I have a few idiosyncratic interests… Middle Eastern percussion. German dance-theather (or tanztheater). Corsets. But I’ve also been actively courting a particular style of social dance since college: Argentine Tango.
Really, I was a victim of it. I couldn’t help but fall into the trap of the seductive style of kinesthetic communication between (often) strangers. One of the American masters of the art of this movement, well-known in this particular underground, happened to be an alum of my college and graciously taught clumsy undergrads how to communicate with each other in this unusually beautiful way with their bodies — in the form of a PE class, no less. Students were known to become obsessively addicted, and eventually, I fell into the venus fly trap that extended beyond our common areas and into Portland’s greater Argentine tango scene: one of the most extensive and authentically intense in Northern America.
Some lead. Others follow. (It’s not as gender binary as one might initially imagine, and some practice both roles with hunger). There are combative theories on which of the two main roles truly holds the greater control; but as a follow, to have any power at all, it is key to constantly have an engaged core. Core strength will give a follow the ability to maintain proper axis — to have his or her own balance to swivel on their own center (unless intentionally taken off it by the lead for a flourish), walk backwards in stilletos or dance shoes, and otherwise perform all the moves of tango — from basic to fancy — without hanging onto the lead (draining their energy!) The follow must be as quick and responsive to the leader’s guide as a jack rabbit, but as intentional with their movements as cement laying down on the dance floor, as if to be set forever.
That’s where core strength comes into play. The follow is always on one foot or the other, often in high stilletos, rotating about on the ball of their suede leather shoe. The guide of the movement starts in the arms, flows through the chest, down through the core, and the flourish or step ends in the legs and feet. With a flimsy core, there is no dance, there is only mush, stepping around aimlessly.
I have found that when I wear a corset out tango dancing, my dancing form has improved drastically, as a corseted figure mimics one with a tight, engaged core.
Cheating? Maybe. Whatever; all is fair in love and tango.
My boleos are sharp like a viper, able to hold my own on one foot while gently holding an embrace as light as a feather. Colgadas are executed near flawlessly (without terror stricken in my heart). And when the time comes for a dramatic volcada, an off-axis step, I am ready and in delight!
Now, I said my tango form has improved. I’m certainly no master, nor am I as devoted as I once was, or as the majority of the hardcore scenesters one can meet on the dance floor.
At my last milonga, the term for “a dance (event)” in the tango world, some talented leads took pity on me as I had FRESH MEAT written all over me — my first time at this particular venue. I’m not a terrible tango dancer, but I am terribly rusty. My background in dance, as well as the “fake it till you make it” philosophy can be quite convincing however.
One particular lead started in with conversation between songs. In his thick Columbian accent:
My dance calendar is turning out as such: Monday, I go <here>. Tuesday, I like <that club>. This is the best; you should go here. The level is very high. I can tell you dance, not really tango too long, but I can tell you dance a lot other from your legs.
Thanks, brother… He continues:
Wednesday I go Misson. Thursday, rest. Friday is for other things. Saturday is <blah> and Sunday I come here!
Yeah… cool! (Devoted).
What’s your dance calendar?
It wasn’t said then, but later, in the car ride home:
Whenever my persistent friend texts me: “tango tango tango” and I have shit else to do.
I love to tango. But it’s intimidating! I remember days when nobody would ask me to dance all night. I have to get over those memories, as I no longer have weird dreadlocks and have grown into my “dancer legs”.
The corset certainly helps. Make new memories, correct my axis balance, and improve my confidence in those stunnah tango outfits — honey draws the bees, as they say. Overall, for an amalgamation of reasons, I would like to postulate that corsets + tango = a recipe for dance floor success… at least in my experience.
TL;DR TANGO HACK – wear a corset.
Tightlacing Liaison | Expert Fitter
Dark Garden Unique Corsetry