Music: sensing, feeling and action

“There are many elements involved, all concerned with the perception, decoding and synthesis of sound and time and thus there are many forms of amusia” (…) “A.L Benton distinguishes receptive from interpretive or performance and identifies more than a dozen varieties”
Musicophilia- Tales of Music and the Brain, pg. 106
(https://www.oliversacks.com/books-by-oliver-sacks/musicophilia/)

Based on Oliver Sacks the author of Musicophilia, there are quite a few different musicality trouble. For example, one might experience, rhythm deafness, tone deafness, cultural rhythm deafness, no sense of scale, melody or harmony, pitch discrimination, dystimbria and more…

And that is because music is not just beats per minute…

Starting from the music

Usually what happens is, we go to a class, we learn a bunch of sequences, either to no-music or on a specific song.
Then we go to the milongas but we are not able to perform these same sequences on the music, unless we are lucky enough and that one song that our teacher used in class, is played in the milonga.
That creates a feeling of emptiness, as if we didn’t really dance.

In order to address this issue, we will focus on the music itself first. So go ahead and choose any 4 songs you like, from different orchestras, and start with actively listening, trying to make sense of the music.

Making sense of the music, happens in many ways:

  • through hearing for its beat, tempo, rhythm etc
  • seeing it, usually the timbre of the music is expressed as colour
  • through taste, often times musicians when they talk about pitch they use taste-related words
  • through movement; you might catch yourself tapping your foot, or swinging the arms
  • or you might hum or sing etc

Try initially to just let all of these things happen, and make a note of them. Even if they are distasteful, don’t stop them from happening.
Be simply a witness and not a judge to the process

On a second level, we use movement to become aware of what the music feels like.
Personally, I did this like so:

Use simple, very basic movements that will not trouble you technically, to capture what the music feels like to you.

Initially, you will most likely become aware of your emotions, like feeling sad or happy, and attempt to express them through movement.

After that initial response though, try to look for the words behind those adjectives.
For example, the music might feel like a punch or a gentle touch. It might be like a total collapse or a light hop. Maybe it is epidermic or visceral.

The words will describe, how your body expresses your emotions, for example, sad could be bodily expressed through total collapse, while happy could be a light hop.

Finding the flow of the movement

The previous video will allow to notice your strengths and your weaknesses regarding perceiving and interpreting music.

Have in mind that “No one has all the talents, cognitively or emotionally. Tchaikovsky was keenly aware that his great fertility of melody was not matched by a comparable grasp of musical structure”
Musicophilia- Tales of Music and the Brain, pg. 98

This comes to say that overall we should acknowledge our weakness and bet on our strengths!
And since I am here writing an article on musicality aiming to help anyone who finds him/herself as weak in perceiving and/or interpreting music, I will suggest for this next video, that we focus on something that we all are a bit stronger in; movement; basic Tango movement.

Every move has an optimal rhythm. A rhythm that allows us to perform it efficiently and smoothly. That rhythm needs to match the rhythm of the music, for the movement to make sense, express what the music feels like and create a sense of calmness and confidence.

Taking action

You know when your teacher says: “Don’t think, just do it!”
There is a time to work with consciousness as shown in the videos above and a time when you need to act on things.

On the dance floor there is really no time to think things through, to put your conscious mind to work. On the dance floor it is the time to ACT! And hopefully you have practiced enough for that action to be successful

Sooooo after all this work, I think you deserve an extra night out, on the dance floors allowing yourself to respond, to act on the music!

But if you like more videos on musicality you can look at this page: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango-technique/musicality/

Enjoy,
Chrisa

P.S: The title is inspired by the wonderful book written by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen: https://store.burchfieldrose.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=SFABOOK


Proper Alignment and Improper Alignment

It all started from this short video on Improper Alignment:

Ido Portal, the importance of improper alignment

As Ido Portal says in the video, “improper alignment is a certainty not a possibility.”
Practising therefore for those moments of improper alignment is crucial for our progress but also for our understanding of our body.

Managing the weight transfer

As you can tell from the video when I first introduced this exercise, it was the first step towards better alignment.

Here though I want to invite you to change your focus…instead of looking for the perfect communication path between the different parts of the body, focus on feeling every little tiny bit of your foot; even to the expense of that communication.

For example, see how far out you can take your heels out before you drop to the floor. Notice how that improper alignment makes you feel. Or the reverse how far in you can bring your heels…and again notice how that makes you feel.

Don’t try to fix it! 
Only exaggerate as much as possible without, of course, causing harm to yourselves, and notice, make mental notes of the experience.

A yummy practice for our feet

In this video, we are exploring the limits of our base of our feet. We are creating and playing with improper alignment.

Because if you don’t know where the edge is, what improper alignment feels like. How will you find the centre, a safe place where you can just be without any tension or uncertainty?

And as Ido Portal says there is no proper alignment, but proper preparation… for misalignment.
We can get off balance any second of the day… lets prepare for THAT!

Feet: Alignment and Misalignment

This third video explores transitioning; changing our level, shifting our weight, and moving in space.
Personally, I don’t believe that standing on one leg or doing calf raises endlessly will make your steps steadier, smoother or more powerful and secure.
Becoming aware of the how your feet manage the transition from the right to the left and the front to the back, definitely will though.

Does that mean, that you don’t need to ever to do balance drills again..?
NOPE!
haha
It means that you will have to include them in a more holistic practice, one that focuses on the transition and not solely on the drill itself. One that focuses on improper alignment as a certainty. One that explores the edges and the limits as much as the centre

Tango Technique made Fun; Embellishments

Embellishments…hmmm… for some an absolute no-no and for others a must- have!
The good thing about this article is that whether you will use the embellishments in your dance is completely irrelevant…

How embellishments can shape your practice

Especially one of the embellishments that I chose can NOT be done in a milonga. It is the kind of embellishment, you can only do if you show up really early or leave really late.

We will by-pass therefore the debate on the appropriateness of embellishments and we will focus on what we can learn from them, if we let them shape our practice

Aside from the obvious first step; of figuring out how to actually do the embellishment, here are the next levels we can take our practice to:

  • Exploring the balance between tension and relaxation. To do an embellishment, you need to free the “free” leg of any unnecessary tension that will slow it down.
  • Becoming aware of our body position. How does our posture need to change, so we can spare that leg, and still feel good, confident and strong
  • And timing. When is the right time to start the embellishment, and when should it end. How can we transition smoothly into the next step

These are the key elements we will be focusing on in this article. If you can of any more leave a comment below, to start up a chat..!

Relaxation Vs Tension

In this first video, we are focusing more on the first two pointers, from the list above.
We start by relaxing the legs and the arms. And our goal is to keep them relaxed as we gradually create tension in the core.
When we make our way to standing, we shift our focus to body alignment. How do shift the body to allow for one leg to move freely in space?

Becoming aware, of the balance points available to us and the lines of alignment being formed in our bodies, we can create freedom and power without jeopardizing balance and strength.

Embellishments in their purest form

In this video, the second one of the series, we are getting more and more analytical, with our movement. We are breaking the embellishments down to movement blocks and we take each one and create an exercise around it.

This helps us dive a bit deeper into all the elements on our list, even timing… As we begin to notice where and when the movement starts in our body and where and when it ends.

Perfect timing

And last but not least, a video that focuses on body position and timing.

When our body is positioned properly, we are ready to act, that is quite obvious. What is not obvious is the opposite… being aware of time and opportunity to act. Timing therefore and body position are intimately tied together. We need to be ready WHEN the opportune moment comes our way.

Practice smart, might mean, work on embellishments

Maybe you think embellishments are a waste of time. That they won’t let you focus on what truly matters. And that they are superficial unnecessary elements, that most dancers tend to use when their technique is in fact poor.

I don’t blame you, I believed all that myself and still do to some extent. I would like though to invite you to see embellishments, for what they are. Off the dance floor and outside the dance studios, they are nothing more than movements. And we can be taught from any movement as simple or as complicated it may be.

And if you want to keep practicing smart with movements then visit this page: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango-technique/tango-technique-workout/

But if you don’t want to wait for the next video and you want set your practice now then this link is more appropriate: https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/

Till next time, tango on! 😉

Chrisa

Don’t think..!Just be yourself!

How many times have you heard this phrase:
“Don’t think! Just feel and be yourself!”

OMG!
I hate it!

And the worst thing is, I have said it myself to many people… Now I guess it is a good time to apologize…
I am sorry, truly sorry, for adding on to your frustration but believe me I didn’t do it on purpose.

Being a beginner at something again, now after many years, teaches me every time I get in class, that being yourself in something foreign is impossible!
If you know nothing about that new thing; how can you possibly know who you are in it?

Be yourself… because in this society you are not allowed to be lost!

When you start Tango or any other new thing for that matter … but lets stick to Tango for now… You are going to  feel confused, lacking in some way, frustrated or simply put lost!

You are doing something new, specifically dancing with a stranger in your face! If that person is not a strange you are still moving together in ways you usually don’t. And you have to find a way to lead and follow some step successfully while following the social codicos of a milonga and meeting people’s expectations.

All this inevitably will make you stand differently, move differently, BE differently. It will make you lose your identity…. But only in a good way!

Should you just accept it then..?

Passive acceptance, can be the first step, but it shouldn’t be the only step.

Instead of trying with all your strength to bring what you know of “yourself” in the dance, start seeing yourself and your body as maybe your old neighbourhood; a place you hadn’t been in for a long time.

Start with noticing things that look and feel familiar… and then notice the things that surprise you, the things you have never seen before, you didn’t know existed in your body, in your movement vocabulary, in yourself!

Tango and any other activity can be an opportunity to get lost and find yourself again and again. An opportunity to surprise yourself.
And yes! It is hard and it sucks in the beginning but keep at it for the day, when you will be able to say to yourself:

“Well! I didn’t know you had it in you!”

😉
Chrisa

P.S: Would you like more posts like this..?
https://bautanz.com/2018/10/11/tango-as-a-tool-toward-a-richer-life/

Ochos as part of a healthy movement diet

These last three we are working on ochos.

We got fitness exercisestips for building a smart practice and of course technique tips

But today I want to take a moment to talk to you about the life-tango connection.

Tango is like life and vice versa

No that is NOT what I am going to talk about…hahaha…but you thought I would didn’t you?

You felt that cliche coming your way! Haha

Don’t worry you are safe!

I want to talk about how this practice like all the other practices you can find in this blog can help you move better in life as well as in Tango

Keep moving

One of the biggest problems people have today is that they are not moving enough.

As a species we were made to move…In fact we survived because our movement became more efficient and we managed in this way to “outrun” our opponents and get food!

Now, this species that it’s whole survival was based on movement is stranded on a chair only to move once or twice a week.

Our bodies thinking that this is the new way of doing things, rearranges our muscles to support it and slowly but surely we start losing range of motion, flexibility and power in our hips, shoulders, spine and all around… We start losing ourselves!

Does any of this sound familiar?

If not, think about the last time your tried to bend over to grab something off the floor aaaand…”OUCH! My back…” came out

Or the last time you thought to yourself: “I am too old for this”

Well, what if Tango was here to help you keep on moving even if you have to take things a bit slower or with a bit more caution.

Follow the tips below for healthier body… they WILL make your ochos better as well!

Space and movement in the hips and spine is something that many of us have lost with time. But you can definitely get some back with the exercises above

Only have the following tips in mind:

  • Find your own rhythm, maybe I am going to fast for you, slow it down if you need to
  • If at any time during the seated exercises you need to put your hands on the floor go for it, just don’t drop your weight on them
  • And if you a friendly wall for your adult ochos, go for that as well, balance also gets built with time
  • Focus not on how big of a twist you can create but on identifying all the movements your body is creating from the outside in, meaning from the skin all the way to the organs and the inside out from your breath, from your blood to your skin.
  • If you can’t twist as much, or can’t have the legs fully extended, that is OK! Not being flexible is not always bad same as being flexible is not always good. Look for safety, for smoothness and flow and flexibility will come with time.
  • Breathe! Yes I know you are doing that already…But breathe into every inch of your body and out of every cell.
  • Notice points of tension and see if you can get rid of it. I am saying if because sometimes that is not possible, no matter how much we might want it. But acknowledging it is the first step towards getting rid of it
  • Do your ochos noticing how the movements you explored in the exercises underlie them. Like the leg-hip-leg-body circuit we explored
  • Without changing any of your current habits, notice how these movements underlie your everyday life. Examine your comfort zone to become more aware of your movement, your limits and your potential

Aaaaand last but not least…. Have fun with it!

I want to take a quick second to thank Jeffrey Posner for the hips rotations he shared on instaInst that inspired this video!

Chrisa

P.S: if you like practices like this one, I think you will love this: https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/

A 15min Tango practice on Ochos

Last week we used the gym to practice our Tango, twists and ochos

This week we will take a couple of those exercises and built a more Tango-y practice 

Notice a few NOT so profound details
  • There is a section of preparation, something like a warm-up in gym terms.

Do we really need a warm up?
For Tango not really, at least not for what we are doing today….
So why are doing it? Why are we not getting into our Tango stuff right away?
Well, a warm-up is always beneficial, not only for the body but also for the mind. It is an opportunity to notice how our body feels that day, what we need to be careful with and possibly what we need to focus on based on our goals, level, expectations, mood, past injuries etc.
So use those first few exercises to notice how you are feeling inside and out.

  • It is all connected..! 

Ok this is almost like a joke between me and my good friend Jill Newberry Evans for months any conversation we had would lead to: “It is all connected” until we decided to make a video of it.
And in our video too, from the warm-up to the ochos I am focused on connecting the dots…
Lets take posture as an example; to establish a good posture we need to work on flexion, extension, side bending and twisting of the spine and all of the above combined; and that is what we are doing with the very first exercise that feeds into establishing a strong but breathing posture for the 2nd exercise etc.
Or, to have a smooth dance, we need a smooth transition from walks to ochos so we try to build that in our practice as well; going from walks to walks with a cross to traveling ochos

  • Why traveling ochos?

Because they will allow us to experience the connection the ochos have to the walk.
Plus we should actually be using them more on the dancefloor. Compared to the “stationery”-left-to-right ochos they don’t create any traffic on the pista.

  • If you don’t like the way this practice is set up, using the tips above you can build your own practice.

Choose another exercise from last week’s video, pair it with any video on ochos from my channel on youtube or another teacher’s channel that you follow; making sure that it is a smooth match and it is helping you connect the dots.

Sooo that is it…! Send me your questions, feedback or video requests I would love to hear from you.
Please don’t get discouraged if I don’t get back to you right away you will be definitely hearing back from me; I read every email!

And join the Bautanz community for a fresh practice video every week!

Enjoy,

Chrisa

 

Constructing Dance

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