Rhythm, for some is something effortless and fun and for others a constant effort and frustration. And the truth is that the fact that it is in us all, doesn’t make it any easier to identify.
But lets take things from the beginning…
What is rhythm?
Rhythm is not the beat of the music or dissecting a music phrase in 7, 9, 11, 4 or 8s and it surely is not steps on a beat, like choreography. All these are methods to explore rhythm but neither of them is rhythm in itself.
I would like to suggest that we explore rhythm as a relationship between direction, velocity and distance. And that relationship is affected by mass, inertia, impact, energy we like to spend, shapes we want to create etc. Let’s look at some examples:
elements moving in the same direction at the same time
elements moving in opposite directions at the same time
elements moving in the same direction at an alternate time
elements moving in opposite directions at an alternate time
repetition which is inherently rhythmical
Practicing rhythm therefore will need to allow us to further explore and become more aware of those relationships; that are more relationships with world and not only with a specific song.
How to practice rhythm
For the month of March, as part of our Movement and Mindfulness workshops, we explored rhythm as described above and so thankfully I have a 1hr video to share with you, that can lead you through explorations on rhythm and hopefully inspire you to come up with your own explorations as well!
I would suggest you spend some time exploring these symmetries with your arms as it is easier compared to working with legs. Also work for a bit without music before you add your favourite music to accompany you. And you can work with all of these symmetries together or focus on one or two of them at a time, whatever works best for you!
Putting it together in a dance
Such explorations I find them extremely useful as they help me understand what I might be doing unconsciously or what I might feel I can’t reach. Whatever the case maybe though, real-life experience and testing is required after every exploration of every kind. If we don’t take what we learn in our real-life how will it stick? How will it become more than just an exercise? And most importantly how will it teach us to a level where we start changing our old habits and building new ones, aka progressing?
So after you complete the explorations above, or anytime during the video that you feel the need or you feel ready, completely let go of the exploration and just dance. Stop doing the exercise, and just dance. Feel how what you have explored so far manifests itself in your dance.
And of course this doesn’t stop there, step out of your practice shoes but take your practice with you. See, notice how rhythm manifests itself in your everyday life, when breathing, walking, shopping, doing the dishes. Make every big or small thing a dance!
Enjoy and join us for more by subscribing!
P.S: For more on music and rhythm you can check here and here
Following our Tango and Mindfulness workshop right at the end of this challenging year, I put an exercise together titled “Exercise of the Week- the mindful embrace”. With the Holidays and all you might not have had the chance to try it out so here it is:
The mindful embrace
Through this video we are creating, we are becoming, the embrace. We are creating that shape and we become aware of what an integral part we are in shaping the embrace. Creating a mindful embrace is a space where we can share support, feelings, sensations, thoughts with our partners.
The idea therefore here is to create opportunities to really connect better and at a deeper level. Once we wake up the skin, the muscles, the fascia, the bones, the organs, the fluids, our whole body becomes part of the shape, part of a mindful embrace.
What we usually learn and practice in Tango is the position, the frame of the embrace; which of course are very valuable and important. We are also taught how to efficiently create the frame and how to lead and follow our partner. However, the awareness of ourselves in that shape, as well as that shape surrounding us is very important. This way we won’t feel disconnected from that sharing, the actual dance, happening in that space.
In our video above we are exploring our breath, the ribs, the arms and the relationships between them. We are also exploring the shape and space and so we become co-creators of the embrace.
Tango and mindfulness
Tango as we were discussing in a previous article allows us to explore mindfulness at different layers and so it can be an excellent option as a movement practice for mindfulness. This does not mean that other practices cannot be good options. I actually think any movement practice should be done mindfully. However, sometimes we need to start with something that can be a little bit slower, like Tango. We might need the option to explore being still and moving. And there is the need to explore ourselves in space and the space surrounding us. Add to that the possibility of doing all of that with other people and we have our sweet Tango.
And this exactly isour intention for our upcoming Pay from the Heart workshops. We will explore all Tango fundamentals and at the same time they will explore mindfulness on many different stages. So we will work on posture, walking, rhythm and expressivity and qualities of movement; we will therefore become aware of our feelings/ sensations during stillness and movement.
I’m not quite sure if this falls under the category of mindfulness, to be honest with you (haha). I am pretty sure though that it can elevate our spirits, energy and give us an extra boost for 2021. The schedule of our Pay from the Heart workshops:
Workshop #1: Posture and Mindfulness; We will explore the movement of the spine and specifically the movement centres along the spine. Movement centres are areas where we have the most options for movement as well as the greatest range of movement
Workshop #2: Walking and Mindfulness; Many of the movements of the spine are involved in walking. The action of walking will enhance our focus and awareness but it is also a good progression from workshop #1
Workshop #3: Music and Rhythm; Our body has its own rhythm; which becomes apparent through breathing, pulse, walking etc. Explorations such as this will help us get in touch with our inner music and relate better to the music and rhythm of our environment
Workshop #4: Expressivity and music; Naturally, after sensing and feeling it is time to take action! This is not a musicality class so we won’t be learning musical patterns on the rhythm. This has more to do with helping us express our personality, feelings and thoughts on the music
Workshop #5: Qualities of movement; And we will close with a workshop exploring the qualities of movement that occur during Workshop #4. The same movement can and should feel different on different songs and with different partners.
I really hope to see you all there! And then and if you looking for more classes you can check our our Online Class schedule
P.S: if you went through the “Exercise of the Week- the mindful embrace” and you want some more information you can also visit this Body Mind Centering exploration about the relationship of the ribs and the arms
So when I starting practicing alone aka without a partner it was because I could feel that something was missing, that I could be a more active and expressive dancer but I didn’t quite know how to do that.
After some time things settle and I found my ways and Bautanz was born but this is not an article about Bautanz but about one great question I got from a member of our community, Mandy: “Do you have any suggestions for incorporating these ideas [on balance, alignment etc] into a partnership?“
Is individual practice the problem?
Mandy explained that though while practicing without her partner everything is great but once they come together to dance things start falling apart.
One of the things, amongst others of course, that causes these off-balance moments is that each partner is working on figuring things out in his/her body and fails to pay attention to what the other person is doing. It is not on purpose that we are ignoring our partner but there are so many other things we need to focus on from one step to the next, that we fail to pay enough attention to our partner.
Many people say point exactly to that in fact to prove that one shouldn’t be practicing alone. That argument however can be defeated when we see soccer players, tennis players, ballerinas you name it training on their own.
Individual practice is not what causes the problem in connection, it is what reveals it! Once you start exploring further a creative process of change starts to happen and that is when start to realize trouble with moving with another person.
Also, as with any change, change in movement habits takes time! For us to realize what we are doing wrong, to explore the suggested other options, to understand how each suits our bodies and then to replace what we don’t need anymore with a new habit; This is a lengthy process, very creative but also lengthy! So it will take some time for things to settle, for new habits to get established so we can then focus more on our connection and how our movement affects our partner.
That is in fact why I created Bautanz and an online course called Intelligent Tango PROGRAMS & COURSES–INTELLIGENT TANGO, to speed the process of creating new habits through an individual practice.
Practicing on how to listen
You are probably wondering if I am actually suggesting that you just keep at it and hope for the best..! haha Thankfully not, as there is a way to get more connected to your partner and explore movement at the same time and that is through touch, observation and feedback. And that could happen in two ways
Let’s use the above video as an example, if you are not practicing with a partner, during your individual practices you can get feedback from surfaces you can possibly lie down on or lean against. Once on the ground as in the video above you can get bodily feedback on how your head, back, hips and feet are moving on the floor.
You start gathering information on how these body parts move when you move your arms. But also there is the opportunity to observe how your movement changes as you release more weight, or as you turning, if you adjust your head etc.
In this video, all of the above apply of course, but I want to use as an example when you practice with your partner. Aside from the feedback you can gather from meeting the floor you can also ask your partner to place a hand on your shoulders, back, your head or hips, and just observe how you move without affecting your movement, only observing almost like passively following. Touch will reveal to both of you how that specific spot of the body moves and how part affects the other. It will give both you more information about movement that you can then take it with you when you are leading and following. Then of course you change roles, you will be touching and observing
Time to give feedback…
Last but not least in the process is the exchange of feedback. This is an important part of the process and a rather difficult one. It is very easy to fall into the trap of not expressing how the movement felt. So again using the video above as an example you want to go deeper and describe what your hands felt, for example: “as you were settling in the tabletop position, your shoulder blades felt like they were sliding and turning, as the spine was reorienting. You back muscles felt like they were expanding as your sides and core were condensing.”
Avoid staying on the surface with feedback such as it felt good, or strong or smooth. Try to go a deeper and describe the movement. Make sense out of what your hands felt. Then you try the exercise again focusing on each of the elements your partner noticed and guiding each other through touch.
Could I do this with Tango drills..?
Absolutely! This process can happen with any movement, only you would probably need to move a bit slower than usual if you are doing walks or ochos. But surely your partner can place their hands on your shoulders, back, chest, stomach, head etc and go through the same process as above.
It will heighten your awareness of your own body and movement but also of your partner’s. Touch is though an excellent way to practice “listening” through touch. Tango is based on touch and the feedback we receive through it. If we are not able to listen through touch and respond then it becomes difficult and the movement has a very mechanical almost robotic quality.
Every practice session needs to be rewarded
Extra bonus… a Dance! I would to encourage you to dance one song after your practice or at a random time without the intention to practice but with the intention to dance and enjoy moving with or without a partner.
It is not however an easy task. You will be putting yourself to the test trying to put all the things “you should be working on” to the side and letting the experience of moving inform your knowing.
I wasn’t doing that for a long time. Instead every chance I got I practiced trying to get things right, trying to get better faster. It was very frustrating, and made my dances really hard to enjoy. So though being in the unknown, without an outline of what needs to be taken care of, of what you need to focus on, can be discomforting, it can also help you understand your body, your movement and your partner at a deeper level. Plus it is a great reward to allow yourself to dance after spending time practicing!
Touch, observe, listen and don’t fear the unknown!
P.S 3rd week of September we will be starting session of live online classes. If you are interested check it out here: Online Tango Classes- Live
After many months of online chatting I got together friend and also a Tango teacher. We were wondering if we, as a collective of people, will be going back to Tango. And we were sharing experiences from our communities, as she is in a different city, noticing many common reactions from the two communities. Of course there are people already dancing, others that are not taking the risk and a small group of people willing to go back but trying to imagine what would they be “going back” to.
Going back by moving forwards?
So the question we stumbled upon was whether we could possibly be going back by moving forwards? Paradox..? Maybe not..!
This conversation started from the moment we saw each other… It was such a relief seeing each other in the flesh and bone again! And we jokingly said to one another: “Oh! You still exist in real life!” haha
Along with all that there was this great urge to hug and greet each other like any two people would have done under normal circumstances. We didn’t… you know, being in a public space and all..! See hugging is currently a no no and I personally don’t disagree
However, think about the time when going back will happen with no masks, no partner restrictions, no lysol wipes all over the place… Do you think that longing for a hug will express itself through the dance? Is there a possibility that we will be looking for more connection through our dances after this isolation, restrictions and fear? In this way would this actually be moving forward and not going back?
A deeper connection
Someone might say that they were always looking for a deeper connection and I think this to be true for most people. I imagine this though will be multiplied by this great distance we had to keep for such a long time.
We will probably be more like the kids we all saw on the videos online, where they ran to hug their friends after not seeing them for a couple months! haha
You know sometimes on the dance floors you would see the struggle and the persistence at the same time to achieve that connection in the faces of dancers. I imagine this will be effortless, a connecting power coming from within, along with unimaginable joy!
That is my post-covid, going back while moving forwards in Tango plan and the next question would be how would we then maintain that feeling?
That deeper connection can easily fade out once we get back to absolute “normal”. How could we possibly maintain and build that up though?
And I think, without having the experience of course, there are various steps. One being during those first few milongas, where we have the choice of diving in deep to that feeling that we take the dive and allow it to take over.
Then after the milonga, the same evening at home or the next day, there is the opportunity to wake up to the details of that experience and then start analyzing it. After the awe, we can start gently allowing for our mind to make sense of the experience. In other words allow for the experience to inform our knowing. That happens when we start describing in words how the experience felt. For example a dance can be light, intense, heavy, powerful, energetic, grounded, visceral but also spicy, salty, sweet. All great words and the more descriptive and detailed we can get, the better.
Lastly, the bits and pieces we think we have figured out can go into our practice. Not in a forcing way, not for example thinking: “Oh! We have to hold exactly the way we did it last Saturday at the milonga!”. Instead more in an explorative way, as an observer looking for clues of where these words came from. In practice therefore new experiences are created and the cycle starts again.
So I guess I am thinking of this endless spiral of creativity…! Hmmm…what do you guys think? Are we going back to Tango or are we moving forward to new Tango experiences?
Send me your thoughts! 🙂
P.S: Looking at working on the embrace but you doing have a partner? Try this practice:
I know everyone is on the web and there is this great big online community being built almost out of nowhere… However, do we move as much as before? Do we take walks in the parks and dance in our living rooms? Have we realized how much we have missed and have we found a way to keep going in a healthy way?
I honestly don’t have any answers for any of the above questions. Judging though from personal experience I have noticed how my mood heavily affects my movement schedule and vice versa during these strange times.
What you were or were not doing before Covid is not relative to the experience really, as there wasn’t really much of a choice in the quarantine. But even now… this is a very strange normality..! We are almost afraid of each other. For me it is not the rules but the unknown…the “what if”…that creates the fear. So how do we battle with that?
Some people have though figured it out
Some people have figured it out. I am not talking about the people appearing on the media pretending to have it all figured out…no…but about others that have spent enough time thinking and preparing for the inevitable. And I think the answer on how to keep going hides somewhere there.
This is Eileen Kramer she is now officially a choreographer but she has never stopped dancing even at the age of 104.
Dancing as she says is “making order out of chaos” and then by the end of the video “good health depends a lot on you, what you eat, what you think, what you have suffered and what you have recovered from. You do have to prepare for age…“
How do we think about the situation we are put in, aka Covid? Can we prepare for similar situation where we would have to deal with another kind of isolation and movement restrictions? How we deal with the distance, the required space? Are we preparing for a future similar situation thinking of how we could better feel and fill this void and stay active. Especially the later, staying active… Creating opportunities to move, to experience sensations and emotions that will give birth to new movement. Can this motivate us, make us feel creative and inspired? Are we preparing for that? Can we include more of that in our lives?
I am not sure we are preparing for the future, I think, we are just making our way through this mess. But maybe that is just me… haha
However, if you feel like I do, it is never too late to start!
A tiny habit, something that will take you for example 30secs to do. You attach that after something you do very often like washing your hands and so you do it every time after you wash your hands. At the end you celebrate! You congratulate yourself! And that is it!
So building a habit can actually be fun, simple and almost effortless. Because you don’t dedicate too much time up front instead you start small and then you keep on building gradually!
You can read all about the method in the link above. But this is what I have come up with to bring this into Tango, the Exercise of the Week. Every week there is one exercise that takes max 2mins to do. Each one of us can decide the action we would like to attach that to and there we have it..! Sparks of moving habits… Any of the exercises can last longer, can become the base of a full Tango practice routine if you would like to build up to that. But starting off, maybe we can’t or we don’t feel like spending 30mins for Tango practice, so starting tiny with 2mins can be the beginning of longer and longer-lasting practice!
Think about it, 2mins nothing really…Do it though every time after you wash your hands aaaand then we have a different story, right?
That is my suggestion and what I have been exploring. Give it go and let me know how it goes!
How can one-size-fits-all apply in a social dance setting when we all unique in terms of body type, age, fitness, cultural background etc?
A great question!
After our mid-week Tango practice on Wednesday I a question via Youtube that I felt it is an excellent question for us to discuss how different body types can or cannot fit in certain Tango rules; and overall how the one-size-fits-all doesn’t quite work in social dancing.
Following is the video, from our practice and the question right after that, lets see:
“Chrisa, something that no one ever talks about, and I can’t get non fat dancers to understand, are the techniques needed by the fat dancer. Now, I do not use fat as a bad word, I reclaim it, and refuse to make it synonymous with wrong. And also, I need to accommodate my roundness. It is soawkward to be in class, and have an instructor remind me not to swing a hip, not to arch my back, when the real reason I do these things is because of my large belly. When you have substantial thighs, it changes your stance, collection, even the ability to flick a swift secada. I realize this is off topic from your video, but do you have any insights for the fat dancer? Tricks to maintain tango posture when you have extra curves to work around? Thank you <3″ F.L
The truth of the Style Vs The truth of the Dancer
I want to thank again our commenter for this question and dissect the matter in two parts:
Diversity of styles
Biomechanics Vs Tango Style
Diversity of Styles
There is an unavoidable conflict between the truth carried through by the rules for each style and the truth stemming from the dancer’s experience. Of course there are many ways to train dancers to perform and look a certain way, many types of dance achieve that, with ballet being one excellent example. However there are certain expectations to be met by all ballerinas in terms of looks, body structure and analogies. This is why there are certain restrictions apply in terms of age, body type, body shape, fitness etc. That is also why the choice to follow a career as a professional ballet dancer happens very early in one’s life when the body and character are very adaptable to change. That is also why ballet dancers retire at a very early age.
Social Tango is not like that though. Quite the contrary it is dance that is danced by 90 year olds with very different body analogies, with loss in muscle etc etc. So would we say for example that Oscar and Nina are bad dancers?!?! I highly doubt it! See them in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQotX3sFahI
So as I perceive it, a style is a place to start learning but then we have to take into account the the experience of our body. And those two things are equally important and equally true. Everyone of us is unique in some way, and that uniqueness needs space, a lot of space in a social dance.
Biomechanics Vs Tango Style
We can’t judge a style, a style is based mostly on aesthetics. It is a design. A beautiful design but still a design that one person or a group of people came up with based on their personal goals, experiences, expectations and so on. So it wouldn’t be possible nor fair. But we can judge movement based on anatomy and biomechanics. Then each of us can make an informed decision whether you want to pursuit a specific tango style despite the possible strain or risk due to inconguence with anatomy and biomechanics.
So firstly, based on anatomy and specifically the structure of the human skeleton in order to balance the forces going through the joints and to have an effective distribution of weight when standing on two feet, the placement of the feet should be such to support the hips. Having the feet together 100% doesn’t meet that requirement since the pelvis flairs outward. Similarly, the flair of the feet, meaning the turn out, depends on the structure of your hips, how wide or narrow the hips are. So overall some people will have their feet closer together, not though fully connected, than others and also for some people the turn out will be bigger than others.
Walking and biomechanics
Now when we walk our hips are not supposed to be square, they are supposed to swing, it’s scientifically what we call: locomotion. And it is not the only movement happening in our hips when we walk. In fact walking involves the whole body and the more chaotic it feels the more efficient it most likely is. There is the “C” shape movement we talked about in our practice session and there is also a wave in the spine. You can see all of this here:
Can you stop all this from happening ? Sure you can! But why would you? If you actually look a little closer and dig a little deeper, these movements actually help you connect with your partner in much more efficient way..! You can see it in our previous practices here: https://bautanz.com/online-tango-practice/
And of course along with all that goes posture and centre of gravity. Your posture changes depending on what action you wish to perform. As you can see in the video above maintaining a specific upper body position works against your intention to walk forward or backward and would therefore require more muscle work to make it all happen. Lastly our center of gravity, will be different depending on the shapes we create or have in our bodies. It is not a fixed spot and how could it be? By physics that would be impossible.
My suggestion to you
If you have learned Tango now spend some time learning your body through movement. Understand how one thing relates to the other, what kind of relationships they have and what kind of movements they create due to those relationships and structure
Start learning about your body to better dance with/in/through it. Understanding how our body was built to move for me is the number one step to take when you really want to free up your social dance but also when you want to structure your dance training knowing, acknowledging and weighing in the risks you take compared to the choices you have