The lesson in these pictures is that although the very best dancers move in an infinite variety of ways, they all demonstrate surprisingly similar body positions. Why is it that the best dancers always look so similar when captured by the camera? Their styles differ a lot from each another, and from dance to dance as well—and yet they always seem to return to the same places. Did they all go to the same classes? The answer, I think, is that after years of dancing in the milongas, the best ones have all evolved into the most efficient positions.
Just as in nature, to “evolve” in tango means to change in response to some outside stimulus. The natural movement of the milongueros was not “invented”—that is it wasn’t created from experimentation in classes. It evolved as a natural response to its environment over the course of many years. It’s the result of the special feelings and rhythms of the music played in the neighborhoods. It comes from the natural expression of this music in crowded conditions, very close to other dancers.
Let’s look at some of the specific results of this natural evolution of movement in the milongas. First, the dancers in the following pictures stay straight and centered so that the muscles in the back, legs, ankles, and feet can relax. Forward movement is first led by the upper body... it begins with a slight tipping forward, leading with the chest. This communicates the energy to the follower just before the step is taken, and it allows both partners to remain tall and upright. The torso and upper body of the leader should surge forward and arrive right over the leading leg when it touches the floor, so that all of the weight is instantly transferred onto a straight leg. The result is the classic tango walk—surging forward with the music, and stepping solidly into the floor. The couple should flow effortlessly, using the weight of the torso for forward momentum, without excessive pushing from the legs and ankles of the leader.
Top row: Nestor y Cristina, Julio Duplaa, Alito. Second row: Luis Grandona, Tito, Ricardo Vidort
The milongueros in the pictures above don't move their arms or heads around when they dance. Their shoulders stay down and relaxed, and they keep just enough tension in their arms to maintain a firm embrace. Keeping the head and the arms still is not just for looks. If the head and arms move around, muscles in the torso and legs must tighten to compensate for changes in balance. Unnecessary movement disrupts other parts of the body, as well as the balance of your partner.