Hip Dropping

Dropping your hips?
A student came to me recently and shared with me that another teacher had told her that to find her balance (which had been a problem for her), all she had to do was “drop her hip”.  And well, as you can imagine, I have some issues with this.

Now, this isn’t the first time I had heard about dropping the hips, for whatever reason, aesthetic or for balance. Many years ago (2006) was probably one of the first times I had heard a follower talk about how she used her hips when she danced. Back then, I thought, WHAT? use your “hips”, how??
Fast forward a few years, and dear friend and world traveling teacher, was talking about how she drops her hips in the dance. She and I had a short heart to heart, where I shared with her that I didn’t think that was very stable or healthy for her joints. I also shared with her some of my Restorative Exercise (TM) information. (She told me a year later that she had thought long and hard about our conversation and had chosen to do it less).

I see a couple of issues with the idea of dropping the hip: what dropping your hips does to your own body and then what message it sends to the leader.
Hip Dropping

So what am I talking about when I say “drop the hips”? And I know cuz I’ve always been a hip dropper. After all, it was the cool way to stand through most of my puberty! Then hard core training in modern dance entered my life and you had to be able to control the movement of your hips in all directions, on all planes of movement. What I also learned is that the muscles of the leg and the pelvis work synergistically to keep your legs ideally under you to help support the weight of your torso.

Those who have attended my “Pelvis” lecture and read my blog on the generic use of the term hips know that our culture has a general idea of where the hips are. But when I say dropping the hips, I think you understand that I mean that model catwalk of dropping the hips so one side of the pelvis is lower than the other.

Look at the picture I have here (nice cool outfit so you can see my hips): my right hip is dropped. Now look at the shoulders and the diagonal pull of my shirt. My right shoulder goes up to compensate for that drop. Another more subtle thing that you will see on some people, is that when they drop their hip, the other hip will move farther away from the center line order to compensate. In other words, my left hip (approximately at about the level of my wrist) would move farther to the left. (Some followers and leaders experience, over time, pain here. This is why, too much movement to the outside of that leg – the femur – is pushing away from your midline.) Sometimes with this comes a rotation of the thigh bone inwards and well, the pelvis might compensate as well with a tilt. WOW! Who knew all this was going on? And meanwhile the spine is being drawn downwards and depending on your embrace, guess what else is pulling downwards? So could you be hanging on your partner because of this? Possibly. We all know that tango is very individualistic so we can’t generalize too much.

Now with all that being said, when the follower takes forward steps there can be a bit of hip swaggering. I see this as attitude and makes sense with a heel-first step in a forward step.

For me the energy has to be drawn into the midline, your stability and balance are here. Anything, “sticking out” or “moving around” means that the base is compromised. And here is where I think that the language used has lead to misunderstandings in the idea of using the hips. Think of this analogy, like a building, there needs to be a good foundation. And maintaining a solid base doesn’t mean there isn’t any movement, a building is designed to expand and contract, and so are we.

Remember – I’m not telling you WHAT to do but I am asking you, do you know why you do it?

  1. David Phillips 2015-07-24 at 08:46

    Thank you for the useful points of information, and for the reference to Restorative Exercise. (It’s amusing to observe on the Katy Says front page that in her photo in front of the blackboard she seems to have her hip thrust to the side).

    There is another form of hip usage, which your post seems to touch on (anything sticking out of the midline), but which in my understanding seems useful and even necessary at times.

    Suppose that my leader in a salida leads a certain size step for me but then steps wider or shorter, leaving me out of axis. Do I balance on them, waiting and hoping that they fix it, or do I seek to restore the integrity of my axis by sending the hip–in a level fashion!–out to the side to restore my balance as much as I can?

    In this form of hip usage, which by the way resembles Katy’s posture, the hips remain level, but the body takes on a sidewise banana shape. (Note, too, that keeping level hips allows one to maintain long leg lines.) Now regardless of what you think of this posture, I wonder if there are people who when they say “drop the hip” really mean “move the hips sideways”?

    Furthermore, I feel that even in a neutral collected position, if my leader does a weight change to either side, I take up that weight change by moving my axis slightly sideways from one foot to the other (or from the middle of two feet to one). If I don’t do this my partner can’t feel what foot I’m on. Alternatively, our couple can move as a block, tilting slightly side to side (which then takes the upper body out of the midline). When the body tilts as a block the hips remain orthogonal to the body midline, but not level with the floor! 🙂

    Does this seem like a useful hip distinction to you even though it does move the body shape slightly out of the midline (or a Lot out of the midline, depending on how much our partner has upset our balance)?

  2. Nora Olivera 2015-07-27 at 14:38

    Perfect! I can’t agree more. Besos. Tangamente, Nora.

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