Written in response to Sydney Tango Forum discussion. Please note that I view this post as somewhat outdated as it was written in response to a particular conversation. Please visit the KnowledgeBase for the most distilled and updated technique.
I think we want to generate power from the ground for stability and connection and achieve a floating feeling.*
The partners’ bodies need to work in two directions, down toward the floor and up toward the partner to take the slack out of the connection and make that floaty feeling. I call this “oppositional power”
People have so many different ways of trying to teach this… backpacks, tigers… I want to make it simple and foolproof.
The key is PUSHING the ground. Once students learn to push the ground, everything gets better, projection, finish of moves, connection, fluidity, balance, tiny steps…
I agree with Chris that it’s not about bending the knees. This does help balance, but the effect is that power drops. When we push the ground, the knees do flex a little, the gluts star to work, the core will turn on … lots of muscles will become active, but I don’t want to talk about every muscle, I want ONE instruction that works:
Push down through the heels while stretching up with the crown of the head.
Note that this is possible in any position — the knees can be in any position, the weight can be anywhere in the foot, the heels do not need to touch the ground to push down through them. The oppositional power created by this simple instruction creates incredible stability and power connection between the partners. It is *magic* for milonga both lead and follow. This one instruction raises a follower’s ability to follow milonga dramatically and instantly.
There is one other aspect that makes this work best, which is alignment. With a very very very few exceptions (including the milonga tilt projection from 22.1.2012 Practica Dynamica), the core muscles should always be inside the base leg. If the core muscles are allowed to move outside of the adductors, the leg and core muscles will not be able to work properly for groundedness, and that dancer is likely to be falling. This happens a lot to leaders when they step back, especially in back sacada and after pivoting, and it also explains a lot of sloppiness after side steps. Locating this alignment involves a tiny torsion in which the center of the rib cage is positioned exactly over the knuckle of the big toe, as in the image here.
* Isau I read your post about floating, and I agree 100% about the misuse of up power by leaders, but I use a different terminology. I like the feeling of floating/suspension which is achieved by creating a circle of power between the partners and the floor. The float lead you are talking about is a combination of two techniques that I do use, but it is being misused. I call those two techniques “projection up” and “freezing”.
The up-freeze is a trick that teachers use to help students learn the cross and small steps — even to stop the follower! The problem is that it has be unlearned later when a leader ever wants to be able to distinguish between real and fake crosses, between an actual freeze for calesita, volcada, etc. (which then can’t be used in any situation when the leader does want the follower to step), and when the leader actually wants to lead the follower’s leg UP into the air! I find it very frustrating to unlearn and relearn so I don’t teach this trick. Also I don’t like being dragged upward from the armpits for any reason! The up power should come from from the floor, which requires good grounding, and is therefore an advanced form of projection.
Up means project the free leg UP
Freeze means no matter what happens don’t leave the foot you are currently standing on until the freeze is released.