The Core. The Centre.

mindfulness tango abc teaching Dec 01, 2022

© by Cosima Diaz Campos

This blog is about the core, the centre. In Spanish: El Centro. El Núcleo.

In linguistics the core means the essence; the central, innermost, or most essential part of something.

Biomechanically, the core is this strong central part of our body.
It is also the centre of gravity of our body. 

Our core can give us both strength & stability (yang) and souplesse & mobility (yin).

To establish our balance (both in static posture as in dynamic movements), the core plays a very important role. When we loose balance and we are scared to fall, intuitively we will grab on to something to support us. We will often tense our arms. For tangodancers, this will cause a lot of tension in the embrace, which is not beneficial to the flow of the dance. What we can do instead as dancers, is bringing our focus to the core to reestablish our balance.

Our abdominal muscles, and all the attached ligaments, fascia and tendons connect our pelvis with our ribcage and our spine. Together they help protect our inner organs, they help with expiration and they function in trunk stabalisation and mobilisation.

 This blog is about core activation for tangodancers. Let's first start with some tips for tango teachers.

Teaching about the core:
Tips for Tango Teachers

Study anatomy

First of all: study anatomy and biomechanics. Study thoroughly and keep learning and discovering. By just copying what your teachers taught you, no matter how famous they are, there is a chance you will teach things in your class that are incorrect (in the best case not helpful for the students, in the worst case unhealthy for the students).

Focus on the flow

Dancing is moving with flow and ease. We want to feel the activation of the core, we want to feel energized, both strong & supple! A very good way to achieve this is by using imagination of flow, such as water, air, spirals, swinging arms.

Explain the intensity of core activation

It is important to mention how subtle this movement of core activation is. Dancers should be able to still move their abdominal wall with their breath, while dancing and practicing. If the movement of the abdominal wall is blocked by too much tension, this will not be supportive of a healthy movement pattern. It can be helpful to place a hand at the belly in different places (lower belly, mid belly, hight plexus solaris), and let students feel the effect of movements in the abdominal wall (e.g. lifting the heels, rotating the spine, bringing the weight to the heels or to the balls of the foot, etc).



Anatomy of the Abdominals

In the image below you see the different layers of the abdominals muscles. The muscles are shown in red and in white you can see the connective tissue such as tendons, linea alba, and aponeurosis that connect your muscles to each other and to your bones.

Image above: abdominal muscles

M. abdominis obliquus externus
This is the most superficial of the abdominal muscles.
Functions: stabalisation of the spine, rotation, side flexion.

M. abdominis obliquus internus
Middle layer of the abdominal muscles.
Functions: stabalisation of the spine, rotation, side flexion.

M. rectus abdominis
Middle layer of the abdominal muscles.
Functions: stabalisation of the spine, forward bending, flexion in the spine, forward tilting of the pelvis.

M. abdominis transversus
Deepest layer of the abdominal muscles.
Functions: stabalisation of the spine, contricting the waist, rotation in the spine, supporting our abdominal organs, maintaining normal abdominal wall tension.

My abdominals? I left them at home. 

When we mention abdominal muscles in our classes, we don't need to wait long for jokes and giggles. "Which abdominals?" - "I left them at home", etc. We all have abdominal muscles, that are much stronger than we might think. They are strong enough to keep us standing tall, sitting upright, walking, dancing. They are strong enough to rotate, to turn around, to give us stability.

For tangodancers the main reason we mention the abdominals in classes (or more general 'the core') is because of coordination. We can activate certain muscle groups and relax others, and this is part of our coordination. In dance it can be very helpful to know when to activate certain muscles a bit less or more, and how to sense this. We have enough strength of the abdominals for tangodancing. Learning more about how and when to activate these muscles, can be helpful for dancers.

Activating the Core


Let's shortly talk about why we need to activate the core during our dance. First and foremost: it protects our spine! There is a very beautiful mechanims of the communication between the deep m. abdominis transversus and the m. multifidi (the tiny muscles that connect each vertebra of the spine with the next). This way the activation of the core helps to stabalize the spine, so that all the vertebra can work together as a team. See image below.

Image above: m. abdominis transversus and muscles in between the vertebrae


When we are in an upright position, we have a basic activation of the abdominals. When we start dancing, we activate a bit more. Depending on the movement you make, you will need a lot of activation (for example in a calecita, or a volcada or a colgada) or less (for example in the caminada). When we make rotations in the spine, we also use the core, with the focus on the spiral energy (obliques externus and internus, supported by the transversus).

The moment we will have to activate more, is when we feel like we are loosing our stability. |nstead of responding instinctively by tensing the arms (extending or flexing the arms, leaning on your partner for support), we will bring our focus to our core, and stabalize from there, while we can keep the flow and connection in the arms and the abrazo, keep the grounding of the standing leg and the flow in the free leg.


We activate our core by just bringing the abdominal wall a tiny bit towards the spine. You bring the navel and the lower belly slightly more towards your core. The whole abdominal wall - from the pubic bone up to your ribcage - will be activated a bit more firm. You should still be able to breath freely through your belly and flanks, and move freely in all directions. If you feel like you can't breath easily, or you hold your breath, or you can not move freely, then you have activated the core too strongly for the purpose of the dance.


Tanguero anywhere, anytime

As dancers we can improve our dance also when we are not dancing. For example when we sit, stand, walk and talk with a good posture, and work with a good ergonomic setting.


Excercise ideas

To finish this blog, here are three example of excercises for tangodancers

1. Planking is good for our core. You can do a full plank, or a plank leaning on your knees.

Pelvis & lower back stability by activating the core. Caricia / passé practiced in a laying position, keeping the core activated so that the pelvis does not tilt forward. Good training to prevent lower back hyperlordosis (hyper arched back).

3. Side bends: mobility of the core, stretching one side, strengthening the other side.
Support your weight with your other hand on the chair so you don't fall from the chair.

You can also do this side bend standing, or sitting on a mat.

These photos are video stills from our "Mobility & Balance for tangodancers" online classes.

Thanks for reading!

Text & idea: Cosima Diaz Campos ©


About Cosima
"In my Tango Masterclass I aim to support tango teachers to become better professionals, and I aim to inspire and guide tango aficionados to develop themselves fully as social tangodancers.

My love for tango was sparked by the tango music. I studied Tango Violin at the World Music section of the Conservatorium in Rotterdam in 1996/1997, and I continued with the tango dance soon after.

I have been an Argentine Tango dance performer, choreographer and instructor for over two decades.

With a background in physiotherapy - specialized in healthy posture & movement - I have a good foundation to build my classes from the basics up. From analysis to synthesis.

Art (including Tango), Yoga and Mindfulness are the pillars of my private and professionl life.

My special interest goes out to the history of tango dance and music, and to the tango as it was danced by the milongueras of the Golden Era and Orillera style. "