This is the video from the latest Live Tango practice that we run every week. This week things didn’t go quite as planned… In retrospect nothing terrible happened but I did lose my balance a couple of times and got into show-must-go-on mode! (haha)
Show must go on–when is it useful?
One would think, like I did until today, that especially when you are teaching, dancing in general performing, then there is only one mode, the show-must-go-on mode…
And I can surely agree on certain performance types, such as a dance show, that of course you keep on going. However teaching and practicing, even if it is streaming live, have a different purpose, as during those times we have the opportunity to learn!
So if you notice in the video above there are some imbalances from the beginning of my dance. To which I reacted with stubbornly doing more back ochos, but to no avail. It was only after I slowed things down and then added rebounds that things started actually getting better. However from beginning to end my focus was to keep going and not to take some time to find out why I was off balance.
That of course takes us to nearly the end of the video where there are some more balance issues… Where once more, time is not given to address the issue. So even now that I writing this I can only speculate why I was off balance.
Someone might ask: Well what is the big deal? It only happened once or it happens to everyone or you just kept going… Well it is not really a big deal but more a missed opportunity!
A missed opportunity to figure out what is really wrong
These were moments where I could have paused or I could have at least slowed down.
When we do that we are more able to pay attention, to listen, to stop the fear and the anxiety that are building up and focus on what we are attempting to do. Had I done that, I would have gotten a list of various different things that could have potentially caused the imbalance. However now I got nothing!
So you see what the problem is… Now there is no way to learn from this experience, the opportunity for deeper exploration is lost. Along with it, a step to progress and potentially not being in the same boat again is also lost. In this way I see this as a missed opportunity.
It is a missed opportunity to deepen our understanding, to explore different options and possibly come up with more ideas and variations for exploration. So it is actually a missed opportunity to learn!
My suggestion to you…
If you find yourselves in a similar situation whether it is a one off or a regular case then pause or slow down and try to see if there are different ways to approach whatever it is giving you trouble.
Don’t see it as a moment to push through but an opportunity to go deeper.
That is my suggestion, of course you can decide for yourself how you want to manage those moments while going through one of our other practices for example…haha…which you can find here: https://bautanz.com/online-tango-practice/
P.S: No time for a 30min practice? No worries try out the Tango exercise of the week:
In this week’s Live tango practice, we worked on the suspension created in the embrace. It was an attempt to connect the dots, between the message received through the hands/ arms and the action taken from legs.
Taking the time to yield
I wanted to take the opportunity to explain a bit more in depth the element of suspension, pulse and yielding. These are all words used during this practice and sometimes words don’t communicate in the best of ways what we can communicate through movement.
Let’s start from the latter, yielding, because if we don’t yield we can’t efficiently suspend and create a pulse. Yielding shouldn’t be confused with relaxing or letting go. We are reaching for the ground, the sky, our partner prior to taking action. In that state we are ready to act, but we have already established our connection, our support.
It is that connection and support that we don’t want to loose while moving. Instead we want to carry it along with us as we go. And so the lead and follow shouldn’t be described as press and resist, but more as a coming together, as supporting each other. Therefore the frame needs to be elastic, and absorbent without collapsing though. It is that elasticity, that spring that transfers the message through the arms to the body while keeping us connected.
It is in our anatomy
All of this we see it supported by the human anatomy. Even in the most solid element of our body, the bones, there is moisture, there is fluid and elasticity. One of the contractions our muscles create is actually the elastic recoil. Our breathing has a pulse, a spring in it. We have experience from yielding to the earth, feeling grounded, secure, calm and confident before acting. Or when we immerse ourselves in a conversation with a dear friend where there is a continuous effortless connection. We also have experience of things not happening not efficiently. When we try to lift something without the necessary preparation. Or when we are angry and our movement becomes rigid and out of our control. Also, when we are stressed and not breathing properly.
So we have the experience of yielding, connecting and elasticity. It is indeed in a different context but we still there for us. We can be further explore through Tango and all other dance forms and movement practices.
Leading and Following through the arms
Speaking in Tango terms, I would encourage you to think and practice leading/ following through the arms and not with the arms.
And though it is not easy to explore partnership alone, it is essential. Practicing on your own, allows you to spend time experiencing your body moving and allowing for that experience to inform your knowing. In parallel practicing with a partner is equally important. It has to be though someone who is honest and able to share with you their experience. Still though that doesn’t undermine the importance of your personal practice. If you don’t spent time self-exploring you can’t have a discussion with your partner, you simply adjust to satisfy them. In order to progress, you need to be able to build on solid grounds, grounds of understanding and awareness. Then you can make conscious decisions on how to progress instead of adjustments on the spot.
More resources below… 😉
So if I have inspired you to further explore the embrace here are some extra videos to do so:
How can one-size-fits-all apply in a social dance setting when we all unique in terms of body type, age, fitness, cultural background etc?
A great question!
After our mid-week Tango practice on Wednesday I a question via Youtube that I felt it is an excellent question for us to discuss how different body types can or cannot fit in certain Tango rules; and overall how the one-size-fits-all doesn’t quite work in social dancing.
Following is the video, from our practice and the question right after that, lets see:
“Chrisa, something that no one ever talks about, and I can’t get non fat dancers to understand, are the techniques needed by the fat dancer. Now, I do not use fat as a bad word, I reclaim it, and refuse to make it synonymous with wrong. And also, I need to accommodate my roundness. It is soawkward to be in class, and have an instructor remind me not to swing a hip, not to arch my back, when the real reason I do these things is because of my large belly. When you have substantial thighs, it changes your stance, collection, even the ability to flick a swift secada. I realize this is off topic from your video, but do you have any insights for the fat dancer? Tricks to maintain tango posture when you have extra curves to work around? Thank you <3″ F.L
The truth of the Style Vs The truth of the Dancer
I want to thank again our commenter for this question and dissect the matter in two parts:
Diversity of styles
Biomechanics Vs Tango Style
Diversity of Styles
There is an unavoidable conflict between the truth carried through by the rules for each style and the truth stemming from the dancer’s experience. Of course there are many ways to train dancers to perform and look a certain way, many types of dance achieve that, with ballet being one excellent example. However there are certain expectations to be met by all ballerinas in terms of looks, body structure and analogies. This is why there are certain restrictions apply in terms of age, body type, body shape, fitness etc. That is also why the choice to follow a career as a professional ballet dancer happens very early in one’s life when the body and character are very adaptable to change. That is also why ballet dancers retire at a very early age.
Social Tango is not like that though. Quite the contrary it is dance that is danced by 90 year olds with very different body analogies, with loss in muscle etc etc. So would we say for example that Oscar and Nina are bad dancers?!?! I highly doubt it! See them in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQotX3sFahI
So as I perceive it, a style is a place to start learning but then we have to take into account the the experience of our body. And those two things are equally important and equally true. Everyone of us is unique in some way, and that uniqueness needs space, a lot of space in a social dance.
Biomechanics Vs Tango Style
We can’t judge a style, a style is based mostly on aesthetics. It is a design. A beautiful design but still a design that one person or a group of people came up with based on their personal goals, experiences, expectations and so on. So it wouldn’t be possible nor fair. But we can judge movement based on anatomy and biomechanics. Then each of us can make an informed decision whether you want to pursuit a specific tango style despite the possible strain or risk due to inconguence with anatomy and biomechanics.
So firstly, based on anatomy and specifically the structure of the human skeleton in order to balance the forces going through the joints and to have an effective distribution of weight when standing on two feet, the placement of the feet should be such to support the hips. Having the feet together 100% doesn’t meet that requirement since the pelvis flairs outward. Similarly, the flair of the feet, meaning the turn out, depends on the structure of your hips, how wide or narrow the hips are. So overall some people will have their feet closer together, not though fully connected, than others and also for some people the turn out will be bigger than others.
Walking and biomechanics
Now when we walk our hips are not supposed to be square, they are supposed to swing, it’s scientifically what we call: locomotion. And it is not the only movement happening in our hips when we walk. In fact walking involves the whole body and the more chaotic it feels the more efficient it most likely is. There is the “C” shape movement we talked about in our practice session and there is also a wave in the spine. You can see all of this here:
Can you stop all this from happening ? Sure you can! But why would you? If you actually look a little closer and dig a little deeper, these movements actually help you connect with your partner in much more efficient way..! You can see it in our previous practices here: https://bautanz.com/online-tango-practice/
And of course along with all that goes posture and centre of gravity. Your posture changes depending on what action you wish to perform. As you can see in the video above maintaining a specific upper body position works against your intention to walk forward or backward and would therefore require more muscle work to make it all happen. Lastly our center of gravity, will be different depending on the shapes we create or have in our bodies. It is not a fixed spot and how could it be? By physics that would be impossible.
My suggestion to you
If you have learned Tango now spend some time learning your body through movement. Understand how one thing relates to the other, what kind of relationships they have and what kind of movements they create due to those relationships and structure
Start learning about your body to better dance with/in/through it. Understanding how our body was built to move for me is the number one step to take when you really want to free up your social dance but also when you want to structure your dance training knowing, acknowledging and weighing in the risks you take compared to the choices you have
If you had the opportunity to practice with me on Wednesday you probably noticed that a big part of the class was about this wave-like, this spiral movement our body follows when walking that can help us transition smoothly to ochos.
The spiral as an experience
I wanted to share some extra information on the idea behind this practice and a few extra videos that you can practice with. The idea behind all this is the defining element of the spiral. The spiral is not just some random shape that happens to appear in certain parts of the body. It is not just a shape that allows for efficiency of movement. The spiral is our existence, it is literally our DNA. And DNA being the carrier of hereditary material it is experience! The spiral in this way exists in our every move from our cells to our highest boleos!
Therefore, finding the spiral in your movement, even in the ones that look fairly straight, will heighten your awareness of your movement and it will energize your whole body with it’s vibrancy.
An important characteristic: progressive wholeness
When picturing a spiral of any type, we associate it, and rightfully so, with continuous energy. However, I would like to add to that and say that there is also the element of progressive wholeness A spiral always moves switching between condensing and expanding, with continuous transition between the two and a continuous coexistence. Try to feel the movement through your body when you walk and when you ocho–in the latter it is of course more evident–as a transition and coexistence of condensing and expanding. Instead of thinking how each muscle body part should move try to feel whole. And specifically a wholeness deriving from the continuous flow of the spiral and not through squeezing, pulling, pushing, holding etc.
And so to make it more specific let’s look at our practice. We explored forward and backward ochos feeling how the back and core muscles condense and expand and how one can create a different quality of movement making one or the other action (condensing-expanding) primary. This is an excellent practice to follow if you wish to explore different Tango styles but also if you want to work on expressing yourself better on the music.
Today I wanted to share with you an idea…I am not sure if it will come through as I want it to but I surely hope it does. You can tell me, later in a message if you like..!
Dance I believe has to do with space. How we stand in space. The space we create when dancing. The space we share. Are we reaching towards the other aiming to bring them close or to push them away? Aiming to get close to them or move away from them? How much of our personal space do we want to give up when getting in an embrace? Are we bringing our hands together or are we hugging? In both cases what does that shared space look like? What does the left-over space look like?
So any time we make a movement no matter how big or how small, we shift the space around us.
There is also the opposite notion, how the space forms our movement. Either literally, meaning that you move differently when you are in crowded or small room compared to an empty or big room. Or “metaphorically”, and I am putting that in quotes as I am not sure if it would be equally literal, meaning that you allow the space to move you. You feel the earth, you feel the sky, you feel YOU somewhere there in between, you feel the air around you and you let all that move you.
Lastly, there is seeing the human body as space. Feeling our 3d-ness(I just made up this word..haha..). But feeling how we are not defined but one axis but 3, and embodying that through movement.
The shapes we make!
Some basic anatomy will teach you that no part of our body is actually straight nor set perpendicular to any other. We are comprised by curved surfaces set in oblique positions to one another. See the hip joint below as an example;
Also the muscles wrap around the bones, curving and embracing them, see for example the muscles of the back
Even in the most intimate of places we can see curves and spirals; This is the golden rule revealed here in the structure of our ear and face:
The shapes therefore we create are curvy and bendy and not rectilinear. Our movement is defined more by spirals than straight lines. And spirals can be better expressed through triangulated movement structures than rectilinear structures.
The essence of movement
The essence of movement should therefor capture both points made above. Consider the quality of a spiral. Endless flow of energy, defining space through, within and around it. A vibrating energy, condensing and expanding, relating to the space around not through shooting energy away from it but through yielding, condensing and expanding.
You can see if you look at the picture below that spiral form of the muscles
The question now is how do we explore all that? How do we explore the essence of the spiral? Exploring the mechanics would be one necessary task of course, as it will help you do things efficiently, be more balanced and save energy while moving. It will help you identify the risk of your movement choices, and identify paths to avoid injury. But the essence of the spiral… is a bit of a different thing! You probably have experienced this in those sublime moments when you are dancing and you are you, you are the space, you are the music, you are time, you are body and spirit and soul. Those magical moments that are rare and special It could be the same simple movement, like lifting an arm, only when you dance, you are filling the whole room with that one arm-lift…or that the room itself, the space around you is lifting up that arm. The space is defined by your movement and your movement is supported by the space around you. And when that happens the energy of the spiral flows endlessly, from one movement to the next.
I invite you to explore all of this with me! Our new set of classes in starting June 27th and it is going to be about the embrace, the connection, leading/ following and timing. We will explore the mechanics and the essence of the frame, our walks and ochos with great focus on sensing, feeling and action. I hope to see you there and then! Let me know if you are interested and if you have any questions! https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/online-tango-classes-live/
Well, you know how at the beginning of this craziness everyone was saying this lockdown is an opportunity? Now you can learn anything you like but never had the time…you can take better care of yourself…listen to you..etc.etc…So I am wondering if any beginner in Tango or in anything really, kept at it?
I had a few people reach out to asking whether through the class I have online (https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/online-tango-classes-live/) they can learn Tango… What was I supposed to say…? The obvious answer at least for my class is no! And that is what I would say in the beginning… But then I gave it some thought, and said well there so many benefits in one learning how the body is built to move through a dance… so why not…and so I then said… No but you can learn how to move and believe me you will be ahead of the game when things get back to normal..! Oh my goodness..! haha
Would this have really worked?
Honestly, I don’t think so! And not only for a technique class but for any online class.
Let me explain why, and feel free send me your thoughts on the matter.
In a normal situation, even if we were following classes/ videos/ practices online we had the opportunity to go to a class with other people, to go to a milonga or practica. To embrace, to touch, to feel, to move together. This all was part of the process! So our online learning was in addition to that, not subsidizing that.
Now what do we have..? In some places with a partial lockdown still in place we don’t have access to any group activity. While in place where measures have been lifted we have very small groups of people, with masks, staying with the same partner and overall being overwhelmed by worry if not fear. In both cases we are not in a place where we can learn… Either because there is no really human contact or because we are still unsure whether we can trust the human being next to us.
And that is for any beginner in any dance, not only Tango.
See something is missing…
You see dance at least for me is supposed to liberate you. To help you open up to another human being, to share the moment with them. In Tango we do in an embrace, in ballet you are standing next to each other, but we are still there together, breathing the same air, sweating on the same floor and briefly or not so briefly touching. Can we do all that while constantly thinking: “Stay 2m away”?
No I don’t think so…And please don’t tell me to wear a mask in class, because guess what breathing your own CO2 for 2hrs while dancing is equally unhealthy..!
I have been thinking about this for a long time. It was actually the reason why I didn’t start doing online classes right away.
You see bautanz is an online community for practicing and enhancing and developing your Tango and your movement. But it was always meant to move in parallel with in person class. The reason for this is that we, as in people, are social animals. We learn from being touched by others, touched is used here literally and figuratively of course. That is what I felt was missing from doing all this online.
So as a beginner or not what do we do?
One of my teachers Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, from Body mind Centering (https://www.bodymindcentering.com) says: “The mind of the room has changed” when the group shifts their perspective on something. There is this communal thinking, this communal understanding that builds from each individual’s thinking but also informs each individual thinking. That is what is missing..!
So if we can get a glimpse of that through the web, we would have won something that could teach us all, being a beginner or a teacher. Will we magically become Tango champions in one night? Will we go the next milonga–whenever that happens–and just hop on the dancefloor no problem..? No of course not…but this is what I think we will have… A sense of the other! A sense of gathering, a sense of touch without touching, a sense of a network that moves together. Currently alone-together, but soon simply together
I believe this experience as whole is only achievable by in-person classes, but a little drop of it, might be possible. And that possibility is my hope… I hope we will get past this worry and fear. That we will trust each other again. And that by being a beginner not in Tango but in socializing we can get even closer together.
I am thinking therefore of a new format for a class, where we take moments to listen and share. Share not only in words, but also by acknowledging the time we are spending with all these other people from around the world. I hope that by the end of this class session, I will have something to report form this little experiment!
If you are already able to do in-person classes, what ways are you finding to hold the space for each other?
Send me your thoughts,
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