing is important in ones ability to facilitate a synchoronization with the characteristic rhythm of "syncopa". More about this later. The click may not happen. The leg can also come to the same position gradually and smoothly, with a forward push into the hip joint propelling the pelvis and therefore the body, forward. In both ways, I will call the push from the thigh into the hip joint which propels pelvis forward, a "Hip-Push".
A similar mechanism is at work when stepping Up-Hill Backward. In this case, a "Hip-Push" happens in backward direction. When stepping sideways up-hill, a similar hip-push happens. Hip-Push is an extremely important energy producer in dancing. Mastery of this is paramount, but it does not happen by itself. It needs practice and guidance. I hope the "up-hill" analogy will help in understanding.
There are "standing" and "dramatic" positions of the "unlocked" leg. They are presented in the Parada chapter.
Tango step and Latin step
Side step can also be done in two ways, Body-First and Toe-First. Side-step Body-First can be done not only stepping to the side, but also stepping Forward and Backward. It is the basic dancer's Latin Step.
|Stage of the step||Function|
|1||Preparation like in Toe-First|
|2||Step like in Body-First|
A step of this walk is a combination of the Short-Step Toe-First Tango Walk step and the Body-First Tango Walk step. The stages are noted in the table. You can take stage descriptions from previous tables. This walk is the most popular walk in advanced tango, especially in stage performance. Short-Step is the most challenging, since it is difficult to train people who are used to "stepping" off and landing on a heel, to move the body to the same place where the foot is touching the floor and move their weight onto the ball of the foot. But this walk is invaluable when dancing in confined surroundings in apilado and milonguero styles. Body-First Tango walk is used in traditional, old styles of tango. They often can be seen on stage. This step lands on the heal and can be large. It is possible to make a large Toe-First step. An individual step will be called "Toe-First Long Step".
In short , this step begins as if one prepares to step down-hill and subsequently steps up-hill.
The description given in this chapter does not include mechanics of torso and pelvis twist. To find this please, refer to descriptions of tango poses like Parada and Liberty, and figures like Cunita, Corte y Quebrada, and others. More on these steps will be given later.
The existence of two major types of walk, up-hill and down-hill, correlates with well known notions of two types of running. It may be that what I describe here is a key to understanding their differences and advantages.