A Dance Chat with Mariko Tanabe

I met Mariko Tanabe only a couple of years ago, but a met Body Mind Centering around 10 years ago or maybe more

At that time, it was JUST a cool new thing to learn… and you can imagine what happened when frustration started building.. There were no steps, it was always all improvisational, and slow… and tough..! it like we were always looking for something but without knowing what we were looking for while getting more frustrated in the process… Reminds you of something..? haha
Does any of this have to do with Tango…? (yes…read on..!hah)

The years went by I felt that there more to be discovered, that I hadn’t reached my full potential yet, but I didn’t know how to explore and reach that potential. Thankfully Pablo Veron was in Montreal and I grabbed the opportunity for a private class…

Needless to say the class was amazing..! Of the whole class though there was ONE phrase that changed my Tango-life, “Think about your atlas”…
At that moment, something in mind went: “BOOM! I know what I need to do..!”
As they say though, when the student is ready the teacher will come. And surely enough, Mariko Tanabe was running a workshop in Toronto shortly after. Body Mind Centering was there for me and I  was ready to dive into it!
What I was missing then was not the technique… It was urge, the hunger to explore beyond steps, sequences and technique tips; to discover how the human body was built to move and unlock in this way more efficient and expressive ways to dance.
I would like to extend an invitation
So if you are feeling stuck and you know that you are missing something but you are not sure what that something is. If you want to find ways to make your dances more enjoyable for the body and the mind and to give yourself the opportunity to keep on moving despite any limitations then I think you will enjoy this chat with Mariko Tanabe a lot.
If you would like to take a class with Mariko and you are in Toronto, you are in luck…
https://www.estheryoga.com/application/anatomy-for-yoga-teachers/
If you are in Montreal, you are in even greater luck: https://espritenmouvement.com
Enjoy,
Chrisa
P.S: if you are looking for more chats like this: https://bautanz.com/tango-chatting-dancers-grab-coffee/

Tango as a tool towards a richer life

If this isn’t a path towards a richer life then what is…?
We stop “aloneness” becoming loneliness through our ability to form relationships. (…) You may ask what has this to do with Yoga, but I think it has everything to do with yoga. Our yoga practice, if preformed intelligently, is a self-exploration. We learn about the way in which we inhabit our bodies. (…) Slowly we can find more about ourselves(…) [we gain] a sense of being a more complete person (…) Friendships can broaden and deepen, and our capacity to love- the pinnacle of human achievement- becomes greater.(…) ” Pete Blackaby, “Intelligent Yoga
If you take out yoga and replace it with Tango or anything other activity you are passionate about, you will realize that you have more than enough tools to treat loneliness.
Maybe the time is not right just yet… or maybe you hadn’t thought about it this way…
Three weeks ago we were talking about loneliness and how it is not fair to you or to your community to treat loneliness with Tango.
Let’s dive right in today…
First, a vital distinction though between treatment and support
Our expectations are too high when we try to treat loneliness with Tango/ yoga/ any hobby.
But our expectations are levelled when we have pinned down the source of the problem, we have identified possible steps to take and we seek support from Tango/ yoga/ any other hobby.
I am going to use myself as an example. When I first came to Canada, I knew nobody of course.
I started teaching right away and I went to every milonga possible, making Tango my main and only pool of people.
What I didn’t factor in was:
  1. Your students can’t be your best friends it is unprofessional
  2. Entering a Tango or any other long established community is not really easy.  People are settled in groups and you only see them once or twice a week. Depending on your shy-levels it can take you from months to years.
I would go out, feeling uncomfortable because I always had to be careful with my students being around. Plus I couldn’t just ditch them to hang around with anybody else. And honestly, I was starting to feel comfortable despite the discomfort, of at least having a group.
The thing is if you don’t/ can’t make an effort torch out to people, they won’t dance with you, simply because they don’t know you. People like to dance with their friends; they are on a night out with their friends.
Very soon, I came to realize that:
  1. Being confident in your own country doesn’t guarantee you will be confident in another
  2. I wasn’t get asked to dance enough which made me feel left out and like i-wasn’t-good-enough.
And here an endless cycle begins where you go to the milonga, stick with your group; since you are not creating opportunities to meet more people, people are not asking you to dance which makes you feel undervalued and unworthy and so you are even more afraid of reaching out. Feeling lonely, even in the presence of other people, and frustrated you stop going to the milongas altogether, blaming the community for being unwelcoming and with a weird energy…
What does that even mean I don’t know..!haha
Now what was the one thing that could have saved me all this frustration…. but has nothing to do with Tango?
Can you find it?
“Create opportunities to meet more people, is the beginning to a richer life”
Being alone brings you in a very vulnerable state. The moment you find someone to hang out with, you settle, even if you know you shouldn’t.
THAT is where Tango or Yoga as we saw above, can play a supportive role but you have to make that change of mindset off the dance floor and outside of the dance school.
Practicing Tango/ other hobby in a way that allows you to explore yourself and grow your skills and your self-awareness is key to becoming more confident and projecting that confidence outward.
So aim on practicing not just for skill but for mindset.
Get to know and love yourself more and that will radiate outward and attract people who actually love to hang out with you.
On a more practical level, Tango is a rather safe environment compared to a work environment and so there you can try different social strategies, see which works best and then use them it to enter other social groups.
Of course the two pointers are interrelated. The better dancer and the more aware of your value you become, the easier it will be to approach strangers as you will know you have something to share.
You will feel more confident creating opportunities to meet new people but also a lot more powerful to nourish them.
Remember Tango is only a dance. But if you practice it intelligently it can become a powerful tool towards self-awareness, to self-love and to richer relationships.
Chrisa
P.S: Intelligent Tango is here: Intelligent Tango

15 ways to do the basic step– A musicality practice

Musicality…  What do we define as musicality..?

Is it recognizing the beat and the rhythm and responding to it? Or is it our response to the melody? Is it connected to the style, the mood of the music? Can it have any relation to the steps we are choosing? Or does it have to do with our style and mood?
Maybe it is none or all of the above!
We will start with what we inherited
What we have inherited is a basic step. And that basic step is usually taught following a basic rhythm.
For example the followers do:
Side, back, back, cross, back, side, feet together
With the following rhythm:
Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, slow, slow
What will do is not a challenge… I know the title makes it sounds like one: “The 15 ways to do a basic step” haha
But it really isn’t a challenge… It is more the result of asking: “What if…?”
What if I went slower or faster
Or made my steps bigger or smaller
What if I went lower or higher
Or I just kept everything at an equal…
Basically the video is a definitive list but more of an invitation to explore the boundaries and limitations and create more options on the dance floor
Musicality–15 ways to do the basic step

Here are a few things to look out for while going through this drill:
  1.  if you are familiar with the classic rhythm of the basic step, you will be tempted to skip to the juicy stuff… DON’T! Haha
    Instead, go through it a couple of times, identifying the reason behind this basic tempo. It is not a matter of luck or coincidence that the basic step has THAT specific rhythm…
    This is your chance to make sense of it, figure out why!
  2. There are some options that due to technical difficulties..haha..might be unavailable to you. Most of the times when we attempt to go too fast or too slow, we get somehow stuck…
    If that happens don’t get frustrated.
    Instead, notice it and try to see why you are getting stuck; what is it that is getting you stuck
    After you have identified the problem then you can ask yourself: What if…? What if you did those fast steps in X way instead of Y, for example.
  3. Think outside the box. This is not a video with the top best ways to do the basic step. This is a video to explore the rhythm and the rhythmical options of the basic step and of Tango in general. So come up with your own stuff. Try things out. Explore different options.
    Are they all going to be good? Of course not…haha…
    But the fact that you asked the question, that you put your body through the process of figuring it out and that you reached to the conclusion that something didn’t work for the XYZ reason, is the most important part of this video.
So bottom line:
  1. explore history
  2. notice
  3. think further
Enjoy,
Chrisa
More on musicality..? Check this out: Being musical–So much more than doing steps on the beat

How to practice Tango even when you are busy

We are all busy, always in a rush. By the time we get home from work it is like 7pm already, and we are just drained, the last thing we think about is Tango practice

Part of us really wants us to practice our Tango. There is that little voice inside our head that says: “Come on, you have to…Plus it you will feel so much better afterwards”

We usually face 2 problems:

  1. Time. There are just so many things to work on and so little time left in the day
  2. Not knowing where to start from

I hope that I will be able to show how you can overcome these 2 problems, by sharing with you 3 videos of jam-packed practices touching on most of the fundamental elements of Tango.

When there is a will, there is a way…. Even for busy people!

Time is really not the problem here…. But how we relate to time, how we experience it.

The most common misconceptions with time and practice are directly related to how we perceive time and not with how much time we actually have.

Most people either believe they need hours on their Tango practice to get better and even if they find somes time the rest of their life takes over.

When I first started practicing Tango, I remember I had booked a studio for 1 hour and I was soooo excited, I couldn’t wait…!
The time came for me to hop in the studio…
10mins later, I look at my watch… and I was soooo disappointed…
Those 10mins had felt like 20 to me…haha

That first day I really had to push through, make myself focus and stop the frustration from taking over. The next time though I knew… I only needed the room for 20mins.
And I stayed at the same time-level for a long time until I naturally one day, felt the urge to stay longer.

So you don’t need hours. Instead start with 10mins of focused practice and build your way up from there.
As you build your practice, you are building your awareness as well, making sure you stop BEFORE your technique fails you.

And of course I have a story for the second time-trouble element…haha…simply because it naturally comes with adulthood

There are other things that are more important than Tango in life, like making lunch for the next day or doing laundry.
And no matter how much you try even those 10mins of Tango practice can easily get sidekicked by something more important.

This is what I did…. I put my practice in my calendar as another class. As another business thing I need to do. I scheduled it in as work.
Making it equally important as a class or a show.

Now you might say that IS part of your job… Which of course is true… BUT… taking care of yourself is YOUR job.
Nobody can do it for you and if Tango is something you are passionate about, practicing for it will bring a special feeling of accomplishment in your life plus it will give better posture and balance–important things for a comfortable life

The only time I wouldn’t do my practice is when I felt stressed about something that needed to get done or when I was too tired to focus… In cases such as these I really think the best thing to do is either go and deal with the stressor or rest

But what if you don’t know where to start from?

Well the answer to this one is rather simple…

Start from HERE…hahaha:

Enjoy,

Chrisa

It is unfair to treat loneliness with Tango

What does loneliness feel like?
When you are lonely, how is your body feeling?

I think it feels like extreme hunger…
After not having eaten for hours, after your stomach has stopped gurgling and your hands have stopped shaking, after you’ve gotten used to feeling weak, and you are just feeling empty

You can still carry on with your day, but at the same time you feel empty, and you are hoping to find some kind of support.

If and when you get the opportunity to eat you grab anything offered to you, anything placed in front of you!

After having filled your stomach though you can be feeling anything from relief and happiness to fear, sadness and desperation, depending on how you got to experience extreme hunger.

That is what loneliness feels like, to me; like emotional hunger.

Tango to meet new people Vs Tango to feel closer to people.

Notice the difference….

Tango being a social dance is indeed a great place for meeting new people.
We start with classes where usually we find a group of people that we get closer with. Then we start going to milongas and there slowly but surely we get to meet more and more people.

It is a good and healthy way to expand our circle of friends and acquaintances 

Going to Tango though because we want to feel closer to another human being, to feel connected; because we are lonely, is something completely different.
Empty and deprived of human connection, when the opportunity to feel connected presents itself we just grab it. We take any dance we can get, no questions asked…

Best case scenario; our dances are just ok, not terrible, not great, just ok. This way they fill some part of the gap, leaving us asking for more… Under the sweetness of having been emotionally fed, it is possible that we will feel confident enough to take this further, and connected with our partner after the tanda ends. It is likely that we will actually make a new friend..!

If the dance is bad then it will make us absolutely miserable.
Not only because we hate the dance or the partner or both but mostly because we expected to hate, we knew we would probably them but we couldn’t refuse them. Proven right, we step off the dance floor, more disappointed with ourselves than ever! 

This though is NOT the worst case scenario…

In fact, the dances that are great are the WORST!
I am referring to the dances that a bit of magic happens… Where you feel that you and your partner are the perfect match… And the whole tanda is just an endless flow, that unfortunately is bound to end..! You finish the tanda and you are in a dreamy state… Feeling so full with emotion, you almost feel….shhhh…in L.O.V.E.

You leave the dance floor and reality starts to kick-in. And again you might anything from relief and happiness to fear, sadness and desperation depending on what got you so emotionally deprived.

See…we can’t win on the dance floor… but we might be able to win off it!

It is unfair to treat loneliness with Tango!

Meeting people through Tango is a good idea. Making Tango the medium through which we experience closeness and connection is unfair!

It is unfair to us. But also unfair to Tango, to Art and to our community.

No dance form on its own can defeat loneliness. But it can empower us to reach out to other people. It can inspire us and give us the confidence boost we need to start expressing ourselves more and connecting to people who are in tune with what we have to say.

Free your dances from that burden…
You only know how to do that because you know the root of the problem.
Accepting there is a problem is step one.
Identifying where the real problem lies is step two Exploring different ways of solving it is step three

And there Tango can help… by being Tango… By being JUST a dance!

Is it easy? NO
Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!

Chrisa

P.S.: There is one person I haven’t gotten the chance to thank enough for this, my teacher Ramit Sethi, who taught me the strategy behind finding a way out and gave me the tools to start expressing myself and effectively reaching loads of other people. He gave me the opportunity to create Bautanz. Now I can say “WE” and not “I”

10min Tango practice on leg strengthening, alignment and side steps

Okay! Now there is tip-heavy video coming up on leg strengthening and alignment so I don’t want to take time here to give more tips instead I would like to use this space to suggest a few Practice combos; a few other videos that could work extremely well with this newer video so you can grow your practice

First things first though… Your video for the week…

10min Tango practice on legs, alignment and side steps

Sometimes 10 minutes are more than enough.
Especially when you are starting to build your individual practice it is better to start small and expand steadily as the time goes by.
Why?
Simply, because you are still unsure of what you need to work on, what you should focus on, what your strengths are, what you should invest more time in and how…

You also need to consider this: if you START with a 1 hour practice where are going to go from there?
How will you grow beyond that, when your body and mind starts asking for more..?

When you are building your practice therefore you need to make sure that your short-term goals are not shadowing your long-term goals.

If though you are ready to invest a bit more time here are few directions you can take your practice towards…

1. Focusing on leg strengthening and balance

Add on the video we were working from 2 weeks ago if you want to work more on leg strengthening and establishing a stronger base:

10min Tango Practice on legs and balance

2. Focusing on biomechanics–how our body was built to work

Many of the tips in our video for this week have to do with how our legs move inside our hips and our hips move around our legs.
Understanding anatomy through movement not only will give you greater freedom when you dance/ move but it will also allow you to get to know your body and yourself better.

So if you want to take it into that direction, you can add this video along:

Followed by this video:

3. Making it a well-rounded practice

Depending how much time you have and how much time you can spend on your Tango during the week, you can schedule your practices in two ways:

  1. Every day you focus on something different, ex: one day on legs and balance and the other on ochos
  2. You only practice a couple times a week and so you need to work on all the fundamentals in one go, ex:
    A 20min Tango practice on posture, walks and ochos
4. Focusing on musicality

You can even take this into musicality. Technique and musicality are not at all separate. Aside from the obvious connection–aka the stronger your technique is the easier it will be to focus on the music–there is a more physical connection as well.

How you step, how you twist, how you hold your body and overall how you move will allow you to express yourself differently on the music.
Therefore after this week’s leg strengthening video can do this one:

And then this one:

It all started with leg strengthening…. But you have many choices

We started with a video on legs and alignment and look at where we are now..! haha

You have so many options, the above are only a few examples of the plethora of options that you have.
It all depends on what you want to focus on, what are your strengths and what are shortcomings.
No option is better from the other. All of them have something equally important and interesting to offer you. So it is really up to you where you want to take this!

And that is the beauty of Tango overall..!
You start with leg strengthening but from there you can grow in many many different directions all of which will make you a much better dancer and most importantly a better human.

If you decide it is worth investing your time in moving better on and off the dance floor, Tango is a great dance for that. It is heavy on technique and it throws in your face the question:

Do you want to Tango only for fun OR do you want the opportunity to move freely, get to know your body and yourself better and even become happier?

If you want the latter you should also check this out: Intelligent Tango

Let me know how your practice is going and don’t forget to have fun while you are it!

Chrisa

P.S: I read every email so don’t hesitate to shoot me an email with your questions. If I don’t answer you right away, please don’t get offended… instead give me about a week max..! 😉

 

 

Constructing Dance

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