Lightness is really just what happens when you are perfectly balanced and perfectly connected. We are heavy when we aren’t supporting ourselves, and instead lean on the leader or when we are disconnected.
It’s also possible to be too light and independent, because then we’re disconnected. We can be balanced but moving in the wrong direction and that makes us hard to move and thereby heavy.
So what are balance and good connection? Marks talk about these things as if they’re innate, but really they’re skills that you can master with just a little practice.
You need practice in body awareness (recognizing where your bones are and which muscles are active) and you need practice in body control (using the right muscles to support and move yourself).
There are three things you need to understand to have great balance and connection while you’re dancing (and the rest of the time).
1. The focus of attention for these skills is the base leg which is organized in an arc from your heel to your rib cage.
2. Connection is nothing more than keeping this arc pointing at your partner. Together your arcs form an arch of connection.
3. Your embrace must always remain taut. Do this by keeping your shoulders in external rotation and extending your elbows slightly (contract the triceps).
How to do it:
- Make sure that your foot (and leg) is always slightly in external rotation relative to your hips whenever it is bearing any weight at all. The muscles of your leg cannot work well when it’s internally rotated.
- Maintain hip flexion at all times.
- Keep the rib cage of the base leg over the knuckle of the big toe of the base leg.
Practice by yourself taking every kind of tango step (fast, slow, short, long, forceful, gentle) and finding your arc immediately and smoothly afterward. Avoid tension in the free leg as this can actually throw you off balance!
While dancing you will need to find this position in conditions of changing force, embrace, and dynamic. Ask your partner to dance very slowly so that you can both concentrate on finding your arc after every move.