Category Archives: Musicality

Music, Rhythm and Mindfulness

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. 

Being mindful

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:

  1. relating to, responding to and sharing music in a respectful way
  2. attempting to feel the layers, textures, colours, tastes of each music composition
  3. accepting that we won’t most likely be able to capture all the brilliance that goes in a song but
  4. doing the best we can to hear to it, to feel it and open our minds and hearts more and more to it
  5. 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
  6. showing parts of ourselves when we dance. Allow some vulnerability instead of going into the song with a “technical”, “how-to” approach
  7. 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 
  8. 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.

  1. Hosted online through Facebook and Zoom- links will be shared 2hrs prior to the event
  2. A Pay from the Heart, so there is no set ticket fee, we are welcoming though donations: https://paypal.me/Bautanz?locale.x=en_US
  3. With a recording made available after the class to those interested.

Hope to see you then,

Chrisa

What do you taste like when you dance?

What you taste like… when you dance..! Not as horrifying a question… push Hannibal Lector away (haha)… when you think of the taste, the impression, the sensation you get when you dance, when perform a move.

After last week’s Mid-week Tango practice I got a very interesting question on the Youtube chat, that went something like this:
What textures in the music fit well with doing cross in the dance?

As you will see in the link I attempted a quick answer, but now it is the time for an answer that goes more in depth.
So lets pick a song, for example “Comme il faut” by Carlos Di Sarli start with the basics, and gradually go deeper and probably more subjective

Basic “movement structures” suggested by the music

I am sure we have all heard of linear, and circular structures in Tango, and how they match the music. But I would like suggest one more structure the circular progressive. We have therefore 3 movement structures suggested by the music , linear, circular progressive and circular:

Step #1 therefore would be to identify these structures on the music

Try to go through the song identifying where the music suggests linear structures, circular progressive and circular. For example, the song starts linear till about 0:15 when things start to change to circular progressive until about 0:33 that we start going back to linear until 0:45 where circular comes in briefly etc.

After spending some time to identify these structural qualities in the music then you can start matching steps to it. At that point, the first thing one would think of doing, of course, is walking on the linear, ochos on circular progressive and giros on the circular. Great choice for a start..!

What happens in between..?

What happens in between though? This is one of my favourite themes, the transition..! The in between, when we are shifting the weight or pausing?

Those moments, need to match the music of course, but not only in terms of timing but also as a preparation for what is coming afterwards and also in terms of texture.

The cross step is a beautiful example because it is a shift of weight which includes a small twist to it. That makes it a beautiful opportunity to either transition from linear to circular or to create a linear step but with a little taste of circular from the cross and on top of those two options add a change of sensation.

Another example could be any pause during a dance. How you hold the embrace, the space between you and your partner has a quality, a texture, a taste. That of course depends on the music and your partner as well but primarily depends on you..!

Texture is subjective

I don’t like using the word musicality because there are so many things involved when using this word, so I have been carefully avoiding it. I have also been carefully avoiding to speak about the beat, the rhythm, the tone etc. and generally the technical aspects of music.

Though these are requirements, they are fundamentals, this post is not about that. And so I will similarly avoid talking about the cliche phrase “We all hear differently”… Well yes and no but let’s instead talk about how we all respond differently to what we hear. I would think we can all agree to that.

Going back to our song Comme il faut and after identifying those movement structures we can start exploring past that and try to find qualities of movement.

How would we go about to that?

This is what I usually do, but I am sure someone else might follow a different process. While listening to the song:

  • I write down words that come to mind that would characterize what I am hearing. Some examples, dynamic, playful, delicate, passionate, flowery, colourful, embellished
  • Then I write down sensations, for example it smells like Spring, has like a little breeze to it and tastes like a sweet spice
  • Lastly I dance to the words above. Aside from linear, circular progressive or circular how does the movement feel

It is highly likely you will come up with a different list of words. That depends on your personality, your previous experiences, your expectations, goals etc.

So this is a second layer that allows you to filter the music through your body, mind and soul and express yourself not through different movements but different textures.

Is there an easy way to practice this?

Practice I am not sure if it is ever easy but if you are struggling with finding the beat or the rhythm, it is likely that the dancing part of the above bullet point list might be a bit difficult and frustrating.

So I would like to suggest we take a step back and become creative in a slightly different way… Here you go, give it a try..!
(Spoiler, it is kids friendly and you can try this with multiple different colours too)

Enjoy,

Chrisa

For more practices check this link: Musicality games

Musicality_A Musical Journey to the past

We took a musical journey to the past last Wednesday!
It was part of of our Mid-week tango practice and this week’s theme was of course musicality. 
But instead on the beat or the tempo or the rhythm we used the music to explore the history of Argentina and to draw some connecting lines to the Tango we dance today.
Of course there is the element of the beat, and being able to recognize and count it; but at the same time we need to look at the music holistically and isolating one element or the other

Quick disclaimer here: No I am not saying the beat is not important and you can ignore it, to express yourself..!hahaha

What could being “musical” mean?

What I would like to encourage you, especially if you are having trouble with finding the beat, when you will be practicing with this video at home, is to refrain from jumping right into dancing. Listen to the different music pieces and try to listen to the historical connection, try to listen to the connecting thread.

The next step would be to visualize. For example one of the videos on the playlist (it is attached below) is from a live candombe performance; there you will notice that the posture of those dancers is very similar to the canyengue posture; leaning slightly forward with the knees bent. But with crisp clear movements. And that perfectly matches the music in both dances.

Then dancing, movement can come into play…not copying but embodying the necessary posture and quality of movement.
So to continue with the canyengue example from above, that posture that makes the couple melt in each others arms and towards the ground, it is matched with an earthiness in the music. Something like gravity pulling you to the earth compared to the milonga where you are ready to hop and play and fly.
So the music and the posture and the steps are all coordinated to create a unison. You have a network, instead of separate choices that you need to make under the different Tango umbrellas

So I hope this helps and I hope I didn’t complicate things instead of explaining..!haha
But we have chats like this every week here at Bautanz, just subscribe to be part of the communnity
And if you want to get dancing right away click here: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango-technique/musicality/

🙂

Chrisa

P.S: Link to the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uQh5RfE2XA&list=PLllIglFQNLn_UZwZghekc0v9XqF6yEu0_

Music: sensing, feeling and action

“There are many elements involved, all concerned with the perception, decoding and synthesis of sound and time and thus there are many forms of amusia” (…) “A.L Benton distinguishes receptive from interpretive or performance and identifies more than a dozen varieties”
Musicophilia- Tales of Music and the Brain, pg. 106
(https://www.oliversacks.com/books-by-oliver-sacks/musicophilia/)

Based on Oliver Sacks the author of Musicophilia, there are quite a few different musicality trouble. For example, one might experience, rhythm deafness, tone deafness, cultural rhythm deafness, no sense of scale, melody or harmony, pitch discrimination, dystimbria and more…

And that is because music is not just beats per minute…

Starting from the music

Usually what happens is, we go to a class, we learn a bunch of sequences, either to no-music or on a specific song.
Then we go to the milongas but we are not able to perform these same sequences on the music, unless we are lucky enough and that one song that our teacher used in class, is played in the milonga.
That creates a feeling of emptiness, as if we didn’t really dance.

In order to address this issue, we will focus on the music itself first. So go ahead and choose any 4 songs you like, from different orchestras, and start with actively listening, trying to make sense of the music.

Making sense of the music, happens in many ways:

  • through hearing for its beat, tempo, rhythm etc
  • seeing it, usually the timbre of the music is expressed as colour
  • through taste, often times musicians when they talk about pitch they use taste-related words
  • through movement; you might catch yourself tapping your foot, or swinging the arms
  • or you might hum or sing etc

Try initially to just let all of these things happen, and make a note of them. Even if they are distasteful, don’t stop them from happening.
Be simply a witness and not a judge to the process

On a second level, we use movement to become aware of what the music feels like.
Personally, I did this like so:

Use simple, very basic movements that will not trouble you technically, to capture what the music feels like to you.

Initially, you will most likely become aware of your emotions, like feeling sad or happy, and attempt to express them through movement.

After that initial response though, try to look for the words behind those adjectives.
For example, the music might feel like a punch or a gentle touch. It might be like a total collapse or a light hop. Maybe it is epidermic or visceral.

The words will describe, how your body expresses your emotions, for example, sad could be bodily expressed through total collapse, while happy could be a light hop.

Finding the flow of the movement

The previous video will allow to notice your strengths and your weaknesses regarding perceiving and interpreting music.

Have in mind that “No one has all the talents, cognitively or emotionally. Tchaikovsky was keenly aware that his great fertility of melody was not matched by a comparable grasp of musical structure”
Musicophilia- Tales of Music and the Brain, pg. 98

This comes to say that overall we should acknowledge our weakness and bet on our strengths!
And since I am here writing an article on musicality aiming to help anyone who finds him/herself as weak in perceiving and/or interpreting music, I will suggest for this next video, that we focus on something that we all are a bit stronger in; movement; basic Tango movement.

Every move has an optimal rhythm. A rhythm that allows us to perform it efficiently and smoothly. That rhythm needs to match the rhythm of the music, for the movement to make sense, express what the music feels like and create a sense of calmness and confidence.

Taking action

You know when your teacher says: “Don’t think, just do it!”
There is a time to work with consciousness as shown in the videos above and a time when you need to act on things.

On the dance floor there is really no time to think things through, to put your conscious mind to work. On the dance floor it is the time to ACT! And hopefully you have practiced enough for that action to be successful

Sooooo after all this work, I think you deserve an extra night out, on the dance floors allowing yourself to respond, to act on the music!

But if you like more videos on musicality you can look at this page: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango-technique/musicality/

Enjoy,
Chrisa

P.S: The title is inspired by the wonderful book written by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen: https://store.burchfieldrose.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=SFABOOK


15 ways to do the basic step– A musicality practice

Musicality…  What do we define as musicality..?

Is it recognizing the beat and the rhythm and responding to it? Or is it our response to the melody? Is it connected to the style, the mood of the music? Can it have any relation to the steps we are choosing? Or does it have to do with our style and mood?
Maybe it is none or all of the above!
We will start with what we inherited
What we have inherited is a basic step. And that basic step is usually taught following a basic rhythm.
For example the followers do:
Side, back, back, cross, back, side, feet together
With the following rhythm:
Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, slow, slow
What will do is not a challenge… I know the title makes it sounds like one: “The 15 ways to do a basic step” haha
But it really isn’t a challenge… It is more the result of asking: “What if…?”
What if I went slower or faster
Or made my steps bigger or smaller
What if I went lower or higher
Or I just kept everything at an equal…
Basically the video is a definitive list but more of an invitation to explore the boundaries and limitations and create more options on the dance floor
Musicality–15 ways to do the basic step

Here are a few things to look out for while going through this drill:
  1.  if you are familiar with the classic rhythm of the basic step, you will be tempted to skip to the juicy stuff… DON’T! Haha
    Instead, go through it a couple of times, identifying the reason behind this basic tempo. It is not a matter of luck or coincidence that the basic step has THAT specific rhythm…
    This is your chance to make sense of it, figure out why!
  2. There are some options that due to technical difficulties..haha..might be unavailable to you. Most of the times when we attempt to go too fast or too slow, we get somehow stuck…
    If that happens don’t get frustrated.
    Instead, notice it and try to see why you are getting stuck; what is it that is getting you stuck
    After you have identified the problem then you can ask yourself: What if…? What if you did those fast steps in X way instead of Y, for example.
  3. Think outside the box. This is not a video with the top best ways to do the basic step. This is a video to explore the rhythm and the rhythmical options of the basic step and of Tango in general. So come up with your own stuff. Try things out. Explore different options.
    Are they all going to be good? Of course not…haha…
    But the fact that you asked the question, that you put your body through the process of figuring it out and that you reached to the conclusion that something didn’t work for the XYZ reason, is the most important part of this video.
So bottom line:
  1. explore history
  2. notice
  3. think further
Enjoy,
Chrisa
More on musicality..? Check this out: Being musical–So much more than doing steps on the beat

Embellishments that go beyond spicing

We’ve talked about sequences, we’ve talked about technique, we’ve talked about the embrace… so how can we possibly leave embellishments out of the game?

Many dancers look down on embellishments. They see them as fluff; as something secondary and unimportant.
Today though I will attempt to change their mind by using an embellishment to practice on:

  1. Balance
  2. Posture
  3. Timing
  4. Effortless movement
  5. Listening and connecting to our partner
Embellishments that go beyond spicing

The video is heavy on technique tips, tips on how to make this beautiful embellishment fit your dance as seamlessly as possible and tips on how to transfer the details of this experience into the rest of your dance.
So I will grab the opportunity to elaborate more on the hidden message of the video… which is NOT Intelligent Tango…haha… but the relationship that can be created between partners because of this and many other embellishments

When the specific embellishment is successful and spicy, there is a feeling of a slight delay in the pivot. It is not really a delay but a change in rhythm.
Here is why…
The leader drives the pivot BUT it is the follower’s free leg the comes rapping around first and then the actual pivot happens.
So leaders… it feels like your follower is stuck… but THAT stickiness will create the momentum, the power that we want for the embellishment to come to light!

How do we mess this up…
The followers are either exaggerating, slowing the pivot down and/ or they are not using the embrace to let their partner know they want to do something fancy with their feet.

The leaders on the other hand having not received any cue that something different is happening push their partners around because they think they got stuck on the pivot… OR if the follower did communicate her wish to do an embellishment, it is very likely that the leader didn’t hear it…

Tango is a partner’s dance

I heard me say it the beginning of the video as well.
I was thinking of doing a practice on embellishments but I wasn’t really sure which one to choose and how to structure the practice so we get massive knowledge from it.
So when one of my students of Intelligent Tango told how delighted he was by the support built in the program, that was gave me the idea to structure around which I structured the video.

In Tango we are building up a conversation and yet I clearly remember taking women’s technique classes where the teacher would focus almost exclusively on how to keep the action on the feet; how we block what we do with our feet from getting transmitted to our partner.
Why..?
So we won’t disturb the leader…

You can imagine what happened afterwards right?
Frustraaaation! haha

Followers trying to do embellishments without giving any indication to the leader that they are attempting an extra movement.
And leaders complaining that they didn’t know where the follower was and that they felt disconnected because of the embellishments
But the followers came back at them with: “You don’t give any time to do an embellishment!”

Unfortunately the leaders are right on this one…
How do expect for someone to give time for an embellishments when they don’t know you want to do one…?
If you don’t communicate with your leaders, they can’t possibly know you even need more time..!

Tango is a partners dance and there is needs to more than I give you the lead and you do it.
There needs to be support and understanding from both ends.
And for that to happen we both need to use the embrace not only to share a message but also listen to what our partner is telling us and provide comfort.

How can we practice on that through this embellishment
  1. Start with doing simple forward ochos–NO embellishment and notice the rhythm
  2. Add the embellishment and notice the change in rhythm
  3. After figuring out the rhythm and the footwork, focus on what the rest of the body is doing
  4. Do it against the wall and notice how the pressure in your hands is changing
  5. Use your breath to relax any tension you might be holding
  6. Practice both plain ochos and ochos with an embellishment with your partner. If you are a follower make sure that you let your leader know you are going to do the embellishment and if you are leader listen for the cue
  7. Share feedback with your partner and try again

Tango like any dance is based on communication. We all dance to share something with someone. We need therefore to find ways to practice becoming better in listening and in sharing!