Dysfunctional techniques

These are commonly taught, but disfunctional techniques that should be avoided. They fall into two categories: Tricks for beginners that need to be unlearned later.


Many teachers over-use Up (lifting the follower) for aspects of the lead where it is inappropriate, and often must be un-learned as students advance. Moving the embrace upward should only be used to lift the follower’s free leg into the air. Up is counterproductive for:

  • Completed cross with change of foot (as it’s actually the correct lead for a faked/incompleted cross)
  • Change of weight, as it actually communicates to the follower not to change foot. (The correct lead for change of foot is that the leader straightens his own base leg and then directs her spine 2cm toward her other leg, keeping the embrace relaxed so she can feel a subtle lead for a subtle movement.)
  • Stopping, as it blocks her ability to arrive strongly to her axis, which is what she needs in order stop. (The correct lead for stopping is deceleration.)
  • Constantly giving the follower a sensation of up will also cause her steps to be shorter and more hesitant as it takes her out of her body.

Tango imbalances

I have noticed in working on my own body and with many other dancers that tango can induce imbalances into the core muscles. Leaders have a tendency to lean to their right, never fully arriving on top of their left leg. And followers have the mirroring tendency, which is to lean to their left regardless of which foot they are standing on.

There are two main causes of this problem. First is the unfortunate misuse of the leader’s left hand in leading ochos. If the leader relies on their left hand to stop the follower in her forward ocho onto the left foot and/or to lead her back ocho with right by pushing her with the left hand, he may unwittingly fail to stand up straight over his left foot. The second reason is the leader’s tendency to distort his body while walking to the left of the follower. Eventually his right side body develops a permanent contraction and he fails to stand up straight. This will prevent him from using his core muscles fully, which reinforces the tendency to rely on the left hand for ochos as any attempt to use his left leg fails to connect to his core muscles.

In addition to being blocked in their pivots on the right hand side, which cause followers to favor their left sidebody, Followers who stretch their body unevenly up to the left in close embrace will develop the same tendency not to arrive fully to their right leg (which many leaders don’t allow, as they hold her tightly over her left side even when leading her to her right).

The problem here is that one side of the core muscles are systematically unused and do not fire normally. The body is already habituated to imbalance which affects standing balance on either leg. And attempting to use the legs to activate the core may fail when the core is tilted in a distorted position.

The cure is to concentrate on engaging/stretching the base leg’s corresponding side body (obliques), drawing them upward with the assistance of your pelvic floor muscles — and making sure you are doing this equally on both sides! In addition, it would be useful to have your exercise professional watch you carefully to check that whatever abdominal work you are doing is engaging and developing both sides of your core equally. You may have a habit of using one side to do all the work.



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