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
Walks and ochos are the two elements at the heart of Tango; every sequence with maybe the exception of off-axis sequences are based on walks and ochos
It is therefore important to get a good understanding of how walks and ochos work and how they can be tied together. And this is exactly what we will be focusing on in this post
Zooming In: Walks and Pivotal timing
In this first video we are putting our walks under the microscope. We capture though the whole body, aiming to understand how all the dots connect.
By focusing on the feet, the legs, the hips, the torso and the spine we will discover that the opportune moment for a pivot, hides within our step.
Once that discovery is made, we can see how a walk can turn into an ocho and vice versa. This way walks and ochos aren’t as separate, disconnected Tango elements that are need a sequence to connect them. This way we get to create options for ourselves on and off the dance floor.
Tango Technique: Zoom In on Ochos #2
In this second video there is a great focus on the upper body but again not as a separate entity.
The human body has so many fascinating links. The psoas major for example, originates in the outer surfaces of the vertebral bodies of T12 and L-1-L-3. T8-T12 is where your thoracic spine changes to Lumbar spine, so a muscle that goes around your hip reaches all the way up to your second- last rib… Fascinating! (Look here for more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psoas_major_muscle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iliopsoas)
It is all connected I tell you!hahaha And by exploring these connections we can make our dances have much more flow, freedom and efficiency.
Tango, Body mechanics and Energy management
What was implied or talked about as secondary in the two previous videos, becomes primary now… Energy management..! Energy management not in a spiritual, abstract way, but in a very physical way. Managing the energy our bodies need to perform a movement and how can we manage our energy so it is not wasted.
Basically in this video we are aiming to make Tango feel a bit easier, at least in execution…haha…meaning that walking across the floor shouldn’t feel like a physically demanding task and pivoting also.
We put styling and personal preference to the side to examine how the body was in fact built to create these movements. Some being more chaotic than others, will require further exploration; and funnily enough walking is probably the most chaotic of all as it requires a lot of movements around different axises and on different planes.
So we have tried to come up with exercises that can help us understand a bit of the chaos, and possibly add to it; exercises that will allow us to feel a bit more comfortable in this chaotic movement and that will allow us to define the opportune moments for a change
I hope you have enjoyed this as much as I have. If you have any questions, comments or light-bulb moments drop me a line, I would love to chat with you!
Giro technique…it can be tough but we will smoothly get through it… 😉 In our previous post https://bautanz.com/2019/03/20/music-sensing-feeling-and-action/ we were looking at rhythmical explorations. We used rebounds, walks and ochos and tried to figure out how these three elements, these basic Tango elements, can help us create something special on the dance floor.
These very elements though, we can find them in giros and naturally… this is what this post is about… Giro technique!
2 Rhythmical variations
If you have been in Tango for some time you’ve probably been taught the giro step following this basic rhythmic pattern: quick quick slow slow
And the truth is that this pattern even though we don’t HAVE to necessarily follow it, works quite smoothly; it has a nice flow to it and that is why we are not going to be changing that rhythm today. We’re only going to be exploring it further…
The transition between quick-quick and slow, slow…
I think an image here can help us a little bit with his exploration. Imagine a rainbow and on one end of the rainbow we have black and on the other end we have white and in between we have all the colours, every colour possible. Our transition is THAT rainbow! On one edge of the of the rainbow will be the “quick” part and on the other end will be the “slow” part. In variation #1 we will stay closer to the quick edge of the rainbow while in variation #2 we will move closer to the slow part. As we switch between the two, we will notice the colours in between and how our perception of them changes as we transition
If you are a beginner in Tango and you don’t know the giro step yet, then I would recommend that you watch the whole video from beginning to end and then just start practicing the step itself without worrying about the rhythm at all. Don’t worry about the quick- quick ,slow, slow, just do the footwork and once you feel more comfortable with the with a step itself then you can move on to exploring the variations If though you are familiar with the giro step I would encourage you to start from the END of the video from the very last exercise that focuses solely on the transition itself and then make your way through variations 1 and 2
Giro Technique: 8 anchoring points
Another vital transition for the giros, is the transition from standing on 2 feet to balancing over 1 foot and vice versa This transition hides a lot of habits, good and bad. And of course good habits are more than welcome…haha… the bad habits on the other hand we want to notice them and hopefully through our practices replace with more efficient ones
So here are some extra tips that can help you this video:
Listen for any trouble. Tension tends to be quite “vocal” through our bodies but we usually because we think it is normal for tension to manifest itself, we don’t pay attention to it. So distinguish between strength and unnecessary tension. Some of the most common places we find tension are: the hip joints, the lower back, the shoulders, the neck, the sternum, the face muscles So when you lift one leg up, make a quick check, take your mind through all of the above spots in your body and see if you can relax them
Standing with the weight split between the 2 feet. Notice how you reach for the connection with the floor tracing from the bottom up; from foot, to ankle, to knee, to hip, to ribcage, to arms, to neck and head.
You are special. Accept that your body is slightly different than your friend’s, your teacher’s or mine. Your focus should be to experience all the tips you hear in the video and not to bring the leg as high as I do, or to twist as much as I do. These movements exist in your body already; they live in your everyday walk, Tango is only an opportunity to expose them, become aware of them and possibly make them more efficient over time. So pay close close attention.
Hands to Ribs – A top-to-bottom practice
After talking about rhythm and after trying to understand and explore further the transition from 2 feet to a 1 foot balance, in this giro technique video, we are going to look into pivots and specifically we’re going to explore further the preparation phase for the pivots within the giros.
One of the most common mistakes we make in giros is skipping or pulling through the preparation phase; the phase where we are still transitioning from one foot to the other but we know there is a pivot coming and so we are preparing your body for the pivot; those very few seconds before the pivot happens.
What we will be doing in this video is acknowledging first of all that in-between stage, finding within our giro step.
And then we will be focusing on how the upper and lower body are working together during that phase, we will be looking at how much energy and power we need to create and use to make our way around the pivot and last but certainly not least we will be focusing on finding the right timing for the pivot to start.
Many a times we are running a little bit behind getting stuck in that in-between phase or as we mentioned before we really rush through it and we hop straight into the pivot so our goal here is to be able to avoid both of these troubling bad habits and to build a habit where we we are in control of the transition from a linear movement to a circular movement
Soooo that is all folks, at least for today. Giro technique right before the weekend milongas, perfect! And if you loved this and you want more, join the community of Bautanz! I share a video every Wednesday… 😉
But today I want to take a moment to talk to you about the life-tango connection.
Tango is like life and vice versa
No that is NOT what I am going to talk about…hahaha…but you thought I would didn’t you?
You felt that cliche coming your way! Haha
Don’t worry you are safe!
I want to talk about how this practice like all the other practices you can find in this blog can help you move better in life as well as in Tango
One of the biggest problems people have today is that they are not moving enough.
As a species we were made to move…In fact we survived because our movement became more efficient and we managed in this way to “outrun” our opponents and get food!
Now, this species that it’s whole survival was based on movement is stranded on a chair only to move once or twice a week.
Our bodies thinking that this is the new way of doing things, rearranges our muscles to support it and slowly but surely we start losing range of motion, flexibility and power in our hips, shoulders, spine and all around… We start losing ourselves!
Does any of this sound familiar?
If not, think about the last time your tried to bend over to grab something off the floor aaaand…”OUCH! My back…” came out
Or the last time you thought to yourself: “I am too old for this”
Well, what if Tango was here to help you keep on moving even if you have to take things a bit slower or with a bit more caution.
Follow the tips below for healthier body… they WILL make your ochos better as well!
Space and movement in the hips and spine is something that many of us have lost with time. But you can definitely get some back with the exercises above
Only have the following tips in mind:
Find your own rhythm, maybe I am going to fast for you, slow it down if you need to
If at any time during the seated exercises you need to put your hands on the floor go for it, just don’t drop your weight on them
And if you a friendly wall for your adult ochos, go for that as well, balance also gets built with time
Focus not on how big of a twist you can create but on identifying all the movements your body is creating from the outside in, meaning from the skin all the way to the organs and the inside out from your breath, from your blood to your skin.
If you can’t twist as much, or can’t have the legs fully extended, that is OK! Not being flexible is not always bad same as being flexible is not always good. Look for safety, for smoothness and flow and flexibility will come with time.
Breathe! Yes I know you are doing that already…But breathe into every inch of your body and out of every cell.
Notice points of tension and see if you can get rid of it. I am saying if because sometimes that is not possible, no matter how much we might want it. But acknowledging it is the first step towards getting rid of it
Do your ochos noticing how the movements you explored in the exercises underlie them. Like the leg-hip-leg-body circuit we explored
Without changing any of your current habits, notice how these movements underlie your everyday life. Examine your comfort zone to become more aware of your movement, your limits and your potential
Aaaaand last but not least…. Have fun with it!
I want to take a quick second to thank Jeffrey Posner for the hips rotations he shared on instaInst that inspired this video!
Coooome on lets twist again…..Oups different dance…!haha
I haven’t done a don’t-leave-the-gym-yet video in a long time, mostly because I haven’t been to the gym for some time…hmmmm…time to change that though.
Turn, twist and pivot
As you might have already gathered from the introduction… I am not really a regular to the gym…I like doing different activities, including going to the gym but I am not a gym freak…
With that being said, please don’t think of these exercises as the only exercises you will ever need, but as great opportunities.
Opportunities? You might wonder…
Yes opportunities for a multi-layered practice. On a first level you can just do the exercises for a good workout. Then on a second level you can trust me that they do actually have something to do with Tango On a third you will think over each exercise and find the connecting thread with Tango And on a fourth level you can identify the basic principles underlying the exercises and Tango and start exploring those principles in how your body moves generally Lastly, on a fifth level you can acknowledge how these practices have changed your understanding of your movement, your body, yourself and your relationship with what is you and what is not you. Etc…
On level 5 the exercises don’t matter but at all, they can be any 7 exercise.
But guess what… level 5 doesn’t matter either if you skip all the other levels
And no no I am going to through the journey cliche at you….
You need action, you need a physical understanding of your body through movement to reach a mental and sensical understanding. We understand ourselves through movement not through mental pictures created by others externally.
So I encourage you to try these out notice what they do to your body and slowly make your way to level 5 and beyond..! But first you just have to do it!Haha