Category Archives: progress in dance

If you know how to walk, You know how to Tango!

How do you feel about that?
Because I can feel some eyes rolling..!
haha

I guess that is why some teachers decided to come up with a different cliche phrase, that goes somewhat like “Walk like you normally do“. Which doesn’t solve the problem because it is equally annoying! haha

This cliche is a bit of a challenge..!

I had a lot of trouble putting my thoughts in line for this one.
For a lot of students, hearing this phrase, is very frustrating and unhelpful. And I get it, you went to a Tango class, and first thing you hear is “if you know how to walk, you know how to Tango“, and by the end of the class you end up thinking, “I don’t even know how to walk!” haha

On the other hand though, there is actually some truth in this cliche. Remember cliches are cliches for a reason; they hold some truth.
All folk dances, are based on walking. From salsa and bachata to greek folk dances, all of them are some variation of our everyday walk. Tango is no exception, if you walk and pivot, you Tango.

Why is it then so frustrating?

I think mainly because all teachers try to teach people how to walk. And to make matters worse, they are teaching a stylized walk that fits to the specific Tango style they follow. 

So one moment they tell you “Walk like you normally do
And the very next, they go into styling; heels together, toes apart, squeeze this, pull that, and of course don’t forget to breathe..!

Needless to say this is not how you normally walk!

But this is not all…!

So you went to a dance school looking to learn to dance Tango and you ended up learning how to stand and walk in style..! 
What usually happens while this all takes place, is a little voice inside your head saying: “I know how to walk!”

And actually this is very true! And not because someone taught you but because it is what humans do.
Walking is an automatic movement; it is part of what we call “human”, we are built to walk.

As such, as Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen explains, “If we are consciously (high brain cells) having to deal with HOW do I fall, HOW do I walk, HOW do I talk, or keep attentive or chew or swallow or sleep, we are constantly thinking about survival and are not free to be really creative“. 

We don’t think about how we walk. It is a complex almost chaotic movement that involves the whole body. So we are dealing with a lot of information and movement patterns over movement patterns.
Again referencing Bonnie “In the brain we have a hindbrain, midbrain and forebrain. The lower the brain cell, the more information that cell and receives and processes. (…) When you try to control an automatic movement with high brain cells, the choice of which cell is going to fire off in which sequence is too great and the resulting action will appear awkward. If you simply find the lowest control centre, the response will happen automatically“.

This explains why this whole process feels very awkward and leaves no room for you to be creative and have fun.

How can translate “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” to something helpful?

Well, I think we have to look at the humble beginnings of Tango and also think of our future in it.
Meaning, as we said in the beginning, Tango is based on the common/ everyday walk and that is mainly why it can be danced by all generations.

To me that is what that phrase really means. No styles, no fanciness but only two people moving together. 

And I am going to tell you a story to prove my point. 
In a milonga that I was organizing, here in Toronto, some time ago, and different people are there dancing, at we are having a great time.
It was the only milonga my father ever attended. He is not a dancing kind of guy.
At the end, as we are walking out, my dad goes to me: “From all of you, the couple I liked the most, was this elderly couple. They had such grace, and comfort and pleasure in their movement. They were really just walking around, not like the rest of you doing all these moves, but they were deeply sharing the moment. It was beautiful!”

So if you are going to use the cliche “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” you have to really do it!
Forget about styling and start working with what you have..!
Put it to the test, see what happens and we will soon be back for more!

Chrisa

P.S: If you need some practice routines to play around with. Or maybe you are struggling with a mental iceberg, check out “It Takes You Tango” our ultimate practice guide for leaders and followers.

Relax to Connect

In our last post we were talking about how we can decode the cue “Just relax and feel the connection“. 

Remember what we said for most advice, under “The Nike” category? That cues and advice under this category, would have been really good advice if only they didn’t come with “just”.
And my first suggestion was for you to remove the word “just” and then re-examine your options.
This is what we are doing here, today. 
Instead of “just relax and feel the connection” we are saying “relax to connect”.

Relax to Connect

Why relax to connect?
Because in order to connect you need to relax. So it is a cue indicating to you how you can effectively connect..!

Relax, does not mean letting go. And does not mean giving up. Nor does it mean being heavy.
I know this might sound odd, but refine relax for the context of dance to mean, having less tone.
So if you have your weight on one leg, the other leg will not have the same tone as the one holding your weight, it will be looser, aka relaxed.

Are we talking about less tone in general?

Yes and no.
In general allowing for a lower muscle or postural tone, would allow you to tap into other systems of the body, such as the nervous system, it gives you the opportunity to do a quick check-in if you like. Also, as you are moving maintaining a lower tone, will give you the opportunity before further engaging the muscles and the bones, to wake the fascia and therefore experience the interconnectivity of that web. The fascia covers our whole body, goes around and through our organs and through the different layers of your muscles.
So exploring this web you are already exploring connection.

It would be a great way to start a dance, especially if it is the first tanda of the night, or if it is with someone and you need some time figure each other out.

One limb versus the other
In the example above, we compared one leg versus the other in terms of tone. This is an approach special to the Axis Syllabus Research Meshwork, where we noticed that though in most dance forms both legs or both limbs have the same tone, there are significant benefits of the free one being of lesser tone.
 
Why is that?
For various reasons, some of which are:

  1. Because if the tone of the free leg is lower it will achieve centration in the hip-joint.
  2. It will give you extra power in your step, without you working harder, as it swings through with its weight.
  3. And it allows you to negotiate better where your next step is going to be. So if for example someone pushes you, your leg can swing to a spot to catch you from falling.

Now, joint centration… What is that?
Let’s stick with the hip joint. There you have the acetabulum, which is concave and looks like a little hat. And then you have the femur head, which is like… yeah… a little head..! 
Centration, is when the hat covers the biggest portion of the head, here is a picture to give you a better idea.
(picture borrowed by orthoinfo)
So when you relax the tone of your leg and you don’t keep it in a specific position it will look for this head-in-the-hat configuration. 

Connection

And just about now I am sure you are wondering… how is all this related to connection..!
One first level answer, is that because of pointer #3 above, aka being able to negotiate your every step, you will be more adaptable in your dance, able to respond faster because your leg swings over and you can avoid that “freeze” that we sometimes get when we are caught off guard and feel that we are loosing our balance.

But this goes deeper. Because connection starts within you.

There are three ways to move a joint, distally, proximally and centrally.

  1. Distal movement, moving the far side of the joint. Let’s say in the hip, dial movement would be bring your leg straight up.
  2. Proximal movement, moving the near side of the joint, in this case if you bend in the hip.
  3. Central movement, when you move both parts together, so in this case if you bend in the hip as you bring your leg up.

Here is an image, borrowed by the Axis Syllabus Human Movement Lexicon, showing the three options, using the wrist as an example, with the grey lines showing the movement; just to give you a better idea.

Distal movement, tends to isolate the body parts moving from the rest of the body. Proximal and Central movement tend to integrate the moving parts with the rest body, with Central movement achieving the greatest integration.

If you try the central movement of the wrist you will notice that your whole body is moving, and the movement is much much easier.

And if you are wondering if this is a coincidence… no it is not!
Central movement, requires the centration of the joint. So for your hip joint, the hat needs to cover the head as you move. 
With central movement we have full-body integration. So your centrated, relaxed, swinging leg speaks to your spine, to your torso, to your arms and through all that to your partner.

And this is why, you need to relax to connect 😉

Because all this can be better understood through movement, our next online Tango Movement Lab is next  week, Sunday March 17 at 3 pm.  I will send you all the details closer to the date.

Until then you can use this video to practice: “Upper and lower body coordination – The key to happy dances”

Chrisa
P.S: if you are looking for more advice ranging from perspective to practice drills, check out our practice guide “It Takes You to Tango”, I think you will love it!

More Emotion = I want to see You

Last Sunday we had a Tango Movement Lab (online workshop) on how to respond to the cue “More Emotion”. You can actually see and follow-along the full workshop below.

What could that possibly mean?

Each one of us I am sure can come up with a different response to this question. And so that makes it very difficult to actually decode it; so instead we played with it.

As you will see in the video, we started with a perspective over “emotions”, borrowed by Dr.Alan Watkins, that is very refreshing. So Dr. Watkins, says, in his Tedx Talk  “Why you feel what you feel”, that emotions are energy in motion. They are composite biological signals; stereotypical energy patterns. Feelings on the other hand are the awareness in our minds of that energy. We are the “creators” of emotions. We may be responding to someone or something but we are creating them.

Playing with the music

With that in mind we started playing, playing with music. Now as you will see in the video, this is not a musicality class, it was never indented to be. It is a class were we respond to music and we express that response.
Playing with the music, implies what? Implies that we are not doing sequences, we are really not doing any specific dance; we are simply moving around. Just like we did when we were kids and we heard a song on the radio that we really liked and started moving to it. 

Playing as adults makes us feel safe. It also wakes up that part of the brain responsible for imagination and creativity. So when we start the workshop with “moving around” it is to open that window to imagination.
Then we took the universal dance step, step touch, and really took it to the playground..! haha

Do you remember when you used to go to the playground and go to the slides? The first couple of times were normal and then you would try to slide side-ways, or backwards, or walk up the slide or hang from its sides..! 
That is what we did with the step-touch. Do a step-touch in as many different ways you can think of. 

Being Seen

And lastly we added the “being seen” strategy.
As you will hear me say in the workshop, I think “more emotion” means ” I want to see you”
One of the reasons we don’t have options in how we express ourselves through dance, is that we don’t have a strategy towards “being seen”.
That thought ends today, because I actually have a strategy for you. A 3 step strategy that can transform your dance; and not just Tango but any kind of dance.

“More Emotion” means “I want to see YOU”
For someone though to see you, it is required that YOU would want to be seen. So looping back to the beginning of this email. It all starts with you. You respond. You create. And maybe sometimes you may want to be seen!

Here is the recording again. Try it out and let me know how it went!
Keep on dancing! 🕺💃

Chrisa 

P.S: This is a Pay from the Heart Workshop.
We didn’t have a set ticket so anyone can join for free and anyone can watch the recording for free. If though you can contribute a monetary amount, we kindly ask for your support. You can do so either through an email transfer at: chrisa.assis@bautanz.com or through PayPal.

Lost in translation: Tango Cue #1 “More Emotion!”

“More Emotion”…! Now that is a phrase that can make you go…”huh?!?!”

Last week through our blog, we talked about cliches and confusing phrases used in Tango classes and practicas.
Many of you shared your personal stories about moments in class that made you go “huh?”
Thank you too much for sharing and please keep them coming as we will be translating those in the weeks to come! 

Before we dive in, all of our post are true stories, coming from the community. Some of these phrases actually come from well-known teachers..!
No! we will not share their names..! (hahaha)

“More Emotion”

We will start with one of my favourites, “more emotion”!
Now, what could that mean? Well, it was during a workshop and a dance sequence was being taught. And right when you expect some real crisp cues, the teacher said, “more emotion.”

So, what does “more emotion” really mean? It could mean a few things, such as, making your movements clearer, or more articulated, moving with confidence or getting more into the dance, engaging more with your partner. 

But the tricky part is, everyone might have a different idea of what “more emotion” really means. And you can’t really ask the teacher during class because it would take too much time to come up with something that everyone agrees to.

So my suggestion is to think about what “more emotion” means to you and execute it. Maybe it is dancing more energetically or being more lyrical in how you move. Whatever it is, go for it! The teacher will see what you’re doing and give you more helpful feedback. The more clear you are at delivering your version of “more emotion” the more clear the feedback will be.

When I hear “more emotion” I’m thinking: “do not do the sequence mechanically, simply executing the steps but engage more in the process. Play with it, trying to see how you can shape and form it so that it has some power and character to it. It might mean slowing specific parts and speeding up others, or creating pauses; stretching the steps, embracing tighter or opening the embrace, adding an embellishment etc.” 

Let’s see an example with the ocho cortado

If for example the step is the ocho cortado, you can make it slower, faster, add syncopation to it, stretch it, add pauses, add embellishments or even change the 1st step in the ocho cortado sequence. Check out how we do all that, in this video: Ocho Cortado Rhythmical Variations.

The stretch gives it elasticity, expansion, boldness while the syncopation makes it more playful and crisp.

So, for me “more emotion” sounds like an invitation to make the dance your own, to have fun with it, and to express yourself. It means more boldness, more playfulness, more calmness, or more tenderness or anything you can come up with as you explore different options and possibilities.

Stay tuned for more cliches and confusing phrases being reinterpreted! And don’t forget to share your own stories of confusing dance cues.

Keep on dancing! 🕺💃

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for guidance through your practice, take a look at our training guide “It Takes You to Tango” available on Amazon.

Lost in Translation: Decoding Tango Class Clichés and Confusing Phrases

Have you ever heard people give cues/ advice in a tango class that made you go, “Huh?”.
Like when they say, “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango.” Or maybe someone told you to “walk backwards like you want to walk forwards.” That sounds a bit tricky!

Can you think of any other confusing or cliche things people say in tango class? Share them in the comments! Later, we’ll figure out how to understand and dance to these tricky cues, starting with the cliches!

Tango Class Clichés and how to respond to them

Some phrases are cliches, which means lots of people use them, but they can be a bit confusing. Like when someone says, “Lead with emotion” or “Dance like nobody is watching” or “Don’t think, just dance.” These are like puzzles because they don’t always give a clear message.

Even though these phrases are cliches, they’ve been around for a long time because they can be important. But, to really understand them, it’s like being a detective and asking questions. For example, if your instructor says “Lead with emotion!”, ask for clarification as “what do mean when you say “lead with emotion”? Do you mean with more clarity in direction, with more conviction or with more intention?”

Asking questions is like having a superpower, especially when you’re learning something new. And interestingly enough very few students ask. So at the first couple of classes I usually ask for them, like “Do you know what I mean when I say X?” or “Does this make sense?”

One last example before we leave the cliche section, is one of my personal favourites “Don’t think, just dance”. Which if you ask me, sometimes there’s a little secret frustration behind it, like the teacher might be thinking, “I don’t have more instructions for you, just figure it out!” (haha)

And there is some level of truth to that, meaning that if you need to explore movement on your too in order to get it. As a teacher though, it’s important to explain what you mean by “just dance.” For example, I might say, “Now, let’s try this in a dance. Forget about the exercise and see how it shows up in your dance. If you feel something different, great! If not, that’s okay too. Keep exploring and playing with it!”.

Phrases that make you go, “Huh?”

Now there are some cues that simply are a bad choice of words. For example “bring your energy higher” or “don’t try to make it better, you’ll make it worse” or “dance your own dance”…. What??? haha

From a teacher’s point of view I avoid such phrases, because they are not really that helpful. But as a student I see them as an invitation for a short-term exploration.

Think about it. Say you are in a practica, working on a couple of things and the cue is “dance your own dance”. This advice comes with no restrictions really..! There is no goal or expectations and there is no clear cue for you to follow. Which can be frustrating unless
Which can be frustrating unless you see it as a green light to trying different variations, exploring different options until you find what works for you.

The same goes for something that sounds more technical like “bring your energy higher”. What does that mean really? It can mean anything; that the level of the energy you perform the movement with is low, your intention is unclear, or maybe your upper body is a bit passive, or something entirely different.

Reading though through this paragraph you already have 3 different options to work with and collaborate on with your partner and your teacher; you can make it more dynamic, more crisp or more powerful or even a combination of all 3.

Translating movement to words

Now, why did we treat cliches and confusing advice differently?

Cliches have hidden but valuable messages; unpacking them helps you learn a lot.
After all, they are cliches for a reason..!
On the other hand, confusing phrases are often language misuse. Imagine movement as one language and speech as another. Your teacher during a class tries to translate their actions into words. Sometimes the translation is successful and sometimes not. Responding to them with movement therefore can be a more successful strategy than talking it out.

This was our first attempt at blending words and movement to improve your classes; aiming to share strategies for better understanding and responding to confusing cues. Stay tuned for more detailed posts on successful “translation” and if dance-related confusing phrases come to mind, share them in a note or comment.

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for guidance through your practice, take a look at our training guide “It Takes You to Tango” available on Amazon.

3 Tips that Have Reshaped my Practice

When it comes to setting up a practice routine for dance or any movement regimen, let’s face it: it’s easier said than done. We all start off bursting with enthusiasm, but somehow that fire fizzles out along the way. We find ourselves struggling to stay motivated, unsure of where to direct our efforts, and feeling like we’re stuck in a never-ending loop. And, of course, life loves to throw curveballs, getting in the way of our progress.

But fear not, my Tango friends! Today, I’ve got three fantastic tips that have completely reshaped my own practice. These little nuggets of wisdom have helped me define my goals, stay on track, and most importantly, turned my practice into a delightful and enjoyable experience. So, get ready to infuse your dance or movement routine with renewed purpose and a whole lot of fun. Let’s dive in and level up your practice game!

3 Enjoyable Tips for You to Explore

1: Dance Like a Child

One practice-altering revelation for me has been incorporating a dance right at the start of my practice session. But here’s the kicker—it’s not your typical “let’s fix everything” or “let’s incorporate new moves” kind of dance. No, no. It’s a dance solely dedicated to pure enjoyment. Picture this: I pick a favorite song, turn up the volume, and let loose, simply because it’s a song that makes me want to move. Trust me, this simple act enhances the overall enjoyment of your practice, sets the perfect tone for the session, minimizes mental struggles, and serves as a gentle reminder of why you embarked on this journey—to revel in the sheer joy of dancing!

2: Finding the Embrace

The second secret weapon up my sleeve, is mixing and matching and the best examples of that are my video practices on the embrace, like the one linked above. I love to mix and match. In each video, you’ll notice I incorporate various props and movement practices, creating a rich tapestry of exploration. Here’s the scoop: I draw inspiration from different disciplines like yoga, Axis Syllabus, and Body Mind Centering, and apply their insights to Tango. It’s all about connecting the dots, you know? By doing so, my progress skyrockets, and the whole journey becomes immensely enjoyable.

Oh, and let me tell you about the magical world of props! They can be game-changers. For example, elastic bands can be used to map out movements or gain a deeper understanding of how your body functions. They can also provide invaluable insights into specific muscle groups and enhance your overall body awareness. So, get ready to open up new avenues of exploration and elevate your dance experience to the next level with these ingenious ideas from other practices. It’s time to connect the dots and expand your awareness like never before!

3: Noticing

Now, let me share with you one last tip that I absolutely adore: the power of observation! I’ve discovered that paying close attention to how others dance and move is a priceless tool for understanding my own body and its capabilities. This practice starts right in your dance classes. Instead of merely watching your teacher demonstrate a movement, strive to see beyond the surface. Look for the hidden secrets within—the underlying conditions that allow them to execute the movement effortlessly. Observe how their intentions are conveyed through their body and motion.

By embracing this approach, you take your learning to a whole new level. Sure, you might not be able to replicate the movement exactly as they demonstrate it, right then and there. But you gain a profound understanding of the intention behind the movement and the necessary conditions required for its execution. It may take a little time and patience, but trust me, the journey is both fascinating and incredibly beneficial.

So, get ready to sharpen your observation skills and unlock a world of insight. You’ll be amazed at how this simple practice enhances your dance journey and propels you toward new levels of mastery.

These were just three key tips, I have way more to share so stay tuned by subscribing to our Bautanz community and if you want tips and drills from social skills to actual practice videos, then check out our guide “It Takes You to Tango”, you won’t be disappointed.

Chrisa