Natural or tense?


Tango dancing is as natural as giving someone a hug.  Then why are women’s left hands tense while dancing?  I’ve seen tense hands by dancers who never splayed the left hand before.  It looks like a decoration in the center of a man’s back, especially when there’s a large jeweled ring on her index finger.


I’d like to know if men can feel any difference.


11 Responses to “Natural or tense?”

  1. Geoff Nicholls Says:

    Hi Janis, I can’t see the photos on my iPad but yes, I can feel the difference. Some famous teachers tell women to improve connection by pulling the partner to them. What I especially like about this is that dancing with these women always results in a lot of pain between the shoulder blades the next day.
    I’m so grateful to these teachers, as you can imagine.

  2. JohnM Says:

    Yes of course it feels different. And it’s worse than you might think.

    The hand is tense because it is being used by the woman to strengthen her feeling of connection and for that her arm is tense as well as her shoulder. She cannot be relaxed in her upper body and her upper spine seems no longer able to freely twist and contribute to her torsion effect. The resultant dance is more stiff and constrained unless the woman breaks out of the embrace for turns and so-called moves which is a different argument altogether.

    The traditional sight and feel of the woman’s left arm across the upper back of the man and behind his neck evolved for both relaxed comfort and practicality. It is a natural, relaxed contribution to the embrace of feeling and connection yet allowing a freedom of movement of the woman’s inner body which has to be felt by the woman (and consequently by the man) in order to realise its importance. Of course all of this is invisible to onlookers and is unknown by those who are taught (by teachers who also don’t know?) the fashion of tense arms and hands.

    Ask yourself why it is that today we have many dancers whose dance is a straight line walking dance with power turns rather than a more natural turning walking dance?

  3. Chris Says:

    Here’s a fine demonstration by Noelia Hurtado.

    I think the answer to Janis’ question as to why people do it, is: “To get noticed”. Hence that it’s so commonly seen in dance instructors looking for work.

    Students, please don’t copy it. As Janis says, it is unnatural. It looks and feels horrible.

  4. Michael Says:

    I find the woman’s RIGHT hand and arm are tense. Some squeeze my left hand so hard I think they are expecting orange juice! This comes from a complete misunderstanding of the embrace. They are taught to give resistance to the man. by pushing to their right, they shove themselves to their left into the man’s right armpit. I don’t want a woman there but in my center.

    They are so tight their muscles throughout their body grip and they can’t move, pivot, nor do boleos. Since I’m short, they push me off my balance.

    I keep note of these “frames of steel” and avoid them. One tanda is enough.

  5. John Says:

    it is an ugly habit and for a man, uncomfortable. it feels more like a “performance” grip. Not unlike the feeling of the man gripping like a vice with the right hand. Sometimes a big shrug of the shoulders will fix it.

  6. JohnM Says:

    Chris – being noticed is often the aim of many “stars”. In this case they are not dancing to be noticed but are hidden away in the centre. Caught by video they are notable for not dancing in the ronda nor to the music. You will also see how they release so they have some independence of movement for turns.

    There is another side to woman’s arm & hand tension in the embrace. Close embrace dancers are apt to say they often have to seek the man’s chest; this pressure on his back means he cannot escape! It does result in a very positive if somewhat mechanical connection but it loses the subtlety of feeling and even freedom within the body for both the man and the woman.

    I was originally taught the equivalent for the man, placing the right hand on the centre of the woman’s back. Janis herself asked me to change it very early in my first visit to BsAs.. No wonder women asked to be released because I have the same feeling when a woman applies a similar pressure. I don’t like it either but have never suffered actual pain as Geoff described.

  7. Michael Says:

    I can’t fix the woman’s problem of “performance” grip. She has to fix it. I deal with it by forcing her right hand downward to release the pressure on my shoulder. However, this causes her to dance even worse than before. I can feel the woman trying to raise her arm but I lock it in the down direction. Now, she’s not pushing me sideways and I stay closer to her center. If I have to choose between my shoulder and her dancing …

    I used to get upset when a woman said “thank you” before the tanda ended. Now, it can put a big smile on my face when she says it. I came to dance, not to wrestle.

  8. Chris Says:

    John wrote: “Chris – being noticed is often the aim of many “stars”.

    Agreed, and one might also say being noticed is the definition of many “stars” 🙂

    Certainly there seems little to distinguish them except that they stand out. No surprise that their effect on the followers who copy them is net detrimental to the standard of social dancing.

    One example is your point “Caught by video they are notable for not dancing in the ronda nor to the music.” and the fact most of the dancers seen around them are exhibiting the same behaviour.

    Ironically, this copying means these teachers soon no longer stand out. To remain noticed as ‘stars’, they have to contrive some new stand-out behaviour. Here’s one of the main reasons that the effect of such teachers on the learning of traditional dance is so detrimental. As Fabian Salas says (El Tangauta 186 April 2010) “If you dance an old-fashioned tango you will get nowhere, the people will reject it, because today everything is so dynamic“. Fabian provides a example of what he’s got his customers to accept here.

  9. jantango Says:

    It’s clear from the quote that Salas is in the business of tango. I watched the video made at a tango festival. The music isn’t tango nor their dance. He looks like a puppeteer; all that’s missing are the strings to move Carolina. He believes this is “dynamic” but it all gymnastics to me.

  10. JohnM Says:

    Janis & Chris: you should have witnessed the Salas “crew” one Saturday night morph Los Consagrados milonga at Centro Region Leonesa into a tango/non-tango disco. Bright Lights, loud sound and frantic action!

  11. Chris Says:

    John, that’s sad to hear. But let’s remember responsibility for that kind of thing lies with the zookeeper rather than the animals.

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