I’ve just had the wonderful opportunity to meet with Michael Chang, a DanceSport champion turned sports scientist, who calls himself a “dance geek”. Michael verified the anatomical accuracy of my existing pedagogy and clarified the underlying anatomical reality of a few things that had been mysterious to me.
As I’ve committed TangoForge to use only anatomical terminology, I’ve become uncomfortable with the terms I use that aren’t. I knew that ‘compression’ had to go, but I didn’t know what it was.
Ta da! … The correct anatomical term for compression is … co-contraction.
Co-contraction is the strength that comes from the fact that both sets of muscles in a pair are working. (Usually one muscle in a pair works and the other relaxes.) When we force both the hamstrings and quadriceps to work, we create extra strength motion, causing legs to fly into voleos and ganchos!
I’m pleased with the term co-contraction, because, like the word ‘revel‘, the terminology serves as a reminder of what we need to do, specifically that we need to create a dual movement, flexing two joints equally to create powerful muscle activation.
The joints can be moving deeper into flexion OR they can be extending, but the important part is that the flexion is equal, because that makes the activation of the quadriceps and the hamstrings equal.
There are two different applications of compression/co-contraction:
- Co-contraction controlled by extension of the sending leg (for rebote) : All three joints of the sending leg are extending. Various muscles hit the point of stretch-reflex. This is the easiest way to create elasticity.
- Co-contraction controlled by the receiving leg (for voleo, gancho, alteracion, rebote cadera). All three joints of the receiving leg are flexing. Co-contraction in eccentric contractions. When the contraction is released, we create an elastic reaction. This is useful for alteracion and elastic ganchos. But we can also hold that co-contraction isometrically to decelerate a voleo or gancho to pose or because we want to make some more ganchos, El Pulpo-style. And the co-contraction will ensure that when we do release, we will have a lot of power for the next move.
Both mark and revel need to create co-contraction for voleos and ganchos. To check if you are doing it right, just have a look! Are your knee and hip joints flexed equally? As soon as you fix this you’ll find all these big movements get smoother!