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sticks and stones…

July 28, 2009

…may break your bones, but WORDS will never hurt you.


I beg to differ. Many of my Feldenkrais students also learn tango. And tango teachers, like me, use words to describe movement. But I use very different words to those tango teachers commonly use, and for good reason. Words can hurt you.

Take ‘dissociation’, a popular tango movement term. It’s used to describe turning your upper torso and pelvis in different directions relative to each other: shoulders and ribs to the left and pelvis to the right, and vice versa.

Tango involves a lot of this torsional movement, it’s part of the dance’s sinuous beauty. Performed poorly, though, it can be downright dangerous for the back, and this is where my beef with language comes in.

As a partner dance, movement in tango can be referenced to the self or to the partner. For anatomical as well as aesthetic reasons, the pelvis faces (or reverses) the line of direction (ie where you are about to step). The upper torso conventionally faces your partner. So often the movement being discussed is conceived as ‘turning-your-pelvis-but-not-your-shoulders’ or ‘turning-your-upper-torso-but-not-your-pelvis’ and this is where, I suppose, the dreaded term dissociation comes in. Tango students often understand the movement as fixing, or NOT moving one half of the spine. Which generally means there are a couple of vertebrae, usually in the lower back, vulnerable to injury from overuse. Worse yet is the long term effect on body schema (or self image) by conventionally referring to dissociation. Some synonyms for ‘dissociate’: cut off, detach, distance, divorce. The pelvis is both our powerhouse of movement and our source of potency, having the largest muscle groups. Is that something you really want to detach?

So when I work with my Feldenkrais students who also learn tango, I suggest that all the vertebrae of the spine can contribute appropriately in a sequential turning movement, and that the movement is gradation of turn of the student’s upper torso relative to their pelvis or vice versa. This maintains the vital connection between the two.

I also suggest they mentally replace the term ‘dissociation’ with ‘differentiation’. Some synonyms for differentiate: contrast, discriminate, distinguish.

One Comment leave one →
  1. littletheatre permalink
    July 31, 2009 9:25 am

    WELL Said Miranda ! I like your Synonyms. Regards Michael

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