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!
We have shared a lot of practical tips and drills on Tango and that this post can be a bit different and focus on misconceptions about Tango. We will get a chance in this way to exchange thoughts and ideas on things that we thought worked but actually didn’t or vice versa we thought they didn’t work and we realized they worked wonders.
If you have Tango misconception stories, share them with me, either by commenting on this post or by filling out this survey..!
Tango misconceptions and the “one-size-fits-all”
We usually start Tango or any type of dance really, to learn something new, to have fun, to have a social yet productive evening out, to share some time with a friend or partner etc. In general, it is for a social/ fun reason that we get into it. And so we don’t expect to feel stuck, frustrated, tired and like failures…haha…while we are at it..!
There are many reasons why this might have happened and may happen to us, but one of the many reasons, is actually the one size fits all approach that is followed some times in teaching dance in general and Tango in particular.
Now, let’s clarify one thing before we carry on, I am not saying that no rules apply and that everyone should find their own Tango. What I am saying is that the way one teaches those rules, whether they are related to a specific Tango style or not, needs to be adaptable to the group and the individuals in that group. Every one of us has a different body, different movement habits, a different background and therefore a different understanding of dance and movement. As such we can not be expected to all learn in the same way.
Therefore, when something is presented to us as “this is how it is”, and even worse when body mechanics are thrown into the mix to support purely stylistic rules, it is highly possible that many of us will not be able to work it out in our bodies; or if we do, it might still feel uncomfortable.
So with all that in mind, lets take a look at our first video on Tango misconceptions where we explore what is actually a stylistic rule compared to body mechanics rule.
A misconception is not a lie and doesn’t imply complete ignorance..!
Before we carry on, I wanted to add a note here for all of us that might be struggling with a specific element and may now be thinking that they have been let down by their teachers and/ or by themselves.
A misconception is not a lie nor does it imply complete ignorance. A misconception is a different understanding maybe even a misunderstanding. So if you are feeling a bit frustrated now, think that this how we learn, how we progress. We make assumptions, some of them will stand and some will need to be reassessed. This whole process is what brings us to knowledge. So you haven’t wasted your time! On the contrary you have been learning! And most importantly, you have been engaging in something that you are passionate about!
As you will see in our video below, we start with the misconception of ochos being a stand-alone Tango step; but we don’t stop there. We will then see a different perspective, where the ochos are simply “walks in different directions”. We are exploring a different perspective and we are acknowledging the shift from how we were approaching ochos before. This way we are 2 things:
That ochos are really walks and not a special step and
How to learn and progress. In the beginning we see and practice ochos as a stand alone step; that may be necessary to reduce frustration. After a while though we need to reassess and start connecting the dots between walking and ochos, for Tango as a whole to make sense.
Making the healthy choice
Before I let you go, I would like to share 2 insights with the group:
When you find that a movement is uncomfortable or even worse painful, take a moment to assess. I know this might sound obvious but it is not really obvious when we are in action. Usually we see other people following through and we think we should push through the discomfort. Take a moment to consider whether this movement is rewarding for you at the moment. The end result may be something you want to work towards; but if you experiencing discomfort, you still haven’t found the right path to get there. Misconceptions may be hiding in the end result or in the path or in both. If any part of the movement feels wrong to you, it probably is..!
Sometimes progress comes not from practicing Tango itself. It can some from a shift in our understanding of movement in small everyday type of movement habits. Posture is great example! If you introduce in small dosages of mindfulness and awareness on how you carry your body through your everyday life, this will make your day more enjoyable and change your posture in Tango inevitably. It doesn’t apply to every Tango element but it captures a fair bit!
So what Tango misconceptions have you tackled..? Share your great stories with me I would love to hear them! And don’t forget to subscribe for more content such as this
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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..!
Today I wanted to share with you an idea…I am not sure if it will come through as I want it to but I surely hope it does. You can tell me, later in a message if you like..!
Dance I believe has to do with space. How we stand in space. The space we create when dancing. The space we share. Are we reaching towards the other aiming to bring them close or to push them away? Aiming to get close to them or move away from them? How much of our personal space do we want to give up when getting in an embrace? Are we bringing our hands together or are we hugging? In both cases what does that shared space look like? What does the left-over space look like?
So any time we make a movement no matter how big or how small, we shift the space around us.
There is also the opposite notion, how the space forms our movement. Either literally, meaning that you move differently when you are in crowded or small room compared to an empty or big room. Or “metaphorically”, and I am putting that in quotes as I am not sure if it would be equally literal, meaning that you allow the space to move you. You feel the earth, you feel the sky, you feel YOU somewhere there in between, you feel the air around you and you let all that move you.
Lastly, there is seeing the human body as space. Feeling our 3d-ness(I just made up this word..haha..). But feeling how we are not defined but one axis but 3, and embodying that through movement.
The shapes we make!
Some basic anatomy will teach you that no part of our body is actually straight nor set perpendicular to any other. We are comprised by curved surfaces set in oblique positions to one another. See the hip joint below as an example;
Also the muscles wrap around the bones, curving and embracing them, see for example the muscles of the back
Even in the most intimate of places we can see curves and spirals; This is the golden rule revealed here in the structure of our ear and face:
The shapes therefore we create are curvy and bendy and not rectilinear. Our movement is defined more by spirals than straight lines. And spirals can be better expressed through triangulated movement structures than rectilinear structures.
The essence of movement
The essence of movement should therefor capture both points made above. Consider the quality of a spiral. Endless flow of energy, defining space through, within and around it. A vibrating energy, condensing and expanding, relating to the space around not through shooting energy away from it but through yielding, condensing and expanding.
You can see if you look at the picture below that spiral form of the muscles
The question now is how do we explore all that? How do we explore the essence of the spiral? Exploring the mechanics would be one necessary task of course, as it will help you do things efficiently, be more balanced and save energy while moving. It will help you identify the risk of your movement choices, and identify paths to avoid injury. But the essence of the spiral… is a bit of a different thing! You probably have experienced this in those sublime moments when you are dancing and you are you, you are the space, you are the music, you are time, you are body and spirit and soul. Those magical moments that are rare and special It could be the same simple movement, like lifting an arm, only when you dance, you are filling the whole room with that one arm-lift…or that the room itself, the space around you is lifting up that arm. The space is defined by your movement and your movement is supported by the space around you. And when that happens the energy of the spiral flows endlessly, from one movement to the next.
I invite you to explore all of this with me! Our new set of classes in starting June 27th and it is going to be about the embrace, the connection, leading/ following and timing. We will explore the mechanics and the essence of the frame, our walks and ochos with great focus on sensing, feeling and action. I hope to see you there and then! Let me know if you are interested and if you have any questions! https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/online-tango-classes-live/
It takes a few years for us to find a good structure for our Tango practice. In the beginning we just do what we did in a class or a workshop. Then we get together with friends and practice different figures probably attend guided practicas Some of us will keep practicing in some way or form but most will most likely stop after a certain period time. Interestingly enough in both cases we will reach the same sticky point which is the moment we realize what we have been or have not been doing, serves us no more and that we are officially stuck!
How a Tango practice works
I have found myself stuck a couple of times, feeling that I am making no progress whatsoever. And it is only recently that I realized that for a practice to work it can’t just be plain repetition of steps and rules.
Cognitively understanding and executing steps and being able to perform well in Tango are two very different things.
And so here in Bautanz we invite you to start looking for efficiency in your movement while practicing instead of reviewing rules
Why look for efficiency?
One obvious reason is saving ourselves from unnecessary hardship, injury and pain. The road to efficiency though goes through understanding the structure of our bodies and becoming aware of the way they are built to move. Our practice therefore doesn’t start from the end result but from the structure of the human body.
I know this probably sounds like a lot of work and as matter of fact, it is! However, if you feel that you haven’t found your personal style in Tango; that something just doesn’t fit; or that you are stuck or missing something…wouldn’t it make sense to assess your own body and build your practice on the finding of that assessment?
Every one of us has a slightly different body, so what makes more sense: 1. a one way fits all or 2. identify unique strengths and limitations and build on that
I believe it is the latter… and so the videos above and below are created as suggestions, as ideas. They are based on biomechanics. And they are here as starting points for you. Hopefully as you move more and learn more you will be able to put together practices that better serve your own expectations and needs.
It is interesting to see people’s reactions to boleos. I am actually sure quite a few people probably won’t read this article because it includes the word boleos in the title…but for those who are here now be prepared for a bit of a twist to your regular boleo experience…haha
Boleos are not high kicks..!
So what is a boleo? A boleo is a change of direction on a turn, on a pivot It doesn’t have to be powerful, it doesn’t have to be high or super low and of course it doesn’t have to be a kick
Certainly there potential for all the things mentioned above…all of them though refer to style and not to the essence of what a boleo is.
ALL we need for a good boleo
And unfortunately it is not love…haha
2 are the main ingredients for a great boleo:
Timing as with everything in life and
The balance between energy contained and shared
The following video looks into both of these main items and sets the base for fancier boleos and more in depth explorations
Look beyond the kick- Enhance your Tango technique
If we look at a boleo for what it is, a change of direction and make our focus to make as smooth as possible whether contain or share energy, we will soon discover that there certain elements such as the hip axis that if we focused on them we could have a completely different experience during our dances.
The next two videos go progressively deeper into exploring the hip axis and especially the last one creates the link to other Tango essentials such as our walks and ochos