It usually goes this way; a theme is chosen, with today’s theme being the cross, and then we start working on it or with it from various perspectives.
The cross where do we get stuck: a Tango perspective
Our intention overall is to understand what causes the trouble and specifically for the cross why we get stuck; why we’re unable to move past the cross itself. So in this first video we put the 2 most important stickie points under the microscope; we found paths to avoid getting stuck; we identified the body mechanics supporting these paths and made sure to look for them in our walks and embellishments.
Sticky point 1: how the free leg crosses. Without even shifting the weight crossing might be an uncomfortable position, causing a feeling of imbalance. And so we start this practice with an embellishment.
Sticky point 2: shifting the weight. We either fall into it and we then get stuck or we try so hard to stay lifted that we don’t allow any other movement to happen but pressing into the floor or we try to keep everything square ignoring the fact that we are already in a twisted position. And so the second part of the video really tries to point out how the different parts of the body reorient towards the right or towards the left, through osculation for the legs to be released from the cross. And aaaall this leads us to…
Taking it a bit further than just the cross…
We asked ourselves how does all this work on the cross can inform our body and our everyday movement and so in the next two videos we are looking to inform our walks. And then we are diving deeper into how the leg fits and moves inside the hip and how the hip moves around the leg
And a bit further…
If you think about it, there are so many spots in our body that we feel pain during Tango but also during our everyday life. Two of the most common ones is the hip joint and the lower back. Thankfully they are connected…haha… so by making our movement in the hip joint more efficient we can get rid of back pain and vice versa of course. And soooo happy feet give us happy dancers
And this is how I see practicing Tango; as an opportunity. An opportunity to create freedom in my dances but also to create healthier movement habits overall.
And so if you want to take things further yourselves, this work is based on the findings and the teachings of Frey Faust the founder of Axis syllabus (http://www.axissyllabus.org)
Giro technique…it can be tough but we will smoothly get through it… 😉 In our previous post https://bautanz.com/2019/03/20/music-sensing-feeling-and-action/ we were looking at rhythmical explorations. We used rebounds, walks and ochos and tried to figure out how these three elements, these basic Tango elements, can help us create something special on the dance floor.
These very elements though, we can find them in giros and naturally… this is what this post is about… Giro technique!
2 Rhythmical variations
If you have been in Tango for some time you’ve probably been taught the giro step following this basic rhythmic pattern: quick quick slow slow
And the truth is that this pattern even though we don’t HAVE to necessarily follow it, works quite smoothly; it has a nice flow to it and that is why we are not going to be changing that rhythm today. We’re only going to be exploring it further…
The transition between quick-quick and slow, slow…
I think an image here can help us a little bit with his exploration. Imagine a rainbow and on one end of the rainbow we have black and on the other end we have white and in between we have all the colours, every colour possible. Our transition is THAT rainbow! On one edge of the of the rainbow will be the “quick” part and on the other end will be the “slow” part. In variation #1 we will stay closer to the quick edge of the rainbow while in variation #2 we will move closer to the slow part. As we switch between the two, we will notice the colours in between and how our perception of them changes as we transition
If you are a beginner in Tango and you don’t know the giro step yet, then I would recommend that you watch the whole video from beginning to end and then just start practicing the step itself without worrying about the rhythm at all. Don’t worry about the quick- quick ,slow, slow, just do the footwork and once you feel more comfortable with the with a step itself then you can move on to exploring the variations If though you are familiar with the giro step I would encourage you to start from the END of the video from the very last exercise that focuses solely on the transition itself and then make your way through variations 1 and 2
Giro Technique: 8 anchoring points
Another vital transition for the giros, is the transition from standing on 2 feet to balancing over 1 foot and vice versa This transition hides a lot of habits, good and bad. And of course good habits are more than welcome…haha… the bad habits on the other hand we want to notice them and hopefully through our practices replace with more efficient ones
So here are some extra tips that can help you this video:
Listen for any trouble. Tension tends to be quite “vocal” through our bodies but we usually because we think it is normal for tension to manifest itself, we don’t pay attention to it. So distinguish between strength and unnecessary tension. Some of the most common places we find tension are: the hip joints, the lower back, the shoulders, the neck, the sternum, the face muscles So when you lift one leg up, make a quick check, take your mind through all of the above spots in your body and see if you can relax them
Standing with the weight split between the 2 feet. Notice how you reach for the connection with the floor tracing from the bottom up; from foot, to ankle, to knee, to hip, to ribcage, to arms, to neck and head.
You are special. Accept that your body is slightly different than your friend’s, your teacher’s or mine. Your focus should be to experience all the tips you hear in the video and not to bring the leg as high as I do, or to twist as much as I do. These movements exist in your body already; they live in your everyday walk, Tango is only an opportunity to expose them, become aware of them and possibly make them more efficient over time. So pay close close attention.
Hands to Ribs – A top-to-bottom practice
After talking about rhythm and after trying to understand and explore further the transition from 2 feet to a 1 foot balance, in this giro technique video, we are going to look into pivots and specifically we’re going to explore further the preparation phase for the pivots within the giros.
One of the most common mistakes we make in giros is skipping or pulling through the preparation phase; the phase where we are still transitioning from one foot to the other but we know there is a pivot coming and so we are preparing your body for the pivot; those very few seconds before the pivot happens.
What we will be doing in this video is acknowledging first of all that in-between stage, finding within our giro step.
And then we will be focusing on how the upper and lower body are working together during that phase, we will be looking at how much energy and power we need to create and use to make our way around the pivot and last but certainly not least we will be focusing on finding the right timing for the pivot to start.
Many a times we are running a little bit behind getting stuck in that in-between phase or as we mentioned before we really rush through it and we hop straight into the pivot so our goal here is to be able to avoid both of these troubling bad habits and to build a habit where we we are in control of the transition from a linear movement to a circular movement
Soooo that is all folks, at least for today. Giro technique right before the weekend milongas, perfect! And if you loved this and you want more, join the community of Bautanz! I share a video every Wednesday… 😉
It all started from this short video on Improper Alignment:
As Ido Portal says in the video, “improper alignment is a certainty not a possibility.” Practising therefore for those moments of improper alignment is crucial for our progress but also for our understanding of our body.
Managing the weight transfer
As you can tell from the video when I first introduced this exercise, it was the first step towards better alignment.
Here though I want to invite you to change your focus…instead of looking for the perfect communication path between the different parts of the body, focus on feeling every little tiny bit of your foot; even to the expense of that communication.
For example, see how far out you can take your heels out before you drop to the floor. Notice how that improper alignment makes you feel. Or the reverse how far in you can bring your heels…and again notice how that makes you feel.
Don’t try to fix it! Only exaggerate as much as possible without, of course, causing harm to yourselves, and notice, make mental notes of the experience.
A yummy practice for our feet
In this video, we are exploring the limits of our base of our feet. We are creating and playing with improper alignment.
Because if you don’t know where the edge is, what improper alignment feels like. How will you find the centre, a safe place where you can just be without any tension or uncertainty?
And as Ido Portal says there is no proper alignment, but proper preparation… for misalignment. We can get off balance any second of the day… lets prepare for THAT!
Feet: Alignment and Misalignment
This third video explores transitioning; changing our level, shifting our weight, and moving in space. Personally, I don’t believe that standing on one leg or doing calf raises endlessly will make your steps steadier, smoother or more powerful and secure. Becoming aware of the how your feet manage the transition from the right to the left and the front to the back, definitely will though.
Does that mean, that you don’t need to ever to do balance drills again..? NOPE! haha It means that you will have to include them in a more holistic practice, one that focuses on the transition and not solely on the drill itself. One that focuses on improper alignment as a certainty. One that explores the edges and the limits as much as the centre
Embellishments…hmmm… for some an absolute no-no and for others a must- have! The good thing about this article is that whether you will use the embellishments in your dance is completely irrelevant…
How embellishments can shape your practice
Especially one of the embellishments that I chose can NOT be done in a milonga. It is the kind of embellishment, you can only do if you show up really early or leave really late.
We will by-pass therefore the debate on the appropriateness of embellishments and we will focus on what we can learn from them, if we let them shape our practice
Aside from the obvious first step; of figuring out how to actually do the embellishment, here are the next levels we can take our practice to:
Exploring the balance between tension and relaxation. To do an embellishment, you need to free the “free” leg of any unnecessary tension that will slow it down.
Becoming aware of our body position. How does our posture need to change, so we can spare that leg, and still feel good, confident and strong
And timing. When is the right time to start the embellishment, and when should it end. How can we transition smoothly into the next step
These are the key elements we will be focusing on in this article. If you can of any more leave a comment below, to start up a chat..!
Relaxation Vs Tension
In this first video, we are focusing more on the first two pointers, from the list above. We start by relaxing the legs and the arms. And our goal is to keep them relaxed as we gradually create tension in the core. When we make our way to standing, we shift our focus to body alignment. How do shift the body to allow for one leg to move freely in space?
Becoming aware, of the balance points available to us and the lines of alignment being formed in our bodies, we can create freedom and power without jeopardizing balance and strength.
Embellishments in their purest form
In this video, the second one of the series, we are getting more and more analytical, with our movement. We are breaking the embellishments down to movement blocks and we take each one and create an exercise around it.
This helps us dive a bit deeper into all the elements on our list, even timing… As we begin to notice where and when the movement starts in our body and where and when it ends.
And last but not least, a video that focuses on body position and timing.
When our body is positioned properly, we are ready to act, that is quite obvious. What is not obvious is the opposite… being aware of time and opportunity to act. Timing therefore and body position are intimately tied together. We need to be ready WHEN the opportune moment comes our way.
Practice smart, might mean, work on embellishments
Maybe you think embellishments are a waste of time. That they won’t let you focus on what truly matters. And that they are superficial unnecessary elements, that most dancers tend to use when their technique is in fact poor.
I don’t blame you, I believed all that myself and still do to some extent. I would like though to invite you to see embellishments, for what they are. Off the dance floor and outside the dance studios, they are nothing more than movements. And we can be taught from any movement as simple or as complicated it may be.
But today I want to take a moment to talk to you about the life-tango connection.
Tango is like life and vice versa
No that is NOT what I am going to talk about…hahaha…but you thought I would didn’t you?
You felt that cliche coming your way! Haha
Don’t worry you are safe!
I want to talk about how this practice like all the other practices you can find in this blog can help you move better in life as well as in Tango
One of the biggest problems people have today is that they are not moving enough.
As a species we were made to move…In fact we survived because our movement became more efficient and we managed in this way to “outrun” our opponents and get food!
Now, this species that it’s whole survival was based on movement is stranded on a chair only to move once or twice a week.
Our bodies thinking that this is the new way of doing things, rearranges our muscles to support it and slowly but surely we start losing range of motion, flexibility and power in our hips, shoulders, spine and all around… We start losing ourselves!
Does any of this sound familiar?
If not, think about the last time your tried to bend over to grab something off the floor aaaand…”OUCH! My back…” came out
Or the last time you thought to yourself: “I am too old for this”
Well, what if Tango was here to help you keep on moving even if you have to take things a bit slower or with a bit more caution.
Follow the tips below for healthier body… they WILL make your ochos better as well!
Space and movement in the hips and spine is something that many of us have lost with time. But you can definitely get some back with the exercises above
Only have the following tips in mind:
Find your own rhythm, maybe I am going to fast for you, slow it down if you need to
If at any time during the seated exercises you need to put your hands on the floor go for it, just don’t drop your weight on them
And if you a friendly wall for your adult ochos, go for that as well, balance also gets built with time
Focus not on how big of a twist you can create but on identifying all the movements your body is creating from the outside in, meaning from the skin all the way to the organs and the inside out from your breath, from your blood to your skin.
If you can’t twist as much, or can’t have the legs fully extended, that is OK! Not being flexible is not always bad same as being flexible is not always good. Look for safety, for smoothness and flow and flexibility will come with time.
Breathe! Yes I know you are doing that already…But breathe into every inch of your body and out of every cell.
Notice points of tension and see if you can get rid of it. I am saying if because sometimes that is not possible, no matter how much we might want it. But acknowledging it is the first step towards getting rid of it
Do your ochos noticing how the movements you explored in the exercises underlie them. Like the leg-hip-leg-body circuit we explored
Without changing any of your current habits, notice how these movements underlie your everyday life. Examine your comfort zone to become more aware of your movement, your limits and your potential
Aaaaand last but not least…. Have fun with it!
I want to take a quick second to thank Jeffrey Posner for the hips rotations he shared on instaInst that inspired this video!
This week we will take a couple of those exercises and built a more Tango-y practice
Notice a few NOT so profound details
There is a section of preparation, something like a warm-up in gym terms.
Do we really need a warm up?
For Tango not really, at least not for what we are doing today….
So why are doing it? Why are we not getting into our Tango stuff right away?
Well, a warm-up is always beneficial, not only for the body but also for the mind. It is an opportunity to notice how our body feels that day, what we need to be careful with and possibly what we need to focus on based on our goals, level, expectations, mood, past injuries etc.
So use those first few exercises to notice how you are feeling inside and out.
It is all connected..!
Ok this is almost like a joke between me and my good friend Jill Newberry Evans for months any conversation we had would lead to: “It is all connected” until we decided to make a video of it.
And in our video too, from the warm-up to the ochos I am focused on connecting the dots…
Lets take posture as an example; to establish a good posture we need to work on flexion, extension, side bending and twisting of the spine and all of the above combined; and that is what we are doing with the very first exercise that feeds into establishing a strong but breathing posture for the 2nd exercise etc.
Or, to have a smooth dance, we need a smooth transition from walks to ochos so we try to build that in our practice as well; going from walks to walks with a cross to traveling ochos
Why traveling ochos?
Because they will allow us to experience the connection the ochos have to the walk.
Plus we should actually be using them more on the dancefloor. Compared to the “stationery”-left-to-right ochos they don’t create any traffic on the pista.
If you don’t like the way this practice is set up, using the tips above you can build your own practice.
Choose another exercise from last week’s video, pair it with any video on ochos from my channel on youtube or another teacher’s channel that you follow; making sure that it is a smooth match and it is helping you connect the dots.
Sooo that is it…! Send me your questions, feedback or video requests I would love to hear from you. Please don’t get discouraged if I don’t get back to you right away you will be definitely hearing back from me; I read every email!
And join the Bautanz community for a fresh practice video every week!