Parallel Landscape and Turns in Tango

April 16th Class Summary – 6 Week Series

Week 1 of The Parallel Landscape of Tango – Cruzadas and Turns 

Thank you again for entrusting your learning experience to us as you continue your tango journey. 

Last Tuesday we introduced you to exercises: forward and backward walking and zigzag walking with side steps, connection, posture, embrace and a few details on walking techniques. 

Walking 1 thru 7 & 8

Holding (flowing through) 1 & 3 Stepping on 2 and 4

Zigzags – Reinforcing tongs and scissors!

Our overall goal is to inspire you to think more “outside of the box” when it comes to learning the balance and connection of tango.  Too often the thoughts of dance in general inspire movements that are inorganic or false.  In tango all movements need to be true and from the core self of bi-pedal movement. 

We introduced you to two terms:

Proprioception Ability and Kinesthetic Awareness

Proprioception

Proprioception has been referred to as the sixth sense – though it is not ESP. It is the ability of your central nervous system to communicate and coordinate parts of your body with each other. 

For some reason it was not listed among the 5 senses when I went to school, though it should have been.  We all can learn a great deal by focusing our attention on our proprioceptive selves with the purpose of becoming more connected to our body. 

A simple example would be scratching an itch. How does your finger know where to find the itch? Another one would be walking forward in a straight line like you’re walking on a tight rope as we do in tango. How do your legs know where to plant your feet and how to balance so you don’t topple over? Your central nervous system is working with your muscles to make it happen.

 Kinesthetic awareness

Kinesthetic awareness encompasses the body’s abilities to coordinate motion (such as tossing a ball or spinning a hula hoop) and the body’s awareness of where it is in time and space (think tango). When you see a graceful couple dancing together it is largely kinesthetic awareness that allows them to move in harmony together instead of bumping into each other. 

How are they different?

Proprioception and kinesthetic awareness are often terms that are used interchangeably but they actually mean two separate things.

Proprioception is an inner sense (the central nervous system) while kinesthetic awareness is an external sense (the body in space and time). However, they do work together and impact each other. 

Tango is the perfect example of how proprioception and kinesthetic awareness work together. Tango movements require the body to reflexively know when and how to coordinate and pivot while staying upright. This is proprioception. At the same time, you need to know where your partner is and what they are doing and how their energy will affect your body and movement. This is kinesthetic awareness.  Kinesthetic awareness is totally trainable and this is what your tango training with Learn To Tango is designed to do:  sharpen your proprioceptive abilities while at the same time you are calibrating your kinesthetic awareness of your partner. 

Improving proprioception and kinesthetic awareness

People possess varying degrees of proprioception and kinesthetic awareness. We’ve all known someone whom we think of as a “natural dancer”.  More times than not their proprioception and kinesthetic awareness have been finely tuned and trained, it is usually no accident that they are graceful. 

You probably also know someone whom you think of as an eternal klutz.  Provided there is no brain or motor skill damage, it would merely be that their levels of proprioception and kinesthetic awareness are simply not as developed as they could be. The good news is that any healthy person can improve their proprioception and kinesthetic awareness – and even injuries and damaged brain connections have been repaired using some of the exercises that we use to prepare you to dance the tango. 

Proprioceptive ability and kinesthetic awareness are learned behaviors, easily trained.  This training will be enough to make a difference in your every day life by increasing your inner connections to coordination, balance and grace.  And as a consequence you may even find a decrease in pain, ailments and discomforts that are a consequence of the habits of movement that came from years of inefficiently using your body in an unorganized and unergonomic fashion.  In short tango the way we teach it will reorganize your motor functions and realign you with a more healthy way of ambulating across the planet.

The ability to improve kinesthetic awareness often relies on good proprioception. This is why I developed the walking drills you will learn in our classes and private lessons.  Use them in tandem with your partner and they will increase your own proprioceptive skill level at the same time sharpening your kinesthetic awareness of your partner’s movements at the same time in both partners simultaneously. 

Tango Consists of Simple Constant – Side – Forward -Side – Back 

There are only three direction to step in tango:  Forward, Side and Back.  Forward and back steps work in your body like scissors – tight legs knees together, actually picture a pair of scissors walking.  Side steps work like tongs – literally opening the legs to be parallel with the pelvis – the opposite of scissors.  The feeling you get in the proper execution of a movement is the kinesthetic signature that will guide you and your partner in your moving together as you begin to learn different and more complex patterns.

We have developed some simple exercises to get you moving in this structure.  Zigzags: zigzagging across the end of the dance floor and walking to the other end and zigzagging across in the other direction.  This is a good way to train your own proprioception as you train your kinesthetic awareness at the same time.  It enhances your future learning of patterns and figures and enables you to set up a foundation that will allow you to begin to find your own steps in tango!

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