If you are in any movement practice I am sure you have heard your teachers encourage you to move past your comfort zone; meaning to challenge yourselves. But how do you know you are in the zone to begin with? How do you know the limits of your comfort? And most importantly what does it take for you to acknowledge discomfort?
Finding the balance between comfort and discomfort
How would you know comfort if you don’t experience discomfort? Also, consider this, how would you begin to define discomfort if discomfort was part of the comfort zone?
If you defining comfort as in not painful, it means that pain is your only indication of discomfort. Discomfort then is part of your comfort zone because you can’t hear all the other signals of discomfort the body is giving you until you reach pain.
Similarly if you think of comfort as easy, as time that there is no challenge, you have made discomfort part of the comfort zone plus you are eliminating the possibility of learning and progressing while not being physically challenged.
Signs of discomfort can be as subtle as inhibited breathing, when you feel as if you are holding your breath. How many times have you been in that situation? I am sure, plenty. Have you ever considered this discomforting? Most likely not.
Picking up all the signals will allow you to be more aware of the boundary between comfort and discomfort. Defining the boundary will then allow you to push past it when you feel ready, when you are comfortable to do so. Lastly, it will allow you to be more empathetic with other people, more understanding of their situation as you will have a deeper understanding of the different shades of discomfort and how they can appear in the body.
An excellent video that speaks more about this yin-yang relationship and our movement practice, is this video of Ido Portal speaking on mindfulness. It is short but very much to the point and has inspired me to look for balance in my practice and in my approach to movement.
P.S: Looking for balance? Try out our latest workshop!
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!
Practice, easier said than done! What do we focus on? For how long? And how can make it sustainable? Are only a few of the questions that soon pop-up after we decide to set up our own practice.
Let’s say you are taking classes and you also took our workshop last week, so now you have a few things to practice on, but there is no indication of where to start. There are so many different things you can start with, but which one should you explore first?
In this post, we are going to use the recording of our last workshop to see how you can start setting up your own practice. So let’s get started!
A practice routine that works
We will use our latest workshop recording as an example to set up our practice routine. However, you can take materials from any of the classes you have attended.
Step #1: Put it on your calendar. If it is not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist. To get started you need to make time in your day for your practice or it is never going to happen. Aim for 10-15 mins if this is your first time practicing on your own or if you haven’t practiced on your own for a long time. This is not about quantity but quality. This time frame is more than enough for someone we is now starting.
Step #2: Start with a dance. You might have noticed that all of our workshops start with a dance. I think it really helps to get our mind and body ready to practice. It allows us to get into the mindset of practice in an enjoyable way and at the same time we are giving ourselves the opportunity to notice where we are that day. Notice any trouble, any holdbacks, any glitches as we gently move with the music. If you feel that you need more than one dance, of course you can add that to your routine.
Step #3: Set your element of focus. It might be something you have been working on for some time, or something you discovered through your dance (step #2). Try to be as specific as possible. For example, let’s say you are starting out with: “I need to work on my posture”. Ok! What about your posture? Is it to do with balance, movement, anatomy, breathing, efficiency? Try to be specific.
Step #4: Start with what feels as an emergency to you at the moment. Following the example above, all of these elements may sound important and necessary. You will of course capture a few of them in one practice but not all of them. So start with what feels as an emergency to you on that day, knowing that sooner than later you will be exploring the rest.
Step #5: Start where you are. Continuing with the example of posture, in the beginning of the video we are exploring flexion and extension of the spine in order to find the 0.0 posture. When we are working with the placement of the thorax you will hear me say that “you need to start where you are, not where you should be“. Start where you are. identify the end of range for flexion and extension. Then shift your focus to the path from one end to the other end. Lastly, notice the middle of that path. Give yourself the opportunity to identify whether your go-to position is helpful or not. And then start exploring other options to find the one that works best for you. There is no point trying to replace a habit by forcing a new rule on your body. The body needs time to adjust and a rule is easily forgotten if your body is not given that necessary time. Through movement our body will find way to establish that rule, without force but through understanding and ease.
Step #6: Record and celebrate your practice. Take notes of what worked and what didn’t so you can come back to it the next time. Mark every practice you complete on your calendar. It can be a check-mark, or a smiley face or anything that works for you. Mark though the day as a day that you practiced. And congratulate yourself for having made it. All of this is for encouragement. For when you miss a practice and feel blue. Such days will come! Then instead of feeling like you will never be successful in your practice, look at your calendar! You will see all the smiley faces you have there already. Acknowledge the great work and effort you have already put into your practice.
Last but not least, remember “the more the better” is not quite accurate here, especially in the beginning. Start small and grow! Start maybe with 10-15 mins, that would translate to a dance and an exercise. You will see that soon you will grow your practice in time and content.
Though this is mainly a Tango and movement practice focused website, today I want to share with you a short personal story. So after my practice the other day, I was preparing this video for Pro Dancer shoes. At the time I didn’t think much of it. It in the beginning just yet another video only focused on the feet. But things were not as straight forward as I had initially thought. Let me tell you… It took me 20mins to finish! And it involved a lot of starting and stoping and a bit of frustration of course.
Tango can be frustrating some times..!
Some time had to go by, for me to realize the reason I was getting frustrated. I was focusing so so much on the shoes than on the dance itself.
Let me just show the 1st attempt that I think it is acceptable and so I can actually share it with you. It is not the 1st attempt of that day, it is the 1st acceptable attempt.
The intent was to show case the shoes. The problem is that focusing on that thought I wasn’t really paying attention to anything else. The result is having a feeling of disconnect to the music and my feelings of the dance.
As you can understand, even in this acceptable version frustration is still there and for good reason!
So what did I do?
Well the obvious..! I thought: “ok, forget about the shoes and JUST dance!” There was a moment that I actually thought, I am making no progress so there is not much point to this. I should instead simply dance and if something worth sharing comes out of it, then all the better!
Of course, things started getting better, and I actually really enjoyed myself plus the video is pretty good I think. At least it does the job and most importantly I was happier doing it.
Of course this is Tango related but not because it is about a Tango video
So why am I telling you this?
Let’s take shoes out of the story and pick something else. What do you feel uncomfortable with in your dance? The beat, the sequences, the posture, if your partner is going to get bored…? Whatever it is, think about how that issue affects your time in the milonga. Think how it grabs all your focus, and doesn’t let you see anything else. It actually spoils your night!
The thing is, that whatever the issue is, it can’t be solved in the milonga and the more you focus on that you are missing out on everything else!
Especially, for milongas, focus on having a good time! Allow yourself to enjoy your dances, to embrace your partners and get lost in the music! I am sure you have missed that as much as I have. There is no point missing out for something you can’t possibly do anything about at that moment plus in many cases if you go with flow things get actually a lot better!
Tango a way to tell your story
So to transition to our drills and tips, even these very tips and drills, remember they are here to help and not to become trapping elements for you to stress over when you are dancing in milonga. Practice, devote time in your practice but also enjoy the fruits of this practice!
Lastly, after sharing all this wisdom.. (haha) only keep the advise if it helps you and if not put it to the side and find what works for you! 😉
Let me know your thoughts in the comments or better yet subscribe to our community and continue the conversation there!
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
P.S: Completely unrelated but it will brighten your day… Check out Pro Dancer Shoes, they have an amazing collection for all Tango shoe lovers. I got a pair of my own, I loved it and now I am proudly affiliated with them. Take a look! 😉
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! 🙂