Category Archives: mindfulness

Ochos should we cross the legs?

Last week we were taking about posture and whether one can/ should maintain a specific body position throughout the dance. Inevitably therefore the conversation turned to ochos and whether we should cross the legs.

Crossing the legs in Tango

Let’s first take a look at what that means exactly in the Tango world. You might already be familiar with the specific movement option, but in case you are not, we are talking about bringing one leg right in line with the other while stepping forward or backwards. We are usually cued to do that to isolate the movement of the torso from that of the hips.

Why do choose to cross the legs?

When we cross the legs we lock the hips and lower spine in position. That creates the impression of the hips being square and parallel to the floor. Also, the upper body appears to have a clean rotation over the lower body with a more sharp disassociation.

What limitations does that movement option have?

This option however has some limitations. First, it limits the side tilt range of the spine. Side tilt, as we will see in the video below is coupled with torsion due to the anatomy of the spine, meaning the two movements always happen together.

Second, due to the side tilt limitation, the angle of the pivot is also limited. You see the bigger the pivot the more necessary the side tilt is. With the hips in a lock the side tilt may happen further up in the spine where it may affect the embrace, create tension in our neck, arms and between the shoulder blades and throw us off balance.

What does that mean physically for us?

From an anatomy perspective there are two important issues with this option. One is the side tilt limitation we talked about above. The second is that we will have sheer of forces running outward to the right and left of each hip joint.

Starting from the latter, when we place one foot in front of the other, then our movement options are at the end of range, for example we are at the end of range for adduction. That creates a feeling of tension or pressure through key joint surfaces, such as the hips and knees.

That is though related to the upper body as well. It limits the options our spine has at diaphragm height in terms of torsion and side tilt. Why is that? Well the reasons are more than one, but it really boils down to the shape and orientation of the joints, the muscles and connective tissue of the human body. 

So would we say this is a movement option that we want to maintain in our vocabulary?

In terms of Tango it can be a stylistic option that creates a very powerful and dynamic impression. However if we are to use it we would need to be aware of the physical limitations and risks which we spoke about above.

From an anatomical point of view it certainly is not the most efficient and healthy option for us. It locks certain parts of the body and that requires a lot more muscle work to pull through an ocho. If we don’t care so much for the Tango style it is better to choose a movement option that allows the whole body to participate in a more efficient way.

Let me know what you think and send me your questions on this matter or any other to do with posture or ochos..!

Do you keep your posture or do you move through it?

Do you keep your posture? Or better said, to you think of posture as something that you hold/ keep or as something that you move through, something that changes?

As part of our Q&A section on Posture we are exploring the perspective of “holding a posture”. If you have any question/ thought, send it through at chrisa.assis@bautanz.com I would love to hear from you.

Until then though let’s see the question/ trouble/ thought of the week:

Q: When you keep your posture in one way, does it help or hinder your dance? Are there other ways to keep your posture that are more or less effective?” Overly keeping my posture hinders my movement.

A: Overall, and this is related to your questions regarding ochos and saccadas that have already reached me, posture is a moment by moment case. Meaning that we can’t have the same posture when we are walking, standing, pivoting etc. We can’t see posture in Tango as one thing that we set it and forget it because it is part of our movement.
An example from life would be expecting to have the same posture when we are standing and when we are running or when we are sitting. We are asking our body to take a specific action, for each action to be successful AND efficient the whole body will need to coordinate and participate. So to run we will incline a bit forward something we don’t need to do when standing, amongst other things. 

In Tango it is the same thing, especially when we are working with torsion. Torsion is one of the most dangerous actions we can ask our body to do. Our spine only allows it in specific areas and it is always coupled with side tilt; based on spine anatomy torsion and side tilt always go together. That means therefore that when we twist to get in an ocho, our shoulders would be uneven; one would be higher than the other. We can use muscle to hide the side tilt, so it is not obvious BUT it is still happening in the spine plus when you engage the muscle you won’t be able move easily in and out of the ochos. The latter you are already feeling most likely…

Additionally I would like to invite you to review our Tango Movement Lab video on posture during ochos 

And if you missed Friday so you are not sure which video sparked this Q&A, here it is:

Enjoy and join us for more by subscribing at our Bautanz community

Chrisa

Any questions on posture?

We have many times talked about posture through this blog, but now we are actually opening the floor to you to send us any questions on posture.

The floor is open and you can send us in your questions or trouble at chrisa.assis@bautanz.com

But as we gather your questions, we would like to start answering some as we wait.

Questions on posture #1

How can one modify the exercises, ideas and more, to one’s body?

This is a question we should all be asking any time we are attempting an exercise/ routine/ movement for the first time even if it looks simple. I would invite therefore to use this answer as a map to make any other Tango or non-Tango video your own.
So let’s get right to it:

  1. First things first, let go of any of any preset cues/ understanding/ ideas of how your posture SHOULD be. Regardless of whether they are right or wrong, they will not allow you to identify where you are at and what you need at the moment. Which naturally leads us to:
  2. Secondly, we have our body assessment. For this particular video, notice the following, without intervening to make things “right”:
    1. How you sit in your chair. Do you sit all the way back or do you stay at the front of the chair? Do you flex the spine or sit upright? Where are your feet placed? Are you crosslegged? 
      Ask all of these questions and more creating a clear picture of how your body looks and feels when you sit in your chair. You want to be as detailed as possible, as if you were describing it to someone who can’t see you
    2. How your body looks and feels when you stand. Like above you want to identify in full detail how the three volumes of your body–head, torso and hips– are arranged when you are standing. Remember not how they should be, but how they actually are. So are you flexing or extending the spine? Do you pull your tummy in? Are your hips tipping forward or back? How about your feet are they together or apart? Are you looking down? Everything! Full body scan from head to toe.
    3. Last but not least for this section; how do YOU transition? Do you push off your chair or knees? Is there any discomfort when you are sitting and standing? Do you roll back a bit to stand? All these questions and more to be able to get a clear picture of how you transition from sitting to standing and vice versa.

Now let’s get to the specific video at hand

  1. Watch the video, identifying the goal of the video and listening to the steps/ cues/ process identified without though copying the person in the video, in this case me.
  2. Putting all the above together. We are starting seated in our video, so you start in your seat, however your posture is when you are sitting, notice if you are already in flexion and see if can feel your tail on the seat. It will be subtle..! If you don’t feel you can add a bit more flexion. Nothing will happen if you do anyways, as long as you are consciously making the decision to do so. Then from this stage onwards, I would advise you not to look at the video, but only listen to the audio. Identify not with the image but with the goals and cues. For example, stay focused in creating the gentle pressure of your tail to your seat and in noticing how the rest of your spine reacts to that, instead of trying to match what you see.
  3. Remember, we are all unique makes of a grand design! So one is not exactly the same as the other. Use this exercise as a way to create a better map of how YOUR body is!

Any questions on posture?

These was our 1st Q&A, there is more coming in the weeks to follow, with videos accompanying our posts. We invite you therefore once again to send us your thoughts, questions and trouble. We would love to see and read them and most importantly we would love to be able to help you out!

Join us for more, by subscribing to our bautanz community

Best,

Chrisa

Feeling comfortable, what does it truly mean..?

Feeling comfortable, is commonly associated with feeling good and at ease. Specifically in movement when we are saying we are comfortable in a pose or moving through a sequence, we usually mean that we are. not feeling pain or that we’ve generally got it.

Or like last week when looking at balancing the forces running through our body, when we achieve that we can say we are comfortable. Can we though say the same for the journey to achieve balance? Pushing through frustration when things are not working out in our practice. Or even pushing through pain… Would we say that we are comfortable with what practicing entails overall?

I would think not… but we might need to start thinking about comfort in those terms.

Be Comfortable with being human

One of my dear teachers Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen the other day put up a quick post on how feeling comfortable may be misunderstood.

I will only share an excerpt of her post here with you:
“(…) comfort doesn’t mean not having pain. It’s that we are here in our body. And maybe we are totally miserable but we are here.”

You can read the whole post here if you would like. It is short and truly sweet!

Don’t be mistaken I am not suggesting that you simply accept misery and defeat. Quite the contrary, be comfortable with being angry, frustrated, stressed, upset etc…. (you fill in that gap). Once you are comfortable with that feeling you can more clearly decide how you are going to deal with it.

Let’s take a Tango example, though you can apply this to life off the dancefloor as well of course.
Say you are coming back to social dancing after Covid, you are thirsty for Tango, you have just missed so much!
You get to the milonga, and you don’t get to dance much… suddenly the bad memories are crippling in.
Rejection, loneliness, feeling left out… etc.

That moment what do you do?
Do you pep-talk yourself out of it, forcing yourself to feel ok about the situation?
Or do you try to push past it, not to let disappointment kill the night?
Maybe the third choice, the what-did-I-expect-nothing-has-changed type of reaction.

The above reactions do not really allow us to sit with the feeling that is bubbling up. And they are really distractions or leave-for-later options.
So what I am suggesting is that if you are feeling disappointed, rejected, alone etc. feel comfortable with that feeling. Feel comfortable with being upset! It is absolutely ok!
Once comfortable with the feeling itself, you may then see more possible reactions to it that may resolve the issue.

The solution may not be obvious and most likely won’t just pop-up. You might need to step away from the dancefloor, go the bar, just sit and watch or even call it a night. But you would have taken the first step by saying:
“I am upset about this and I am totally comfortable with that. Now let’s resolve this!”

A little challenge to put things to the test

Another way to test your levels of comfort is of course practicing, and especially practicing alone.
Working on the little things, on the subtle things that may though bring huge change to how you move and dance.

Are you comfortable when things are not really working?
Or when you are not getting it?
Are you comfortable with putting in the time but not seeing immediate results?

I invite you to test it out for yourself with this practice on posture!
And if frustration starts building up, which of course it is not my intention, but if it does…allow yourselves to sit with that feeling comfortably!

So you know, this is kind of putting two birds in one nest. Practice for the body and the mind/ spirit!

Enjoy and join us for more by subscribing at our community

Chrisa

The neutral zone and the 0.0 posture

In our previous post we focused on the milonga and the key differences it has with Tango.
One of those differences referred to posture.  Specifically we observed that in Milonga due to speed we stay in the neutral zone while in Tango we have the time to shape the movement.

So this week, we will look into what we call neutral and range of motion and what shaping looks like.

Defining range of motion to figure out neutral

I am sure that you have heard or even used the term neutral position, for example keep your back in a neutral position.
What does this mean though exactly?

To understand better what it means we need to first speak about range of motion. 
Range of motion in a joint can be simply defined how far we can move around a specific axis, for example how far can we go in extension or flexion. Range of motion differs between different joints. And in the same joint it differs between different directions and around different axes. 
So for example we have a different range of flexion/ extension in our hips compared to our knees. Also though for the hip itself we have different range of flexion/ extension than rotation and we have more flexion compared to extension.
Bottom line it is all different so proceed with caution and keep exploring! and of course it is needless to say that each of us has different ranges of motion as we are all unique makes of the same grand design.

So now what is neutral

Well once you know how much range you have in a given joint, you know the end of range of a movement around an axis. The space between, the space before you reach the end of range is neutral. Neutral is an area, a zone not a specific point. The middle of the neutral zone where we are not committing in any direction we would then be in 0.0 posture..!

What does that all mean for Tango

To make things a bit more specific let’s look at one part of the Tango posture. Let’s look at the mid-back, where your thoracic changes to lumbar.


Here we have it all, flexion-extension, rotation and side reach. We have much more flexion than extension, like we see below.

posture1 NEUTRAL
Photo credit NatBat via Foter.com CC/ BY-NCSA
posture #1 NEUTRAL
Photo credit: yogamama.co.uk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

And anywhere between the end of the flexion-extension range is the neutral zone. In the middle where the joint are not going into flexion or extension we are at 0.

Taking a step

Finding 0 posture is one thing and takes some practice and exploring. But going from that 0 posture into a simple forward step can be tough!
It is actually like we will see in the video below one of the toughest transitions to manage.

And now on top of that we have different walking options, small steps, big steps or tiny steps. Those require a different skill.
Not that we forget or put to the side what we talked about above but when we are dancing we need to be aware but not limited by our anatomy. Every step is or can be unique, responding to the constraints of the dancefloor, to the style of our partner and most importantly the music.

Let’s see how the different types of steps can match some wonderful Tango music

So you have plenty elements to practice on and if you want more subscribe to our community.
Send me any questions or thoughts! 

I would love to hear from you,

Chrisa

Keep dancing! Keep Moving!

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!

Lets get exploring together!

Chrisa