Amateur, the lover, the friend. The word goes back to 1784, from the French amateur “one who loves, lover” (16c., restored from Old French ameour), which of course comes from the Latin word amatorem (nominative amator) “lover, friend,” with the agent noun from amatus, past participle of amare “to love”
Amateur, one who loves…
Isn’t it beautiful? To be able to say I am an amateur Tango dancer and know the love you are expressing! Lovers of Tango, of Dance and Movement, that is what we are! We are explorers and friends of research and discovery. Not only because we want to be better or feel better while we are dancing but simply because we love to dance, we love Tango!
I am not sure about you but sometimes while we are trying to fix all of the things pointed out to us by our teachers, we get lost. We might lose our target, and think that adjusting successfully to cues meets the goal. Then after a while we realize that such a goal is unattainable, it always shifts since it is actually set by another person. Plus it doesn’t quite speak to the heart… have you noticed that?
Maybe we start and we are excited to see and feel some change but after a while, if we focus solely on fixing and on what needs to be fixed, we start losing interest..! It is actually kinda funny… we recognize we are doing better but that is not enough to keep us going..!
Focus on the love
My invitation to you therefore is to focus on the love itself. Here are some examples of refocusing… Practice? Reframe to love discovering through motion Learning new steps? Love creating together
Put your heart to it, feel your whole self is being part of this process not just a mind instructing legs and arms. Love how your arms are holding, how toes are articulating, how your blood is flowing warming your whole body up. Be an Amateur! Enjoy every moment of the process! 🙂
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 miserablebut 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!
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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!
Surprise! Don’t you miss it? I know I am speaking only for myself here, but here is the thing, I feel that even if we went to the same milongas every week, there was always the element of surprise. We didn’t know who was going to be there, what music would be playing, which song we will be invited to dance to, how our partner is going to dance to the tanda… And as you can see I left out not knowing who your partner will be because that is something you actually have a choice on. There are so many things in a milonga that are complete mysteries!
Surprise… how do you respond to it?
Now, in contradiction, days have become quite predictable, in our everyday life. I don’t know about you but, I am in an area where there is a lockdown, so my day is predetermined most days of the week.
So there is not much of a surprise, but mostly stressors, like a nasty email, or bad news on TV. Depending on your environment the stressors might actually be part of the day. So somehow all days mesh together… where did 2020 go?
I really miss those social surprises… Going out and having a____(fascinating, unexpected, fun, strange, interesting, boring… you fill in the blank) dance wondering what the next one will be like..! And honestly, I don’t think I can keep it a secret anymore, I don’t want to practice anymore! haha Not though because practicing is pointless, but because there is something else missing and it is not skill.
Hey! I know there is always skill to be acquired, but there will be time to practice on that later… Surprise though and how we/ I respond to it, has been missing for a long time now. What will urge us/ me to get off the chair/ couch/ bed whatever you spend most of your day sitting on.
So I thought we could work on this theme last week during our Mid-Week Tango Practice
Finding New Patterns
The great thing though about “indulging” in surprise is that you can capture feedback, on how you respond to a surprise. How does your body react to an unknown piece of music? Do you tense up or do you go with flow? Are you moving slower or faster? Is it frustrating and why? If it is frustrating how do you get past the frustration? Were there any reactions that surprised you?
All of these and more questions can lead us to so many more options for movement. And as we are about to jump head first into discovering something new….our habits hit the breaks! And so another series of questions starts… What habits do you recognize? For how many of those do you have a recollection of how they were established? Do you need them all? Are they all helpful? Would you consider leaving some of them for a bit to explore more movement options?
All these questions and more can lead us to deeper and more surprising explorations! And you know how it goes… more surprises, more questions, more explorations, more options aaaand loop around again.
So I have put a video together suggesting a path to recognizing habits and building new ones, which I hope you will give try to and enjoy
Surprise yourselves! See what comes out of it! The opportunity for you to express your unique strengths might be just around the corner
P.S: We have a workshop full of surprises coming up on Feb.6th check it out here
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
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