Category Archives: body awareness

Just relax and feel the connection

After decoding the cue “More Emotion” it is time for “Just relax and feel the connection”.

Have I told you how much I love it when people say: “just …. [fill in the gap]”? And especially at a moment of struggle! 
I love it so much, that I have created a separate category for such advice. It is called … “The Nike”. (haha)

The Nike” category

Most advice, under “The Nike” category would have been really good advice if only they didn’t come with “just”. Think about this specific cue: “Just relax and feel the connection”.

I asked chatGPT, what does it think this phrase means in a dance context. It came up with this beautiful paragraph, that ended like: “In the context of dance, the phrase encourages a more immersive and enjoyable experience by fostering a deeper connection between dance partners.”

Now isn’t that a piece of cake?!?! 
Yeah let’s just do that!
haha

So decoding such a cue, reveals how inappropriate this word “just” is.  Because it might sound easy, and like a really good idea, but it is way more difficult than it sounds.

As a first step therefore, my advice to all teachers would be to refrain from using phrases under “The Nike” category and replace them with phrases that deliver the depth of what you are trying to communicate.
For our cue, you can potentially rephrase it to: “Take a moment to identify the points of contact with your partner; take your mind to the hands, the arms, the solar plexus (diaphragm area). See where some tone/ tension/ engagement is necessary and where you might be over tensing the body. Then see if you can relax a bit in those areas where you feel unnecessarily tensed. Check your connection with partner now, see if the quality of it has changed”.

Our students need guidance, so we need to use all our teaching tools wisely, including words. 

As student, next time you hear a phrase from “The Nike” category, try to see if actually removing or replacing the word “just” makes things any clearer. So for example, as a first step I suggest we change “just relax and feel the connection” to “try to relax and feel the connection” before moving to the second step to the decoding process.

Relax and Connect

Now… the words “relax” and “connect”. 
Let’s start with “relax”. If you hear relax and immediately you see yourself on the couch watching Netflix… or in a spa, well… awesome! I love them both! But we need a different kind of relax for dance..! haha

So for most people “relax” means loosening or letting go and they need to reframe that.
“Relax” means identifying areas where we are creating unnecessary tension and trying to release that, while maintaining a level of readiness to move. It is a matter of muscle or postural tone and managing the level of that tone as we dance.

Now the funniest thing is, that usually in a Tango class, the cue “just relax” comes right after all the cues that ask us to engage every possible muscle in our body..! 
Squeeze your glutes, pull your bellybutton to the spine, push your shoulders down, pull your chest up… aaaand relax! hahaha

So how can we feel ready to move without over-engaging the body, without creating unnecessary tension? 
Well, look at that, we have so many videos on that! (haha)
Here are a couple: Posture, alignment and balance
And one that includes the head: Tango Misconceptions Vol.2

As you will notice in the videos once the head, the torso and pelvis are aligned and once we start building on that relationship and funnelling forces through our masses, we are not only feeling relaxed and ready to move, but we are feeling powerful, secure, confident, and much more at ease.
It will take a bit of practice though..! 😉

What about connection?

And this takes us to “connection”.
We all know what connection means and I think we are on the same page on that one. However, I don’t think we all realize the relationship between relaxation and connection; which is an intimate bond.

Connection requires some tension, some tone. If you completely loosen up you won’t feel connected. So if you perceive “just relax” as letting go, it will be very difficult to connect with your partner.
Think about a cat or dog in deep sleep, you can move their legs around and they won’t even notice. Your don’t feel any connection, you only feel their weight.

Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum when you are working hard to even stand, let alone dance, it is almost impossible to even acknowledge your partner.

So managing to be relaxed but ready to move, like we saw in the videos above, is what can open the door for us to acknowledging the music, our partner, the dance floor etc.

“Just relax and feel the connection”

To summarize… excellent cue but it is not as easy as it sounds..! So at the very least remove the “just”.

  1. As a first step, rephrase to “try to relax”.
  2. Second step, relax doesn’t mean letting go, it needs to be balanced with readiness to move.
  3. Notice any areas where you might be holding unnecessary tension.
  4. Then see if you can relax them a bit, find the appropriate tone. Sometimes breathing helps or a gentle shake.
  5. Change your perception over connection; connection starts from you. Not paying attention to how the different parts of your body interact with each other, how they participate in the different movement chains, can become a road-block to connecting with your partner. So work on connecting the dots.
  6. And last but not least, when working with your partner, identify points of contact, how you establish them, what is their role ( contact, support, direction etc.), and how you can move around them, over them or with them.


Give it a go and stay tuned for more on this subject..!
Chrisa
 
P.S: if you are looking for more advice ranging from perspective to practice drills, check out our practice guide “It Takes You to Tango”, I think you will love it!

The Magic of the Weight Transfer

Every Tango class starts with… “The Walk” and/ or “The Weight Transfer”. The latter is actually, still the walk but we just have to use different wording at some point..! haha
It is in every class, no matter what the level is. We have also made it into this special Tango thing; coming up with cliches such as “if know how to walk, you know how to Tango” or “advanced dancers take beginner’s classes” etc.

You know what though, there is a very good reason why it is very difficult and frustrating to correct how you walk and it has nothing to do with Tango. It actually has to do with evolution. Humans have figured out how to walk while in the process of becoming… you guessed it… humans! So how we walk is a characteristic of humans…. Hey! No, inappropriate jokes..! haha

Do I know how to walk?

Now are you walking as efficiently as nature has built you for?
Most likely not. And that is due to all sorts of habits we pick up as we grow.
Can that change though?
Absolutely! Not with Tango though. But with movement technique.
In movement technique we looks the very chaotic structure of the weight transfer and we dissect it. Then we create multiple, different exercises that appear to be focusing on completely unrelated things. They are however, aiming at the weight transfer and how to help you walk better.

Is walking in Tango the same as walking in real life?
Well that depends…
Firstly, it depends on whether you want to have a specific Tango style.
And secondly, it is slightly affected by one very obvious thing..! That you are walking while in a hug with someone else. Have you tried doing that, down the street?!?! Not easy, yet achievable!

Why learn about the weight transfer?

Now the last question to consider before the video.
What is the point of teaching walking in a Tango class? No idea..!
I think it is actually frustrating for most people.
But let’s change the narrative. What if we agree to do a movement technique class. Now, be careful… not a tango technique class, a movement technique class, where we will focus on how you walk. That kind of class will inevitably “fix” your dancing and it is a whole different narrative. 
Students will not be expecting to be taught how to dance Tango. They will be expecting to learn different tools in order to make their movement as a whole more efficient and enjoyable. And more fun Tango dances are extra bonus..!

So if you agree, I will invite you to do the latter as you follow along through our first Tango Movement Lab of Fall. And of course I would love to read your thoughts and questions on the above and on the exercises in the video, so please write me an email at chrisa.assis@bautanz.com

And here you have it, “The magic of the weight transfer”

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for ways to further support the work we do here at Bautanz, please consider contributing through PayPal

Buoyancy in Movement

Describing buoyancy is not a straightforward task. It’s something that can be felt or observed in the quality of movement, but putting it into words is challenging. However, if I were to attempt it, I would say it involves a sense of support, fullness, smoothness and confidence.

Last week we were talking about alignment and balance. This week I wanted to share some drills that will allow you to explore buoyancy and observe how it manifests in the person’s body on screen.

Observing Buoyancy

I first wanted to share with two videos that will not only give you some good exercises to work on but also the professionals performing them are inspiring movers that make buoyancy evident, even through video.

  1. Basic Spinal Wave
    Presenting a fantastic video featuring Ido Portal, where he explores movements on the sagittal plane. In this short yet impactful video, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to the spinal wave, followed by a demonstration by Ido himself. This drill can be immensely helpful in rebuilding your posture. Consider also, watching the end first to witness the magical smoothness of his spinal wave, and then follow it up with the step-by-step section. Enjoy the journey!
  2. Building Vitality, Strength, Flexibility, Flow, and Ease through Embodying Our Muscles
    This is a full online class from one of the most charismatic and influential movement professionals, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. In this class she explores muscles with us. There is so much more to muscles than resistive exercises and stretching! Muscles have their own inner world and interrelationships that, when explored, open up another way of knowing and experiencing movement. Embodied movement at this level gives us a path to directly connect with the ‘mind’ of our muscles and provides a dynamic foundation for brain-oriented, consciously-directed movement.

Tango focused exercises for you to practice

  1. Back Ochos–ONE powerful drill
    In this video, we’ll be honing in on one essential aspect in our ochos—the spine.
    Sure, movement can be complicated and intricate, but it’s precisely this intricacy that gives it that deceptively simple appearance. By taking it one step at a time, we’ll begin to unravel the complexities, gradually making sense of how all the pieces come together harmoniously. So, let’s focus on the spine and unlock its potential!
  2. Musicality, Breathing and Posture
    This is live online workshop from August of 2022 where we focused on musicality, breathing, and posture. Our mission here is twofold: first, we aim to explore and establish the fundamental relationship between these three themes, and secondly, we want to equip you with the tools to create practice routines that seamlessly combine these different elements.
    When we’re just starting out, it can be challenging to craft a practice session that incorporates multiple themes and also fits into our busy schedules. That’s where this video comes in handy, as it’ll provide you with some valuable insights on how to achieve that balance.

As a side note, all the exercises we used in the last video above were borrowed from the book: “It Takes You to Tango – The Ultimate Guide to Tango Training for Leaders and Followers.” In this book, you’ll discover a wide array of videos supporting two chapters of Tango drills. But that’s not all! You’ll also find helpful tips on defining your level and goals, setting up a schedule, overcoming any barriers that might be hindering your progress, and even learning social skills and milonga etiquette.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

Alignment and Balance – Getting to Know Ourselves

Knowing how to use the words “alignment” and “balance” accurately is crucial because they describe the condition of our body. If we mix them up, things can get a bit confusing.

Alignment serves to describe how various body masses relate to each other, like the alignment between the torso and hips. However, it’s essential to recognize that this alignment path isn’t a straightforward line; our bodies consist of curved elements and oblique orientations, making things a bit more intricate.

Balance, on the other hand, revolves around the forces at play within our bodies. Just maintaining stillness doesn’t necessarily imply balance, as we may unknowingly be generating internal friction. Achieving balanced alignment entails finding the optimal position where forces can flow through the body efficiently. In contrast, imbalanced alignment often requires more effort.

Yet, it’s not a simple case of one being inherently good while the other is bad. There’s a nuanced aspect to consider. Occasionally, being overly efficient in our movements might impede muscle growth, prompting us to incorporate conscious inefficiencies in moderation. Additionally, certain dance styles may call for embracing inefficiencies to achieve specific aesthetics.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s about striking the right balance. Being mindful, understanding our bodies, and avoiding excessive strain can prevent injuries, accelerate recovery, and instill a sense of confidence in our movements. So, let’s embrace this journey of discovering optimal alignment and balance to move through life with grace and resilience!

So let’s dive more into this with some actual drills:  

  1. Foot Alignment and the Shift of Weight
    In this video we will be exploring the intriguing world of weight transfer during side and back steps. It is quite common for individuals to inadvertently place an excessive amount of weight on their big toe, which, from a health perspective, is not ideal. However, fear not, as we have you covered with some fantastic exercises designed to help break this habit. Our primary objective is to guide you towards adopting a healthier foot alignment, precisely over the middle of your foot. By doing so, you will be able to prevent foot, ankle, knee, or hip discomfort, and even potential injuries. So, let’s begin, and together, we will be showcasing how these exercises can help you move like a pro while keeping those troublesome aches and pains at bay!
  2. Alignment and Re-Alignment of the embrace
    This is more an exploration rather than a drill. So here you will need to spend a couple of moments first disconnecting for the image you see on your screen, and instead focus on noticing what your structure looks like. How your forearm relates to the rest of the upper will be unique to you and so this is where you need to start from and what you need to remember throughout this exploration; don’t copy the teacher.
  3. 10 min Practice: Legs, Balance, Alignment and Spice
    And here is another drill, that combines elements of fitness or yoga with tango exercises. As you immerse yourself in this video, you’ll discover varying levels of efficiency at play. The initial section which is more fitness oriented, can serve as an energizing “work-out,” but you are offered the flexibility to adjust the level of efficiency and therefore intensity, based on your specific objectives. So, get ready to embark on this dynamic journey, where you can reap both the benefits of tango finesse and invigorating physical activity!
  4. Graciela Gonzalez and Ezequiel Mendoza
    The one and only Graciela Gonzalez; the Maestra of many of the Maestros and Maestras popular today. Look at the confidence, the certainty, the awareness. She is so grounded, and in-tune with her body. Clean movement, someone can even say simple but it holds some strange kind of magic. When looking for a good example of balance and alignment, my mind when straight to her. If you have a chance to see her or get a class with her don’t skip it; she is tough but she is worth it!

Enjoy and join our community for even more tips and drills! And if you want a comprehensive guide for your Tango practice, try out “It Takes You to Tango”

Chrisa

Posture Correction – Step 1

Last week, we held our monthly Tango Movement Lab, and we kicked off the session by focusing on posture. Specifically, we took the time to identify and understand our default stance. This is incredibly important not only for enhancing our dance skills but also for improving our overall well-being in everyday life.

Today, I’m thrilled to share some valuable tips and effective drills with you. The following videos will help you determine your current posture and make small yet meaningful adjustments that will have a significant impact. By incorporating these practices, you’ll experience a greater sense of comfort and unlock your potential for remarkable progress in your dance journey.

Posture Correction – The first step is awareness

  1. The 6 curves of the spine with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen
    A crucial aspect of understanding our current posture is gaining insight into our structural framework. This concise 2-minute video beautifully illustrates the anatomy of the human spine. By watching it, you’ll acquire the necessary tools to explore and examine your own spine as you work on rebuilding your posture. It’s an invaluable resource that empowers you to take charge of your journey towards improved alignment.
  2. Posture, Alignment and Balance
    In one of our previous practices, you might recall that we explored the topic of posture and even engaged in a similar exercise as in our last workshop. However, we approached it from a slightly different perspective. I encourage you to take note of both approaches and see which one enables you to better identify and become aware of your default stance. It’s fascinating to discover how a fresh angle can shed new light on our self-awareness.
  3. Neutral Zone and the 0.0 Posture
    This article provides a deeper understanding of how you can achieve balance among the three main volumes of your body. Why those concepts hold significance, and how staying within the neutral zone can bring buoyancy to your movements.
  4. Change your life with Alexandre Technique
    Disclaimer: this is the original title of video (haha). I can’t guarantee that a single technique will transform your life. I’ve personally though found the Alexandre Technique to be incredibly beneficial. I came across this very nice video that’s short, sweet and to the point. Around the 3-minute 30-second mark, you’ll discover a quick drill that you can even do while sitting. Trust me, though it may seem simple, it carries remarkable power. So don’t underestimate its potential impact!

Enjoy and subscribe for more tips and drills

Chrisa

“Embrace: Journey of Connection & Expression”

In our last practice we focused quite a bit on the embrace or better said our frame. We also worked on understanding how leading and following works. And so today, I wanted to take the opportunity and expand a bit on all those other elements that turn a frame into an embrace; that make a frame feel like a hug, and a dance like a journey allowing us to connect and express ourselves.

“Embrace” yourselves, for a “hugsy” list..!

  1. Fun Fact: Are you getting enough hugs?
    Are you getting enough hugs? Virginia Satir, a world-renowned family therapist, is famous for saying “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
    Now, I can’t vouch for the scientific research backing the need for hugs, but hey, it’s always a good thing to have Tango in our lives, right? We can replenish our hug reservoir anytime. It’s a bit funny though, I stumbled upon this article talking about ways to get more hugs, and guess what? Tango wasn’t even mentioned! How could they miss such a fantastic option? 
  2. Hugging can be a social “no-no”
    Our cultural background and upbringing play a significant role in determining our comfort level when it comes to giving and receiving hugs, particularly when embracing strangers. Many of our students, prior to Tango, were not accustomed to hugging in such situations. While they didn’t necessarily have a strong aversion to hugging, they hadn’t realized how much societal “taboos” were hindering their progress in Tango. Feeling uneasy in an embrace can greatly impact your entire dance experience, from communication with your partner to your posture on the dance floor. The sooner you address this and work on embracing and being embraced, the quicker you’ll discover new possibilities in your Tango journey. So, how can you achieve that? Well, a few ideas include understanding the proper framing and using it to communicate effectively with your partner—an aspect you can practice on your own. Additionally, regularly dancing with different partners in various types of embrace also helps. For more tips and additional drills, take a look at the embrace section in the book “It Takes You to Tango” alongside the suggestions provided below. Happy dancing!
  3. Exploring the embrace while having fun
    You’ll discover numerous videos on my channel that delve into the topic of embrace. However, I’ve chosen to share this particular video with you because it incorporates the element of “play” into the practice. Embracing a playful mindset during your learning journey can profoundly impact your progress and overall well-being. Instead of treating practice as another obligatory task to complete before enjoying your hobby, integrate it seamlessly into your passion. Let your practice become an enjoyable part of your hobby, enhancing your overall experience.
  4. Sometimes a silent hug is the only thing to say
    By Robert Brault.

Enjoy and subscribe to our bautanz community for more posts like this.

Chrisa Assis