It doesn’t matter if you’re a Lead, or a Follower, we all at some point have to learn how to walk properly and for a good portion of us learning that proper walk is either an absolute joy, or such a pain in the ass to learn that you wonder why you’re dancing Tango in the first place! Why ? Because learning how to walk, if done properly, is a detailed analysis that seeks to break down the underpinnings of the mechanical aspects of your walk, the weight transitions that must occur, where and how to land on your feet and what parts of your foot you want to use….just to name a few. Walking isn’t just putting one foot in front of the other, as much as we’d like to believe. It’s not. Walking takes time, patience, and a lot of due diligence to move it into the area of ‘desirable’.
One aspect of learning to walk properly is learning what not to do. Unfortunately for a greater number of teachers, and dancers, the idea of giving and receiving feedback that is useful to them is relegated to “That’s nice” and/or “Try this instead” which doesn’t really encourage change. Instead of detailed questions, and constructed feedback that will ultimately lead to desirable dancing, on multiple levels, we end up with feedback that is pleasant and pleasing but not really helpful to change.
Believe it or not this is all relevant to Today’s Tango Topic of “THUD”. Believe it or not you have experienced the idea and practice of THUD so often that you’d think there was a course or class on the idea of THUD. At one point in time, you were even using THUD, and may still be using it and not realizing that you’re generating this. So without further yappage, Tango Topics Presents: THUD!
Notation: And so that we’re clear here, there is no ‘right’ walk, there is no ‘wrong’ walk. There is only a desirable walk, and an undesirable, with lots of shades in between. Going further down the rabbit hole, of the language here, it’s important to understand that this isn’t just simple word replacement. But thought change as well. We want to change our thinking about how these concepts are placed in our heads, “right” and “wrong” create barriers to our understanding and creating meaningful change. “Desirable” and “Undesirable” are not ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ cognates, but allow for a greater range of moving the dial!
What is “THUD!” ? In the simplest way we know how to describe this stuff, “THUD” is an uncontrolled, unsightly, and ungainly foot heavy and overly weighted placement of the dancers foot, which results in a sound that resembles a rumbling of the floorboards under your feet when you jump up and down: THUD! It occurs because the dancer in question has generated a heavy step, an impacted step, that they don’t realize that they’re doing it. That step reverberates up through the bones of the foot, then the ankle, then the knees, the legs to the hips, up along the spinal column, and then out through the arms in the embrace which is then transmitted to your partner! Usually ‘Thud!” occurs in concert with instability, hanging, pulling, pushing, and contortion. While one could easily paint this as a Follower only issue. That’s not the case. It occurs for both roles, regardless of age, height, weight, or any other issue you can think of. The reason it happens is primarily because no one has instructed that dancer on how to walk properly. Or in this case, how not to “THUD”. The general belief of THUD is that it can, and does, mostly occur when the leg is going backards or fowards (usually back) and the knee is bent, but the foot is lifted or raised off the floor! When the foot comes down (that’s the impact that you feel through the embrace), we have our ‘THUD!’.
From a Following perspective, usually, a Lead will feel the impact of your foot hitting the floor, more than you will unless the Lead is clearly unaware of their own presence (that happens too by the way). Typically for you, even though it’s demonstrated from a side step above, your version of THUD occurs because of how you’re walking backwards. You quite literally pick your foot up off the floor at the very end of your what you think your extension is! The fact is that more than likely you have an issue with how you are understanding and then applying your walk. You ideally want your walk to resemble something very similar to this idea:
Aside from the opposition that’s being employed here, You’ll notice that this particular Follower sort of ‘slides’ their foot along the floor, that it never leaves the floor really ? That’s what you’re looking for. However this creates a problem, resistance against the floor! We want the leg to fully extend in response to the amount intention that our lead is generating, but there should be a slide, not a weight transfer until the we’re near the end of the step. And even then the weight transfer is gentle and gradual, not sudden and sharp, and occurs at perihelion in the extension phase of the step. When we extend our legs with bent knees we are more prone to a sudden and sharp transfer of our weight than we are a controlled one! And we want the controlled one! Tango Topics has a series of videos that show you exactly what you have to do in order to generate this, which can be found in the Foundation Bundle!
In the end, we want something like the above video to happen in concert with our partner. To be fair, this is not somethat will happen over night and watching a single video on this stuff and then you trying to replicate that is not going to change a damned thing. Furthermore as it relates to THUD, that will continue to happen. Sounds dire, right ? No. It’s a stark realization and only from that stark honesty can change occur. 🙂 There’s hope.
From a Leading perspective, we feel the impact of the Follower’s foot on the floor, as a heavy step usually on their side and back steps. While at the same time we as L/leads must realize that we can and do generate a heavy impacted step as well. In short, there’s merit to the statement ‘walk softly’. The Lead can create the same problems that the Follower creates for exactly the same reasons above. Nothing has changed except the role. The walking technique is nearly the same, nearly, the only thing that’s changed is the direction that we’re moving in. However in our case, we want to generate Forward Intention first and foremost before we extend our legs, but that’s topic for another time. The end result of this is that when we generate THUD! it’s because we are more than likely driving forward with a lot of force, thereby driving the Follower into the floor! We’re stepping forward or side in a heavy-footed manner that belays what we want to do. There are some instances under which we actually do want to be heavy-footed, and that’s when we’re accenting an accent note, or dancing to Biagi’s music where you’ll hear a strong, sharp SHUM in the music on first beat of a measure. Which is what Biagi is known for, accenting the downbeat! That’s the “SHUM!”. There’s one other instance under which we want to engage in the practice of THUD!, and that’s when you have a Follower that a little unclear as to what’s going on. So for a few steps (A FEW, meaning 3 or 4) you may want to be slightly more heavy-footed than you would normally, but for the most part, walking in a heavy-footed maner is mostly undesirable and is a lot of work for the Follower to follow and maintain and to receive coming from you.
You may not realize this but that heavy-footed walk is felt coming up from the floor and up through your spinal column and out through the embrace! The Follower more than likely will not be able to tell you what they feel other than dancing with you tires them out. This is one reason why. Because you’re driving into them with heavy steps! THUD! Not so much with that.
From a Dancing Perspective, both roles do feel the THUD! when it happens, and once or twice it’s not so much of an issue. However, over time, after more than 10 or 15 steps it starts to drain their energy. The heavy-steps, the heavy-footed walking, and then dancing that way while being entirely unconscious in certain circumstances, and entirely conscious in others, is a lot of work for both roles. Ideally we want to walk lightly and with nimbleness, and then apply that to our dance. That would be ideal. Unfortunately that’s not what’s going to happen. And the reason is a really simple one: Comfort. You’re comfortable with what you’re doing. Further still you’re not even aware that you’re doing it, and beyond that most of the people you’re currently dancing with will tell you in no uncertain terms that you’re doing just fine. So how can you tell if you’re generating this stuff ?
Video yourself. Aim the camera so that you can see legs and feet only. Skip the embrace, it’s useless at this juncture. You need to diagnose what you’re doing and how! Look at the video above, and then the video below, and if you’re doing either of the following as a Follower, then it’s more than likely you’re generating instability. As a Lead these same things apply to you as well. The same constructs even though the steps are going backwards and it represents what’s happening with the Follower, they all so happen for the lead only in reverse!
That is how you know that you’re generating this stuff. Once you have identified that it’s going on, how do you fix it ? Fortunately Tango Topics has a solution, we have a Foundation package just for you. One of them is included in your free sign up! So go register today and get started in cleaning up your dance.
Why should you subscribe for access ? Several reasons. 1.) Even if you’re a Free User, you’ll get access to free tips that aren’t available to anyone just reading the post like this one. 2.) Sometimes there are slightly different versions of the videos, that add a bit more content for the free user vs. an unregistered user. 3.) And real reason you should subscribe ? If you’re used to YouTube videos where you’ll see a performance, those Youtube videos don’t explain or walk you through how these ideas work! That is why! What you’re seeing is a presentation, a performance. Not how things work! And what you really need to see is how things work, and more importantly why they work! This website shows you that and more!
Remember that what you’re seeing is a couple that is performing for the 15th row for a room full of people, they’re not social dancing. Whereas this website is all about ‘Social Dancing’ or how to make things function on a social dance floor. Social Dance floor ? Your local milonga! They’re showing flashy moves as a presentation! But not stopping and talking about how this works, why you’d want to put that piece of voabulary there, or how to make things fit. These website is all about those things and more!
You could watch those videos and thereby spend your time, trying to infer, and figure out how things may work in that particular situation. Bend your body this way or that, twist and force this position or that. Place your foot here or there and figure it out. This is known as Tango Twister. Which can be a lot of fun, but more than likely it won’t help you, because you’re missing something: The explanation from an experienced teacher showing you how to properly excute this stuff from a Leading Perpective as well as from a Following perspective!
The goal of YouTube videos is to get you to study with those teachers in person. The goal of Tango Topics videos is allow you to work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own space, so that you can play them over and over again to improve your understanding of the vocabulary or technique being described to therefore better your dancing experience. The goal of classes and workshops is to get you to come back over and over and over again, thereby spending more money with that teacher. This website and the videos under it are here to act as a resource for you to help you to improve your dance. Pay once and you’re done.
Eventually, one way or another you’re going to pay for this lesson, either here and now, or with them. TANSTAAFL! The difference between that lesson and this ? Is that you get to play this lesson over and over and over again. Further still, there are supporting materials (other videos) that help to explain the language and the underlying technique of how and why things work, so you can easily reference those things in the corresponding articles that go with the material, and or any language in the Tango Topics Dictionary.
– The Last Word –
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