Category Archives: Advanced dancer

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

Rhythm, is in us all!

Rhythm, for some is something effortless and fun and for others a constant effort and frustration. And the truth is that the fact that it is in us all, doesn’t make it any easier to identify.

But lets take things from the beginning…

What is rhythm?

Rhythm is not the beat of the music or dissecting a music phrase in 7, 9, 11, 4 or 8s and it surely is not steps on a beat, like choreography. All these are methods to explore rhythm but neither of them is rhythm in itself.

I would like to suggest that we explore rhythm as a relationship between direction, velocity and distance. And that relationship is affected by mass, inertia, impact, energy we like to spend, shapes we want to create etc. Let’s look at some examples:

  1. elements moving in the same direction at the same time
  2. elements moving in opposite directions at the same time
  3. elements moving in the same direction at an alternate time
  4. elements moving in opposite directions at an alternate time 
  5. repetition which is inherently rhythmical

Practicing rhythm therefore will need to allow us to further explore and become more aware of those relationships; that are more relationships with world and not only with a specific song.

How to practice rhythm

For the month of March, as part of our Movement and Mindfulness workshops, we explored rhythm as described above and so thankfully I have a 1hr video to share with you, that can lead you through explorations on rhythm and hopefully inspire you to come up with your own explorations as well!

I would suggest you spend some time exploring these symmetries with your arms as it is easier compared to working with legs. Also work for a bit without music before you add your favourite music to accompany you. And you can work with all of these symmetries together or focus on one or two of them at a time, whatever works best for you!

Putting it together in a dance

Such explorations I find them extremely useful as they help me understand what I might be doing unconsciously or what I might feel I can’t reach. Whatever the case maybe though, real-life experience and testing is required after every exploration of every kind. If we don’t take what we learn in our real-life how will it stick? How will it become more than just an exercise? And most importantly how will it teach us to a level where we start changing our old habits and building new ones, aka progressing?

So after you complete the explorations above, or anytime during the video that you feel the need or you feel ready, completely let go of the exploration and just dance. Stop doing the exercise, and just dance. Feel how what you have explored so far manifests itself in your dance.

And of course this doesn’t stop there, step out of your practice shoes but take your practice with you. See, notice how rhythm manifests itself in your everyday life, when breathing, walking, shopping, doing the dishes. Make every big or small thing a dance!

Enjoy and join us for more by subscribing!

Chrisa 

P.S: For more on music and rhythm you can check here and here

Practicing alone-together!

So when I starting practicing alone aka without a partner it was because I could feel that something was missing, that I could be a more active and expressive dancer but I didn’t quite know how to do that.

After some time things settle and I found my ways and Bautanz was born but this is not an article about Bautanz but about one great question I got from a member of our community, Mandy: “Do you have any suggestions for incorporating these ideas [on balance, alignment etc] into a partnership?

Is individual practice the problem?

Mandy explained that though while practicing without her partner everything is great but once they come together to dance things start falling apart.

One of the things, amongst others of course, that causes these off-balance moments is that each partner is working on figuring things out in his/her body and fails to pay attention to what the other person is doing. It is not on purpose that we are ignoring our partner but there are so many other things we need to focus on from one step to the next, that we fail to pay enough attention to our partner.

Many people say point exactly to that in fact to prove that one shouldn’t be practicing alone. That argument however can be defeated when we see soccer players, tennis players, ballerinas you name it training on their own.

Individual practice is not what causes the problem in connection, it is what reveals it! Once you start exploring further a creative process of change starts to happen and that is when start to realize trouble with moving with another person.

Also, as with any change, change in movement habits takes time! For us to realize what we are doing wrong, to explore the suggested other options, to understand how each suits our bodies and then to replace what we don’t need anymore with a new habit; This is a lengthy process, very creative but also lengthy! So it will take some time for things to settle, for new habits to get established so we can then focus more on our connection and how our movement affects our partner.

That is in fact why I created Bautanz and an online course called Intelligent Tango PROGRAMS & COURSES–INTELLIGENT TANGO, to speed the process of creating new habits through an individual practice.

Practicing on how to listen

You are probably wondering if I am actually suggesting that you just keep at it and hope for the best..! haha
Thankfully not, as there is a way to get more connected to your partner and explore movement at the same time and that is through touch, observation and feedback. And that could happen in two ways

Let’s use the above video as an example, if you are not practicing with a partner, during your individual practices you can get feedback from surfaces you can possibly lie down on or lean against. Once on the ground as in the video above you can get bodily feedback on how your head, back, hips and feet are moving on the floor.

You start gathering information on how these body parts move when you move your arms. But also there is the opportunity to observe how your movement changes as you release more weight, or as you turning, if you adjust your head etc.

In this video, all of the above apply of course, but I want to use as an example when you practice with your partner. Aside from the feedback you can gather from meeting the floor you can also ask your partner to place a hand on your shoulders, back, your head or hips, and just observe how you move without affecting your movement, only observing almost like passively following. Touch will reveal to both of you how that specific spot of the body moves and how part affects the other. It will give both you more information about movement that you can then take it with you when you are leading and following. Then of course you change roles, you will be touching and observing 

Time to give feedback…

Last but not least in the process is the exchange of feedback. This is an important part of the process and a rather difficult one. It is very easy to fall into the trap of not expressing how the movement felt. So again using the video above as an example you want to go deeper and describe what your hands felt, for example: “as you were settling in the tabletop position, your shoulder blades felt like they were sliding and turning, as the spine was reorienting. You back muscles felt like they were expanding as your sides and core were condensing.”

Avoid staying on the surface with feedback such as it felt good, or strong or smooth. Try to go a deeper and describe the movement. Make sense out of what your hands felt. Then you try the exercise again focusing on each of the elements your partner noticed and guiding each other through touch. 

Could I do this with Tango drills..?

Absolutely! This process can happen with any movement, only you would probably need to move a bit slower than usual if you are doing walks or ochos. But surely your partner can place their hands on your shoulders, back, chest, stomach, head etc and go through the same process as above.

It will heighten your awareness of your own body and movement but also of your partner’s. Touch is though an excellent way to practice “listening” through touch. Tango is based on touch and the feedback we receive through it. If we are not able to listen through touch and respond then it becomes difficult and the movement has a very mechanical almost robotic quality.

Every practice session needs to be rewarded

Extra bonus… a Dance! I would to encourage you to dance one song after your practice or at a random time without the intention to practice but with the intention to dance and enjoy moving with or without a partner.

It is not however an easy task. You will be putting yourself to the test trying to put all the things “you should be working on” to the side and letting the experience of moving inform your knowing.

I wasn’t doing that for a long time. Instead every chance I got I practiced trying to get things right, trying to get better faster. It was very frustrating, and made my dances really hard to enjoy. So though being in the unknown, without an outline of what needs to be taken care of, of what you need to focus on, can be discomforting, it can also help you understand your body, your movement and your partner at a deeper level.
Plus it is a great reward to allow yourself to dance after spending time practicing!

Touch, observe, listen and don’t fear the unknown!

😉

Chrisa

P.S 3rd week of September we will be starting session of live online classes. If you are interested check it out here: Online Tango Classes- Live

Show must go on Or taking a moment to figure things out?

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/

😉

Enjoy

Chrisa

P.S: No time for a 30min practice? No worries try out the Tango exercise of the week: