Category Archives: Advanced dancer

Dance as an act of kindness

Most of us would never think about taking a dance class as an act of kindness. Think though, for a moment how you got into dance. Maybe you were dancing ever since you were a child. Or perhaps you picked it up at a much older age. Maybe you went with a friend or because you wanted to make new friends. Or possibly to meet a special someone. Whatever your reason was, the decision to learn how to dance was satisfying a need, a personal need.

And that is where it all begins…

Being kind starts with you

Noticing your needs and addressing them is an act of kindness. And it doesn’t even have to be as serious as I am making it sound. Simply, feeling the need to do something fun or something new with other people, and addressing this need by going to a dance class, is an act of kindness.

Same goes with choosing how to learn and how to practice dance. Or in general how to progress in any movement practice. Learning how to respect and listen to your body and tend to its needs is an act of kindness. Understanding when it is time to pause and when it is time push and respecting those limits without feeling like your body is letting you down is an act of kindness.

As we age we need our awareness to grow so that we can still enjoy our life and so that we can keep learning and growing. Can we do what we did 10 or 15 years ago? Somethings certainly not. But consider all those things that turned out to be bad ideas; only you lacked the awareness to know back then. Or what about all those things that you wouldn’t even think of trying out 10 or 15 years ago because you lacked the experience and the imagination. Bottom line, we change. And if we want to keep enjoying life we need to be cognizant of that change and adapt.

Another act of kindness, adapting. And adapting does not mean giving up, it means recognizing your options and identifying moments of opportunity to create more options for yourself.

How dance helps us adapt

I am sure you can now see where all this is going. Dance, teaches you how to adapt and create options. Learn to hug versatility and variety because this is our environment.

So if your practice is not going well one day, take a step back, pause for a second. Every practice is never the same as the one before or the one after it. Maybe you are tired or preoccupied. Can you find a way to keep moving? Is “keep moving” even a good option for you in this moment? If not what could be a good option? Stillness? Ok! You can learn a lot in stillness as well.

See, our movement practice should run on kindness in order for us to progress or we will end up tired battling through every frustrating moment.

And that of course spills into our relationship with our partners. Now you may be working with one specific partner or this can be applied to a social setting, like a milonga, where you may be changing partners. In both cases, but especially in the latter, kindness always wins!

When things don’t work out, think of all the tough moments you have gone through and safely assume that your partner has been through the same. Don’t get judgemental, instead see if you can find or create options for yourself? This might actually be revealing to you. It may show you a different way to approach your dancing. Not simply offering different technique tools but offering THE technique tool!

Which is… Adapting! Or simply put, making do with what you got! A much kinder approach towards yourself and towards your partner.

Try it out next time you practice or go to a milonga, it is actually fun!

Chrisa

P.S: For more writings such as this, that go beyond technique tips, check out our book “It Takes You to Tango”

How does this song go? Singing through movement

Singing through movement, has been my latest attempt to explain what “just dance” really means.
It is funny but so many people say just dance but they don’t really know what that means or they can’t even execute themselves.

“Just Dance” Vs…

Usually if you ask someone to explain “just dance” they will start using other equally ambiguous advise, such as without thinking, or like no one is watching, or forget about the rules.

Why is this ambiguous advise?
Well in Tango, but this applies to other dances as well, especially when you are starting out, you need to think. Tango is a fully improvisational dance. That means you are on your own putting one and two together, while connecting with your partner and with the music.

Secondly, it is in a social environment, people who are not dancing, are watching. It doesn’t mean that they are being judgemental, at least not all of them (haha), but they are watching.

Thirdly, every class is on the rules. Technique rules, musicality rules, even rules on how you improvise and put sequences together. So it is very hard to forget them and just dance.

What I mean to say is that we might be fully understanding the meaning of all of these words but we have no plan on how to implement the advise. Which leads to a lot of confusion and frustration on and off the dance floor.

…”Sing through movement”

I am sure you have been in a situation where you are talking about a song you like but suddenly you can’t really remember anything about it. You can’t remember the title, the singer, the orchestra, the lyrics, nothing but only the rhythm. So if you tried to describe it to a friend you would probably say: “You know, it is the one that goes like na, na-na-na, na…”

haha
Well, singing with movement is exactly that. You do the “na, na-na-na, na” only not with sound but with movement. You are using your body to represent the music, as if you were another instrument of the orchestra. In the beginning of your practice, the movement can be small maybe a gentle shift of weight from one foot to the other but truly committed to delivering the music.

Then as you start making steps, stick with this concept. Instead of trying to come up with steps to match the music, practice letting the music move you in the room. We are not looking for elaborate footwork, in fact you can restrict yourself to walking only. The goal is to keep this quality, singing through movement. Making your whole body sing the song and not just your feet trying to execute steps.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: Here is a practice on musicality if you want to continue working on it.

Defining the comfort zone

If you are in any movement practice I am sure you have heard your teachers encourage you to move past your comfort zone; meaning to challenge yourselves. But how do you know you are in the zone to begin with? How do you know the limits of your comfort? And most importantly what does it take for you to acknowledge discomfort?

Finding the balance between comfort and discomfort

How would you know comfort if you don’t experience discomfort? Also, consider this, how would you begin to define discomfort if discomfort was part of the comfort zone?

If you defining comfort as in not painful, it means that pain is your only indication of discomfort. Discomfort then is part of your comfort zone because you can’t hear all the other signals of discomfort the body is giving you until you reach pain.

Similarly if you think of comfort as easy, as time that there is no challenge, you have made discomfort part of the comfort zone plus you are eliminating the possibility of learning and progressing while not being physically challenged.

Signs of discomfort can be as subtle as inhibited breathing, when you feel as if you are holding your breath. How many times have you been in that situation? I am sure, plenty. Have you ever considered this discomforting? Most likely not.

Picking up all the signals will allow you to be more aware of the boundary between comfort and discomfort. Defining the boundary will then allow you to push past it when you feel ready, when you are comfortable to do so.
Lastly, it will allow you to be more empathetic with other people, more understanding of their situation as you will have a deeper understanding of the different shades of discomfort and how they can appear in the body.

An excellent video that speaks more about this yin-yang relationship and our movement practice, is this video of Ido Portal speaking on mindfulness. It is short but very much to the point and has inspired me to look for balance in my practice and in my approach to movement.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: Looking for balance? Try out our latest workshop!

What do we call balance?

We often say, I need to work on “balance” or “I can’t keep my balance”. And when we actually go ahead to practice we start with standing on 1 foot, maybe doing embellishments with the free leg or coming up on our toes and holding.

Therefore when we say balance, we mean being able to hold ourselves still in a specific position for a long period of time.

Balance Vs Stillness

Creating a hold or simply being still, is that the same as being balanced?
Well… not necessarily! Because we might able to be still but the main volumes of our body may still not be balanced. For example, we might be hunched over, with our hips tilted back and our chin protruding forward. Try it… it is a very common pose! haha

This comes to show that still does not necessarily mean balanced.
So what is balance? Or better yet what are trying to balance?

We are trying to balance the forces running through our body, so that our movement can be efficient and safe. In this context if we actually would like to hold, balancing the 3 main volumes of our body, head, torso and hips, can lead to a comfortable efficient hold instead of a trembling/ troubling structure.

What are the cues that we are in balance, aside from we don’t feel in any key joint such as the hip joint?

  • We feel relaxed but at the same time
  • Ready to move and we also
  • Notice that our breathing is not inhibited and therefore has a comfortable flow.

And what would be the benefit of such an approach?
Aside from creating safer and more efficient movement, it will allow us to be more aware and also it will allow us to focus on balance while moving and not while holding. Holding can helpful and such an approach can help you in creating efficient holding too; however if you are practicing dance it is necessary to practice balance while moving.

This is exactly what we are working on in our latest workshop. Try the recording, and let us know how it went!

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: For more on tips and drills visit our Technique Page

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