Let me ask you a question …when you dance tango do you feel balanced, relaxed and on axis or do you feel unstable, not confident and occasionally stumble or fall over? …..It may be because you’re not grounded.
When you dance tango there are lots of opposing forces, also known as contra energy. Quite often teachers may say “be upright but stay down” which is true, however there is a critical question missing from this statement, that is “which is more important, the up or the down energy?” In here lies the true nature of “groundedness”.
Simply put, the true nature of “groundedness” is where you have more down energy in your body than up energy at all times, regardless of rise and fall in the dance.
When you build a connection with your partner it should follow these steps in priority: you and the floor, you and your partner, then you and the music, and during the dance maintain that level of importance as well.
Here’s an example to illustrate this: if you where in the kitchen reaching to a top shelf just beyond your reach, on tippy toes stretching stretching stretching…….the sensation you may feel is tottering, unstable, about to fall. There is more up energy than down in your body, hence you’re not grounded.
Here’s a simple exercise to feel “groundedness”. Stand feet hip width apart and relaxed throughout the entire body.
Next let’s build your “groundedness” from feet to head.
Firstly soften your feet ankles knees and hips, the sensation is like you’re wearing a heavy backpack and the weight is bearing down on your hips, not your shoulders.
Next and here’s the key, keeping your hips at that level gently lift your heart from you belly button, once again KEEP YOUR HIPS AT THAT LEVEL! this is the key. This is “groundedness” !
PLEASE NOTE “GROUNDEDNESS” IS NOT CREATED BY BENDING THE KNEES- The ankles, knees and hips need to be softened. The reason for this is the fine motor muscles responsible for balance mainly activate when the joint is soft. When you lock a joint, the skeletal system takes most of the weight, and the important balance muscles switch off. To watch a person go from an unstable position to “groundedness”, they may only move 1cm at most.
But how do I dance grounded! The key to staying grounded whilst dancing is:
1: Dance at your height, not your partners ( this is one of the major causes, when shorter followers try to reach for their partner and vise versa when leaders try to reach up to taller followers)
2: For followers, always have the intention of lowering your heels ( even if you don’t lower them, the key word here is intention. If you have the intention to lower your heels this keeps more down energy in your body and you will be grounded. Otherwise you’re on your toes with the “top shelf kitchen syndrome”.
3:Commit yourself to the intention of landing grounded, when you feel an up energy, never go higher than the sense of “groundedness” you have in your own body, if you do you will lose your connection to the ground and become unstable.
Last of all I encourage all dancers to focus on being more grounded in their dance. The difference in the quality and enjoyment for myself in tango by simply being grounded throughout a dance is massive…..%800 difference in connection and communication.
One of my students after a light bulb moment on groundedness said ” the moment I became grounded I could feel where your feet and weight were going in every step, and hence I knew where you wanted me to go…..I had never felt that before, I felt I had more time in my movement to respond”.
A part of being grounded in life is having healthy boundaries, and a strong sense of connectedness with the world. Tango is no different. Connect your body more with the ground first. Keep this as an important boundary and then find the space to share with your partner and have a great connected dance.
When you’re grounded there is space to breath, dance and smile.
By Chris Condron, Tango Encanto