Category Archives: Musicality

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!

Being musical–So much more than doing steps on the beat

Remember last week when we were talking about music?

About the magic, the power that music has… That great magical power to bring back memories, to fill us up with joy,  grief, nostalgia, hope, love.

Aaaah! Yes!

So what on earth happens when it comes to dancing to the music? Why, even though we want to be musical and expressive, do we throw all of that out the window?

Is it Tango music that is complicate or are you not paying attention?

We completely ignore of all that beauty, all that power mentioned above and either focus solely on the beat, trying to find that damn 1

Or even worse we ignore the music in TOTAL and we focus sequences that don’t even matter…

Now I am not saying that sequences are not important. But it is good to make a distinction here of what they really are… they are nice sentences that will get you to start a conversation BUT won’t ensure that your conversation doesn’t end up being boring..!

Oh shoot! I forgot…there is something even worse… Doing both of those at the same time..!

Being musical–SO much more than just steps on a beat vol. #2

Our focus in this video is to find a way to become more musical, more expressive with the music.
For this reason, we are using basic almost primitive–Tango wise– elements. This way we don’t have to worry about the technical aspect of the movement and we can explore freely the different moods in the music and take a step further towards embodying the music.

Here are a few tips to help you out:

  1. Don’t dive into it right away, listen to the music first.
    Listen actively,  for the changes in rhythm, for the changes in mood, for any melancholic melodic parts, or strong beats and of course listen for the pauses. To become more musical, you need to start from the music

  2. Then after you start feeling more secure with the song you choose–YES stick to 1 song–start making little choreographs in your head. Imagine yourself dancing to it, see in your mind your options

  3. Time for your SIMPLEST options to come to life.
    Keep it simple. Walks and shifts of weight, that is all I am doing, and I encourage you to do the same.
    Focus on learning the music through movement instead of trying to fit different sequences to it.

  4. Last but not least, ENJOY it.
    And how do you do that, give permission to yourself to suck! haha
    The first few times will feel strange and awkward and you will find yourself thinking that you don’t know what you are doing.
    That is absolutely normal and the FUN part of the whole process.
    Let yourself be moved by the music and you will find your way. Start simple, be patient and laugh at your fails!

Oh! I almost forgot… HAVE FUN!

Chrisa

P.S: If you are wondering why it says vol. #2 it is because we had a
vol. #1 some time ago, here it is: https://bautanz.com/2017/09/13/musicality-means-embodying-music/

The power of Music..!

Music! I can’t think of anyone saying: “Bah… I don’t really like music..!” haha

Music makes our lives full!

When we are happy, we put the radio to full blast, sing at the top of our voice and dance in the rain
And when we are sad we cry to the music we love, we post sad songs on facebook and we dance out our despair.

Unforgettable moments are marked by music. Moments that make such a strong imprint in you that become part of you…
You don’t think of them, or even remember them but one spark is enough to bring them back to life..!

Experience
Life
Presence
Connection
Art

“I also think that creative work is essential to our survival(…) Otherwise, without a skilled means of communicating the depth of our feeling, we invite depression” Andrea–(Sensing, feeling and action. The experiential anatomy of Body Mind Centering)

The power of music!

This documentary I think made a strong imprint in me. Every time I am working with a group with dementia, or Alzheimer’s or even autism, I see THIS very documentary come to life.

I see the spark, the joy, the hope in people’s eyes!

That was one of the reasons I wanted to share this documentary with you today the other reason is a more dance-y reason…

Because it reveals that music is not just beat.
Music is memory, it is experience and when it connects with our inner rhythm it can give us an endless, effortless flow of movement. It can move us even when we thought there was really no hope..!

Sometimes Tango music seems foreign to us and difficult to understand. What is causing this feeling though?

The fact that we haven’t made it part of our lives.

We listen to Tango music only when we have our Tango-hat on, when we go to class, to a milonga or when we practice. Even if we listen to it while commuting we are still looking for something, steps, beats, pauses, clues… we don’t listen just for the fun of listening.

It is not therefore part of our lives, it isn’t part of us.

Try to make Tango music part of YOU.
Listen to it while living your life
Connect it to special moments and to absolutely regular moments.
Allow yourself to make it part of your daily experience

Enjoy and please if you loved this documentary, please share..!
I think I have never asked you to do this with anything, and I have no affiliation with the creators of the documentary or the producer but personally I find it is something worth sharing

Chrisa

P.S: I found this documentary with Spanish subtitles purely out of luck on youtube but this is the original team of creators: Alive Inside

P.P.S: You can bring this element in your practice too: https://bautanz.com/2017/09/13/musicality-means-embodying-music/

Musicality Vs Technique–One of the most common Tango debates

Usually we see Tango technique classes being offered separately from musicality classes and that is not a bad approach, on the contrary, as long as it is not the ONLY approach.

Sometimes you need to put the 2 together..!

Like Joey in Friends:

musicality together
Joey Tribbiani, Friends

hahaha

Musicality OR Technique– Put your hands together!

Remember the last video we did on Ochos- Realign from toe to HEAD

There we were being very technical, focused on finding the proper alignment for our heads.
We were going slow, giving ourselves time to notice what we are missing, what we know and how the details are feeling. Because this is indeed part of how we learn.

At the same time though you need to put things into perspective.
Why are we doing all this?
To enjoy our dance more!

How is that going to happen?
If we manage to put this new technique element into our dance!

Is this difficult to do?
Yes, most of the times it is. Anything new takes some time to sync in… To make the process faster you need to practice THAT new element with… MUSIC

And so with no further ado, here is your video:

Have a prism- based practice

The cool thing about this, is that you have more than one options on how to execute it.

You can keep your focus on both musicality and technique–like I am doing in the video, or move closer towards one end or the other.
If want to work more on musicality, using the same drills, you can change songs and notice which option best matches the song you are listening to each time
Whereas, if you want to focus more on technique then you can choose ONE song that you know well, and that is NOT too fast, and possibly spend more time going slower than faster to give yourself time to work out the technical details.

And of course you can mix and match. You can go through the same drill a couple of times, shifting your focus accordingly, keeping your practice fresh and interesting!  Making something like a Tango cross- training system!  Haha

What to do after every practice, for better results

This is something most dancers, miss… Tracking their progress..!

Whether you are working on musicality or technique or improvisation or partnering or anything else for that matter you need to find a suitable way to track your progress.

After every practice take a few minutes to think how, what you just did, can help you in your very next milonga.
Take a few moments to think of how it made you feel, to recognize your emotional, psychological and physical state before and after your practice. And lastly try to notice if you did better than last time…!

There is really NO point going through different drills without tracking whether you are in fact getting better and feeling better–that is a vital part of an artistic practice– and  without making the connection with real-time dancing.
If you are practicing and you are getting more overwhelmed, more frustrated, more unaware, more unable to put those things in your dance… Then what is the point?

Keep it real, keep it interesting, keep it fresh and keep it fun!

Chrisa

P.S: Want more on musicality? Visit: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango-technique/musicality/