Category Archives: body awareness

The Secrets of the Embrace

Let’s dive into a topic that’s fundamental yet often elusive in the world of dance: connection. In our recent discussions, we’ve been exploring the phrase “Relax to Connect” as a key to unlocking the mysteries of this essential element. So, what does it really mean to relax and connect? And how does it apply to our movements, particularly in dance forms like Tango?

First things first, let’s break down the concept of relaxation in dance. When we talk about relaxing, we’re not talking about slouching lazily; instead, we’re referring to reducing muscle tension, lowering our muscle tone. It’s about finding that sweet spot where we’re grounded and present, yet open and receptive to our partner.

Relaxation through fascia

In our recent Tango Movement Lab workshop, we delved into the idea of relaxation through exploring fascia. Now, you might be wondering, what on earth is fascia? Well, think of it as a multi-layered web that runs throughout our entire body, encompassing muscles, organs, and everything in between. By tuning into our fascia and embracing relaxation, we can tap into a whole new realm of connection.

But why focus on fascia?
Because it’s the key to understanding how our bodies move and interact with one another. Fascia plays a crucial role in facilitating communication between different parts of the body, making it essential for creating seamless connections in dance.

During our workshop, we delved into the four fascia arm lines, which provide a roadmap for exploring the connection between our hands, arms, torso, neck, and head. And for us Tango dancers, this will form the ultimate connection space: the embrace.

The Secrets of the Embrace

So, what are the secrets of the embrace? Well, it’s all about finding that balance between relaxation and engagement, both within ourselves and with our partners. By cultivating a sense of ease and openness in our movements, we create a welcoming space for our partners to join us. And when we explore the arm lines, we’re not just embracing our partners physically; we’re inviting them into our space.

But the key for me here, is to help you build those two levels of connection. One within you and one with another person.
Especially the last arm line that we are exploring, I think we call actually it, the “embrace” line, at least unofficially. It is how we can give fully devoted hugs, bringing the other person into our space. So, I encourage you to take what you’ve learned and experiment with it—whether you’re practicing solo or with a partner. And don’t forget to share your insights and “light bulb” moments with me; I love hearing from you all!

So, until next time, keep on moving and keep on connecting!

Cheers, Chrisa

P.S: Before I sign off, a quick reminder: our workshop operates on a “Pay from the Heart” basis. If you found value in our session and are able to contribute, your support is greatly appreciated. Every little bit helps us continue our mission of spreading the joy of dance far and wide. You can do that through email transfer at: chrisa.assis@bautanz.com or through PayPal.

P.P.S: And if you’re hungry for more knowledge about fascia and its role in movement, I highly recommend checking out the work of Thomas Myers author of Anatomy Trains. It’s a treasure trove of insights that will deepen your understanding of the body and its interconnectedness.

Relax to Connect

In our last post we were talking about how we can decode the cue “Just relax and feel the connection“. 

Remember what we said for most advice, under “The Nike” category? That cues and advice under this category, would have been really good advice if only they didn’t come with “just”.
And my first suggestion was for you to remove the word “just” and then re-examine your options.
This is what we are doing here, today. 
Instead of “just relax and feel the connection” we are saying “relax to connect”.

Relax to Connect

Why relax to connect?
Because in order to connect you need to relax. So it is a cue indicating to you how you can effectively connect..!

Relax, does not mean letting go. And does not mean giving up. Nor does it mean being heavy.
I know this might sound odd, but refine relax for the context of dance to mean, having less tone.
So if you have your weight on one leg, the other leg will not have the same tone as the one holding your weight, it will be looser, aka relaxed.

Are we talking about less tone in general?

Yes and no.
In general allowing for a lower muscle or postural tone, would allow you to tap into other systems of the body, such as the nervous system, it gives you the opportunity to do a quick check-in if you like. Also, as you are moving maintaining a lower tone, will give you the opportunity before further engaging the muscles and the bones, to wake the fascia and therefore experience the interconnectivity of that web. The fascia covers our whole body, goes around and through our organs and through the different layers of your muscles.
So exploring this web you are already exploring connection.

It would be a great way to start a dance, especially if it is the first tanda of the night, or if it is with someone and you need some time figure each other out.

One limb versus the other
In the example above, we compared one leg versus the other in terms of tone. This is an approach special to the Axis Syllabus Research Meshwork, where we noticed that though in most dance forms both legs or both limbs have the same tone, there are significant benefits of the free one being of lesser tone.
 
Why is that?
For various reasons, some of which are:

  1. Because if the tone of the free leg is lower it will achieve centration in the hip-joint.
  2. It will give you extra power in your step, without you working harder, as it swings through with its weight.
  3. And it allows you to negotiate better where your next step is going to be. So if for example someone pushes you, your leg can swing to a spot to catch you from falling.

Now, joint centration… What is that?
Let’s stick with the hip joint. There you have the acetabulum, which is concave and looks like a little hat. And then you have the femur head, which is like… yeah… a little head..! 
Centration, is when the hat covers the biggest portion of the head, here is a picture to give you a better idea.
(picture borrowed by orthoinfo)
So when you relax the tone of your leg and you don’t keep it in a specific position it will look for this head-in-the-hat configuration. 

Connection

And just about now I am sure you are wondering… how is all this related to connection..!
One first level answer, is that because of pointer #3 above, aka being able to negotiate your every step, you will be more adaptable in your dance, able to respond faster because your leg swings over and you can avoid that “freeze” that we sometimes get when we are caught off guard and feel that we are loosing our balance.

But this goes deeper. Because connection starts within you.

There are three ways to move a joint, distally, proximally and centrally.

  1. Distal movement, moving the far side of the joint. Let’s say in the hip, dial movement would be bring your leg straight up.
  2. Proximal movement, moving the near side of the joint, in this case if you bend in the hip.
  3. Central movement, when you move both parts together, so in this case if you bend in the hip as you bring your leg up.

Here is an image, borrowed by the Axis Syllabus Human Movement Lexicon, showing the three options, using the wrist as an example, with the grey lines showing the movement; just to give you a better idea.

Distal movement, tends to isolate the body parts moving from the rest of the body. Proximal and Central movement tend to integrate the moving parts with the rest body, with Central movement achieving the greatest integration.

If you try the central movement of the wrist you will notice that your whole body is moving, and the movement is much much easier.

And if you are wondering if this is a coincidence… no it is not!
Central movement, requires the centration of the joint. So for your hip joint, the hat needs to cover the head as you move. 
With central movement we have full-body integration. So your centrated, relaxed, swinging leg speaks to your spine, to your torso, to your arms and through all that to your partner.

And this is why, you need to relax to connect 😉

Because all this can be better understood through movement, our next online Tango Movement Lab is next  week, Sunday March 17 at 3 pm.  I will send you all the details closer to the date.

Until then you can use this video to practice: “Upper and lower body coordination – The key to happy dances”

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!

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