Tango and patterns of motion

When I dance tango with someone, judging by my partner’s patterns of motion after taking a few steps together, I can usually guess what other dances or sports did she do before tango. One can discover the typical  signs of ballet, folk dance, ballroom dancing, etc. Martial arts, pilates, tai chi, yoga and even the regular use of Alexander technique can be felt in your partner’s moves.

However, there is one type of sport that beats me most of the time. There are no signs, I can just feel that many things work right while dancing with that person. They have strong muscles, especially around their lower back and their core, which is a issue for almost every second person. They ’grab the ground’ while making a step. They have no idea about the horizontal pushing technique, yet they are doing it right.

Well, this sport is running. If you run regularly, your body is usually quite fit. Now I know why I found it baffling – because the basics of running or dancing tango with the right technique are actually the same.

Benefits of running

There are countless studies about the benefits of running: it helps you lose weight, have a better sleep, keep your bones and joints healthy, improve your brain power and your cardiac function, beat depression and stress, lower the risk of developing cancer or diabetes, have a healthier, better-looking skin and so on.

We must note the difference between jogging and running. When running your speed must be at least 8 km/h or higher, whereas jogging is somewhere between 6-8 km/h as at 6 km/h what you are doing is called intensive walking.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? So, if this article inspires you to take up running, or re-start it, then check out the internet for running articles to avoid common mistakes of beginner runners.

Benefits of tango

We all know about the numerous benefits of tango: it is a way of self-development, it improves your posture, your ability of concentration, your memory, your improvisation skills, your adaptability, it strengthens your heart, it boosts your mood and brings along all the other benefits of running.

An extra feature of tango is that many tango songs have a slower rhythm than our natural heart-beat, so as our heart tries to adapt to the slower tempo, it helps us relax. It is a wonderful way of calming down our body and soul. It also helps us lose neck and shoulder cramps.

Tango and running – common basis

With a background in tango teaching I can tell that dancing tango or running with the right technique have a common basis. This means that if you improve your running technique, you will progress in tango as well.

What should you keep in mind to run correctly? When I read the tips of professional running coaches, I realised that many tango dancers could take this advice.

Alberto Salazar, former marathon-runner superstar and currently one of the top running coaches writes about the incorrect posture and incorrect technique of runners:

“You show me someone with bad form, and I’ll show you someone who’s going to have a lot of injuries and a short career.”

Although he writes that about professional athletes, amateur runners could also take his words into consideration.
Source:( rockcreekrunner.com)

So, how to run correctly?

Here are two infographics with explanations to help you. I hope you will all find it useful to improve your running technique and this way your tango skills as well.

A few suggestions from the first infographic to (not only) tango dancers:

  • looking down takes the direction of your whole body downwards (note: if you have many problems with this, I recommend Alexander technique)
  • it is not only the head looking down, but also the curved back that puts pressure on the spine (it is a problem in tango, too, it looks ugly and pulls your partner downwards)
  • maintaining a stable core helps you avoid sideways motion of the spine resulting in better balance
  • overpronation of the foot ( called en dehors in ballet) creates torsion, which is also unhealthy. It is recommended to focus on a neutral positioning of the foot as seen in the picture

Guidelines to the second infographic

Here comes my favourite piece of advice: Avoid sticking out your butt!!!

Even if you see this bad example on other tango dancers or performers, do not copy it! It causes lower back pain and puts a lot of pressure on your lumbar spine. It can even cause spinal hernia or a slipped disc.

running form

Finally a misbelief about the connection between sports and dancing

For some reason many sportsmen think that they are bad at dancing. This is a totally stupid idea, to put nicely. If you decide to take up dancing, sport is of great help. Both sport and dancing make the body and the brain work. You have to memorize steps, techniques, tricks, you may even have to learn how to dribble (we have such steps in tango as well called amague :) ).

This mentality of ’I’m bad at dancing’ allows your mind to limit your dance learning process. And sadly, runners are no exceptions to that either.

special thanks to László Bakó for the photos. He is a runner, an orienteer and a tango dancer as well. When I asked him to read my article before publishing it, he replied something very interesting that I would like to quote:

„I would add one more thing that can be experienced only by those who run longer distances. How important it is to  be there with your mind. Otherwise you do really bad or cannot even finish the race.

That is exactly how I feel when I dance tango.

If I am not present in the dance with my mind and my soul, then I can’t dance, or it becomes very superficial and unenjoyable. It is not worth dancing like that. As during tango dancing I keep planning the following moves, when I am running I keep counting: time, speed, laps, mapping out the route, etc.”