Category Archives: community

If you know how to walk, You know how to Tango!

How do you feel about that?
Because I can feel some eyes rolling..!
haha

I guess that is why some teachers decided to come up with a different cliche phrase, that goes somewhat like “Walk like you normally do“. Which doesn’t solve the problem because it is equally annoying! haha

This cliche is a bit of a challenge..!

I had a lot of trouble putting my thoughts in line for this one.
For a lot of students, hearing this phrase, is very frustrating and unhelpful. And I get it, you went to a Tango class, and first thing you hear is “if you know how to walk, you know how to Tango“, and by the end of the class you end up thinking, “I don’t even know how to walk!” haha

On the other hand though, there is actually some truth in this cliche. Remember cliches are cliches for a reason; they hold some truth.
All folk dances, are based on walking. From salsa and bachata to greek folk dances, all of them are some variation of our everyday walk. Tango is no exception, if you walk and pivot, you Tango.

Why is it then so frustrating?

I think mainly because all teachers try to teach people how to walk. And to make matters worse, they are teaching a stylized walk that fits to the specific Tango style they follow. 

So one moment they tell you “Walk like you normally do
And the very next, they go into styling; heels together, toes apart, squeeze this, pull that, and of course don’t forget to breathe..!

Needless to say this is not how you normally walk!

But this is not all…!

So you went to a dance school looking to learn to dance Tango and you ended up learning how to stand and walk in style..! 
What usually happens while this all takes place, is a little voice inside your head saying: “I know how to walk!”

And actually this is very true! And not because someone taught you but because it is what humans do.
Walking is an automatic movement; it is part of what we call “human”, we are built to walk.

As such, as Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen explains, “If we are consciously (high brain cells) having to deal with HOW do I fall, HOW do I walk, HOW do I talk, or keep attentive or chew or swallow or sleep, we are constantly thinking about survival and are not free to be really creative“. 

We don’t think about how we walk. It is a complex almost chaotic movement that involves the whole body. So we are dealing with a lot of information and movement patterns over movement patterns.
Again referencing Bonnie “In the brain we have a hindbrain, midbrain and forebrain. The lower the brain cell, the more information that cell and receives and processes. (…) When you try to control an automatic movement with high brain cells, the choice of which cell is going to fire off in which sequence is too great and the resulting action will appear awkward. If you simply find the lowest control centre, the response will happen automatically“.

This explains why this whole process feels very awkward and leaves no room for you to be creative and have fun.

How can translate “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” to something helpful?

Well, I think we have to look at the humble beginnings of Tango and also think of our future in it.
Meaning, as we said in the beginning, Tango is based on the common/ everyday walk and that is mainly why it can be danced by all generations.

To me that is what that phrase really means. No styles, no fanciness but only two people moving together. 

And I am going to tell you a story to prove my point. 
In a milonga that I was organizing, here in Toronto, some time ago, and different people are there dancing, at we are having a great time.
It was the only milonga my father ever attended. He is not a dancing kind of guy.
At the end, as we are walking out, my dad goes to me: “From all of you, the couple I liked the most, was this elderly couple. They had such grace, and comfort and pleasure in their movement. They were really just walking around, not like the rest of you doing all these moves, but they were deeply sharing the moment. It was beautiful!”

So if you are going to use the cliche “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” you have to really do it!
Forget about styling and start working with what you have..!
Put it to the test, see what happens and we will soon be back for more!

Chrisa

P.S: If you need some practice routines to play around with. Or maybe you are struggling with a mental iceberg, check out “It Takes You Tango” our ultimate practice guide for leaders and followers.

More Emotion = I want to see You

Last Sunday we had a Tango Movement Lab (online workshop) on how to respond to the cue “More Emotion”. You can actually see and follow-along the full workshop below.

What could that possibly mean?

Each one of us I am sure can come up with a different response to this question. And so that makes it very difficult to actually decode it; so instead we played with it.

As you will see in the video, we started with a perspective over “emotions”, borrowed by Dr.Alan Watkins, that is very refreshing. So Dr. Watkins, says, in his Tedx Talk  “Why you feel what you feel”, that emotions are energy in motion. They are composite biological signals; stereotypical energy patterns. Feelings on the other hand are the awareness in our minds of that energy. We are the “creators” of emotions. We may be responding to someone or something but we are creating them.

Playing with the music

With that in mind we started playing, playing with music. Now as you will see in the video, this is not a musicality class, it was never indented to be. It is a class were we respond to music and we express that response.
Playing with the music, implies what? Implies that we are not doing sequences, we are really not doing any specific dance; we are simply moving around. Just like we did when we were kids and we heard a song on the radio that we really liked and started moving to it. 

Playing as adults makes us feel safe. It also wakes up that part of the brain responsible for imagination and creativity. So when we start the workshop with “moving around” it is to open that window to imagination.
Then we took the universal dance step, step touch, and really took it to the playground..! haha

Do you remember when you used to go to the playground and go to the slides? The first couple of times were normal and then you would try to slide side-ways, or backwards, or walk up the slide or hang from its sides..! 
That is what we did with the step-touch. Do a step-touch in as many different ways you can think of. 

Being Seen

And lastly we added the “being seen” strategy.
As you will hear me say in the workshop, I think “more emotion” means ” I want to see you”
One of the reasons we don’t have options in how we express ourselves through dance, is that we don’t have a strategy towards “being seen”.
That thought ends today, because I actually have a strategy for you. A 3 step strategy that can transform your dance; and not just Tango but any kind of dance.

“More Emotion” means “I want to see YOU”
For someone though to see you, it is required that YOU would want to be seen. So looping back to the beginning of this email. It all starts with you. You respond. You create. And maybe sometimes you may want to be seen!

Here is the recording again. Try it out and let me know how it went!
Keep on dancing! 🕺💃

Chrisa 

P.S: This is a Pay from the Heart Workshop.
We didn’t have a set ticket so anyone can join for free and anyone can watch the recording for free. If though you can contribute a monetary amount, we kindly ask for your support. You can do so either through an email transfer at: chrisa.assis@bautanz.com or through PayPal.

Lost in Translation: Decoding Tango Class Clichés and Confusing Phrases

Have you ever heard people give cues/ advice in a tango class that made you go, “Huh?”.
Like when they say, “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango.” Or maybe someone told you to “walk backwards like you want to walk forwards.” That sounds a bit tricky!

Can you think of any other confusing or cliche things people say in tango class? Share them in the comments! Later, we’ll figure out how to understand and dance to these tricky cues, starting with the cliches!

Tango Class Clichés and how to respond to them

Some phrases are cliches, which means lots of people use them, but they can be a bit confusing. Like when someone says, “Lead with emotion” or “Dance like nobody is watching” or “Don’t think, just dance.” These are like puzzles because they don’t always give a clear message.

Even though these phrases are cliches, they’ve been around for a long time because they can be important. But, to really understand them, it’s like being a detective and asking questions. For example, if your instructor says “Lead with emotion!”, ask for clarification as “what do mean when you say “lead with emotion”? Do you mean with more clarity in direction, with more conviction or with more intention?”

Asking questions is like having a superpower, especially when you’re learning something new. And interestingly enough very few students ask. So at the first couple of classes I usually ask for them, like “Do you know what I mean when I say X?” or “Does this make sense?”

One last example before we leave the cliche section, is one of my personal favourites “Don’t think, just dance”. Which if you ask me, sometimes there’s a little secret frustration behind it, like the teacher might be thinking, “I don’t have more instructions for you, just figure it out!” (haha)

And there is some level of truth to that, meaning that if you need to explore movement on your too in order to get it. As a teacher though, it’s important to explain what you mean by “just dance.” For example, I might say, “Now, let’s try this in a dance. Forget about the exercise and see how it shows up in your dance. If you feel something different, great! If not, that’s okay too. Keep exploring and playing with it!”.

Phrases that make you go, “Huh?”

Now there are some cues that simply are a bad choice of words. For example “bring your energy higher” or “don’t try to make it better, you’ll make it worse” or “dance your own dance”…. What??? haha

From a teacher’s point of view I avoid such phrases, because they are not really that helpful. But as a student I see them as an invitation for a short-term exploration.

Think about it. Say you are in a practica, working on a couple of things and the cue is “dance your own dance”. This advice comes with no restrictions really..! There is no goal or expectations and there is no clear cue for you to follow. Which can be frustrating unless
Which can be frustrating unless you see it as a green light to trying different variations, exploring different options until you find what works for you.

The same goes for something that sounds more technical like “bring your energy higher”. What does that mean really? It can mean anything; that the level of the energy you perform the movement with is low, your intention is unclear, or maybe your upper body is a bit passive, or something entirely different.

Reading though through this paragraph you already have 3 different options to work with and collaborate on with your partner and your teacher; you can make it more dynamic, more crisp or more powerful or even a combination of all 3.

Translating movement to words

Now, why did we treat cliches and confusing advice differently?

Cliches have hidden but valuable messages; unpacking them helps you learn a lot.
After all, they are cliches for a reason..!
On the other hand, confusing phrases are often language misuse. Imagine movement as one language and speech as another. Your teacher during a class tries to translate their actions into words. Sometimes the translation is successful and sometimes not. Responding to them with movement therefore can be a more successful strategy than talking it out.

This was our first attempt at blending words and movement to improve your classes; aiming to share strategies for better understanding and responding to confusing cues. Stay tuned for more detailed posts on successful “translation” and if dance-related confusing phrases come to mind, share them in a note or comment.

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for guidance through your practice, take a look at our training guide “It Takes You to Tango” available on Amazon.

Alone in a Tango Festival – is that really possible?

Let me give you some context here. Nice big Tango festival was taking place here in Toronto end of October; started on Wednesday, ended on Sunday. Perfect opportunity to run a social experiment. 

As you know Friday and Saturday are usually the busiest nights, double milongas, lots of people from out of town and of course shows. So the friend that I usually attend milongas with was unable to join me on Friday and I hesitated for a bit but decided to go and see what happens if I show up alone and follow my own advice, and see what happens.

Tango Festival survival advice..!

Key Advice 1: Commit to yourself, not the event 
Before attending the milonga, doubts often creep in. You may wonder if it’s worth it, whether you’ll dance much, how to pass the time between dances, and where to sit if everyone’s in groups. At this stage, three things are essential:

  1. Make a deal with yourself to prioritize your enjoyment. If you start feeling uncomfortable, bored, or not having fun, give yourself permission to leave.
  2. Arrive 1.5 hours max. before the show(s) to strike a balance between comfort and catching the performance.
  3. Identify your comfort spots in the venue, such as the bar… more on that below..!

Key Advice 2: Go where the fish are (figuratively speaking… of course.. haha)
In a bustling festival, you’re never truly alone. Seek out places of comfort with these qualities:

  1. Relaxation potential.
  2. Visibility.
  3. Populated by others.

The bar is an ideal choice, as it’s a natural gathering spot for festivalgoers. You can get dances, rest, socialize, and be seen by fellow dancers. Some times, depending on the setting the buffet can be another good option, as well as the area where vendors present their Tango shoes or outfits. I would prioritize the bar though, because everyone will pass by the bar, there are stools where you can sit and rest and usually people see you and you can see them.

Key Advice 3: Be proactive
Don’t wait for others to initiate conversations; take the lead. Being at the bar and just waiting for someone else to start a chat is not a very helpful strategy. Similarly, for a dance, embrace the cabeceo, as it’s much more comfortable than risking rejection by directly approaching someone. In a crowded environment, the cabeceo is your ally, opening doors to new dance partners.

Make it about YOU!

Notice that the 3 pointers have a common “vanishing point” or a common perspective if you like. And that is YOU!
Think about it. This is your night out and it is supposed to be fun, it is supposed to be enjoyable and fulfilling. Despite an expected initial nervousness, if you make the necessary negotiations (key advice #1), strategically plan your night (key advice #2) and bring in some social attitude (key advice #3) you can have a splendid Tango festival experience.

If you have similar experiences for lessons learned that you would like to share, please send me an email at chrisa.assis@bautanz.com. I’d love to hear all about them!

Chrisa

P.S: If you need go deeper into mental or psychological boundaries and limitation, read through “It Takes You to Tango” I am sure you will find the advice extremely helpful and most importantly actionable.

“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

Women in Dance

Last week was the International Women’s Day, on the 8th of March. And so the whole week there were different opportunities to come together and celebrate. One of such opportunities included an all-women’s class, that was actually the spark for this blog post.

Women and Dance

Maybe from the title you expected a blog post on the marvellous women in Tango. But really, I wouldn’t know where to begin. A quick search that I had done solely on female singers in Tango, landed me a huge song list; we played some of those songs during 2 practices actually.

So you can imagine that one post on all the amazing women in Tango, would be nearly impossible, let alone all the amazing women in dance in general.

Instead I thought I should speak about a group of women, that are not particularly well-known and may not even be members of a dance community. Women who don’t dance very often, but when they do, they love it!

But before I get to that story, I wonder if you actually know these women..?
They work very hard, and they take care of their family from the youngest member to the oldest. Some of them are recent immigrants and some were born here in Canada. And some are single mothers while others may have gone through some kind of abuse. You look in their eyes and you see the daily struggle.

Do you know them?
Yeah maybe you do. Maybe some of them sat next to you in the subway, or walked by you down the street. Or maybe you are one them.

What do they have to do with dance, you might wonder?
Well, as I said… when they dance, they love it!
Isn’t that, what we all want? To glow from joy after a dance?
Well that is what they did after our class..!
And maybe to some extent that is what dance is all about.

An all-women’s class

So let’s get to that story. It is an all-women’s class; aka no men. No men doesn’t mean no leaders nor does it mean a follower’s technique class. It only means no males in the class.

The reasons for that are pretty straight forward:

  • Some of the women come from a cultural background where they can’t be in the presence of a male who is not part of their family.
  • A number of women were recovering from abuse that came from a male member of their family.
  • The organizers felt that dance can create a safe and supportive environment for the groups of women mentioned above and all-women’s dance classes are uncommon so adding one more to the community, is always a bonus.

And we get in the class, and we have 2 hours ahead of us, so plenty of time to get to know each other and dance.
We got in a circle, and everyone said their name and shared something with the group. This is an introduction I have learned from Body Mind Centering and Axis Syllabus classes. It is a very good ice breaker and you get to hear the hopes and expectations of each individual in the group.

This time I heard words like: excitement, thrill, shyness, uncertainty, opportunity, doing something different, me-time, taking care of myself.
Take a moment to think what words come to your mind, when you are getting ready for your dance class?

How it all went..!

Then we got into dancing. We introduced a theme, and you know me, I wouldn’t be able to start a class without talking about posture and balance..! haha

Between explorations we played a bit with words. In one of our previous post we had talked about getting lost in translation or using words in an unhelpful way. This time though, words opened up great discussions, such as, what it really means to take care of your body. Or how can movement shape your body and your psychology.

But the best part were the kids..! As I said, there were single moms in the class, so of course they had their kiddies with them. And that group of toddlers was just so enthusiastic, seeing a group of 20 women including their moms, moving, dancing, laughing, maybe crying a little bit..! And the music, oh my, you should have seen those kiddies, how they moved to the songs they loved..!

One of them especially, was sitting at the very edge of the stroller, propped up, eyes wide open and moving to the music almost none stop..! There were a couple moments, when a tiny bit of nagging would bubble up, but mom would turn around and say: “Lies and Propaganda!” (hahaha)
And guess what that actually did the trick..! “Lies and Propaganda” put an immediate end to the nagging… haha

We finished the class with yet another circle and this time the words were more like: thankful, happily exhausted, calm, energized, happy, grateful, longing for more.
What words come to mind when you finish your classes?

I don’t know when I will have a chance to work with these women again, but I am grateful that I got to meet them and I got to see the strength they carry with them and the empowering energy they share with the world. If you were one of them, thank you for being there! If not, I invite you to look for that strength within you, and let it shine!

Chrisa