Axis: the W’s and the H!

Accessing your Axis: the W’s and an H!

Where is it? What is it? How do I use it ? maintain it? Who has an axis? When do I need to use it? Why do I need to know about it?

In a class recently a student was having a hard time with a “barrida” or a “drag”. And after many tries and different versions of the same concept, the question came up: Why can’t I do this? Or what am I doing wrong? And I replied, “The same concept that gets the follower to move in a walking situation is the same mechanics at work here.” He stared, not really blankly, but with a slight grin to his face!. I said, “So explain to me how or why my follower moves when I am walking in front of her?” He said, “I don’t know actually.” A HA – herein is where the problem lies.

He continued, “Well, in beginner classes you don’t get feedback and it’s hard to learn so now I need the fundamentals and I don’t want to go back to a beginner’s class”. (Actually, I’m not sure that’s exactly what he said but basically this is how I interpreted it!)

This is not only a rant about axis but also about pedagogy. What are teachers teaching if not a very basic fundamental concept in tango, AXIS. Sigh….

I guess cuz it’s not “cool” and not really what students want. But we as teachers do a disservice to the students without tackling this concept somehow! Because it shows up over and over and over again regardless of style.

Where is it?
Some teachers like to talk about the spine as the axis. I like this because even though you might never have had your spine purposefully touched you have an idea of what it is and where it is. The next level is imagining this line being in the middle of the body. I have also tried to access the idea by mentioning buttons on a shirt – your midline. Something to give students an idea of their dimensionality or, as I remember Los Dinzel saying, “your volume”.

What is it?
Axis is a fundamental tool for understanding how tango works with your partner. Your own individual movement relates to your own axis and to your partner’s. Some think of it as a “line” in the middle of the body but for me it’s more than a single plane or place.

How do I use it?
I like to think of the axis and moving through my body across my foot by using the articulation in my ankle. Did you get all that? Try this: stand on one foot (try barefoot first) and bend your ankle. Or move your spine across the length of the foot. Those who have taken my classes (or Rommel’s) think of 1, 2, 3 on your foot.
So you can use your axis along this transverse plane as well as combining the sagittal plane which would begin to add a spiral dimension along this axis.

Axis (PSF)

By Pearson Scott Foresman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By maintaining it. I think awareness is a big step in the right direction. Are you falling over? Did you stick your butt out too far? Is there still a relationship between your sternum and your pubic bone (or your 2 centers as I like to call them!)

Who has an axis?
Aw! I know you know the answer!

When do I use it?
All the time.

Why do I need to know about it?
In order to dance and communicate affectively and clearly with your partner. (this is in both directions – as a leader and a follower)

Definition thanks to Merriam Webster
: the imaginary straight line that something (such as the Earth) turns around
: a straight line that divides a shape evenly into two parts

Back to that student: open and willing to understand he is now ready to practice and actually wants to work on this to get it more into his body. He knows it’s boring but willing to put in the effort in order to improve his tango skills.

Come explore more about the axis with me on Tuesday nights in the technique classes in Budapest. Or take an individual session to explore this concept directly with me.

Happy dancing!

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