When we stand or move our sensory-motor system functions to organise itself around certain points of focus. When the iPhone notification sounds our attention is drawn and we feel an urge to grip the phone and look at the screen to check the message. Over the years and multiple repetitions this will affect our posture and thereby our whole functioning including breathing, digestion, etc. F. Matthias Alexander discovered that excessive focus on a task or a goal, which he called ‘end-gaining’ leads to inefficient movement patterns that become fixed in a poor posture and less than optimal performance. He saw the solution to the problem in focusing less on the goal, and more on the ‘means whereby’, that is, focusing on the the sensory-motor system that executes the movement.
In tango the biggest obstacle to effective movement and progress is the overwhelming tendency most dancers have to look at the feet. One often sees beginners as well as advanced dancers stare at the ground as they are dancing. This is considered to be a sort of ‘tango look’ but is in fact physiologically suboptimal:
- Dropping the head is not viable in a ‘close embrace’ tango which requires the dancers to present their chest, that is, the chest has to be forward. Dropping the head down naturally leads to the tendency to collapse the chest which has to be resisted which then causes tightness and rigidity.
- As Alexander pointed out, poor posture with the head forward and a sunk chest leads to an inefficient use of the body: shallow breathing, poor digestion, constrained and inefficient movement, and therefore less enjoyment and greater fatigue.
In order to remedy this situation the solution is relatively simple: use your eyes less and learn to be more aware of the body, especially the position of your head, neck and spine. In everyday life regularly take your mind off the task and bring your attention to how you sit, stand or walk, in particular, what is the relation of the head and neck. According to Alexander the head-neck relation is the primary control which determines the position of the spine which in turn determines efficiency of all movement. To simplify the matter, the main thing to focus on is the lengthening in the neck and spine, the head should be balanced on top of the spine, and the breathing should be deep and easy.