Want to Tango for an opportunity to BE yourself? Then..dance the rules

Why are you dancing..?
Let me guess… Mmmmm… For an opportunity to be yourself, to express yourself?

And it is indeed a beautiful opportunity, a safe and colorful way of meeting oneself!But this is exactly where the trouble begins…haha…

If we just wanted to go out and spend time with friends, or be in the milongas just to practice our moves, things would have been pretty straight forward and a lot less stressful and painful.
The fact though that we are looking for ways to “dance like nobody’s watching”, if I may be allowed the cliche… 😉 means that our nights at the milonga mean a lot more

What stops us though from meeting and expressing ourselves, from just dancing?

Simple answer… The RULES!

For most people Tango is a difficult because it has so many rules that make them “(…) get so anxious on the dance floor trying to remember all of them”

So how can we make rules part of our dance so we don’t have to think about them anymore? How can we EMBODY the rules?

Embody…mmmm…such a fancy word..haha… How about we try to make a bit more sense of the word by writing down at least 10 things that come to mind when you think of “embodying”. Ready? GO!

  1. Be yourself..maybe?
  2. ….

Here is my list:

Freedom

Safety

Awareness

Present

In the Moment

Past

Knowledge

Truth

Expression

Unison

Logic

Realization

Ok? So if you have come up with your list which would probably be different than mine, lets see how it works in dancing.

At this point I want to call in an expert on the matter, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen with excerpt from her book “Sensing, feeling and Action”

“ The process of embodiment is a being, not a doing process, not a thinking process. It is an awareness process in which the guide and witness dissolve into cellular consciousness. (…)
Embodiment is automatic presence, clarity and knowing without having to search for it or pay attention. As they say in Zen, “When you eat, eat. When you sleep, sleep” (…)”

There are 3 steps in the process of embodiment: VIsualization, Somatization and Embodiment.

Visualization is the process by which the brain imagines aspects of the body and, in doing so, informs the body that it (the body) exists. (…)
Somatization is the process by which the kinesthetic (movement), proprioceptive (position), and tactile (touch) sensory systems inform the body that it (the body) exists. (…)
Embodiment is the cells’ awareness of themselves. You let go of your conscious mapping. It is a direct experience, there are no intermediary steps or translation. There is no guide, no witness.
There is the fully known consciousness of the experienced moment initiated from the cells themselves. In this instance, the brain is the last to know. There is complete knowing. There is peaceful comprehension. Out of this embodiment process emerges feeling, thinking, witnessing, understanding. The source of this process is love”

So based on this excerpt does it sounds like you need more Tango classes, more milongas or hours and hours of practice?

Not really, right? Bonnie’s description feels like more natural, more personal, and one that depends more on us and getting close with ourselves and less on others.

So lets do exactly THAT instead:

  1. OBSERVE

    Look for the images that can fuel visualization. Go to milongas not for the dances, but for the images. Observe, try to find the Tango rules in other peoples bodies.
    Before you start to practice on anything, from posture to embellishments, take one moment to visualize what you want your body to do.

  2. Movement, Position and Touch

    You would have to go through the movements noticing not what makes them right, but what makes them feel good.
    Attempt to find that same comfort in different positions. Compare for example the comfort of your posture when simply standing to when you are walking or doing ochos.
    Then go deeper than that and find the “rules” of posture in other positions in your everyday life, in your other activities–like walking to the supermarket.
    Somatic dance is the holistic approach to moving and by becoming 1% better in your everyday life activities, you will become better in your Tango too.
    Lastly touch is extremely important to understand who you are, who the other is and what you are together through movement. So practice on that awareness either with a real partner and with an artificial one–the floor or the wall…

  3. Explore with Love

    Explore your movement for the chance to find yourself no matter how cheesy this may sound to you.
    Embodiment as Bonnie says is experiencing movement initiated from within. Not just doing the proper steps, but allowing for “feeling, thinking, witnessing, understanding” to emerge.
    Creating a practice based on exploring the rules instead of imposing the rules, not only feels more natural and more enjoyable but also it allows to be yourself in practice

  4. Avoid practicing for hours

    It is absolutely pointless!
    As you can gather from the above, locking yourselves up in a room aimlessly going from drill to drill, without any focus or goal, is absolutely pointless and it will actually get you to quit sooner than later.
    Instead build on your ability to stop BEFORE your technique fails you

  5. TRACK all this down

    A quick note, a little video, something to help you when you decide to revisit that day’s practice
    Avoid tracking your progress based on other people’s reactions or feedback alone, and tap into your emotional, mental and psychological state before and after your class/practice or milonga.
    Are you feeling better, stronger, calmer, more focused or more aware? Your body knows better sometimes..!
    You can use metrics as well, like how many of my ochos felt good today? Or how many milongas felt great this month?

  6. Give yourself a BREAK

    When you are dancing, dance! You can’t correct anything on the dance floor
    Allow yourself to make mistakes. Laugh at your mistakes. Enjoy your dances with all their flaws. Dance for the sake of feeling alive, for that very opportunity to be yourself and not for hitting every point on your checklist.
    This will be your only true motivation on practicing again the next day!

Grab the opportunity to BE yourself, you deserve it!

Chrisa

Tools for confident Ganchos

Back in December, I reached out to the Bautanz subscribers and asked what they have been having trouble with.
Along with many other things, ganchos were causing some pain and so I decided to make a video for it.

Yes, you should work on ganchos even if you don’t use them that much in milongas..!

I find ganchos to be something that can teach us A LOT about posture, balance, effortless grounding, body awareness, timing and last but certainly not least connection.

That is why even though I know that compared to other things, ganchos are secondary, I am super excited to share this video with you today because all that you will learn you can apply it to your Tango technique overall.

What will you learn from this drill..?
  1. What is the MOST important ingredient for successful ganchos
  2. How do we respond to gravity and how we yield with one side to free the other
  3. What are the most common mistakes dancers make and how you can avoid them
  4. Successfully freeing up one leg so you can kick without losing your balance or tensing up
  5. Understanding what is the body supposed to be doing to support the action
  6. Finding how your frame should work to lead and follow ganchos without pushing and pulling on your partner and
  7. Timing

So with no further a do, here is your video:

Have fun,
Chrisa

P.S: If you need extra help on technique check this link out for ideas: Argentine Tango Technique–Don’t leave the gym yet

Don’t follow the milonga etiquette, just be nice!

“You said what?” Me
Only this last week I have found myself thinking: “You said whaaat..?” like 3897 times… haha… in milongas/classes…

via GIPHY

And so I thought it is a good time for a funny compilation of what not to say in a milonga/ class environment. Not though with the intention to repeat the well-known rules of milonga etiquette but mostly to show that it is simply a matter of good manners.

Most of these, I now think they are funny and I hope you will find them funny as well….

Things to say and NOT to say in milongas

Are you a good dancer who doesn’t get as many dances as you can?
Do you leave the milongas feeling a bit frustrated or discouraged?
Has that hurt your feelings or confidence?
Or has it made you think that most dancers in your community are just snobs or that you just can’t understand the opposite sex..?

Have you ever thought that it might have nothing to do with your dance skills, the community, the opposite sex’s mentality or your age and looks BUT with what comes out of your mouth?!? haha

Let’s see a few of last weeks examples:

YOU CAN SAY: Oh! dear it is a very warm night. It feels like a just had a work-out…haha
BUT YOU CAN’T SAY: You are very sweaty, do you want me to lend you a shirt?

YOU CAN SAY: I went to X festival, it was really amazing…
BUT YOU CAN’T SAY: I went to X festival and danced with such amazing dancers. Coming back though really sucks

YOU CAN SAY: Thank you!
BUT YOU CAN’T SAY: You did great! You are following very well! or Oh! You know you have to talk to X he did this same sequence, only so much better… Why don’t you talk to him?!?!

YOU CAN SAY: How is your night going? Having fun?
BUT YOU CAN’T SAY: How come you haven’t danced with me?

YOU CAN SAY: No, thank you maybe another time
BUT YOU CAN’T SAY: “I am not dancing with beginners”

It is not about the milonga etiquette..!

Yes all of the above were in fact said some in milongas and some in classes, last week..! haha

Crazy week? Maybe!

What do you notice though?
What you can and can not say, has nothing to do with the milonga etiquette here, but more with basic social skills and politeness

In general, you don’t want to make someone feel uncomfortable and awkward by telling them how sweaty they are..!
And you certainly don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings by sending them away, in a blunt way just because they are beginners. You don’t have to dance with them but you can decline in a nice way.
And yes maybe other communities are better than yours but you don’t have to be a snob now, do you..?

People choose their partners based on dance skill but also based on character.
Personally, I wouldn’t like to be stuck for 12mins with someone who is rude and/ or makes me feel uncomfortable… Would you?

Think about it… Do you have any examples of rudeness or social discomfort..?
Leave a comment below with your story!

Chrisa

Musicality Vs Technique–One of the most common Tango debates

Usually we see Tango technique classes being offered separately from musicality classes and that is not a bad approach, on the contrary, as long as it is not the ONLY approach.

Sometimes you need to put the 2 together..!

Like Joey in Friends:

musicality together
Joey Tribbiani, Friends

hahaha

Musicality OR Technique– Put your hands together!

Remember the last video we did on Ochos- Realign from toe to HEAD

There we were being very technical, focused on finding the proper alignment for our heads.
We were going slow, giving ourselves time to notice what we are missing, what we know and how the details are feeling. Because this is indeed part of how we learn.

At the same time though you need to put things into perspective.
Why are we doing all this?
To enjoy our dance more!

How is that going to happen?
If we manage to put this new technique element into our dance!

Is this difficult to do?
Yes, most of the times it is. Anything new takes some time to sync in… To make the process faster you need to practice THAT new element with… MUSIC

And so with no further ado, here is your video:

Have a prism- based practice

The cool thing about this, is that you have more than one options on how to execute it.

You can keep your focus on both musicality and technique–like I am doing in the video, or move closer towards one end or the other.
If want to work more on musicality, using the same drills, you can change songs and notice which option best matches the song you are listening to each time
Whereas, if you want to focus more on technique then you can choose ONE song that you know well, and that is NOT too fast, and possibly spend more time going slower than faster to give yourself time to work out the technical details.

And of course you can mix and match. You can go through the same drill a couple of times, shifting your focus accordingly, keeping your practice fresh and interesting!  Making something like a Tango cross- training system!  Haha

What to do after every practice, for better results

This is something most dancers, miss… Tracking their progress..!

Whether you are working on musicality or technique or improvisation or partnering or anything else for that matter you need to find a suitable way to track your progress.

After every practice take a few minutes to think how, what you just did, can help you in your very next milonga.
Take a few moments to think of how it made you feel, to recognize your emotional, psychological and physical state before and after your practice. And lastly try to notice if you did better than last time…!

There is really NO point going through different drills without tracking whether you are in fact getting better and feeling better–that is a vital part of an artistic practice– and  without making the connection with real-time dancing.
If you are practicing and you are getting more overwhelmed, more frustrated, more unaware, more unable to put those things in your dance… Then what is the point?

Keep it real, keep it interesting, keep it fresh and keep it fun!

Chrisa

P.S: Want more on musicality? Visit: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango-technique/musicality/

My Tango community is so unwelcoming… or it might be just me

“It might be just me, but I really feel that the Tango community here is not very forgiving. And it is actually a bit unwelcoming..!” Many many people

Classic NPS case!
New to the Playground Syndrome

What is NPS or New to the Playground Syndrome?

New in the Playground Syndrome, is a Tango disorder. The patient relives the scariest childhood experience—aka walking into the playground without mommy, daddy or a friend.

It is typically associated with awkwardly walking in the milongas, not talking/ dancing with anyone other than his/her group/ partner and wishing that somebody else will make the first move to come and greet them.

It is something almost ALL beginners will experience and plenty of other-level dancers when entering a new community.

I should send this in to Wikipedia and make it a thing! Hahaha

But first… lets explore the most common cures for NPS, why they usually don’t work and what you should do instead!

The most common cures to NPS and why they usually fail
  1. Don’t rush to hit the milongas. Wait until the time is right..!
  2. Stick to the practica/ milonga of your school
  3. Make a new practice/ milonga that is going to be better than all the others
  4. Try to persuade oneself that he/ she is NOT really interested in dancing but mostly learning— it can be true, but you probably know that before you even start taking classes…

Why these common cures do NOT usually work?
Well, simply because they try to avoid the problem than fix it.

Let’s start with #4: I don’t really like social dancing, I mostly enjoy the classes, learning the Tango

Most people, want to learn a/ another dance and that is how the end up in Tango. Maybe they saw it in a movie or in Dancing with the Stars and it looked interesting…

How did you start Tango?

If it was something similar to the reason above, and it wasn’t because you were on mission to discover the fundamental relationship underlying the development of perception—aka the dialogue between movement and touch… mmmm

I am pretty sure you are in it for the dance.

So stop wasting your time trying to persuade yourselves that you don’t care about social dancing, because that in itself will bring more bitterness and frustration.
As your knowledge and Tango vocabulary grows, the feeling of all of it being pointless will grow along with it. At some point, you will have no real incentive to keep learning.

Same goes with #2: Stay in your own playground…

We all know deep down why that is problematic. You are only dancing with same people, who know the same sequences as you, following a specific style of dancing and music.

After a while you are on autopilot. There is NO challenge which inevitably leads to 0 progress.

And I know what you are now saying to yourselves…
“Buuuut all these other places the music is not that good and the dancers are a bit snobbish, the space is not well- arranged, the host is obnoxious” …  And all that jazz!

How do I know? Hahah

Because I have said those EXACT same things myself!

No place was good enough for me… Until I realized that all these other places where perfectly fine but I was just too comfortable were I was and afraid to exit my comfort zone…
I mean they do call it comfort zone for a reason! Hahaha

But if you want to keep getting better, you need to step out of it!

So we are left with 2 more cures…

#1: Wait for the opportune time to go the milonga..!

And I ask you this; How can you tell?
And say, ok… your teacher will tell when it is the right time to go—if they are not involved in the crazy Tango politics that is…

But do we really want to make this grade 5 or a work environment were if you do your home work or if you work hard enough you get A+ or a promotion?

That is why I think this doesn’t really work… because it brings in the very ONE thing we are ALL looking to escape from when picking an artistic hobby— running after performance goals!

And
#3: Doing YOUR very own event that is going to be better than any other event in town…

EVERY beginner in the world has thought and/ or attempted to set up an event that would shake the WHOLE Tango scene to its foundation..!

Even the person writing this article, thought that her ideas were so unique. That she was of the very few artistic and courageous dancers to lead the change in her Tango community..! UNSUCCESSFULLY! Hahaha

Not because people sabotaged me but because I was an idiot!

So this one doesn’t usually work, for a number of reasons:

  1. What WE think is better, might not be better for everybody else.
  2. We have no idea on how to actually host an event and we don’t even ask anyone who has done it before.
  3. If we ask for people’s opinion, we usually ask people we know will agree with us OR fail to really listen to their feedback.
How to cure New to the Playground Syndrome

After extensive research, endless talks with leaders and followers and some s****y experiences of my own this is what I would do if I was a beginner again:

  1. I would ask my teacher what is the biggest mistake a beginner makes when starting to dance the Tango socially.
  2. Ask my teacher what are the fundamental elements of Tango
  3. Find out who are the best Tango professionals to look out for
  4. At the end of each class I would ask him/ her how what we did can be used on the dance floor.
  5. I would make notes of what we did, how they fit the fundamentals and how avoided or not the common mistake in class
  6. Watch A LOT of videos of high end Tangueros- as, OBSERVING. Not copying, or trying to learn sequences but observing their dance and noting anything that I find interesting
  7. Go to the milongas after maximum a month. BUT I wouldn’t participate, I would only OBSERVE. The etiquette, the rules, the mood, the atmosphere… Everything!
  8. I would try to spot or ask the person at the door or the organizer who are the best dancers in the room and focus on them
  9. If I had the opportunity I would chat with them in a very relaxed way about their experience so far—not for technique, or drills or anything like that… keep things general and cool
  10. Go to different milongas and repeat those same steps for a good period of time.
  11. Chat with my teacher and fellow dancers about all the things I have found interesting, from week to week.
  12. Ask good questions and give sincere and good quality feedback.
  13. After a while Video tap myself… REALITY CHECK! haha

If I came for a different dance community or another city/ country where we had some different layout for the milongas which I thought it would work. THIS is what I would do:

  1. I would first examine the constraints and obstacles closely. Being brutally honest with myself, see if by changing my attitude towards the obstacles can actually make your experience better.
  2. Talk to the organizers about hosting events. How do they do it, what troubles have they been facing, what they have tried in the past, what worked and what didn’t, how did they even end up doing what it is that they are doing… LISTEN very closely BUT take everything you hear with a grain of salt
  3. Chat with dancers—other than your friends—and tell them in full detail your idea. Look for their REACTION to it.
    If they say: “Yeah great idea…” Don’t do it… They won’t even show up.
    But if they say something: “OMG! Are you in my head, I have been thinking about something like this for days. So how to WE start, how can I help”
    THAT is true hope that your idea might actually be able to stand..!
  4. And maybe instead of doing something NEW, try to help something older get better..!

So, I don’t mean to discourage you, on the contrary I want  you to see your community with different eyes.

Aside from the constraints there is always room for more creativity, for more freedom and a lot more fun.

It is up to YOU though to see past the constraints, to create opportunities, to chat with people, to give and learn from your community before you earn from it—not necessarily in a monetary way of course.

Many of the obstacles, are things you have some control over as well.

Like the Cabeceo

Or building up your social skills in general: Networking your way through Festivals

Maybe building up your improvisational skills, to grow your vocabulary without learning new steps: Lets Improvise

Or becoming better in musicality, so you can enjoy your dances more AND give more to your partner even if you have only been dancing for 6 months: Musicality MORE than just steps on the beat

There are many things YOU can do TODAY that can transform your experience in the milongas

And as a subscriber of Bautanz you get even more tools for physical and mental transformation, the only thing you need to do is join us..!

Timing is Everything

I got an Apple MacBook Pro… for Christmas

timing apple 2
picture by: techkoalas.com

Perfect gift! Perfect timing..!
Just look at those clean, fine lines. That great attention to detail.
This box is saying: “I am here to put your life in order”

Well… We are still getting to know each other…haha

timing apple

Timing is everything

I am sure I wouldn’t be able to truly appreciate such a gift a year ago.
Don’t get me wrong, I would have been super happy to get it last year, but I wouldn’t really be able to acknowledge the value of it and the possibilities it creates.

Timing is everything. NOW, I was ready for it!

What does all this have to do with Tango?

Think of that pair of Tango shoes that are just too high.
How about that Tango show you saw last year, that you found so boring..?
Do you remember thinking: “They are only walking”
Or that class with this big Tango teacher, everyone was going crazy about, but you felt it was a complete waste of your time…

Timing is everything..!

The truth is, you like me, were probably not ready for those super high heels or for that high end professional couple that visited your city or for that Tango teacher who has spent years and years mastering his/ her craft but all you thought you got was “really beginner stuff”

Timing, timing, timing…

THE biggest question you should ask yourselves

Why am I doing all this?

I am serious and I am not trying to play artistic here…
Seriously, answer this question

If your answer is: I don’t want to be a Pro I just want to enjoy my dances more!

Then WHY are you rushing?
Why are you not enjoying it every step of the way?
You are learning something new, have fun with it. Don’t rush.
When the timing is right, EVERYTHING will click, and believe me it will feel magical.
More magical than those fleeting moments of bliss you are now getting once in a while during your dances.
Simply, because they won’t be fleeting anymore, they will be here to stay!

If your answer is: To become a Pro..!

Then always remember, THAT is a never ending journey.
The moment you say to yourself: “I did it… I am great… I don’t need to improve anymore…” You have lost.

So again work hard, actually no… work harder… BUT still enjoy the journey!

Chrisa,

P.S: And because I know you too well… And I know, part of you is fully agreeing with me, but another part is saying: “Does it have to take this long..?” haha

No it doesn’t have to take this long… Join Bautanz and we can practice together. I make it my mission to send you weekly fun, fresh, and focused practices that can propel you forward!
A few ideas: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango-technique/musicality/

Constructing Dance

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