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Plaza Column - View article
Written by : Max M Ali MD
Date : 11-13-2004
Title : Hillier's Compression
Article: Dancing Tid-bits Issue #204, Thursday, November 11, 2004

Today's Topic: Hillier's Compression.

HELP!! you left me in mid-air with your compression in tango article. After such a great build up with your tango dancing with Mireille, i was expectantly waiting for the explanation of compression, how it's used etc...... But it didn't arrive!! I'm having trouble with tango too,


So, now after attending Stephen and Jennifer's Lecture on Tango Technique last nite, I can hopefully shed some more light on this most important subject of Compression in Tango.

What is Compression? When you started your Tango lessons, you were repeatedly told ..Stay Low, Stay Low, Don't come UP, There is no Rise and Fall in tango etc etc. You can achieve this "Relatively Low Position" for Tango either by just passively going down with your body or actively by "COMPRESSION". Compression in other words mean that you actively use your Knees, Ankles and Hips to execute Tango Figures and because there is no swing, stay in Tango Poise and compressedwith good muscle tone. So, the concept of "staying low" could be misleading and it is the compression that keeps you low in Tango.

How to achieve Compression? Both Stephen and Jennifer emphasized that both partners will initiate compression as they start a Figure by actively using their Knees, Ankles and Hip Girdle with good musle tone in all muscles (I would say specially the Hamstrings and Calf). As you will do that, both partner's knees will initially move forward irrespective of whether going forward, back or in PP.

So, how do you avoid bumping of Knees specially when you are closed?Stephen and Jennifer showed it by their offset positions. She was more to his right. His both knees were more or less in right outside position of her knees; therefore no collision as both their knees moved forward. For me, this is the most awkward and unnatural feeling but as he helped me on a one to one basis it was very easy, clear and enjoyable.

Is Compression a constant phenomenon? Now this is my theory. I don't think any thing can be constant in life. So, the degree of compression will change fromtime to time. You need floor to compress. So the moving leg will loose compression but not the tone. I think there will be more compression as you initiate a figure and less as you finish. This, I will check with Jebnnifer in my lesson today.

Delayed Walks: So you compress, keep the weight on the supporting foot as long as possible and take a stalking step with one foot and then release the heel of the supporting foot to transfer weight on to the moving foot. Remember as you walk, the supporting leg compresses more and the moving leg stays well toned. Naturally as the moving foot is in mid air, you cannot compress.

Mid Air? I said it because in Tango you do lift your feet slightly off the ground as you step, unlike swing dances where feet are skimming the floor. Don't take it literally.

What about Rotation? Yes, they go hand in hand. You will naturally Rotate as you use Compression.

There was so much more but we will confine our discussion today to compression only. So Phil, I hope that by presenting Hillier's Compression you are no more left in mid-air and therefore wishing you an enjoyable tango, So Long!Max

Announcement; Today, Thursday 11th Nov, Hilliers will have a workshop on "Ballroom Picture Lines" 8 PM at Dancesport Academy in Dearborn, MI
For information,phone: 313 724 3262.