Category Archives: Advanced dancer

I was almost right..! Is this the best way to communicate?

Communication some times can be tricky! Especially when it is in a dance where we mainly communicate in body language and not verbally.

So here is how this post came to be. It is actually a funny story though it involves a doctor, and it goes like this.
I met with a friend after her doctor had called to say that it wasn’t an emergency she needed to face after all. Only he didn’t say “I was wrong”. He actually said “I was almost right!” only he wasn’t right at all… haha
Good news for my friend and a very interesting situation for anyone working on communication skills.

Mis-communication in a dance

I am sure you have been in a similar situation, where the other person sort of admits they were wrong. Either by saying “I wasn’t entirely right” or even worse “I was wrong but you …. (fill-in the gap with something equally wrong you did)”

In dance the same verbal communication can take place sometimes but physical cues are more common. There can be a power battle between the partners. In such cases nobody enjoys the tanda even if they managed to get things to go their way.

The issue though is not to explore who is right and who is wrong in a given situation. The issue here is to see how we can communicate better.

So think of the last time, that you had this mis-communication with your dance-partner. Maybe it was a different perspective on the music, or they led something and you did something else or vice versa.
How was that expressed? And what happened next?

Where you pushing and pulling on each other for the rest of the song? Did you use some leading or back-leading trick to correct the situation? How did your partner respond? And did any of you accept responsibility? Did you let go of the tension and admitted in body language that the other was right?

It is not a very easy thing to do actually, especially as you are improvising. But maybe now, after the fact, you can explore the situation. There is actually a simple exercise you can do.
List 10 circumstances where you felt that you were wrong but instead you acted as if you were almost right. And then 10 circumstances where your partner was wrong and again they acted as if they were almost right.

It might subtle. And it could only have been for a moment and then you changed back to your ordinary sweet self..! 😉
But think back to uncomfortable or even painful dances you have had. Bring back to your memory nasty milonga nights, or frustrating practices and/ or classes. See if somewhere in there you reacted or you were faced with the attitude above.

How to communicate instead

Now as you know, I really like to share some practical advice to a problem. At least, share thoughts on options that one can explore in order to make their Tangos more enjoyable.

This is not an easy one, but I will do my best to share some thoughts. I hope you will find them helpful!

If you have the “It takes You to Tango” guide, you can find in there some tips on how to handle situations in the social environment of a milonga. This specific situation was not clearly included therein. There is though a note on leaving in the middle of the tanda. Let’s start from this “extreme” option.

As you will see in the book, from my perspective, leaving someone on the dance floor is to be reserved for extreme situations. Situations where you are in pain, or you are in extreme discomfort and you feel this is harmful to you.

Though it is not the option to use all the time, have it at your back pocket for emergency situations. Still though, there is a way to do it. No need for drama!
Simply saying “thank you” will do the trick most of the times. In the rare, you might need to add a “I need to take a break”.

Now lets look at other options, that may come a bit more handy

Here are a couple, from my personal experiences on the dance floor:

  • Firstly, especially if I am dancing with friend, I simply say “sorry”. Quite obvious but an easy way to communicate that I was wrong.
  • Once I realize a mistake, I try to get where my leader wants me to be in an embellished way. Adding a gentle giggle, if you are that kind of a person, can also work.
  • In cases where the other person has messed up, I usually follow the previous pointer. Making a little moment out of the mistake always releases the tension. Plus you might actually come up with a new move after some refinement.
  • Further to the above, when a leader actually whispers “sorry”. Respond with an embellishment or make something out of the “mistake”; it shows kindness.
  • Where we are not talking about a mistake but a necessary adjustment, for example speed or orientation etc. we need to keep the dialog open through the embrace. Leaders will need to listen to followers. Followers will need to be able to communicate a message to their leaders. For example, if you are about to bump into someone behind you. Followers use the embrace to stop your leader from taking a back step. Or if the leader is going too fast for you; use the embrace and maybe even an embellishment to show that a change in speed is necessary. Leaders listen to your followers!
  • For cases where I can feel tension building, because of lack of communication, personally I choose to let it pass. I prefer not to continue the power struggle so I adjust to make it work no matter who is right. Then when the tanda ends I can decide whether or not to dance with that person again.

So those are my ways to communicate with my partners. I am sure that you have probably discovered many others that have worked for you. The main element here though is when you are wrong admit it and work with your partner to fix it. When you are right don’t hold a grudge and work with your partner to fix it. Painful or uncomfortable situations excluded of course.

Chrisa

Tango a way to tell our story..!

Though this is mainly a Tango and movement practice focused website, today I want to share with you a short personal story.
So after my practice the other day, I was preparing this video for Pro Dancer shoes. At the time I didn’t think much of it. It in the beginning just yet another video only focused on the feet. But things were not as straight forward as I had initially thought.
Let me tell you… It took me 20mins to finish! And it involved a lot of starting and stoping and a bit of frustration of course.

Tango can be frustrating some times..!

Some time had to go by, for me to realize the reason I was getting frustrated. I was focusing so so much on the shoes than on the dance itself.

Let me just show the 1st attempt that I think it is acceptable and so I can actually share it with you. It is not the 1st attempt of that day, it is the 1st acceptable attempt.

The intent was to show case the shoes. The problem is that focusing on that thought I wasn’t really paying attention to anything else. The result is having a feeling of disconnect to the music and my feelings of the dance.

As you can understand, even in this acceptable version frustration is still there and for good reason!

So what did I do?

Well the obvious..! I thought: “ok, forget about the shoes and JUST dance!” 
There was a moment that I actually thought, I am making no progress so there is not much point to this. I should instead simply dance and if something worth sharing comes out of it, then all the better!

Of course, things started getting better, and I actually really enjoyed myself plus the video is pretty good I think. At least it does the job and most importantly I was happier doing it.

Of course this is Tango related but not because it is about a Tango video

So why am I telling you this?

Let’s take shoes out of the story and pick something else. What do you feel uncomfortable with in your dance? The beat, the sequences, the posture, if your partner is going to get bored…? Whatever it is, think about how that issue affects your time in the milonga. Think how it grabs all your focus, and doesn’t let you see anything else. It actually spoils your night!

The thing is, that whatever the issue is, it can’t be solved in the milonga and the more you focus on that you are missing out on everything else!

Especially, for milongas, focus on having a good time! Allow yourself to enjoy your dances, to embrace your partners and get lost in the music! I am sure you have missed that as much as I have.
There is no point missing out for something you can’t possibly do anything about at that moment plus in many cases if you go with flow things get actually a lot better!

Tango a way to tell your story

So to transition to our drills and tips, even these very tips and drills, remember they are here to help and not to become trapping elements for you to stress over when you are dancing in milonga.
Practice, devote time in your practice but also enjoy the fruits of this practice!

Lastly, after sharing all this wisdom.. (haha) only keep the advise if it helps you and if not put it to the side and find what works for you! 😉

Let me know your thoughts in the comments or better yet subscribe to our community and continue the conversation there!

Enjoy,

Chrisa

Ochos should we cross the legs?

Last week we were taking about posture and whether one can/ should maintain a specific body position throughout the dance. Inevitably therefore the conversation turned to ochos and whether we should cross the legs.

Crossing the legs in Tango

Let’s first take a look at what that means exactly in the Tango world. You might already be familiar with the specific movement option, but in case you are not, we are talking about bringing one leg right in line with the other while stepping forward or backwards. We are usually cued to do that to isolate the movement of the torso from that of the hips.

Why do choose to cross the legs?

When we cross the legs we lock the hips and lower spine in position. That creates the impression of the hips being square and parallel to the floor. Also, the upper body appears to have a clean rotation over the lower body with a more sharp disassociation.

What limitations does that movement option have?

This option however has some limitations. First, it limits the side tilt range of the spine. Side tilt, as we will see in the video below is coupled with torsion due to the anatomy of the spine, meaning the two movements always happen together.

Second, due to the side tilt limitation, the angle of the pivot is also limited. You see the bigger the pivot the more necessary the side tilt is. With the hips in a lock the side tilt may happen further up in the spine where it may affect the embrace, create tension in our neck, arms and between the shoulder blades and throw us off balance.

What does that mean physically for us?

From an anatomy perspective there are two important issues with this option. One is the side tilt limitation we talked about above. The second is that we will have sheer of forces running outward to the right and left of each hip joint.

Starting from the latter, when we place one foot in front of the other, then our movement options are at the end of range, for example we are at the end of range for adduction. That creates a feeling of tension or pressure through key joint surfaces, such as the hips and knees.

That is though related to the upper body as well. It limits the options our spine has at diaphragm height in terms of torsion and side tilt. Why is that? Well the reasons are more than one, but it really boils down to the shape and orientation of the joints, the muscles and connective tissue of the human body. 

So would we say this is a movement option that we want to maintain in our vocabulary?

In terms of Tango it can be a stylistic option that creates a very powerful and dynamic impression. However if we are to use it we would need to be aware of the physical limitations and risks which we spoke about above.

From an anatomical point of view it certainly is not the most efficient and healthy option for us. It locks certain parts of the body and that requires a lot more muscle work to pull through an ocho. If we don’t care so much for the Tango style it is better to choose a movement option that allows the whole body to participate in a more efficient way.

Let me know what you think and send me your questions on this matter or any other to do with posture or ochos..!

Spinal Movement and walking.

We have been looking on this theme alignment, posture and balance in the last few posts and today we will take all that work and put it into our walking exploration.

Our body is so cleverly structured! And through dance and other movement practices we get to explore it and create a more clear map of it. Going through my personal practice I started questioning some of the most common cues we hear about posture and walking not just in Tango but in every day life.

Building on posture and walking

One thing I have come to realize is that the model of “one size fits all” instruction, actually fits no one in the end.
We are all unique makes of the same “grand plan” so we are not the same.

We might all have a head, a torso, a pelvis and a spine but all of these are somehow slightly different in each of us. And so it takes some time and effort to understand how you are different from me while following a similar high-level design.

So, I invite you here, just for now, to leave all the things that all ready know to the side and try something different.
This doesn’t mean that all you know is wrong, only that we need the space and the liberty to try something new.

As you will see in our video we are starting by taking a look at Skelli. Yes, yes the skeleton has a name..! haha

So Skelli is a very good imitation of a human skeleton, of that “grand plan” so he will be our map for this video. Remember last week by the way that we were talking about comfort? Well today you have another map as a safety net, to explore in depth posture and walking, that will be the image of Skelli in our video.

A few things to notice

  • Nothing in the body is a straight line and also nothing is set on a 90 degree angle
  • We are made of curves and irregular shapes
  • Everything is somehow related and dissociation is voluntary
  • Especially side reach and rotation are coupled, meaning they always happen together
  • It is a good idea to allow rotation to show up in your side reaches and vice versa for a healthy spine and more efficient movement
  • We have more flection that extension in the spine. That is actually true for all joints.
  • Posture is not arbitrarily good or bad. So it is better to reframe that as helpful or unhelpful or healthy or unhealthy
  • Following the muscle fibres as we move, that are also curving, is less stressful and has more flow compared to following straight pathways of movement
  • Sitting to standing has a lot to teach us about walking
  • Walking is automatic, therefore trying to understand how it works is surely not an easy task.
  • At the end of the day, the more chaotic your walk the better. We have movement along all three axes when we walk so it is bound to be a complete chaos!

Questions to help you in your explorations

If you tried the exercises in the video, then maybe you are already asking some of the questions below. On the other hand if you are still unsure and haven’t gotten to it, maybe you should ask the questions below.. 😉

Do I need to use so much muscle to simply keep my body up? Why squeeze the shoulder blades together if it is opposing the curve of my thoracic spine? Or why pull my tummy in if it is opposing the lumbar curve of my spine? How come good posture seems to be working against the body structure? And what would it mean to follow the body structure? If my hips and shoulders are not square while walking then what are they doing? And how does that affect my connection with my partner when dancing?

Now I know that these might be putting a big question mark to many things that hold a certain importance for you. So to avoid any frustration, think of it as something you can try just for now. It doesn’t have to replace anything you do.

Personally, when I want to try something new, I say to myself “Give it go just for now, just once!”

So what do you say… are you gonna give it a go?

😉

Chrisa

Feeling comfortable, what does it truly mean..?

Feeling comfortable, is commonly associated with feeling good and at ease. Specifically in movement when we are saying we are comfortable in a pose or moving through a sequence, we usually mean that we are. not feeling pain or that we’ve generally got it.

Or like last week when looking at balancing the forces running through our body, when we achieve that we can say we are comfortable. Can we though say the same for the journey to achieve balance? Pushing through frustration when things are not working out in our practice. Or even pushing through pain… Would we say that we are comfortable with what practicing entails overall?

I would think not… but we might need to start thinking about comfort in those terms.

Be Comfortable with being human

One of my dear teachers Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen the other day put up a quick post on how feeling comfortable may be misunderstood.

I will only share an excerpt of her post here with you:
“(…) comfort doesn’t mean not having pain. It’s that we are here in our body. And maybe we are totally miserable but we are here.”

You can read the whole post here if you would like. It is short and truly sweet!

Don’t be mistaken I am not suggesting that you simply accept misery and defeat. Quite the contrary, be comfortable with being angry, frustrated, stressed, upset etc…. (you fill in that gap). Once you are comfortable with that feeling you can more clearly decide how you are going to deal with it.

Let’s take a Tango example, though you can apply this to life off the dancefloor as well of course.
Say you are coming back to social dancing after Covid, you are thirsty for Tango, you have just missed so much!
You get to the milonga, and you don’t get to dance much… suddenly the bad memories are crippling in.
Rejection, loneliness, feeling left out… etc.

That moment what do you do?
Do you pep-talk yourself out of it, forcing yourself to feel ok about the situation?
Or do you try to push past it, not to let disappointment kill the night?
Maybe the third choice, the what-did-I-expect-nothing-has-changed type of reaction.

The above reactions do not really allow us to sit with the feeling that is bubbling up. And they are really distractions or leave-for-later options.
So what I am suggesting is that if you are feeling disappointed, rejected, alone etc. feel comfortable with that feeling. Feel comfortable with being upset! It is absolutely ok!
Once comfortable with the feeling itself, you may then see more possible reactions to it that may resolve the issue.

The solution may not be obvious and most likely won’t just pop-up. You might need to step away from the dancefloor, go the bar, just sit and watch or even call it a night. But you would have taken the first step by saying:
“I am upset about this and I am totally comfortable with that. Now let’s resolve this!”

A little challenge to put things to the test

Another way to test your levels of comfort is of course practicing, and especially practicing alone.
Working on the little things, on the subtle things that may though bring huge change to how you move and dance.

Are you comfortable when things are not really working?
Or when you are not getting it?
Are you comfortable with putting in the time but not seeing immediate results?

I invite you to test it out for yourself with this practice on posture!
And if frustration starts building up, which of course it is not my intention, but if it does…allow yourselves to sit with that feeling comfortably!

So you know, this is kind of putting two birds in one nest. Practice for the body and the mind/ spirit!

Enjoy and join us for more by subscribing at our community

Chrisa

Rhythmical Variations – Creating Options

We practice on musicality, on rhythm, rhythmical variations of steps, on matching sequences to specific musical textures, orchestras, styles… Overall we practice on listening and understanding the music. So what are we really practicing here? Options! Creating options or better yet having options readily available while we improvise.

Rhythmical Variations that create options

One of the most fascinating exercises I have been taught, was by Mariana Montes and Sebastian Arce in a festival in Kalamata Greece, quite a few years back now. It was around the ocho cortado, and how one can perform the step in different rhythms.

The rhythmical variations we were taught back then were so fascinating to me, not only because they offered me different ways to do the same step, and therefore match it to different music but because I got to reshape the step.

Ok! Before I get into that, let me share with you a video where I have reproduced that ocho cortado rhythmical variation exercise so we can actually have a point of reference

Reshaping the ocho cortado

Usually we see the Ocho Cortado as one whole sequence consisting of 6 steps. When we go through the rhythmical variation #1 where we step on the downbeat, every one of these steps, by having its own beat, becomes an entity of its own.

Then when we add the pauses on step #3 and #6 the ocho cortado breaks into 2 sequences instead of 1 and the same happens when we syncopate it.

When we go slow, though we are now playing with one sequence, the sequence is now very flexible, greyed out around the edges almost. And lastly, taking a step on beat #7, shifts the beginning and ending of the sequence around, so we really end up with 6 different sequences.

See how much richer our dance vocabulary has become just by playing with only one of the most basic Tango sequences. Now think of all the other sequences you have learned over the years, can you do something similar? Can you possibly come up with ideas on how shift and reshape those sequences?

Creating options is another skill!

I have learned this from James Altucher who is not a Tango dancer but he is surely an explorer..! So he said, that he practices on his idea muscle daily! Fascinating right?

He uses it for business. We can use it for Tango… and for business of course if you like.
So here is my suggestion, and believe me it is fun..!
Now that you have an idea of how this can work out, take one of the basic Tango sequences, such as the box step or even just walking, write down 5 different ways that you think you can perform that step and then actually try those ideas out with music!

If you need some inspo we will be doing something similar in a Tango Movement Lab on Wednesday 12:15pm going on live through Facebook and Youtube. And if you are looking for even more inspo join our classes that will be full of rhythm and music..!

Hope to see you soon,

Chrisa