Category Archives: mindfulness

Dance as an act of kindness

Most of us would never think about taking a dance class as an act of kindness. Think though, for a moment how you got into dance. Maybe you were dancing ever since you were a child. Or perhaps you picked it up at a much older age. Maybe you went with a friend or because you wanted to make new friends. Or possibly to meet a special someone. Whatever your reason was, the decision to learn how to dance was satisfying a need, a personal need.

And that is where it all begins…

Being kind starts with you

Noticing your needs and addressing them is an act of kindness. And it doesn’t even have to be as serious as I am making it sound. Simply, feeling the need to do something fun or something new with other people, and addressing this need by going to a dance class, is an act of kindness.

Same goes with choosing how to learn and how to practice dance. Or in general how to progress in any movement practice. Learning how to respect and listen to your body and tend to its needs is an act of kindness. Understanding when it is time to pause and when it is time push and respecting those limits without feeling like your body is letting you down is an act of kindness.

As we age we need our awareness to grow so that we can still enjoy our life and so that we can keep learning and growing. Can we do what we did 10 or 15 years ago? Somethings certainly not. But consider all those things that turned out to be bad ideas; only you lacked the awareness to know back then. Or what about all those things that you wouldn’t even think of trying out 10 or 15 years ago because you lacked the experience and the imagination. Bottom line, we change. And if we want to keep enjoying life we need to be cognizant of that change and adapt.

Another act of kindness, adapting. And adapting does not mean giving up, it means recognizing your options and identifying moments of opportunity to create more options for yourself.

How dance helps us adapt

I am sure you can now see where all this is going. Dance, teaches you how to adapt and create options. Learn to hug versatility and variety because this is our environment.

So if your practice is not going well one day, take a step back, pause for a second. Every practice is never the same as the one before or the one after it. Maybe you are tired or preoccupied. Can you find a way to keep moving? Is “keep moving” even a good option for you in this moment? If not what could be a good option? Stillness? Ok! You can learn a lot in stillness as well.

See, our movement practice should run on kindness in order for us to progress or we will end up tired battling through every frustrating moment.

And that of course spills into our relationship with our partners. Now you may be working with one specific partner or this can be applied to a social setting, like a milonga, where you may be changing partners. In both cases, but especially in the latter, kindness always wins!

When things don’t work out, think of all the tough moments you have gone through and safely assume that your partner has been through the same. Don’t get judgemental, instead see if you can find or create options for yourself? This might actually be revealing to you. It may show you a different way to approach your dancing. Not simply offering different technique tools but offering THE technique tool!

Which is… Adapting! Or simply put, making do with what you got! A much kinder approach towards yourself and towards your partner.

Try it out next time you practice or go to a milonga, it is actually fun!

Chrisa

P.S: For more writings such as this, that go beyond technique tips, check out our book “It Takes You to Tango”

How does this song go? Singing through movement

Singing through movement, has been my latest attempt to explain what “just dance” really means.
It is funny but so many people say just dance but they don’t really know what that means or they can’t even execute themselves.

“Just Dance” Vs…

Usually if you ask someone to explain “just dance” they will start using other equally ambiguous advise, such as without thinking, or like no one is watching, or forget about the rules.

Why is this ambiguous advise?
Well in Tango, but this applies to other dances as well, especially when you are starting out, you need to think. Tango is a fully improvisational dance. That means you are on your own putting one and two together, while connecting with your partner and with the music.

Secondly, it is in a social environment, people who are not dancing, are watching. It doesn’t mean that they are being judgemental, at least not all of them (haha), but they are watching.

Thirdly, every class is on the rules. Technique rules, musicality rules, even rules on how you improvise and put sequences together. So it is very hard to forget them and just dance.

What I mean to say is that we might be fully understanding the meaning of all of these words but we have no plan on how to implement the advise. Which leads to a lot of confusion and frustration on and off the dance floor.

…”Sing through movement”

I am sure you have been in a situation where you are talking about a song you like but suddenly you can’t really remember anything about it. You can’t remember the title, the singer, the orchestra, the lyrics, nothing but only the rhythm. So if you tried to describe it to a friend you would probably say: “You know, it is the one that goes like na, na-na-na, na…”

haha
Well, singing with movement is exactly that. You do the “na, na-na-na, na” only not with sound but with movement. You are using your body to represent the music, as if you were another instrument of the orchestra. In the beginning of your practice, the movement can be small maybe a gentle shift of weight from one foot to the other but truly committed to delivering the music.

Then as you start making steps, stick with this concept. Instead of trying to come up with steps to match the music, practice letting the music move you in the room. We are not looking for elaborate footwork, in fact you can restrict yourself to walking only. The goal is to keep this quality, singing through movement. Making your whole body sing the song and not just your feet trying to execute steps.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: Here is a practice on musicality if you want to continue working on it.

Defining the comfort zone

If you are in any movement practice I am sure you have heard your teachers encourage you to move past your comfort zone; meaning to challenge yourselves. But how do you know you are in the zone to begin with? How do you know the limits of your comfort? And most importantly what does it take for you to acknowledge discomfort?

Finding the balance between comfort and discomfort

How would you know comfort if you don’t experience discomfort? Also, consider this, how would you begin to define discomfort if discomfort was part of the comfort zone?

If you defining comfort as in not painful, it means that pain is your only indication of discomfort. Discomfort then is part of your comfort zone because you can’t hear all the other signals of discomfort the body is giving you until you reach pain.

Similarly if you think of comfort as easy, as time that there is no challenge, you have made discomfort part of the comfort zone plus you are eliminating the possibility of learning and progressing while not being physically challenged.

Signs of discomfort can be as subtle as inhibited breathing, when you feel as if you are holding your breath. How many times have you been in that situation? I am sure, plenty. Have you ever considered this discomforting? Most likely not.

Picking up all the signals will allow you to be more aware of the boundary between comfort and discomfort. Defining the boundary will then allow you to push past it when you feel ready, when you are comfortable to do so.
Lastly, it will allow you to be more empathetic with other people, more understanding of their situation as you will have a deeper understanding of the different shades of discomfort and how they can appear in the body.

An excellent video that speaks more about this yin-yang relationship and our movement practice, is this video of Ido Portal speaking on mindfulness. It is short but very much to the point and has inspired me to look for balance in my practice and in my approach to movement.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: Looking for balance? Try out our latest workshop!

What do we call balance?

We often say, I need to work on “balance” or “I can’t keep my balance”. And when we actually go ahead to practice we start with standing on 1 foot, maybe doing embellishments with the free leg or coming up on our toes and holding.

Therefore when we say balance, we mean being able to hold ourselves still in a specific position for a long period of time.

Balance Vs Stillness

Creating a hold or simply being still, is that the same as being balanced?
Well… not necessarily! Because we might able to be still but the main volumes of our body may still not be balanced. For example, we might be hunched over, with our hips tilted back and our chin protruding forward. Try it… it is a very common pose! haha

This comes to show that still does not necessarily mean balanced.
So what is balance? Or better yet what are trying to balance?

We are trying to balance the forces running through our body, so that our movement can be efficient and safe. In this context if we actually would like to hold, balancing the 3 main volumes of our body, head, torso and hips, can lead to a comfortable efficient hold instead of a trembling/ troubling structure.

What are the cues that we are in balance, aside from we don’t feel in any key joint such as the hip joint?

  • We feel relaxed but at the same time
  • Ready to move and we also
  • Notice that our breathing is not inhibited and therefore has a comfortable flow.

And what would be the benefit of such an approach?
Aside from creating safer and more efficient movement, it will allow us to be more aware and also it will allow us to focus on balance while moving and not while holding. Holding can helpful and such an approach can help you in creating efficient holding too; however if you are practicing dance it is necessary to practice balance while moving.

This is exactly what we are working on in our latest workshop. Try the recording, and let us know how it went!

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: For more on tips and drills visit our Technique Page

Active couch potato – Are you one of them?

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..!

Chrisa

P.S: For more ideas on how to do visit our video library.

Setting up your own practice

Practice, easier said than done!
What do we focus on? For how long? And how can make it sustainable? Are only a few of the questions that soon pop-up after we decide to set up our own practice.

Let’s say you are taking classes and you also took our workshop last week, so now you have a few things to practice on, but there is no indication of where to start.
There are so many different things you can start with, but which one should you explore first?

In this post, we are going to use the recording of our last workshop to see how you can start setting up your own practice.
So let’s get started!

A practice routine that works

We will use our latest workshop recording as an example to set up our practice routine. However, you can take materials from any of the classes you have attended.

  1. Step #1: Put it on your calendar. If it is not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist. To get started you need to make time in your day for your practice or it is never going to happen. Aim for 10-15 mins if this is your first time practicing on your own or if you haven’t practiced on your own for a long time. This is not about quantity but quality. This time frame is more than enough for someone we is now starting.
  2. Step #2: Start with a dance. You might have noticed that all of our workshops start with a dance. I think it really helps to get our mind and body ready to practice. It allows us to get into the mindset of practice in an enjoyable way and at the same time we are giving ourselves the opportunity to notice where we are that day. Notice any trouble, any holdbacks, any glitches as we gently move with the music.
    If you feel that you need more than one dance, of course you can add that to your routine.
  3. Step #3: Set your element of focus. It might be something you have been working on for some time, or something you discovered through your dance (step #2). Try to be as specific as possible. For example, let’s say you are starting out with: “I need to work on my posture”.
    Ok! What about your posture? Is it to do with balance, movement, anatomy, breathing, efficiency? Try to be specific.
  4. Step #4: Start with what feels as an emergency to you at the moment. Following the example above, all of these elements may sound important and necessary. You will of course capture a few of them in one practice but not all of them. So start with what feels as an emergency to you on that day, knowing that sooner than later you will be exploring the rest.
  5. Step #5: Start where you are. Continuing with the example of posture, in the beginning of the video we are exploring flexion and extension of the spine in order to find the 0.0 posture. When we are working with the placement of the thorax you will hear me say that “you need to start where you are, not where you should be“.
    Start where you are. identify the end of range for flexion and extension. Then shift your focus to the path from one end to the other end. Lastly, notice the middle of that path. Give yourself the opportunity to identify whether your go-to position is helpful or not. And then start exploring other options to find the one that works best for you.
    There is no point trying to replace a habit by forcing a new rule on your body. The body needs time to adjust and a rule is easily forgotten if your body is not given that necessary time. Through movement our body will find way to establish that rule, without force but through understanding and ease.   
  6. Step #6: Record and celebrate your practice. Take notes of what worked and what didn’t so you can come back to it the next time.
    Mark every practice you complete on your calendar. It can be a check-mark, or a smiley face or anything that works for you. Mark though the day as a day that you practiced. And congratulate yourself for having made it. All of this is for encouragement. For when you miss a practice and feel blue. Such days will come!
    Then instead of feeling like you will never be successful in your practice, look at your calendar! You will see all the smiley faces you have there already. Acknowledge the great work and effort you have already put into your practice.
  7. Last but not least, remember “the more the better” is not quite accurate here, especially in the beginning. Start small and grow! Start maybe with 10-15 mins, that would translate to a dance and an exercise. You will see that soon you will grow your practice in time and content.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: You can find more advise such as this along with a huge list of practice videos in our book “It Takes you to Tango – The Ultimate Guide for Leaders and Followers”