I have been catching up on my Tango reading. I have a pile of books that are about Argentine Tango journeys and stories and I am slowly paving my way through them.
Last night something caught my attention in a footnote, this author used the phrase pushing the floor.
I started to ponder this idea of what I say when I teach and to whom and why.
How many times have you heard a teacher say:
Push the floor
Caress the floor
Receive the floor
Use the floor
Could it be all of these things?
I reflect on my wide student body and think that all these are possibly true at different times in our tango lives. A concrete way to get a student to feel the floor or become more grounded is often to tell them to push the floor. In doing this they appear to become more aware of their relationship with it.
I remember when I was first learning, one of my teachers would say, caress the floor. And at that time it made me think of being very light and in retrospect I was either praised or criticized for that lightness. “Oh, you’re so light!” a dancer would say seemingly enthusiastically. I also remember a guest teacher pushing on my shoulders saying, “you’re too light, get heavy” as he continued to push down on my shoulders in a dramatic effort to make me heavier. This obviously did not help me!
In an effort to make dancers out of most non-dancers in Argentine Tango, I think teachers try to find a fast route to groundedness. What the heck is that?
As a modern dancer, who also spent many hours taking ballet classes, I trained my body to use gravity in creative ways: to jump, to dart, to fall, to roll, to pound and all these actions made me very aware of my relationship to the floor. In order to fall to the floor or collapse into the floor without hurting myself several actions or reactions had to take place: my joints had to be mobile, my core active, and I had to have an awareness of the soft parts of my body. (In a nutshell!) As I would allow my body to “succumb to gravity” there would be an opposite reaction in another part of my body to support it.
The same thing happens in tango. It is as if the body is divided top and bottom half – the lower half is the legs working with gravity (and against it!) and the upper half is projecting upwards to support the lower half. Graciela (Gonzalez) has been using the phrase 50% up and 50% down, which makes sense to some and not to others. But if you can imagine that your body is naturally designed to support itself from its center you are 1/2 way there!
How ever you decide or have been taught to use the floor just ponder on what is supporting that action. If you are focusing on only 1 direction, down, your energy and intention will send that message to your partner. This could be a heavy ride for either party. If there is an equal and opposing reaction the body, both as a lead or a follow, is already a better conduit for information. And of course, don’t forget your embrace is part of that 50% up and towards your partner.
I leave you with this cartoon. If you can imagine realigning this poor fellow by stacking his mid section on top of his legs and then his head on top of that. It’s his TORSO or the middle of his body where his support would be coming from. I know we don’t look like this, maybe feel this way sometimes, but hoping that the image helps to support my point…His legs and his feet will bring all of his body through the lead.
Happy Reflections and Happy Dancing!