Category Archives: body mechanics

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 practiceย 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.. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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?

๐Ÿ˜‰

Chrisa

Balance can be misunderstood

In our previous post we were talking about the Neutral Zone and the 0.0 Posture and as it is probably a natural progression, in this post we will talk about balance.

Balance is a term that can get misused quite a lot in everyday life and in Tango. Hopefully through our post today you will get a better definition for and understanding of balance

What do we “think” balance is

When we say balance usually the images that come to mind are of elaborate yoga poses or skilful ballet poses. You know the ones where people are standing on one foot in pointe shoes and they are holding the free leg in some intricate position while smiling and looking cool… haha

In a more real life scenario, I am sure that if you are a follower wearing heels, those first few ochos were probably tricky. If you are leader…. those first few ochos were probably tricky for you too..!

And you have probably been the receptor of cues such as squeeze your glutes or pull your bellybutton to the spine. Which certainly help to some extent if you are standing still but not so much when you are moving.

So if we can sum it up we think of balance as something that we hold or should be able to hold

And what it actually is…

So I will challenge you with a question… What are trying to balance?

So we are trying to balance ourselves over an area of the foot, and in order to do that the main 3 volumes of the body, head, torso and hips need to balanced over each other. And how would we know that they are balanced? How do we measure that?

That would be a balance of forces running through the body so the relationship between the different parts of the body is such that we don’t cause any harm.

Stillness and balance are two separate things and one can exist without the other, as I can be still but the volumes of my body may not be balanced. Let’s see the picture below, which is an exaggerated example but brings the message across. Our head, torso and hips may not be in a balanced relationship but we can be still. And believe me you can do this on one leg as well..!

posture3
Photo credit gamsiz via Foter.com CC/ BY

So lets work together looking for balance and not stillness in this video below:

Balance restored

Our goal therefore through this series of videos is to move in ways that allow for the forces to run through our body efficiently, to not overuse muscle and most importantly not to put our body in harm’s way.

So I will leave you with one last video and if you would like to hear more on balance join our community by subscribing.

Send me your thoughts and questions

Looking forward to hearing from you

Chrisa

The neutral zone and the 0.0 posture

In our previous post we focused on the milonga and the key differences it has with Tango.
One of those differences referred to posture.  Specifically we observed that in Milonga due to speed we stay in the neutral zone while in Tango we have the time to shape the movement.

So this week, we will look into what we call neutral and range of motion and what shaping looks like.

Defining range of motion to figure out neutral

I am sure that you have heard or even used the term neutral position, for example keep your back in a neutral position.
What does this mean though exactly?

To understand better what it means we need to first speak about range of motion. 
Range of motion in a joint can be simply defined how far we can move around a specific axis, for example how far can we go in extension or flexion. Range of motion differs between different joints. And in the same joint it differs between different directions and around different axes. 
So for example we have a different range of flexion/ extension in our hips compared to our knees. Also though for the hip itself we have different range of flexion/ extension than rotation and we have more flexion compared to extension.
Bottom line it is all different so proceed with caution and keep exploring! and of course it is needless to say that each of us has different ranges of motion as we are all unique makes of the same grand design.

So now what is neutral

Well once you know how much range you have in a given joint, you know the end of range of a movement around an axis. The space between, the space before you reach the end of range is neutral. Neutral is an area, a zone not a specific point. The middle of the neutral zone where we are not committing in any direction we would then be in 0.0 posture..!

What does that all mean for Tango

To make things a bit more specific let’s look at one part of the Tango posture. Let’s look at the mid-back, where your thoracic changes to lumbar.


Here we have it all, flexion-extension, rotation and side reach. We have much more flexion than extension, like we see below.

posture1 NEUTRAL
Photo credit NatBat via Foter.com CC/ BY-NCSA
posture #1 NEUTRAL
Photo credit: yogamama.co.uk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

And anywhere between the end of the flexion-extension range is the neutral zone. In the middle where the joint are not going into flexion or extension we are at 0.

Taking a step

Finding 0 posture is one thing and takes some practice and exploring. But going from that 0 posture into a simple forward step can be tough!
It is actually like we will see in the video below one of the toughest transitions to manage.

And now on top of that we have different walking options, small steps, big steps or tiny steps. Those require a different skill.
Not that we forget or put to the side what we talked about above but when we are dancing we need to be aware but not limited by our anatomy. Every step is or can be unique, responding to the constraints of the dancefloor, to the style of our partner and most importantly the music.

Let’s see how the different types of steps can match some wonderful Tango music

So you have plenty elements to practice on and if you want more subscribe to our community.
Send me any questions or thoughts! 

I would love to hear from you,

Chrisa

Keep dancing! Keep Moving!

Dancing… Most of us think of it just as a social activity of a recreational nature. Something we do to spend some good time with friends, to learn something new and to have fun while introducing some moderate (not always) movement in our schedule. Right..?!? Yes and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Now think about dance in this last year. Are you taking classes online? Did you go to under-the-radar milongas or social gatherings? Do you dance every hour to a random song you hear on the radio like I do..?
If not do you miss dancing? If so has your perspective of what dance is here for, change through this experience?

The social aspect of every dance stems from within

Personally, I haven’t missed dancing as an activity because I still dance. But I have missed sharing the moment and creating something in the moment with someone else. And also the process of getting there, trying to understand my partner, trying to be honest, sharing and empathetic at the same time. This is irreplaceable!

Attending classes online and also offering classes online though made me shift or better said deepen my understanding of where all of the above comes from… and that is, from within each and everyone of us.

Spending some time understanding the human body, your body, through movement, will allow you to better understand yourself and then the other person, the human community and the world as whole. Coming from a place of understanding you can be more empathetic and sharing.

Dancing in the time of the pandemic

Though dance can surely not make the problems magically go away, the fact that we can feel more in control of our movement and our body while reducing stress and tension, can surely make us feel a lot better.

And this is where the dancer in me reaches out to the dancer in you!
Keep moving! Keep exploring and learning about all the things that make you, YOU!
How you breathe and how you can breathe more freely
Or how you walk and how you can walk with more ease
Are you holding your head in a position that pushes your whole body out of balance? You know which one that is… zooming into the computer screen! haha
And how you move to mitigate the impact of that

Dancing can help us look within, and understand what makes us…us; in the most free, comforting and comfortable way possible. I am not sure if this is just me, but I really need this! And I hope to be sharing this with you tomorrow and every Wednesday at the Tango Movement Lab happening live through Facebook and Youtube at 12:15pm Toronto time. Nothing is required other than you willingness to dance!

Lets get exploring together!

Chrisa

Tango Movement Lab

Movement Lab, what is that?
Well that is surely a borrowed term, from other movement practices….

In a movement lab, what usually happens is that people get together and “brain” or better said “body” storm; exploring movements, testing ideas, analyzing, giving and getting feedback and generally researching movement.

One can use different tools in such labs; and tools can be different dances, movement practices, meditation practices, anatomy learning, and more or some combination of them all.

Why introduce a Tango movement lab?

Well we have been in this lockdown mode for about a year now, on and off… so what are we really doing here?

What are we practicing or taking classes for?
Is there any point practicing elements tightly related and strictly specific to Tango when we can’t go social dancing?
And wouldn’t we benefit more if we used Tango as a tool to move better and with more freedom in general?

The reason therefore of letting go of the Tango practice and shifting towards a Tango movement lab, is that the latter will allow us to break free of drills and exercises and instead use Tango only as framework to find ways to move with more freedom.

By the way our first Tango Movement Lab already happened… Check it out here:

How is a Tango movement lab different from a Tango practice?

Practicing follows a different pattern than what we described above. During a practice we focus on a very specific thing; from connection to practicing ochos we are zooming in on a specific element and drilling on what we have learned in order to progress.

That in itself makes practicing necessary and important, especially in the beginning when we are trying to learn all the fundamentals and the “rules” of Tango. It is almost like memorizing words when you are trying to learn a new language. You just go over lists of words or through games and puzzles over and over again in order for them to stick.

But once that is established, how would you grow your vocabulary? Maybe you would go and get into chats with people who speak the language. Or you would see a movie in that language without subtitles, You could start learning about the history of the language and the place. Or even get into how speech is created through the body…. And so many other paths that will help grow your understanding of speaking and expressing yourself through speech overall! And the specific language you were trying to get better at… well that is now just another language… just another tool to help you speak and express yourself with more ease!

A Tango Movement Lab therefore is here to help us move and express ourselves through movement with more ease! Tango will only be another tool!

Who is with me?
If you are hit subscribe and meet me every Wednesday at 12:15pm EST on Youtube or Facebook

๐Ÿ˜‰

Chrisa

P.S: If you were looking for practicing though we have a lot of that too… You can start here

The element of Surprise

Surprise! Don’t you miss it?
I know I am speaking only for myself here, but here is the thing, I feel that even if we went to the same milongas every week, there was always the element of surprise. We didn’t know who was going to be there, what music would be playing, which song we will be invited to dance to, how our partner is going to dance to the tanda… And as you can see I left out not knowing who your partner will be because that is something you actually have a choice on. There are so many things in a milonga that are complete mysteries!

Surprise… how do you respond to it?

Now, in contradiction, days have become quite predictable, in our everyday life. I don’t know about you but, I am in an area where there is a lockdown, so my day is predetermined most days of the week.

So there is not much of a surprise, but mostly stressors, like a nasty email, or bad news on TV. Depending on your environment the stressors might actually be part of the day. So somehow all days mesh together… where did 2020 go?

I really miss those social surprises… Going out and having a____(fascinating, unexpected, fun, strange, interesting, boring… you fill in the blank) dance wondering what the next one will be like..! And honestly, I don’t think I can keep it a secret anymore, I don’t want to practice anymore! haha
Not though because practicing is pointless, but because there is something else missing and it is not skill.

Hey! I know there is always skill to be acquired, but there will be time to practice on that later… Surprise though and how we/ I respond to it, has been missing for a long time now.
What will urge us/ me to get off the chair/ couch/ bed whatever you spend most of your day sitting on.

So I thought we could work on this theme last week during our Mid-Week Tango Practice

Finding New Patterns

The great thing though about “indulging” in surprise is that you can capture feedback, on how you respond to a surprise. How does your body react to an unknown piece of music? Do you tense up or do you go with flow? Are you moving slower or faster? Is it frustrating and why? If it is frustrating how do you get past the frustration? Were there any reactions that surprised you?

All of these and more questions can lead us to so many more options for movement. And as we are about to jump head first into discovering something new….our habits hit the breaks! And so another series of questions starts… What habits do you recognize? For how many of those do you have a recollection of how they were established? Do you need them all? Are they all helpful? Would you consider leaving some of them for a bit to explore more movement options?

All these questions and more can lead us to deeper and more surprising explorations! And you know how it goes… more surprises, more questions, more explorations, more options aaaand loop around again.

So I have put a video together suggesting a path to recognizing habits and building new ones, which I hope you will give try to and enjoy

Surprise yourselves! See what comes out of it! The opportunity for you to express your unique strengths might be just around the corner

๐Ÿ˜‰

Chrisa

P.S: We have a workshop full of surprises coming up on Feb.6th check it out here