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The ‘Ballet’ Rise

The 'Ballet' Rise Exercise

Let's dispense with a few misnomers right out of the gate. 1.) Balance is not the same thing as Stability. 2.) Balance is a component of Stability. 3.) Your stability is generated via 3 very different mechanisms that are all connect via your nervous system. And so that we're clear on this one, one of them is not your 'core', and anyone that tells you different is either lying through their eye-teeth, or doesn't understand anatomy and physiology of the human body. Truth be told, your 'core' muscles have absolutely nothing to do with stability. Nada. Zip. Zero. 

A Ballet Rise is an exercise that every Tango dancer should be familiar with before they put on a pair of heels as either a lead or a follow, it does not matter. The exercise is designed specifically to strengthen your very, very, very weak muscles and more importantly the tendons around the first 5 metatarsals of your foot. For some people that walk in heels all day long, those tendons will be a bit stronger than some, but not always. The tendons that surround the 5 Metatarsals are the weakest for a variety of reasons, and for some people they never bother to strengthen them mostly because no one tells them that they need to do so, and as a direct result of the lack of work (read that as exercise) that they're not doing, they'll end up with weak tendons, and thereby unable to hold a walking or articulated foot position, or they'll land improperly and not be able to recover from it, and or the more common of the affectations is clear and present lack of stability. This singular exercise is quite possibly the single most important exercise that they will ever need to do. And yes, believe or not, they do not know how to do this. But you're a smart person, right ? You know how to do this, right ? Right ? Hmmmm, well just as a refresher you should watch the teaser video above to refresh your memory.

Truthfully when this topic comes up for students, they make a few very important and key errors. Not the least of which is going too fast. This exercise isn't about speed. Speed teaches and strengthens nothing. This is about going slow. Very slow. The slower, the better! 

Linking Notation: All the links on this site are internal definition links, nothing is external (excluding tangotopics youtube channel, and facebook like & share links), meaning the links are there to create a deeper and richer clarity.

Purchase! The video above is small snippet of a full HD video (total runtime: 8m:31s). You can purchase The Ballet Rise for just 12.99 not including your level discount.

From a Following perspective, you have your work cut out for you. Your stability is directly related to 2 things. 1.) How you place your foot on the floor, and your proprioceptive abilities. Meaning how and what you sense around you without looking. What makes things challenging for you is your Lead. 9 times out of 10, they're compressing the embrace (squeezing the living daylights out of you because no one has told them to stop doing it), and/or squeezing your right hand and then using your right arm as if it were a joystick, thereby compromising you and your stability. And when that's not happening, they're usually rushing from vocabulary choice to vocabulary choice not really completing one idea nor the next. 🙁 And then blaming you for not keeping up. Compounding the problem are you in your pretty 3 in. heels that you were forced into almost immediately when you weren't really ready for them at all. And that seemingly were devised by a madman (actually they go back as far as the 8th or 9th centuries to the Persian horse riders as a way to stay in stirrups, and then there's the rumor/history of a danish king that used them to stand above his court and subjects but that's another topic that's already been covered in Tango Truism 809Volume 2). Still another compound problem is that the surface area of the heel is 40% of a normal shoe and you're supposed to instantly master your stability in these things while at the same time, turning, disassociating, applying that disassociation (erroneously thought of as a 'pivot'), and at the same time appearing elegant, and on/in time to what is being 'led', all while in the embrace of a Lead that can barely walk that's blaming you for all of their screw ups. Yup. Tall task. Good luck with that! 

From a Leading perspective, your ability to control your next steps and ultimately your next vocabulary choice is quite literally based on just how stable you are. The more stable you are, the easier it is to pull off whatever it is you want. That stability can be impacted by any number of things, foot placement, foot position, lateral foot orientation, the floor itself, knee position, an embrace that is compressive (yours and your follower's), and a follower that is hanging on you, just to name a few. In the end you must learn how to compensate for all of these things (and one of those compensations is a slight bit of knee compression - a micro bend). Your forward steps while appearing 'elegant' must also be very stable, you must learn to balance these things against each other. What makes this stuff even more challenging is that you have another human being in front of you that has their own issues going on that you must learn to 'hear'/'feel', and then learn to negate those issues (one by one) while at the same time maintaining forward momentum, good posture, while in time to the music, and all without pushing, pulling, or using resistance in any way, shape, or form so that the Follower can 'float' within the construct of the embrace. 🙂 Tall order ? Yup. You didn't think this was going to be easy did you ? And in case you're wondering, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what makes a 'good' dancer good!

dancing in a small space ? try these articles!


The Dancing Fact is that most of these things are related to one thing and one thing the dancer places their foot in contact with the floor. Note the nomenclature: 'dancer'. Not 'Lead' (the person), Not, 'Follower'. No. 'Dancer'. Got it ? This is a gender, and really role agnostic reality that a good portion of you lot need to get your heads around. There are certain motions that are very common to both roles, and this is one of them, stability is a problem for both roles. So consequently what works for one role in terms of exercises, works for the other as well!

Quite honestly your stability can be controlled through a series of confined exercises that, if done daily, will greatly improve control of your weight transfers regardless of role, age, height, or weight! Although shedding more than a few pounds will probably do wonders for you in the long run as well.

The Ballet Rise Exercise ? One exercise that comes to mind that can help you control and contain your stability is The 'Ballet' Rise Exercise. It is so named because it comes from 1st position of Ballet. However, it borrows heavily from a guiding Tango idea: Collection! The exercise is seemingly easy at first but quickly you realize that you're going to be very unstable the first few times you try it. Truthfully you're going to wobble, you're going to waiver, you're going to 'shaky' and uncontrolled in the beginning (read that as a few days if not weeks). However in the long run it really does a wonder on your achilles tendon, as well as the 5 metatarsals (the bones of the foot) and their related tendons, as well as the phalanges (the bones of the toes) and their tendons. Talk about a humdinger of an exercise that will blow your mind ? This is the bomb! And the best part is that you can do this by yourself, as much or as little as you want, whenever you want. Standing in line, talking to someone, anywhere. You don't need to go to the studio, you don't need to go anywhere. You can do this in the comfort of your own home. 

Reality. The exercise does not come without some warnings like if you've had surgery on an Achilles Tendon, or you have chronic Plantar Fasciitis, check with your Doctor or Physical therapist before you do this kind of work. It would be a real bummer if you had to stop dancing altogether because you have ruptured or injured your tendons! So don't just jump right in and think that you're good to go. If you have these issues, then check before you jump, ok ? Otherwise, read on. Still another reality is that when starting out with the 'rise', it's important that we not overdo it. So a good practice is to perform the exercise on an 8 count very slowly, 10 times. One 8 count up, and one 8 Count one repetition. Doing it more than once in a day is counter productive. So it's best to do this first thing in the morning and then to let it go. There's no reason to do it more than that. Unless you're feeling like you didn't get your reps in for the day, in which case...go do. Still another reality is that more in this case is not better, the effect is cumulative, not iterative. Meaning the more that you do is not going to improve you. This work is done over time, typically a 30 day period of time at minimum.

The key to this work is really the speed at which this is done: Slower is better. This isn't about powering through this, but rather slow and patient, mindful work! The goal of this work is to build up strength, endurance, and control. And you will learn nothing through speed! Control is not gained through powering through something but rather slow and patient understanding of this process. One more key, it is important that you not lock out your knees during this exercise. You actually want a 'micro' bend to them! 

The Benefits ? The benefits of this exercise will take time to show up. It's not going to magically happen over night. Get used to that fact. This exercise requires patience, practice, and persistence to see the benefits. And quite honestly just because you do this a few times, nothing is going to magically change in your dance. Nothing. The exercise must performed religiously every. single. day. before you start your day!  The benefits will be felt gradually, and in specific how your foot comes in contact with the floor. You'll feel a bit more control, a bit more stability and a bit more as if you can do what you want with very little effort. That's because you're building up the strength in the tendons around the bones in question. Something you quite honestly don't use all that often in quite this way. This exercise forces you to use those tendons in new and expansive ways that you will end up using in tango whether or not you realize it or not. One benefit is that you will finally be able to control that super enrosque that you want, or an over-rotation because the muscles of the foot have been strengthened for you to effectively hold your weight. Whereas prior to this work, you would fall out of the rotation or enrosque! Still another benefit is that you'll be able to hold a backstep for a few seconds longer without wobbling, or a forward step without needing to hold onto your Follower for stability! See there's that word again, stability! In short, control the foot, and you control the application of your stability! Oh and before we forget, so the 3 things above that control your stability ? 1.) Your feet. 2.) Your inner ear. 3.) Your cerebellum! Your 'balance' is an affectation of your inner ear, not (for the love of christ) your 'core', please stop repeating that lie. 

Fortunately for you, dear reader, you have access to a video that explains and shows you what to do and how to do it, and even better that you can watch it and share it with your friends. Now if only you were a Silver or Gold Level Member, then you could see the entire video. But alas you're not, unless you were to subscribe... ©Tango Topics. 

Your Trip to BsAs

Your Trip to Buenos Aires

The fact is that for a lot of you, 2 weeks in Buenos Aires is all you can really manage. You'll go, spend scads of money on airfare, apartment, shoes, clothes, privates with X and Y, and then spend every waking moment taking class after class after class in those 2 weeks. You'll be filled with Tango morning, noon, and night. Milongas, classes, food, more milongas, more classes. Your every waking moment will be tango, tango, tango...which is the whole reason you're there in the first place. You didn't fly 10000+ miles to sit on your ass you know!

From a Leading perspective, yes you're going to get your head handed to you from the moment you land, yes you're going to be intimidated, and yes you're going to have more than a few dances with people from all over the world that will challenge you, change you, and bless you...all at the same milonga in the same night. That's day one. The rest is an uphill climb for a variety of reasons.

From a Following perspective, same as above. You'll see footwork that will confound you and then you'll want to take privates to be able to do just that. Go ahead, knock yourself out.

The Dancing Reality is:

a.) You're not going to be able to retain 90% of what you've seen, heard, or practiced. Even if you video the end result. The "how" you got there will elude you. And it's the 'how' part that's insanely important!

b.) Most of what you have seen, heard, or tried to practice, you're going to screw up and misremember. You'll think you're doing one thing, when in fact you're doing another! The kicker is that you won't notice it.

c.) Most of what you will see, hear, and learn will screw with your head because a good portion of the information is specific to just BsAs. Meaning that it only applies to BsAs.

d.) Most of what you will experience from shows and classes is showy noise that does not and can not work in the line of dance. The trick is to focus on the social stuff that you can actually use in the line of dance. The real trick is being able to see the difference between Tango for Export and Social Tango!

d.) The trick to getting the most out of your trip to BsAs is working on your foundation (your walk, your stability, your underlying technique). This can create change in you. Steps, patterns, figures, or dancing like X, Y, or Z will not help you. Change comes from how the foundation is put together. 🙂 

e.) The Argentines are a lovely people. They are. They've been through hell and back again. There is one immutable fact, no matter how 'nice' they are, they're STILL not going to dance with you until you prove that you have a handle on this Tango thing...that means:

From a Leading perspective: Following the line of dance, not killing your partners with crazy, bullshit vocabulary (all 502 Sacadas known to man, or the 410 types of volcadas, etc all thrown into one song), and not bumping into anyone causing blood or limb loss. While at the same time looking elegant.  All the while, making it musical, fun, and engaging for your Follower partners and showing them off! This may prove to be challenging for you because the embrace will be filled with levels of compression, and the walk will be a near constant 'impact' that you'll feel of the follower's foot on the floor - not to mention the hanging, the pulling, and the pushing. If you're looking for 'stellar', you're lookin' in the wrong place! Good luck!

From a Following perspective: Dancing with the locals is a bit easier. They're actually wanting to dance with you, and not because you're stellar either. It's because you're Norte Americano. The fact that you're female and susceptible to their charms is...icing on the cake! Truth be told you've never had a man woo you like an Argentine man will. And the attention is unlike anything you've ever experienced (unless you're Italian, or from NYC, and in which case you got this).  

f.) The floors, at certain times of the years, are packed. Read that as Jan - Mar. That's the 'high' season. When every teacher in the known universe is in Buenos Fuckin' Aires. The floors are packed with teacher/dancers...of a sufficient quality that will quite literally blow your mind. The rest of the year, if you're looking for that experience...good luck with that. It's like a ghost town by comparison. Keep that in mind when you're booking your trip, and looking for the dancing reality that is Buenos Aires. 

g.) Two fucking weeks is not fucking long enough. Quite honestly, you're wasting your time and your money by spending two weeks there. It's a waste of money to rush down there for 2 weeks. You ideally want to be there at least a month, and really 3 and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Quite honestly those first 2 weeks is just getting the lay of the land. The rest of the time is figuring out how you're going to extend your stay by another 2 to 3 months! Realistically, you'll be afraid and isolated the first few days. You'll wonder how on earth you got yourself into this mess. Going to the Milongas and classes and wonder 'WTF!'. In the end you'll be so sad when you leave that you'll have forgotten the depths of the horrors your were thinking just a few days earlier. 

h.) Learn to pace yourself. All the running around you're going to do is going to tire you out no matter how old or young you are. You can not do it all. Realistically it's about finding good experiences, not about the quantity of those experiences. Quality is the order of the day. And learning how to pace yourself in the face of those quality experiences in the mass that is BsAs is quite essential. 

i.) You're going to find people that you groove with, and not groove with. You will dance really well with some people and not others. There's a reason for this: You're all at very different places in your tango development. The more experienced you are as a dancer will allow you to dance with nearly everyone and create a 'nice' experience, and know how to manage those dances to make them palatable for both parties. The less experienced dancer (the one's that hang, pull, push,can not navigate the floor musically. And then a few days'll 'magically' be able to dance with X, Y, and Z for some reason. Again, simple reason, you're getting in tune with the pace of Tango, and the idea of Tango that is BsAs. That getting in tune will leave you when you go back home. 

j.) Tango is very different at home than what you'll experience in Buenos Aires. Very different. And is the same thing. Which is to say that while it looks the same, the music is the same, the people are the same...the experience itself is vastly different for a reason:  Dancing in Buenos Aires is about a way of life. At home, you're trying to imitate that way of life in a 4 or 5 hour time period through a Milonga. The Milonga is a way of life in Buenos Aires, better known as "Tango Es Vida". Once you understand this thing, Tango then takes on a whole different way of being as does your 'two weeks' in BsAs. ©Tango Topics.

Follower Back Sacada

Follower Back Sacadas

Realistically there are very few sources of information about this stuff. 

In order to be an efficacious dancing partner for a Lead that engages with these things, there are 3 things you absolutely must be able to do without hanging, pulling, or pushing on your Lead:

1.) Disassociation and Applied Disassociation.
2.) Controlled Collection from the Forward (Lead/Follower), Side, or Back Steps. and
3.) Heels, heels, heels in every sense of the word!

The simple fact is that good tango, from the Follower's side of things via a Lead perspective, comes from a Follower who has mastered these things in lurid detail, you practice and practice and practice this stuff religiously so that you don't have to think about it at all when you're dancing...instead you 'react' and that reaction is born of the technique that you clearly have built into you over and over and over again. 

But let's be clear about something this 'technique' is not just about repetition. That's a mistake. This is MINDFUL repetition. Meaning that you consciously build or weed out errors from a movement and a motion, slowly, carefully building it to the point where it becomes reactionary. However, again, this is not necessarily all about reaction but a good portion of the time – very controlled! 

You want to be able to control every facet of your movements from toes to feet, to heel, to ankle, knees, hips, torso, shoulders, head, arms, and fingers. Every aspect of those body parts in exacting precision. Failure to do that, and you have not mastered your tool. Your body is an instrument and it must be learned, toned, tooled, and retooled, constantly. You are never a finished product, never. 

What specifically are you focusing on then ? 

Your forward step, your side step, and your back step. Your embrace within the construct of the movement of those steps. Your disassociation. Your applied disassociation. And you would think that this is just easy hell it is! It's a ton of work that must be controlled, tamed, tooled and re-tooled....hours, weeks, months of time just to weed out your issues so that better technique can creep in.