Technique

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?

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Invitations, Proposals, Esperar y Seguir

As I am here in Berlin also waiting for invitations and making proposals, I thought of leading. Invitations, Proposals, Esperar y Seguir are they all the makings of a great leader? I thought about how the role of the leader has had so many explanations on how it is supposed to be or how it is supposed to happen. (I apologize in advance for using the terms he and she or her and him only to make my writing easy and fluid, not to discredit any leading and following done by the other gender.)

And ironically I was at milonga in Wuppertal recently (prior to coming to Berlin) and they were showing a BBC 4 documentary, La Confiteria Ideal: The Tango Salon (of which I am unable to view on youtube here in Germany – but you might be able to see it in the US, not sure. You can let me know!)

But anyway the point is that Javier Rodriguez (famous tango dancer) says in the video something to the effect – that he really has 2 options as a leader: esperar y seguir. “To wait and to follow”. However, I’d like to comment on the verb esperar, which yes, means to wait, but can also mean to hope and to expect. So this waiting implies an activity as opposed to a waiting in passivity. I think of this in body posturing as well. I see sometimes in my students that when I say, “wait for her”, their body posture changes from forwardly present and seemingly active in appearance (I see this posture as being forward) to passive and checked out energetically, sometimes seen as the posture shifted towards the heels. I try to make this distinction by saying that it’s an active moment of waiting, not a “check out, have a cocktail and a cigarette, moment”. (ok, not the most appropriate image for certain audiences, but I hope you get my point.)

A possibly more useful word would be to say that the lead is listening to his follow and waiting for her and by doing this the follower can often inspire the leader to lead something different or unexpected. Very exciting! And of course the leader needs to be ready for this, which goes back to the embrace. Through the embrace the possibilities will always be dictated: where the waiting with anticipation is, the listening, the following.

I know that Fernanda y Guillermo who now have a school in Boston enjoy using the terms “propose and dispose”, which I interpreted as meaning exactly what we are discussing: an opportunity is given and the opportunity is interpreted!

I have found however, that sometimes the leader has learned a pattern without understanding this concept fully and so the follower might be left in the unknown, guessing or not moving at all. I experience this often at a parada or a stop. The leader has stopped me and expects me to read his mind because he has blocked all other options through his embrace. Where is the invitation? l get the waiting, usually, but then what? The waiting Javier is talking about is usually preceded with an idea for the follower, the lead, the marca, the invitation. So the leader has to be clear in all aspects of his embrace, lead, and intention as to what he might want from his follower. And then he accompanies her, follows through with her, dancing with her!

If I open the door for you the path for you to enter is clear. The same in tango. Is your door half open? did you step in front of the path or abandon the path once you created it?

PS Just to clarify – my context for the use of the word proposal: put forward (an idea or plan) for consideration or discussion by others.

PS2 – sorry no pictures this time.

 

 

 

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