Monday, 19 May 2008

The Head On One Side

Ok, this is a little technical thing for my fellow tango dancers to discuss.

I can't work out if this problem is a problem with some men I dance with, or a problem with me. It only happens with certain people, so it's not something I do all the time, and it happens with some who are taller than me as well as with some who are shorter. I have a long neck. That might be important, but I'm not sure. Anyway:

What causes some men to incline their heads sharply to the right when they're dancing, pushing mine forcibly out of the way?

Whatever I do, it's going to hurt at the end of the dance because my neck has been bent over to my left the whole time. Occasionally I try to fight it, but they just push back harder, I lose, and my neck hurts even more. Sometimes I try to escape by opening the embrace into a V-shape, but that doesn't really work because, although my head is now straight instead of on one side, the push is now being directed right in my face.

And not being able to hold my head up straight is not just uncomfortable, but gives me other problems. It gives me problems with the embrace, because it's not possible to relax my shoulders if I can't relax my neck, and problems with balance, because having my brain-case above my left shoulder rather than above my spine is quite a serious distortion of weight and momentum.

I would have thought that it gave the men those last two problems as well, which I why I don't really get where it comes from.

Why does this happen, and is there anything non-verbal I can do to stop it?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I've had this happen several times over the last year. The first time I asked if the lead could please move his head a fraction more to his left as it was hurting my neck. He looked insulted and if anything, pushed even harder. Jerk. The next few times, the leads were more accommodating, but one looked mulish so I promptly pulled into open embrace rather than risk the agony. We have not danced together since.

La Nuit Blanche said...

he's probably using your head and neck to keep his own balance. and i agree, it hurts!

i just stop dancing with these men, asap. :-( sad, but from previous experience, they get offended... in an emergency situation where i must survive at least the tanda, i break into open embrace.

Johanna said...

What direction are you facing? With leads who do the Horrid Head Tilt Lead, I turn my face towards the back. This has always solved the problem. Some leads I can dance with facing the same way. Some I can't. I've stopped making excuses and just turn my head.

Debbi said...

Sadly, the only thing that can be done is to pull into open and stay there if you enjoy the dance otherwise. At practicas, you can try to broach this subject. But it is so not worth having a crick in your neck for the whole night due to one idiot who seems to think your head is a pillow....

msHedgehog said...

@Johanna, I think I'm generally facing back (square on) when my head is being pushed to the side. But maybe I'm not square enough. By 'changing to a V', I mean that I now face inwards, having opened the hinge a bit. Maybe there is scope for me to be squarer when I'm square. I also don't like my neck being twisted, again because it makes it very difficult to relax the shoulders, and it could be that trying too much to keep it square on my spine is part of my problem.

I wonder if it comes from someone trying to 'embrace' you with his head as well as his arm. I think some people do it when they're tense, and some when they're siezed by snuggly sentiment. @nuit, maybe for balance as well, I hadn't thought of that. Leaders pipe up please!

Alex said...

It makes me sad that these jokers are out there...if it wouldn't hurt (the follower) so much, I would say the head butt would be most effective...

A joke of course...

Maybe if you say you have an issue going on with your neck...say your "C3 vertebrae" to make it official/medical sounding...and would they please mind not contacting your head with theirs....?

Perhaps that way attention could be brought to the issue without them getting pissy about it....

?

David said...

I used to have this problem as a leader, but it went away a long time ago, so I assume I made an adjustment to my embrace that fixed it. I'm not sure exactly what I did though, but is was probably around the time I stopped thinking about my embrace in technical terms (put this here and that there...) and just started trying to find a comfortable relaxed embrace with whoever I was dancing with.

Probably the best solution as has been mentioned above is to move to open embrace. If you do that in the middle of a dance, the leader will probably want to know what happened and you can tell him.

La Nuit Blanche said...

when telling him about the reason for opening up during the dance, i would say something medical sounding, like alex. for example, i have a headache, and didn't want head contact, in fear of constant bumping... or i slept wrong, and i have a kink in my neck.

from my personal experience, honest technical feedback should be given only during practica. on the milonga floor, these headbutters get so offended....

Kara said...

Ugh, I hate that. I used to dance with a guy who did that, and you're right, it was downright painful. The worst part was, even if I let my head tilt with his lean/push, it didn't stop! He'd just continue to lean and lean until my ear was practically touching my shoulder.
My solution was to simply stop dancing with him. His head was not the only problem with his dance (and none of it is likely to change). I hope you find a solution, if you otherwise like dancing with these guys!

Oh, and I do agree with la nuit, he probably is using your head for balance.

tangobaby said...

I agree with Johanna that it seems to help if you look straight ahead (towards the back). Also, is it an option for you to open your embrace even more than a V or just go for plain old open embrace?

I would think that after one tanda if your subtle cues have not worked and he hasn't readusted to you, then perhaps he's just one you'll have to decline in the future.

ModernTanguera said...

Someone dear to me does a bit of pushing with his head - not any terribly strong pushing, but definitely enough to encourage me to push back a bit. He knows he does it and is working on it, so when I notice I just pull back a bit. I don't open the embrace, but I make sure I have good posture and stack my head right over my spine so that our heads don't touch at all. It's a reminder to him, but it should work to get away from anyone who does that. (Homer gave us a good reminder not too long ago that we don't need our heads to touch in close embrace.)

Anonymous said...

i didn't think the head was supposed to wag about in tango. just like men's hips aren't supposed to swing. its not salsa or lambada.

i've seen ballet and contemporar dancers twist and "point" their heads ... it doesn't look tango. a still and calm upper frame is much more tango and nicer for the follower.

David said...

Hi Nuit,

I think it's better to tell the truth rather than make up something "medical sounding". If he sees you dancing with someone after him in close embrace with head contact (of the good kind), he will know that you weren't very truthful with him.

At least if you tell him the real reason for pulling back he can either ignore you and continue loosing good dance partners, or he can respond by trying to fix the problem.

As long as you tell him what the problem is in a way that suggests it's something he can fix quite easily, he souldn't be permanently offended.

David

Alex said...

A follow-up comment...I sometimes get this with tall followers...I think because I am tall, they are relieved somehow that they have someone tall to dance with, and they never get to make head-to-head contact with shorter leaders...so they lean their head against mine...sometimes rather drastically...so the issue can go both ways...

Limerick Tango said...

I too would prescribe a Glasgow kiss.

msHedgehog said...

Aaaaaahhh Alex's last comment is really interesting. I think that might be the key to understanding all the others.

It could be that this happens unconsciously as a reaction to any head contact at all, in the same way as it happened to Alex's tall follower, who probably wasn't used to it. As ModernTanguera said, the head contact isn't necessary or something to be sought, it's just an accidental thing in close embrace. It's just hit me that the increase in pressure could easily be for the reason professor Wolpert explains in the lecture I linked to in January - other things being equal, the nervous system tends to overestimate the force of someone else's touch, and compensate accordingly. That might also be why it takes some practice to get the amount of pressure in the open-side hands right.

In which case, the right answer probably is to do whatever's necessary (square up - ideally without the Glasgow Kiss - hinge out, or open out completely) to make sure that the head contact stops completely, at least for a while. Then we can re-set ourselves, stop escalating, and straighten up, and relax.

msHedgehog said...

@David/Nuit/Alex - yes, I would always say nothing rather than lie. In the event that I had to say something, I think I'd only say "My neck is hurting", or maybe (a borderline lie) "My neck is hurting today". It can be necessary to lie for good manners, but unless it really is necessary I think it's disrespectful, and anyway it doesn't suit me to do it.

Limerick Tango said...

Would this not be the one acceptable time for feedback?
Just last night I was having a conversation with my tango teacher about how your posture is your posture, and should be preserved for the sake of your health first and foremost.

msHedgehog said...

@Limerick, I don't think so because I could, as people say above, get out of it by changing the embrace. I may be reluctant to do so, and the same change may not work with everyone, but it's a perfectly good option. So it's not absolutely necessary. And I don't really have a reliable way of knowing whether it's a result of something I am unconsciously doing myself, so unless it IS absolutely necessary, it's impertinent.

La Nuit Blanche said...

david, msH: yes! i agree. i usually say nothing, unless the person expressly asks the reason for opening up.

in most cases, they look hurt, or offended... or even paranoid that they smell or something. :-( which is not a good state of mind for accepting honest feedback, no matter how delicately suggested. after all, they are there at the milonga to enjoy themselves... so i give a lame excuse, rather than say anything that alludes to their technical deficiencies.

in any case, as i am not a professional, i can't say that it's not my fault as well. :-/

maybe the best thing would be to say: "you have a style of embrace i am not used to... i was trying to adjust to you, because my neck was hurting for some reason."

John said...

My first thought on reading was: do I do that? The point being that inclining the head is probably unconscious, not a deliberate act. I suppose the appropriate response is something on the lines of: ‘Why do you…’, or ‘Do you know that you…’ to which the answer is almost certainly ‘No. Why is it important?’ It’s important because if either partner isn’t vertical balance is bad, as well as being a pain in the neck to the follower.

Head contact is hardly ever taught or discussed, so this is really useful. I was thinking about it at class last night when two partners who I hardly know sought and maintained head contact during practice. It is a close embrace class (‘We’re dancing tango!’ say the teachers) but I assume head contact is optional. Those two followers obviously didn’t think it optional. Both leaders and followers find it helpful: it makes the dance position more stable. Because the leader’s head should turn even before the shoulders, it ought to be the best guide to what is being lead.

Only two positions for followers have been mentioned: her left to his right cheek, and over the shoulder. There’s a third: her forehead to the right side of his head, as if whispering words of wisdom, assuming the partners are about the same height. I find it very stable and not too close, it gives me a good view of the floor and it’s not so hard to glance right if I’m planning a right gyro. When partners are much the same height gyros to the right can be steps into the unknown.

I talked a while back with a much more experienced partner about head positions. She told me she finds it hard to get it right, and can end up dancing the whole evening with her head turned over her shoulder, which isn’t good when the back is twisting too. An area that needs further research.

msHedgehog said...

her left to his right cheek.

I hadn't actually thought of that - I find it uncomfortable, because I must either twist my neck further than it can easily go, or break the connection, but I'll do it when I can't make either of the others work. Some people seem to find this one ok, though.

There’s a third: her forehead to the right side of his head

This is what I mean, and what I'm trying to do, when I open up a bit. But there isn't always enough room for both heads in that position, and I do think it tends to result in push-back.

koolricky said...

I never had anybody complaining about that. I sometimes dance with my head touching the followers head but never pushing it, or at least, I hope!