Leader’s Technique#1: How to lead anyone…but first YOURSELF!

I am going to start with this:

THIS IS A LEADER’S TECHNIQUE EXERCISE

An EXERCISE that can help leaders, and dancers in general, connect the dots between posture and walking in Tango, and make their walks smoother and their posture a bit more human!

The most common mistake leaders make is that they tend to sepparate their bodies in even more blocks than the followers do.

What do we mean by that?
As we saw in our article Posture as a movement when we break our body’s movement in blocks, posture becomes uncomfortable and stiff. When we consciously try to connect the dots and understand how our body naturally moves more efficiently, we manage to get a posture that is a lot smoother and enjoyable.

What happens with leaders when they try to better their leader’s technique.?
They disconnect the movement in their upper body from the movement in the lower and that causes trouble..!

Leader’s technique through Youtube..!

What? Are you calling me a blashphemer?
haha

No no..It is not what you are thinking..!
Plus don’t tell me you never watch youtube tango videos…

I want you to see this videos Juan Carlos Copes & Maria Nieves especially at 1:53. Notice how he leads her into that back step…
Watch it many many times and you will see that there is a simultaneous movement between his upper body and his lower body. And not a sequencial or block-like motion of: Upper. Lower

Notice how he smoothly transitions from side step into a forward step.
Even if you practice just this in your leader’s technique practices or classes you will become much more aware of your movement, and therefore much more connected with your partner.

Because if you can’t lead yourself into a step how are you going to lead somebody else.

Leader’s Technique: How to lead anyone and firstly…Yourself!

If you can’t smoothly take yourself in a walk how can you lead somebody else?

If you watch that part of the video above closely enough you will notice that the primary part of the body directing Juan Carlos Copes’ movement is, the pelvis.
He starts moving the pelvis and takes the movement into the body and legs.
If you didn’t notice that, because it IS subtle, go back and watch the video again

How can you practice this, since it is so subtle?
The problem with subtle movements and especially subtle movements that our body is used to doing them automatically–like walking forward–is that the more you think about them, the more robotic and frustrated you get.

Instead of doing that we will exaggerate that subtle movement and notice how the whole body is participating, is supporting that movement.

So here is the video: Intelligent Tango: Leader’s technique

One second…what is that intro?
That intro is for your followers to understand that just giving feedback is not enough…
Giving good quality feedback–not necessarily positive– is much more helpful and a lot less frustrating.
It is also to show you leaders that you can’t depend on another person’s feedback. It is their interpretation of your lead.
Therefore, practice with a partner BUT at the same time have a few minutes of solo leader’s technique exercises, like this one, to be able to understand the movement in YOUR body and not through your partner’s interpreatation.

Have fun!
Chrisa

P.S: I am sorry about the watermark, I have been
trying to see how camtasia works before purchasing it. The sound and picture seems quite good though right?

Intelligent Tango–Posture and the element of the embrace

And so we have been chatting about posture and as we all know that chat never ends…NEVER! haha
So I won’t break such important traditions, instead I will keep on chatting on posture but this time through the embrace!

“The frame might have rules but the embrace is yours..!” Sebastian Arce

This is the beauty of Tango, so many rules that can be broken from within from anyone willing to get past the intimacy boundary and explore him/herself a bit further while in a partnership.

The embrace is the first place that you start to see such a differentiation. People getting a bit more expressive, slightly changing the embrace depending on the partner they are dancing with or the song or their mood. And they are still dancing Tango, or better NOW they are really dancing Tango.

I heard that phrase from the great Sebastian Arce back in 2015 but it took some time for me to wrap my mind and body around those words.
I was working so hard to make the rules fit my body that when I danced my ego wouldn’t let go…
“Don’t you dare leave this posture… After 2 hours a day of practice YOU are NOT letting go!” Chrisa’s Ego

haha

After some time though I missed feeling free, I missed moving. And that was when I started practicing on experience, on how things feel, and not on how they are supposed to look or feel.

After a couple of months I danced with a friend I hadn’t danced in a long time. I found myself enjoying our dance so much and avoiding the discomfort his habits caused me in the past, by allowing his embrace to affect my embrace and partly my posture–within the Tango boundaries of course, we didn’t end up dancing salsa don’t you worry.
Maybe that wouldn’t be the way, the style, I would personally choose to dance in but it was the way I could enjoyably dance with him and that is what made it special!

Don’t fight it, embrace! 😉

How can the different types of embrace effect your posture

Before I give you the video, I want to say this…
When we read or hear the word “effect” immediately we get defensive. As if something really bad is going to happen…Really really bad! haha
But think about it, do you hug your grandma the same way you would hug your daughter, or your spouse?
I hope not..!

So why would you embrace everyone in the same way. They are different people, different body types, you probably have a different relationship with each one of them and most importantly they are offering a different embrace too.

In the video following you can see the different embrace styles, taken down to 3 basic holds and connected to the movement of the spine which creates our posture.

Here is your video: Intelligent Tango: The element of the embrace

The purpose of this video is to offer insight on how the movement of our arms is connected to that of our rib cage, and therefore to that of our spine.
Also to give you a nudge to start exploring all the different cues different teachers have given you regarding posture and the embrace so you can figure out the common ground supporting all styles, understand how you have your whole body involved to the embrace to make it more efficient and enjoyable, plus find the styles that work best for you!

What this video doesn’t intend to do is say which is the real, the true the one and only, the absolute best Tango embrace.

Find YOURS!

Chrisa

 

Intelligent Tango: Our posture is a movement NOT a structure

We have been talking about posture in our last few posts, examining why it feels unnatural and how you can make it feel more effortless, more comfortable.

Recently I got a comment from one of my readers saying:

I would like to work more on being aware of the posture and feeling the balance all the time while dancing to the music

I love these questions that tap into how our posture feels instead of can you give me the 10-ways-to-straighten-up type of questions

Dance your way in posture– Stop feeling like a robot..!
robot- posture
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

There is nothing more frustrating than doing exercise after exercise and then going on the dancefloor and cringing through every step.

We have worked so hard to get our posture to a certain level, we are  still trying to find the BEST back exercise, the best hip stretch etc. to be able to maintain the posture.

OP! HERE IT IS!
Our biggest mistake about posture: MAINTAINING!

The reason we are feeling like a robot when we are dancing is because we believe posture to be a set structure. But posture is NOT a structure, posture is a movement.
If we are thinking of posture as a fixed stack of bones with muscles around keeping it place OF COURSE we can’t move.
But if we think of posture as a motion of our spine, and focus on relearning that motion, on understanding how our spine can move then things might start becoming a bit easier.

Creating a pattern for the movement of your  spine.

The truth is, you know HOW to get into your posture. You know where every part of your body needs to be.
You have heard all the rules like a million times now.

  1. Shoulders back and down
  2. Chest out
  3. Hips back
  4. Heels together etc

Notice though how all these cues deal with each part of the body separately, and not in a natural unison.
For our brain all of that is ONE movement the extension of the spine.
By working ONLY on separate parts and not on the motion of extension we make that path, that link, that map as Pete Blackaby says weak, poor.

The funny thing is, we have been working on that very movement for many, many , many years…
I mean, if you get annoyed by Tango teachers trying to teach you how to walk, as if you are a 2 year old, I don’t know what you are going to do when you see this:

posture
http://www.mommyish.com/2015/04/15/cloth-diapers-are-the-worst/

You see for how long we have been practicing THAT extension…That POSTURE!
Daaaamn! haha

So what happened?
Well it is simple. When we were at that age every movement was new for our body and our mind. The years passed, only just a few of them…Hahaha…and we stopped trying to make that movement better.

Why? Because it is good enough! As long as we can go about doing our chores no problem, as long as nothing breaks down, like my father’s old car, then its good enough!
Until something actually breaks down…mmm

Great news for us Tangueros and Tangueras… We get to re-pattern that movement in our brains and bodies through something we love, Tango, instead of rehab..!

How can we go about doing that?

Well it doesn’t really have to do just with body or only with the mind. Our mind has a poor pattern for the extension of the spine and therefore our body struggles with it.
More stretches or more exercises will not do the trick…

If you look around you, you will see many people who are fit but have really limited movement vocabulary, and really poor posture– don’t make me take pictures in the gym…Come on! Haha

Does that mean you can quit the gym? Haha
No my little couch potatoes!
It means you need to spend your time in the gym in a more clever way.
Find exercises that will involve the spine AND to actively focus on creating that motion again and again, noticing how you spine feels going through it.

What could those be?
Here are a few ideas:

posture #1
Photo credit: yogamama.co.uk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
posture #2
Photo credit: yogamama.co.uk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Do these exercises not focus on what your muscles are doing that will give your mind different feedback–not good or bad, just different. Focus on bones and specifically your spine.

How can you do that in your Tango practice?

If you don’t have a particular interest on fitness activities or if you want to add a little more of that motion into your practice routine here is a video to help you to do that: Dance your way in Posture

The first few times you might feel some stretch in specific spots of the body, but again that has to do with muscle, so don’t follow the feeling the stretch creates.
You are not doing that for the stretch, you are doing it to build the pattern of the motion. Go through the exercise as a best as you can bring aware of your whole spine moving, without getting distracted by the stretch.
Secondly, you don’t even know if those spots in the body need to be stretched further anyhow.

Go slow and focus on creating motion in your whole spine simultaneously.

Chrisa

P.S: For the movement “geeks” who like me can’t resist reading research such as this: Graziano’s study of the brain

Posture in Tango– Why it feels so unnatural? #2 (yOUR reasons..!)

I wrote this article on posture last week BUT there was a catch to it… There was ONE very important reason missing…YOUR reason on why posture feels unnatural.

I wanted to hear you guys out. See if there was something I was missing. Start a conversation on social media, on a fundamental Tango element.
And I am very glad I did that, instead of just writing the article in full!

Why posture feels unnatural? (yOUR reasons..!)

you mean moving with someone attached to the front of you is supposed to feel natural?” J.
Why tango posture SHOULD feel unnatural to anyone?”  I.

Really now, with all sincerity, since when do any of us walk around with someone stuck on our face?
Certainly NOT me!

So, basically when we get into Tango we are asked to keep our chest open, our shoulders back and down. Head UP!
Hips back, abs tight… (I am already tired just writing this…)
AND to top it all…ATTACH OUR BODY TO SOMEONE ELSE and feel NATURAL!

Even if you have physically managed to have a good posture, while practicing on your own, when you get into an embrace, your posture will get affected by the contact with the other person.
If you are comfortable with the intimacy of the close embrace your posture will become smoother and gentler, allowing you to merge in a real hug.
If you are still uncomfortable, though, your posture will get worse, will feel more and more unnatural and robotic.

It is awkward, the sooner you accept that the better it will be!

Why does everyone tell me that the posture should feel natural?

I am going to tell you a short story…

Being in Greece and learning Tango, I consider myself very lucky! We get many of the great names of Tango visiting.
So there was a period of time when I was meeting a lot of Argentinians.

For Argentinians, a hug and kiss when they meet you is protocol
For Greeks a handshake is enough. If you get passed the handshake, though you get two kisses! haha

So, after many…too many…hugs and kisses. Here I was presenting my thesis…you see it coming right?
A visitor and friend of my professor was there for the presentation.
I finish the presentation, my professor introduces me to our visitor aaaand no, the handshake wasn’t enough. I gave her a hug and two kisses!

Cultural mix-and-match!!!

She smiled at me awkwardly…poor woman!hahaha

I have been more careful ever since, after realizing that what might be natural to me, it might not feel natural to other people.

Why SHOULD everyone feel unnatural?

No, I am sorry you can’t blame your partners for your posture feeling unnatural!
The embrace will just reveal to you the awkwardness, but your partner is not necessarily the one to blame.

Accept the awkwardness and focus on finding what is the causes it.
Is it the connection?
Does the pressure against your partner’s chest, make you stiffen or pull away from your partner?
Is it the frame of the arms?
Do you feel pain in the arms or shoulders?
Is it in the hips and/or lower back?
Are you trying so hard to keep your feet and hips away from your partner that you end up stiffening up?
Is it the intimacy of the close embrace?
Do you change to a robot the moment you get into the embrace?

Find what creates the discomfort, to open up the path to a more enjoyable posture, to a more enjoyable dance!

Always keep in mind though that when dancing with someone, especially if you haven’t danced with them before, awkwardness is not only expected but also natural. Embrace the awkwardness to make the moment special!

Leave your comment below… I might have a few suggestions for you in the next article.

-Chrisa

Posture in Argentine Tango– Why does it feel unnatural?

How long did it take for the posture to become part of your dance? Something, that you don’t really think about, instead of a workout?
Or are you still wondering why it feels so stiff, so robotic, so unnatural?

Why does our posture feel unnatural?

Well, the answer is a lot simpler than you might think…
Because you are NOT natural when you dance!

Yes, yes you read that right! This is not a typo.
You are NOT natural when you dance, and I will prove it to you in one second…
As you are reading this do you look like this:

posture1
Photo credit NatBat via Foter.com CC/ BY-NCSA

Or maybe like this:

posture2
Photo credit mrbootle via Foter.com CC/ BY-NC

hahaha
Right!

Before you say: “But Chrisa, this is sitting down…”

Think again:

posture3
Photo credit gamsiz via Foter.com CC/ BY

The truth is we all have bad posture in our everyday lives so what our bodies, know as “natural” is NOT good posture and it certainly is NOT good Tango posture..!

Step#1, therefore, is to fix your posture in general.

  • Realign the neck that is usually being pulled forward, bring it to an almost vertical position
  • Open up the chest by bring the collarbone up until your sternum has opened up and your shoulders feel relaxed
  • And realign your hips to your shoulders, following the line of the spine, avoiding overarching or over-curving the lower spine

Jeff Cavaliere of Athlean X has a great video hitting all these pointers and more, so click here for a “Perfect posture in 5 Steps”

But this is not ALL…One more important reason, your posture feels unnatural

You are trying so hard to copy idol’s posture or follow your teacher’s cues that you are creating more strain than gain in your body.

Let’s put it to the test…
So, stand up and follow all these commonly used cues:

  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and take the chest forward
  • Pull your shoulders back and down
  • Bring bellybutton to spine
  • Take the hips back while reaching towards your partner
  • Hold everything together AND DANCE!

Oh! That must feel wonderful…NOT!

So inevitably…this is Step#2: Delete all preset images and cues of Tango posture
LET IT GO!

And then Step#3: Reconstruct! Following the line of your spine and through understanding the different options in movement your spine has.

Because if your posture is “GOOD” by all Tango rules BUT you are dancing like a robot, it is not goo enough.

Give yourselves the chance to discover how YOU want to dance, make the posture YOUR personal dance, a small victory, something you feel AMAZING about.
Turn the rules into goals instead of burdens!

So in the video that follows, DON’T copy me!

Instead follow the video like a series of action steps, but let yourself carve the path from one step to the next.
And forget to enjoy the journey!

Here is your video: Tango Posture Re- Constructed

 

 

 

Make your giros “YUMMY” by bringing them down to the bare essentials

Last week we talked about how we can use embellishments to practice on important Tango elements.
With a simple embellishment, we saw how we can practice balance, posture, disassociation, ochos, timing and much more.
Today we are going to take things a bit further by unweaving our giros step pattern!

What is a giros exactly?
giros
Photo credit: thy khuê via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Oups! Not this one..? haha
Ok!
So a giro is a sequence where, the follower–usually–is moving AROUND the leader.
It can be done in an open or a close embrace. It usually follows slow-slow-quick-quick-slow rhythmical pattern. And it might be of high or low speed.
In terms of footwork, a giro is basically a combination of steps and pivots. Specifically, forward, back and side steps combined with forward and back pivots.

You want the video now, don’t you?
Here you go: A practice drill for some yummy giros
Go to 0:16 to see the actual giros step.

What causes trouble in the giros?

The most common problems followers have in giros are:

“I feel off balance, especially during the back ocho…If I try to make it bigger I fall back, if not, I am moving away from my partner”
“Relying to much on my partner for balance. As I am going around, my partner complains that I am dropping all my weight on him…”
“I am feeling like I can’t keep up…either my steps are too small, or my timing is off, or both…?”

Any of these ring a bell, or many bells..? Mmmm…Yes! I know…
So, what are you noticing though?
The first problem has to do with big back ochos, the second one has to do with body alignment and the third one with steps and timing of the giros…So, aside for the timing, the rest have little to do with the giros itself.

NOW PAY ATTENTION here, this is super important, not only for the sequence we are looking into today, BUT for every sequence in Tango!

The giros reveals the technical problems the followers have. Meaning, you are not having trouble with the back ocho because your giros is not good enough. You are having trouble in your giros because your back ochos are not good enough… Two completely different problems.
Same goes for body alignment, power/ size of your steps, disassociation, posture, even timing!

The giros is not the problem, you are messing these things up even when you are not doing a giros, you just hadn’t realized.

How can we fix it?

All right, lets go back to our video here:
A practice drill for a yummy giros

As you can see I am taking the sequence and I am breaking it down to its bare essential pieces.
Side step, forward step, pivot, side step, back pivot, back step.

When you see it written out this way, it is quite clear what you need to work on:
Walks–forward, side and back
Ochos– front and back

That’s it! If you make those better, your giros WILL be better!

As you can see in the video, in order to practice those elements I put  together, a LINEAR combo of side steps and forward/back ochos.
I start off against the mirror, not only for balance but so I can make sure that I am keeping my distance between me and my artificial partner the SAME throughout the drill.

Not having to go around, I get the chance to:

  1. focus on my footwork
  2. work on the power of my steps, without jeopardizing my balance
  3. alignment and posture
  4. disassociation
  5. transitioning smoothly from one step to the next AND
  6. timing between my steps and pivots

And then I put ALL that to the test…NO partner!
Doing the “NO PARTNER” test will give you great insight. Try to identify which part of the sequence is working out for you and which is giving you trouble.
Don’t just go through the movements, try to see where you are lacking. When you have spotted the culprit, practice on THAT!

For example, say that when you step away from the mirror, during your forward ochos you are having trouble keeping your balance.

STOP RIGHT THERE! Practice your forward ochos ONLY!
Why?
That is what is causing the trouble. If you can’t do it, following  a straight line what makes you think you can do them in a circle?

Do the same thing for any other component…

Don’t go back to the BASICS go back to bare ESSENTIALS

What we did above with the giros you can and SHOULD do for every sequence, from the simplest one to the most intricate!

Why?
First of all, even if you don’t fully remember the sequence–see I know you now ALL too WELL..haha–you can still practice parts of it.

Secondly, to get better at something you need to be able to identify, what it is that is holding you back from progressing. When you have a whole sequence to practice on, it will take a long time and many repetitions to find what it is that makes the whole or part of the sequence go wrong. If you break it down, in a matter of minutes you will know, what it is you need to focus on.

Thirdly, when you break the sequence apart, you can put it  back together in MANY different ways…and work on your improvisation skills too!
Like I am doing with the box/cross/basic step, or however you want to call it.

Fourthly, you don’t have to be an advanced dancer, or to know many sequences to start practicing. Even a SINGLE forward step can be broken down to: Projection, shift of weight and collection.
Work on each one of these elements separately, find the culprit, fix it and your forward steps WILL become better.

Have fun! 😉

-Chrisa

 

 

 

Constructing Dance