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These days, it’s the word that’s on everyone’s lips. The core.

Whenever something goes well in your dance. Whenever something goes not so well. It’s all down to your core.

And there’s no doubt that using the core is key to good tango technique.

But is it your free ticket to tango heaven? Let’s have a look at some home truths about the core.

Home Truth #1

Whilst there is no doubt that using your core is of great importance, it is only one piece of the puzzle.

If you are over-thinking your core, you could lose focus on other important areas of your body. And consequently you may still lose your balance!

It is not the magic cure. I wish I could tell you there is a one-step solution to equilibrium, but I can’t!

Whilst it is important to “zoom in” on important areas of the body - it is also vital to “zoom out”!

It takes practice but when you dance it is a good idea to have a picture of your whole body in your mind - not just one detail.

In time, this will also help you feel more expressive, fluid and present.

Home Truth #2

Teachers will give you varying advice on how to use the core.

Who’d have thought there would be so many ways to talk about your abdominal muscles!

Pull them in, contract them, lift them, tighten them …

You may well have heard different imagery too. I certainly use a fair few in my classes, in search of that “light bulb” moment for my students.

My advice? Different concepts work for different people.

Try them all on and work out what makes best sense for you and for your body.

Home Truth #3

When you activate your core, some unwanted side effects may creep into your technique.

You may find that you create tension in your chest. Your shoulders may lift inadvertently.

And you may find yourself holding your breath. (No need for me to explain why that isn’t a good idea!)

I appreciate its not easy to juggle everything. But breathing, relaxing your shoulders and using your core are all so important.

Be patient. Be perseverant. And it will happen!

Home Truth #4

When you lift your core, it doesn’t necessarily stay lifted!

I know, it doesn’t seem fair.

You lift your core, you breathe, you relax, you just start enjoying the music, the movements, you lose yourself and ….

“What happened to my core?!!”

It is a little bit like zipping up jeans that are too tight for you. Unless you hold the zip up, unfortunately it will keep sliding down.

I hate to be the one to break bad news, but in order to get your core to work for you, you have to keep holding it up.

No, it’s not exactly what I like to think about when I’m dancing either. But here’s the thing. It’s all about repetition. Repetition until lifting your core becomes so entrenched in your technique you don’t really have to think about it anymore.

And then you can go ahead and lose yourself in the moment to your heart’s content!

Home Truth #5

I just gave you some bad news, so here is some good news. You do no need 'abs of steel' to be able to use your core.

You can do 200 sit-ups a day. There are undoubtable health benefits (and you will look fantastic!) but it will do you absolutely no good if you don’t remember to activate your core when you dance!

Obviously I’m talking about tango salon here. In other more physically strenuous activities I have no doubt the stronger your core is, the easier certain movements will be.

In tango salon, however, using the core is about activating, and not necessarily about super-strength.

But please don’t let me be the one to hold you back from those 200 sit-ups a day!

And Finally …

It’s time to “zoom” out again.

It’s easy to get bogged down in thoughts about your core.

Don’t let it overwhelm you. Instead, let’s try to remember why we actually dance tango. For PLEASURE.

But if you can find a balance and thread your core and other techniques into your dance, you will gradually open the door to even greater tango bliss!

CAVEAT: We usually save in-depth technique advice to the classroom! This is an overview and only a sketch of the details we cover face-to-face in our tango lessons.

I was asked by Top Santé magazine if I would like to tell the story of how I came to be a tango dancer.

The feature appears in this month's edition - with a full two pages chronicling my own personal tango journey.

Everyone has a tango story. How they came to discover tango. The reasons they started dancing. And yours might only just have begun ... or about to happen!

I always ask people how they came to dance tango. For many, it is so much more than a hobby. And if it started as a hobby - it soon turns into something more important to them.

The story in Top Santé tells how I inadvertently changed the course of my life when I walked into a tango class in the late 1990’s. When I saw how beautiful the dance and the music was, I had an epiphany.

It tells how I gave up my job in the City to immerse myself in tango for just a few months … and then didn’t come home for four years!

Luckily it all worked out well for me as not only did I find what I feel is my calling in life but I also met my partner - in tango and in life - David.

And the person most excited about being in the magazine - my five-year old daughter. She's telling all her friends that she is famous!

So that's my story. And now someone just needs to approach David for the story of how he became first a ballet, then a tango dancer. A story very different to my own, but, in my view, even more interesting!

Top Santé magazine is available for purchase nationwide in most larger newsagents.

Mugre. Something you often hear professional or experienced tango dancers talking about.

You may hear them comment “they have great technique but their tango lacks a bit of mugre”.

And if you look up the dictionary definition of “mugre” (pronounced /mu:grei/) - you might be surprised to find that literally it translates as: “dirt”!

Yes, that’s right. Dirt!

But perhaps a better way to translate mugre in this particular context, would be “grime” or “grit”.

We’re all striving towards perfection, but sometimes what we really want to see is something that falls short of perfection.

Yes, tango technique is important, musicality, creativity and expression too. But to cap it all it’s great to see a tango dancer with just a touch of mugre.

It’s difficult to explain what “mugre” looks like to someone who is not deeply involved with tango. But rest assured it is nothing to do with the way someone dresses or their personal hygiene!

On the contrary, it is part of the traditional culture of tango that one should go to the milonga washed and well-dressed. It is a mark of respect for the partners you intend to dance with that night. And I would go so far as saying that that should apply to classes too.

It is your dance that should have mugre.

Because who cares about perfect technique when you can see soul, expression, connection? When what you can see makes you feel something.

It is partly because tango is an improvised that mugre is something to aspire to. Because a slick, polished choreography can be wonderful to watch but it doesn’t have that beautiful live quality that an improvisation has - despite its flaws. It’s kind of nice to see dancers smile wryly when something doesn’t quite go to plan. The odd misstep seems to be part and parcel of an improvisation.

So is it time to put a halt to our technique exercises? And our continued learning path in tango?

Unfortunately, mugre without technique just doesn’t cut it. It’s no excuse for poor dancing. You have to be a damn good dancer, with a bucket load of experience, to look good with mugre.

Maybe this seems likes an impossible goal then but for me the morale is this: continue to explore, strive always to better than yesterday. But relax if it isn’t perfect. It’s mugre! And you’ll enjoy tango all the more.

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