It is all connected– Tango, Yoga and beyond

My Tango chats are usually with other Tango professionals… like the recent one with Veronica Toumanova.
This time though I decided to do something different… or is it actually the same..?
Hmmm… We shall soon find out, I guess..!
But today I chatting Tango, Yoga, learning strategies, teaching approaches, social and life skills

Tango, Yoga and everything in between

Jill Newberry Evans of jillyoga.ca is a friend and great coworker.

For a very long time now we have been talking about how we teach movement, how our students express their needs and goals and how we can help them get closer to their goals by exposing the different paths they can follow to get there.

Every time we got started that kind of a chat we always found ourselves finishing each other’s sentences and sharing stories that had so much in common that “it is all connected” became like  our little slogan

And so we thought… since it is all connected and since we can learn from one another why not bring this chat to world of the web so other people who are involved in different and seemingly unrelated activities can start connecting the dots and finding this way other more efficient and fun ways to get to their goals.

It is all connected…

We believe that there is a connecting thread, not only between Tango and Yoga but between all activities.
As Jill told me during one of our chats: “I don’t teach Yoga… I teach movement and life skills!

There are times that narrowing down and focusing on your ONE favorite activity will help to boost your progress…
But there is also the time when you need to revisit the principles of that activity under a different light and approach it following a slightly different path to be able to experience it in its totality; to be able to grow in it

We would love to hear your thoughts and comments along with your struggles and stories so we can get back with more!

Embellishments that go beyond spicing

We’ve talked about sequences, we’ve talked about technique, we’ve talked about the embrace… so how can we possibly leave embellishments out of the game?

Many dancers look down on embellishments. They see them as fluff; as something secondary and unimportant.
Today though I will attempt to change their mind by using an embellishment to practice on:

  1. Balance
  2. Posture
  3. Timing
  4. Effortless movement
  5. Listening and connecting to our partner
Embellishments that go beyond spicing

The video is heavy on technique tips, tips on how to make this beautiful embellishment fit your dance as seamlessly as possible and tips on how to transfer the details of this experience into the rest of your dance.
So I will grab the opportunity to elaborate more on the hidden message of the video… which is NOT Intelligent Tango…haha… but the relationship that can be created between partners because of this and many other embellishments

When the specific embellishment is successful and spicy, there is a feeling of a slight delay in the pivot. It is not really a delay but a change in rhythm.
Here is why…
The leader drives the pivot BUT it is the follower’s free leg the comes rapping around first and then the actual pivot happens.
So leaders… it feels like your follower is stuck… but THAT stickiness will create the momentum, the power that we want for the embellishment to come to light!

How do we mess this up…
The followers are either exaggerating, slowing the pivot down and/ or they are not using the embrace to let their partner know they want to do something fancy with their feet.

The leaders on the other hand having not received any cue that something different is happening push their partners around because they think they got stuck on the pivot… OR if the follower did communicate her wish to do an embellishment, it is very likely that the leader didn’t hear it…

Tango is a partner’s dance

I heard me say it the beginning of the video as well.
I was thinking of doing a practice on embellishments but I wasn’t really sure which one to choose and how to structure the practice so we get massive knowledge from it.
So when one of my students of Intelligent Tango told how delighted he was by the support built in the program, that was gave me the idea to structure around which I structured the video.

In Tango we are building up a conversation and yet I clearly remember taking women’s technique classes where the teacher would focus almost exclusively on how to keep the action on the feet; how we block what we do with our feet from getting transmitted to our partner.
Why..?
So we won’t disturb the leader…

You can imagine what happened afterwards right?
Frustraaaation! haha

Followers trying to do embellishments without giving any indication to the leader that they are attempting an extra movement.
And leaders complaining that they didn’t know where the follower was and that they felt disconnected because of the embellishments
But the followers came back at them with: “You don’t give any time to do an embellishment!”

Unfortunately the leaders are right on this one…
How do expect for someone to give time for an embellishments when they don’t know you want to do one…?
If you don’t communicate with your leaders, they can’t possibly know you even need more time..!

Tango is a partners dance and there is needs to more than I give you the lead and you do it.
There needs to be support and understanding from both ends.
And for that to happen we both need to use the embrace not only to share a message but also listen to what our partner is telling us and provide comfort.

How can we practice on that through this embellishment
  1. Start with doing simple forward ochos–NO embellishment and notice the rhythm
  2. Add the embellishment and notice the change in rhythm
  3. After figuring out the rhythm and the footwork, focus on what the rest of the body is doing
  4. Do it against the wall and notice how the pressure in your hands is changing
  5. Use your breath to relax any tension you might be holding
  6. Practice both plain ochos and ochos with an embellishment with your partner. If you are a follower make sure that you let your leader know you are going to do the embellishment and if you are leader listen for the cue
  7. Share feedback with your partner and try again

Tango like any dance is based on communication. We all dance to share something with someone. We need therefore to find ways to practice becoming better in listening and in sharing!

Bring your NEW moves on the floor! (remembering sequences vol.#2)

Last week we were talking new moves, about the Art of Choreography and  the art of learning and remembering sequences.

The 6 six steps outlined in last week’s article focused more on helping you learn and remember new sequences and therefore they can help you build a strategy for picking up new steps faster and remembering them for longer.

Today we are taking this a step further…

Bringing your NEW moves on the floor

After being more strategic about how you receive and store the new knowledge coming in the form of steps… (haha)… sooner than later you will start noticing that picking up new moves is not the issue anymore… Building a great vocabulary will not be really a problem anymore…

What will be a problem is bringing all the new moves on the dance floor and integrating them with the routines and sequences you already.

Man is a creature of habit…

I am sure you have heard it said many times before… “Man is a creature of habit”… and like everything in life dance too is based on habits
Those habits will support effortless technique, mindful movement and of course creativity.
Though good technique might seem to be a very difficult habit to pick up on, I think creativity is much more challenging, simply because it pushes us to step out of our comfort zone and therefore make us feel exposed, weak, unsure, uncomfortable and even afraid at some level.

For these very reasons we will avoid 2 very common cliches:

  1. Just Do It! 
    Yes, you will need to take action at some point. Ideas and words will not take you there, you need actions. But having a recipe that you can follow instead of throwing in every ingredient available is also very important AND very comforting.
  2. Be present/ be in the moment/ don’t think
    It goes usually hand in hand with cliche #1.
    Though often times it is a good advice, unfortunately it only works for people who can by will erase the past– aka a very small percentage of people.
    Being creatures of habit our past strong affects our future. Habits being built over years and years of good and bad experiences, are very tough to break–and movement habits are no different. There are some people who can disconnect from the past and therefore redirect the present but personally I haven’t met one yet…

What we will do instead, is acknowledge where we are now and then start making tiny changes one step at time.

5 steps to help you bring NEW moves in your Tango

Starting with realizing where we are, what we are really good at and where we are lacking. And then building new habits around our strongest anchors!

  1. At a practica or at the end of a class, dance a couple of different–in style– songs and get it on video
  2. Write down the sequences those videos have in common. The sequences you used the most in all your videos. These are your anchors!
    The default sequences, the sequences that have become habits and therefore you do them without even thinking about them
  3. Choose 1 of those sequences… You will later add more to the mix, but start small
  4. Then during your next practice: Say: every time I do Sequence X(the one you chose) I will be doing Y right after it (Y being the new step you want to introduce to your dance)
    Example: After every giro I will be doing a colgada
    And actually DO it for the whole practica!
  5. When you start doing Y at free will, meaning without the need of the anchor–the old sequence you had it attached to–you can move on to another new sequence you want to include in your dance

Before you know your repertoire of moves will have grown immensely!

2 side notes that I think will be useful here:
  1. This whole process can be challenging and fun at the same time. Don’t let yourself get frustrated if you start practicing and you forget to do Y after X… haha… Laugh and start again!
    It is bound to happen. It will happen to everyone and the more annoyed you get the worse is going to be.
    So laugh it out and try again!
  2. I wouldn’t recommend doing this in a milonga, but not only for the reason you are thinking about–aka disrupting the flow of the pista.
    A comfort zone is called comfort zone for a reason… You need to be in a state of comfort to indulge yourself to other things that are important in social dancing such as: connection, musicality, the embrace…
    Allow yourself to find a place of comfort in a milonga, without having to think of anchors and steps.
    You will wear yourself down if you don’t allow time for pure fun!

Have fun and if you want more tips and drills and tricks, subscribe to our weekly newsletter..!

“Fun Is Good” Dr. Seuss

Chrisa

The Art of choreography– learning and remembering sequences

How many times does a teacher need to tells us…?
Tango is an improvisational dance. Remembering sequences is not important!

And yet here we are… in another milonga doing the same thing over and over again, dance after dance and getting frustrated!

The truth about improvisation in Tango

Just for the record, I want to say that I fully agree with you!

Now that we set the record straight…haha…
Why are talking here briefly about improvisation?
Because the first step to improvising is putting sequences together on the spot..!

Nike’s “just do it” doesn’t apply in milongas or better said it doesn’t apply in the beginning of any activity and for a long time after that…

I will say this though, with no intension to avoid the question, but only to provide some comfort…
In Tango you can do whatever you want as long as you can lead it or as long as you are following
Does this mean that we are in a deep chaos, with no beginning or end?
No, of course not!
It only means that doing something different than what you learned in class, is NOT wrong especially if the other person is still there with you… It is simply different
And it also means that you need to be a bit more courageous and try things, because very few things in Tango are actually wrong…!

You have already taken the big risk of walking into a class and starting something new. That is always a stressful moment, where we feel out of our comfort zone, exposed and vulnerable. But you did it!
You pushed through the taboos, the excuses, the time restrictions and you did it… Isn’t it only fair that you will allow yourself to have fun while growing and learning more and more things in activity you love?

This is therefore what I would like to inspire you to do…. to see that initial step as a big, as a HUGE step. To congratulate yourself for taking it and for not giving up. And lastly to realize that the hardest part of over and that now it is time to have some fun!

Then next time you make a mistake following the tips below, laugh it out and try again!
Learning and practicing Tango can and should be FUN!

Ok! Now it is time for some tips for learning and remembering sequences
  1. Identify the following categories of steps in Tango, as per Pedro Farias*
    1. Linear steps
    2. Circular steps
    3. Off- axis steps
  2. Based on this categorization, rethink of all the sequences you know and use often in Tango
  3. Break each sequence down to 2 parts:
    1. basic building blocks
    2. transition moves
      Your blocks or your transitions will be in one of the above categories–linear, circular or off-axis.
  4. Bring intention into the sequence.
    Try to understand why the teacher chose that block or that transition. You can do that in two ways–which actually work very well together

    1. ask the teacher why..?
    2. find the answer by trying other possible transitions or building blocks.
      Play with it to understand why it works the way it does.
      Lets use an example here… say part of a sequence is a back ocho, could you possibly do it with a back step, and if so, where would you end up on the dance floor?
  5. Practice the blocks and the transitions separately
  6. Practice the sequence itself and then practice the same sequence only with the blocks mixed up.
The Art of choreography

The plan above might not be the easiest-6-steps-to-remembering-sequences list, despite the fact that it works… Because though Bautanz was created to make the balance between practice-time and fun-time shift to our favour and therefore make our Tango life easier, I have and extra tip for you…

What does artistically remembering sequences stand for?
Meaning if “remembering sequences” is a skill what is the activity that is based on that skill?

… Learning choreography

Learning a choreography and dancing a choreography, is an activity based on “learning and remembering sequences”. Of course, there is more to choreography than remembering sequences, but this is a story for another article.
For now what is crucial to realize is that our brain doesn’t differentiate Tango steps from contemporary dance steps, for example.
It is all steps to be remembered and therefore exactly the same skill.

If therefore, you want to build on remembering sequences faster you need to add a choreography based activity to your schedule.
This way you are adding extra practice time on the very skill of remembering sequences, avoiding though the burn-out that focusing solely on 1 activity causes.

What kind of activity can you do..?
It can a choreography based dance class (contemporary, hip-hop, jazz etc), a cardio dance class, cardio Hi-lo class, a Zumba class or some types martial arts classes.
And if all of the above sound like too much… you can start with something simple and fun straight from Youtube in the privacy of your own home:
https://youtu.be/RzYegenvzRE

Have fun!
Chrisa
P.S: If you do use the video, follow Andy a couple of times, then try to do it without looking at your screen. When you can do the whole thing without taking a glimpse at the video, it is time for a new song!

A 20min Tango practice on posture, walks and ochos

When we hear “tango practice” what is the image that comes to mind?
Most popular answer: “Hours in a studio practicing with and without a partner on things we suck at..!

Does it have to be this way though? NO!

Tango Practice can be enjoyable and motivating!

Tango practice doesn’t need to be that painful.
It can be hard work, but if it is structured correctly and timed properly it can actually be short, sweet and fun!

As you will hear me say in the beginning of this video, a Tango practice can’t start before we identify what the problem really is… Going in a studio to practice just because someone said you have to, will only get you frustrated.

So before you start your practice, take a moment to:

  1. think of any struggles you might be facing regarding, posture, walks and ochos (or Tango in general if you are not following the video above)
  2. find what you are REALLY good at regarding posture, walks and ochos
  3. draw the connecting line between what makes you good and what makes suck…
  4. build your practice based on #3… like a story that builds on a narrative.

So even though most people will tell you to just practice to correct your shortcomings, I want to encourage you to do almost the opposite!
Double down on what makes you good.
Figure out what is that ONE thing that makes you good. And then see if you can use that to correct what you suck at it….

*Note: I said “if”…
We all suck at something and we are all really good at something else. Nobody is perfect at everything. There maybe somethings you can’t fix… Accept them and bet on your strengths instead!

Tango practice can be short, sweet AND fun!

There is also another myth, around the length of practice…

For some reason most people think that the more the better. But really what is the point of practicing  for hours if you are going to be on your phone or on autopilot..?
And most importantly… what is the point of practicing when your technique is failing you?

As Terry Laughlin, swimming coach and founder of Total Immersion had said: “Stop when you realize your technique is failing you
And Luis von Ahn, the founder of Duolingo suggests around 20mins of practice a day to avoid burn- out..!

So why do we think dancing is any different than swimming or learning a language..?
Going past a certain time- limit, just for the sake of being in a studio will offer zero results and bring only disappointment and frustration.

What should we do instead?

Remember step #2 mentioned above?
*find what you are REALLY good at regarding posture, walks and ochos*

After you go through the Tango scan in your mind on what makes you good at posture, walks and ochos, change ochos to pivots and then revisit ANY activity you are really good at.
All activities have some version of posture, walking, and pivoting.

Bring drills from those activities into your Tango practice.
Everything is connected… believe me! The only thing you need to do is identify the connecting path.

By doing that you are not starting from 0.
You are starting from something you are already good at, you are already confident with and you are taking the details you find are common to Tango, into your Tango practice.

Not to mention how much more motivating this strategy is…
You are not practicing in the dark, you can actually have a plan. Then you are not starting from 0, even if you are a beginner in Tango. And lastly, you start from a place of confidence, from a place of power and that allows you to explore more and at a deeper level.

Is this something super easy to do..? No, but it is totally worth it!

And if you need help, subscribe to bautanz and you can get videos just like this one weekly in your inbox… Along with other inspirational goodies every Sunday..!

😉
Chrisa

P.S: Did you know we have an online course based on these very principles?
Check it out here: Intelligent Tango

 

 

 

 

 

I am not just sitting… I am Being!

Wednesday 12:00pm… (a regular day turned to an experience of being)

It was an amazing day outside. And so I set out to go for a quick walk… 5mins… A quick breath out of the studio..!

The sun was bright and warming and the little sitting “garden” where I spent my summers last year, had expanded and looked beautiful and so I walked straight to it  for a few moments of peace..!

But alas… The moment I sat down my fingers were reaching for the phone… I resisted and instead I looked at the other people,  some in groups chatting, some alone reading the paper, having lunch or tapping on their phone.

I am not going to lie, it did feel uncomfortable, being there alone, doing nothing…

My fingers reached for the phone… I resisted…!
This time I focused on everything else around me…
The trees
The flowers
The people passing by
The squirrels chasing each other…

I listened to the sounds of the city coming, to the song of the birds, to the people chatting next to me…
(…turns out my Spanish have gotten better after all! haha…)

I just sat there…

I did nothing else aside from taking all of this in… And somehow through listening to the environment, to everything around me somehow that made me aware of where I was in that environment, made me feel a part of it.

My phone buzzed… I ignored it…
Instead I closed my eyes and turned to face the sun!
Feeling the warmth, listening intently, and doing nothing more than being present!

My phone buzzed again… Again, I ignored it…
I knew I only had one minute before I had to head back inside! So I allowed myself to just BE for that one minute.

I am not just sitting. I am Being..!

You are probably wondering what does all this have to do with Tango…
But for years, when I heard people saying things like: “I can just sit there and listen to the music…!”
I thought they were being pretentious, because I couldn’t figure out how someone can just sit there alone and not feel like a loser or at least feel embarrassed or frustrated…

But this experience was a little light bulb moment for me.
It was tough in the beginning to push away the discomfort of sitting there alone doing nothing and so I started doing something…

I listened actively, looked intently, and allowed myself to be present in that moment.

And so I am hoping to inspire you to do the same.  To  allow yourselves to BE in the environment of your garden, your home, your dance studio, your weekly milonga.

To listen actively to the music, to look intently at the dancers on the floor. And to hear the whispers, the laughter of the people beside you, the glasses ticking and the wine pouring.

Listen to the environment to find yourself present in that environment. You are not just sitting. You are BEING!

😉
Chrisa
P.S: If you want a drop of inspiration such as this one, you can get them now through Alexa: Drops of inspiration

Constructing Dance

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