I love this! Active couch-potatoes! Haha I found out about this “term” from a member of our community of Bautanz, when during one of our discussions they mentioned this article.
But why is this the title of our newsletter today? Well one can simply think, well Tango is an activity, therefore if you dance and practice Tango you are not an active couch potato. And I would agree this is definitely one aspect of it. But there is more to it I think, at least in my experience.
Dancing Vs Going to the gym
Comparing dancing Tango or any dance, to going to the gym there are three things that make dancing special.
One is the social aspect of it, you create something with someone else, it is a joint effort that brings something to life in the moment.
Secondly, it is something special because you can’t replicate it, you do it there and then and after that no matter how many times you repeat the action it is never exactly the same.
And lastly, even in practice or even if you are dancing in your kitchen there is the pure joy of moving your body simply because you just feel like it. Not because you have to, not because you will get fit, not because it is healthy but just because. Pure joy, created by you in the moment.
There is a lot of value in that, I feel. And it can help us avoid being an active couch potato as well, if we allow for little moments of joy. Dance around, when a song you love comes up. Or when you are doing the laundry or the dishes or while waiting for the kettle to boil.
Create little moments of joy, anytime, anywhere..!
We practice on musicality, on rhythm, rhythmical variations of steps, on matching sequences to specific musical textures, orchestras, styles… Overall we practice on listening and understanding the music. So what are we really practicing here? Options! Creating options or better yet having options readily available while we improvise.
Rhythmical Variations that create options
One of the most fascinating exercises I have been taught, was by Mariana Montes and Sebastian Arce in a festival in Kalamata Greece, quite a few years back now. It was around the ocho cortado, and how one can perform the step in different rhythms.
The rhythmical variations we were taught back then were so fascinating to me, not only because they offered me different ways to do the same step, and therefore match it to different music but because I got to reshape the step.
Ok! Before I get into that, let me share with you a video where I have reproduced that ocho cortado rhythmical variation exercise so we can actually have a point of reference
Reshaping the ocho cortado
Usually we see the Ocho Cortado as one whole sequence consisting of 6 steps. When we go through the rhythmical variation #1 where we step on the downbeat, every one of these steps, by having its own beat, becomes an entity of its own.
Then when we add the pauses on step #3 and #6 the ocho cortado breaks into 2 sequences instead of 1 and the same happens when we syncopate it.
When we go slow, though we are now playing with one sequence, the sequence is now very flexible, greyed out around the edges almost. And lastly, taking a step on beat #7, shifts the beginning and ending of the sequence around, so we really end up with 6 different sequences.
See how much richer our dance vocabulary has become just by playing with only one of the most basic Tango sequences. Now think of all the other sequences you have learned over the years, can you do something similar? Can you possibly come up with ideas on how shift and reshape those sequences?
Creating options is another skill!
I have learned this from James Altucher who is not a Tango dancer but he is surely an explorer..! So he said, that he practices on his idea muscle daily! Fascinating right?
He uses it for business. We can use it for Tango… and for business of course if you like. So here is my suggestion, and believe me it is fun..! Now that you have an idea of how this can work out, take one of the basic Tango sequences, such as the box step or even just walking, write down 5 different ways that you think you can perform that step and then actually try those ideas out with music!
If you need some inspo we will be doing something similar in a Tango Movement Lab on Wednesday 12:15pm going on live through Facebook and Youtube. And if you are looking for even more inspo join our classes that will be full of rhythm and music..!
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!
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
Music and Rhythm is the title of our upcoming workshop happening on Saturday, February 27. It is part of the Mindfulness series but I realized I should have actually included mindfulness in the title.
Mindfulness; because it is an invitation to explore and tune into the rhythm that is moving our bodies everyday, when we opening and closing eyes, when we are breathing, when our heart is beating, when we are walking and when we are still. But it is also because it is an invitation to acknowledge our bonds with the world. And by bonds I mean:
relating to, responding to and sharing music in a respectful way
attempting to feel the layers, textures, colours, tastes of each music composition
accepting that we won’t most likely be able to capture all the brilliance that goes in a song but
doing the best we can to hear to it, to feel it and open our minds and hearts more and more to it
despite of our preferences; let’s try not to ignore the important elements in the music. For example violins in Fresedo are very prominent we can’t ignore them all the time
showing parts of ourselves when we dance. Allow some vulnerability instead of going into the song with a “technical”, “how-to” approach
acknowledging that our partner might still be trying to tune into their rhythm and offer them support instead of “pointing out” (dance wise) their mistakes
accept that people listen differently. That might mean that specific partners are not really a good fit for you and vice versa
I was hoping to get to 10, but this is all I got so far… maybe you can share some more with me!
Music and Rhythm is part of being human
We move before we speak! We explore the world through movement and rhythm… Think of a baby bobbing their head, or moving their arms and legs excitedly or how their whole body is involved when they are crying or laughing.
There is rhythm in our breathing, in our pulse, in the movement of different fluids in our bodies. Some would go as far to say that we are movement and rhythm! It could be true, if you think of how we are conceived and how we come to this world
However, as adults, sometimes, we experience difficulty connecting to those rhythms or identifying the rhythm of our movement; which of course then makes it more difficult connecting to an external rhythm such as music.
So what do you say, we try to it rediscover all that, rebuild those connections, together next Saturday February 27 at this Music and Rhythm Workshop.
Hosted online through Facebook and Zoom- links will be shared 2hrs prior to the event
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!