Category Archives: Dance

Art and its place in the online world

I have been thinking the last couple of weeks, as things don’t seem to be heading back to normal, what is the place of Art in this online world.

We can’t go out to dance, we can’t go to museum, theatres, concerts… we are social animals but we are not allowed to share anything anymore. So why keep practicing our hobbies, or pick up new ones?

If we can’t go out have a drink, relax with friends, dance, listen to music, then what is the point of doing dance classes, or taking music lessons? As friend told me over the weekend, isn’t it boring taking Tango lessons without a partner?

Isn’t it boring taking Tango online classes without a partner?

Honestly… I don’t know… maybe it is or if not boring others might find depressing or miserable or pointless.

And that probably applies to any artistic endeavour, that is supposed to be shared with other people. However, I think it does have to do with the focus set by the teachers and by the students. And there are many aspects here I would, probably as many as the teachers and the students… haha

Lets see a few of the pros of online classes:

  • It is a form of activity, and it is good to keep active especially at times of lockdown
  • Along with the above it is an activity, that allows your mind to decompress, so it helps with mental health
  • You have a long lasting passion that you want to keep the fire going even if at these challenging times
  • Tango and all other movement practices, in partners and/or groups rely a lot on personal progress, training and practice along partner/ group practices
  • It is a different way to explore your hobby
  • Opportunity to learn for teachers who are at the other end of the world
  • Or to support the teachers you love at home

Should I keep going? All these are amazing reasons no?

However, I think there is a special place for Tango, for dance, for Art in general in this online world… That reminding us of our humanity.

Art is here to remind us, we are still human

Humans are social animals, so no matter how well you are managing the isolation, we are really meant to thrive through community.

Think of our great accomplishments, as a human kind, all appeared in societies that were blooming. Unique figures in Art, Science etc were supported and came out of strong communities. It is through our communities that we are supported to explore and express our unique strengths.

In this vast, impersonal space of the web, it is hard to find a community and not get lost. It is hard to identify and express your unique strengths when instead of a community you have an ocean of users.

And so I think this is where Tango, dance, Art comes in. Art comes in to create an actual web, an actual network with real connections. A web that can’t replace real life, but can remind us of what it is like to be human aka what it is like to build communities.

Our anatomy actually supports this

The fascinating thing in all of this is how this balance between a singular entity and a community, between the I and the WE, as well as the relationships weaved between the two are supported by our anatomy.

We identify as humans due to our anatomy, we have some common characteristics that makes us all identifiable as humans. However, from the obvious characteristics of our face to our bone shape and DNA we are all unique.

And when we say unique, we mean very different… take a look here: https://paulgrilley.com/bone-photos/
As Paul and Suzee Grilley mention in their post: “These images [included in the post linked above] show the normal variation in human bones. None of them are pathological.”

Different bones, different ranges of motions, different aesthetics, sensations, expressions, experiences.

Let’s learn THAT!

Learn how we are Unique

Learning how each of us is unique, we can be more accepting in the other person’s perspective of things. It is also possible that we are more open and understanding to someone experiencing something different.

We can be more kind and accepting with ourselves. Looking at our teachers, we can now understand that we will never look like them, nobody will!
But we can learn from them how we can be us. We can learn how to express more our unique strengths, body structure, past experience, sensations, emotions, thoughts.

We started working with this theme already last week in our Mid-Week Tango Practice:

And we will continue with this theme through our Online Workshops and Online Classes, with our goal being to allow us to be more us, despite the very challenging situations that might be pushing us to the edge

I hope that in one way or another I will have you with me in this journey so please any thoughts you would like to share send them, I would love to read them! Next stop, Mid-Week Tango Practice on Wednesday

😉
Chrisa

Posture and Mindfulness

Following this theme that we have been exploring, for some time now, mindfulness, we shift our focus towards posture; posture and mindfulness

We have talked and explored posture in many different ways however this time, our focus is not on the shape(s) that the body creates that we can characterize as efficient posture.

Our focus is more on becoming aware of our spine, our breath, our back and front body and the space there is between them.
Our goal would be to achieve the desired alignment without though creating unnecessary tension, by pulling on the muscle to achieve a specific position.

So how do we do it?

As you will see in the video above we are starting with breathing. Muscles of the back are also called breathing muscles and not by chance. You can do a simple test yourselves; inhale and exhale and notice how your body moves.

By deepening our inhales and exhales, we make all those movements associated with the breath and posture bigger. And so this way we come into a posture without inhibiting our breath and without using more muscle than what is necessary for us to get there.

One thing that I would like to take the opportunity to stress out here, is allowing yourselves to start where YOU are. This is a very important part of the process. We spend so much time trying to look like someone else, that we forget to acknowledge our starting point. However, that is something that will have a major impact on how we get to our goal and how long it will take.

So physically we are all of the same make but we are also different, maybe you have a more extended or arched back, maybe your breathing pattern is shallower, maybe you are stressed… a thousand maybes! So take some time to notice where you are without any judgement, just being a witness to your own experience and allow yourselves to start from there.

Being respectful and loving to your body will not only have physiological benefits but it will also be the first step towards mindfulness.

The benefits of a mindful posture

Talking about benefits, lets see a couple of more…

So continuing the conversation, acknowledgment without judgement doesn’t mean acceptance, but more realizing, identifying where you are and how that feels. So you go through a body scan, noticing where things are and how things are feeling. The labels of good and bad should be dropped for this one, as there is no good and bad, it just is what it is.

Once you have informed your knowing, then you can start the exploration of your other options of alignment

Other options will then offer a series of benefits, such as:

  • efficiency of movement, so you are not using more energy than what you need
  • following the above, you have better use of muscle
  • better balance of forces within the joints so there are no shear forces going through your joints, pulling them off center
  • following the above you can avoid overuse of ligaments and muscle impingement
  • you will have a comfortable breath while standing and moving
  • your diaphragms can work properly, at the appropriate pace with the necessary movement pattern
  • and generally your organs will be aligned and able to maintain their tone and relationships to one another
  • going to the Tango side of things, you can have more freedom in movement as you won’t need to hold as much
  • movements will feel more connected in your bodies
  • you will be able to dance for longer as you won’t be wasting energy and
  • last but not least we will be able to enjoy our dances more

We had to close this list at some point but in reality once you start with such explorations the benefits are more and more and some more..! (haha)

What if I don’t know where to start, with posture and mindfulness

I think our video above can be an excellent start and also our video from last week. They make a good match and can help slowly deepen your understanding of how the different parts of our upper body interact.

Now if you need more guidance we have our regular classes and workshops starting next week and we will be spending some time on such themes. It would be a great pleasure to have you in one of our groups. Help you and me learn and grow together

So if you want to give that a look check out our regular classes here: Online Tango Classes- Live and here are our Mindfulness Workshops

Hope to see you there and then

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: If you want to get started with some body scanning here you go!

What do you taste like when you dance?

What you taste like… when you dance..! Not as horrifying a question… push Hannibal Lector away (haha)… when you think of the taste, the impression, the sensation you get when you dance, when perform a move.

After last week’s Mid-week Tango practice I got a very interesting question on the Youtube chat, that went something like this:
What textures in the music fit well with doing cross in the dance?

As you will see in the link I attempted a quick answer, but now it is the time for an answer that goes more in depth.
So lets pick a song, for example “Comme il faut” by Carlos Di Sarli start with the basics, and gradually go deeper and probably more subjective

Basic “movement structures” suggested by the music

I am sure we have all heard of linear, and circular structures in Tango, and how they match the music. But I would like suggest one more structure the circular progressive. We have therefore 3 movement structures suggested by the music , linear, circular progressive and circular:

Step #1 therefore would be to identify these structures on the music

Try to go through the song identifying where the music suggests linear structures, circular progressive and circular. For example, the song starts linear till about 0:15 when things start to change to circular progressive until about 0:33 that we start going back to linear until 0:45 where circular comes in briefly etc.

After spending some time to identify these structural qualities in the music then you can start matching steps to it. At that point, the first thing one would think of doing, of course, is walking on the linear, ochos on circular progressive and giros on the circular. Great choice for a start..!

What happens in between..?

What happens in between though? This is one of my favourite themes, the transition..! The in between, when we are shifting the weight or pausing?

Those moments, need to match the music of course, but not only in terms of timing but also as a preparation for what is coming afterwards and also in terms of texture.

The cross step is a beautiful example because it is a shift of weight which includes a small twist to it. That makes it a beautiful opportunity to either transition from linear to circular or to create a linear step but with a little taste of circular from the cross and on top of those two options add a change of sensation.

Another example could be any pause during a dance. How you hold the embrace, the space between you and your partner has a quality, a texture, a taste. That of course depends on the music and your partner as well but primarily depends on you..!

Texture is subjective

I don’t like using the word musicality because there are so many things involved when using this word, so I have been carefully avoiding it. I have also been carefully avoiding to speak about the beat, the rhythm, the tone etc. and generally the technical aspects of music.

Though these are requirements, they are fundamentals, this post is not about that. And so I will similarly avoid talking about the cliche phrase “We all hear differently”… Well yes and no but let’s instead talk about how we all respond differently to what we hear. I would think we can all agree to that.

Going back to our song Comme il faut and after identifying those movement structures we can start exploring past that and try to find qualities of movement.

How would we go about to that?

This is what I usually do, but I am sure someone else might follow a different process. While listening to the song:

  • I write down words that come to mind that would characterize what I am hearing. Some examples, dynamic, playful, delicate, passionate, flowery, colourful, embellished
  • Then I write down sensations, for example it smells like Spring, has like a little breeze to it and tastes like a sweet spice
  • Lastly I dance to the words above. Aside from linear, circular progressive or circular how does the movement feel

It is highly likely you will come up with a different list of words. That depends on your personality, your previous experiences, your expectations, goals etc.

So this is a second layer that allows you to filter the music through your body, mind and soul and express yourself not through different movements but different textures.

Is there an easy way to practice this?

Practice I am not sure if it is ever easy but if you are struggling with finding the beat or the rhythm, it is likely that the dancing part of the above bullet point list might be a bit difficult and frustrating.

So I would like to suggest we take a step back and become creative in a slightly different way… Here you go, give it a try..!
(Spoiler, it is kids friendly and you can try this with multiple different colours too)

Enjoy,

Chrisa

For more practices check this link: Musicality games

Improvise to feel

Especially at this time where most places are facing another lockdown, we might be finding ourselves wondering why and whether we need to improvise and practice?

Why improvise here and now?

There are some very good reasons to list on why to improvise. To just name a few; we can practice sequences and leading-following, get comfortable with music and our technique and possibly become more expressive. All of that someone might feel are of little importance at the moment though, since we can’t really attend milongas. And I am saying “really” because now where there are milongas there is no partner change, there are restrictions in the number of people attending etc so we don’t really have much of a surprise… We know very well what to expect due to limited shift in partners.

So I get it, it makes perfect practical sense not to improvise, as it relates with the here and now. There is though more, which will lead us to why we need to improvise.

There is a psychological impact from all of this. Connecting through the web is great but not nearly enough. Trying to maintain relationships, friendships and interests is extremely difficult through the web. At the same time despite the fact that some of us have more time, if we don’t commute to work for example, that gets eaten up by stress and worry that is related to with being informed 24/7 by a machine and we need to step away… An endless cycle..!

I won’t therefore argue with anyone who would say that there is not much point in improvising here and now… For all practical and psychological reasons going on hike, doing fitness, yoga or meditation might actually be a better option. What I will do though is ask you to consider why improvise in general?

Why improvise in general?

I would like to suggest to you one other reason to improvise, to dance. And that would be to feel.

Yes, yes to feel! Not to express, not share but to feel! To feel our body moving, our temperature rising, our breath changing. Every part of our body, big or small, moves and has a voice can we feel it? Can we explore this magnificent body deeper, feel more, understand further? And then also look outward feel ourselves in space, and the space around us. Feel US in a totality!

Honestly, the video below is my first ever improvisational video with such context. All others, were made with other motives and reasons. This video it was part of an online class where we were exploring the role of fascia and the connective tissue network of our body. There are some qualities that this network has, that of continuity, fluidity, elasticity, tensegrity, qualities we all look for in our dance, or better said in our movement. Do we explore them though? Hardly ever unless we are in pain and we are forced to.

Going into this song, it was a mind shift though. It felt as everything was falling in place. Every part of my body had its own voice but all singing together in unison. There was even a moment where my arms were asking me to lift them and we actually had to have this conversation:
Arms: Let’s go up!
Mind: You want to go up? Up where?
Arms: Up and out, like about to hug someone or like in a sirtaki dance…
Mind: Are you out of your mind???
hahaha

Only half joking…it really happened and you can see how I slightly give in there and raise the arms. But that is when this idea popped into my mind, improvise to feel what it means to move, to be.

Something unrelated but extremely important for the here and now!

Take good care and DANCE!

Chrisa

P.S: You want some more on the matter, take a look here: https://www.gq.com/story/ido-portal-make-yourself-uncomfortable

P.P.S: We will have a new session of classes starting January 2021, subscribe to find out more

Online dancing in the Covid era

Online dance classes, have filled the web the last couple of months. Great content is shared out there on different platforms and different forms. I couldn’t though resist asking what is the point of this all..? Now, don’t get annoyed, I agree with you..! There a great lot of point in online dancing, in online art sharing, but what is that point exactly?

Remember those good old days when you were just starting Tango and you wanted to know it all? The endless hours spent watching amazing dancers on Youtube. Going to this and that seminar. Getting together with friends to practice and come up with new stuff!

And then finally getting there, at least where you thought there was. Soon after realizing you had missed so many things in the process and had to go back to the beginning.
That then was a tough decision to make! A decision most people make I think…but still that doesn’t make it easy. And I was thinking what was it then that made us all want to start over? Maybe not from zero but still…

Learning is much more fun with friends

All the people I have asked they said it was the community. Not in general the Tango community in their city or town but their community of friends, that kept them going, starting over and doing the trip again. Some communities gave birth to new teachers, new organizers, new performers.

People also noted that once they started losing those connections, they started losing interest in Tango in that intense way. So inevitably the question rises to what will happen now?

This question includes the very important practical issues of dance schools not being able to survive and therefore closing their doors. But also the social issues of loss of a community, of yet another bond.

And so what is the point of learning, of taking online classes when you can’t really share the class with someone in the flesh. When you can’t share what you have learned on a dance floor at least not with an ease of mind…

If being with someone is the thing that makes it all special, then what is the point of learning more when you can’t share?

There is a beautiful point to it all

To be honest I had to stop writing and let this thought sit with me. I wasn’t sure how to articulate the fire that I was feeling. Knowing that just writing “of course there is a point!” wouldn’t be helpful at all.

And as it usually happens, something thankfully came my way, when I took a step back. As I was listening to the radio–yes yes the radio–there was a presentation of a book in Greek titled: “Πανδημία: Τέχνη και Κοινωνία” which translates to: Pandemic: Art and Society. (It is linked here if you speak Greek and would like to read it)

The presenter magically put all those things I had in my mind into some beautiful words!

Art is here, especially in crisis, to enhance the social safety net. There is a collective sentiment of us all being in something together without solely being united around fear.
There is therefore the aspect of listening to the news of any country, in any language and knowing exactly what they are saying aka Covid-second-wave-time-to-hide-again. And there is the aspect of how can we manage our collective fear, which is where Art comes in.

So we are sharing! At this moment we sharing very similar moments, very similar days with every human being of planet earth. The question is do we want to only share the fear or will we share music, dance, photography, film, books, paintings, Art?

Your experience is as important as the information you receive

Art, in any form and in every way that is shared is a necessity, and it is not me saying that, it is actually neuroscientists saying it; “The inestimable quality [of great art] is the opportunity that the brain is offered to give several interpretations, all of them valid (1999, 22f).” Zeki

I use this one quote of the many that one can find in the linked article, because I have experienced this myself. In most of our online classes, during our discussions every student shares a completely different experience. I am not referring to feedback, or comments technical in nature, but observations coming from an informed through experience knowing.

As such our experience is as important, valuable and valid as the information we receive from our teacher, from the artist, from anyone of “authority”.

Especially for music and dance, without any intention to make a distinction of value, consider that, before we are even born we are moving on rhythm.

Aiming to close with that thought; Aside from the findings on benefits of the art to our physical and mental health, especially dance and music are arts deeply related to our becoming.

In that sense therefore it can be soothing, comforting, enlightening, hopeful to dance even if you are connecting online; to listen to music even if it is not a live concert, to paint even if it the outcome sucks…haha. The experience of getting in touch with what is human is what matters. Releasing the mind from the stress and the fear. And most importantly adding a thread to our society’s invisible net that can be there to hold us all

An invitation to dance because it matters

Join me on Wednesday at 12:30pm (Toronto time) on Facebook or Youtube for a mid-week Tango practice. No registration or special invite needed, just hop in… I will make sure we dance as much as possible..!
Wave on the web. Leave a note or comment. Say hello and most importantly move along with me. From whichever part of the world you are joining in

You have probably experienced this common note: “Tango allows me to go anywhere and be amongst people with a common passion!”
We still have that! We are Tangueros and Tangueras! I might not know you and you might not know me… We still have that common passion, Tango so lets dance!

And hey even if you are not dancing Tango, still join us! Move with us, enjoy creating something with your very own hands, feet, heart and mind. If you hate, not a problem try another dance on Thursday! 😉

Chrisa

P.S: Can’t join us? Try a following a recording: Online Tango Practice

“Movement can change your brain, too!”

For years and years we have a debate between body and brain. With different groups having strong opinions over ones power over the other; however more and more studies come to show an intimate connection between the two and bring movement to the stage!

Obvious findings through experience now backed up by science

We have all been in situation where we were feeling a bit blue, went out dancing and felt wonderful afterwards. Or where we have been feeling stressed and went to the gym to let some steam off.

Now there are numerous studies that show that movement, in different forms, aerobic exercise, resistance, flexibility, and balance exercises, Yoga, Qigong and Dance have an effect in the function of our brain. It “modulates stress reactivity and anxiety in humans.” , “increases endogenous opioid activity in the central and peripheral nervous system and may induce a euphoric state and reduce pain” , “boosts mood by increasing a brain protein called BDNF that helps nerve fibers grow.”

Specifically for movement practices where one is required to pay close attention to bodily sensations, position in space and feelings research has shown that such practices are useful adjunctive components to other treatment as they create the alleviation of depressive symptoms. See for example this interesting paper on Yoga practice and PTSD

Dance as a movement practice can have surprising benefits

The above links can surely give you an idea of what scientists mean when they say that change of posture, breathing and rhythm can have a positive change to your brain in various ways.

Dance, which is movement in synchrony with others can have further surprising benefits to “an individual’s self-esteem and their feelings of social connection with a partner.” The results of this study came to show that “individuals felt better about themselves following a period of synchronous compared to asynchronous movement, while they also perceived a greater self-other overlap with their partner.”

This for many of us might come as no surprise. I am sure we all have experienced the both ends of this spectrum of synchrony and asychnony. When in full synchrony with our partner we feel great. When fighting for synchrony for 12mins of a tanda we feel just terrible

In the same paper previous literature is referenced to have noted that “bouts of synchronous activity have been shown to increase cooperation , encourage compliance and conformist behaviour, boost trust, facilitate joint-action capabilities, enhance person memory, and promote compassion and altruism.(…) synchronous action can lead to perceptions of connectedness and the blurring of self-other boundaries between interaction partners. In general, experiencing interpersonal synchrony is seen to establish the common ground on which effective social interactions unfold.”

What I think we all might find interesting here is that communities around the world knew about this already; an experiential knowing that created folk dances, rituals and various other community activities that involve moving together.

Also, movers from various disciplines have described all of the above as firstly our movement informing our knowing. Secondly through discovering ourselves we discover more the other and the world and become more compassionate towards them, towards us.

Moving together is what I am missing

A friend asked me the other day: “Don’t you miss dancing?”
I was torn to tell you the truth… I couldn’t quite tell if I missed it or not.

On one hand I am now used to not having a milonga to go to…And I certainly don’t miss the action of dancing, of moving…

We have the Mid-week Tango practice and Online classes, plus my personal fitness schedule. So I am moving and dancing… What I do miss though is dancing with someone. Synchronizing my movement with other people.

Interestingly enough though all hope is not lost even in this crazy world we live in. In the experiment conducted as part of the research paper linked above, participants had to connect through a video link and perform arm-curls with their partner over the screen. Some were asked to synchronize their movement and some to avoid synchronization. The group of people who synchronized after the experiment reported a higher self-esteem and better connected to their partner.

People who live alone at this time isolation have suffered mentally much more than the rest of us. Can we virtually replace a hug? Surely not!
But maybe there are better ways to connect that we haven’t found yet, that we haven’t explored yet. Maybe there are ways to make these platforms and virtual environments more welcoming, more real…

Who knows..! I guess if we keep on moving and we will see what we can discover!

😉

Chrisa