Last week's exercise focused on locating the proper balance point on your feet when distributing your weight. This week I'm looking at another essential skill for tango: disassociation (the separate motion of upper and lower halves of the body).
Disassociation is one of the many places where tango technique intersects with good health- in order to properly perform disassociation, you must utilize spinal rotation, which affects the network of muscles surrounding the spinal column as well as the larger abdominal muscles (particularly the obliques) and lower back.
The purpose of this exercise is to remove variables and focus entirely on the rotation of the spine, separate from movement of the hip and shoulders.
Stand facing a counter or other solid object, preferably one at hip height, but a table that reaches mid thigh will also be suitable. With feet together in a parallel position, shift your weight forward until your hips or thighs are resting equally against the surface of the counter or table. Lace the fingers of both hands together and rest the hands over your belly button, sternum, or wherever else along the center line of your body is most comfortable.
Begin gently rotating the upper body, turning the ribcage and pointing your sternum first right then left, progressing your way from small rotations to larger ones. You may notice that the opposite hip is drawn forward when you rotate in a direction- try and see how far you can rotate before this occurs.
Think of the spine not just twisting in place, but spiraling up towards the ceiling, sending the top of the head upwards and allowing the neck to rotate as well.
You'll find that as you control this rotation and extend the degree to which you're able to rotate, many tango movements such as ochos, molinetes, and boleos will become significantly more comfortable to perform.