Category Archives: progress in dance

Rhythmical Variations – Creating Options

We practice on musicality, on rhythm, rhythmical variations of steps, on matching sequences to specific musical textures, orchestras, styles… Overall we practice on listening and understanding the music. So what are we really practicing here? Options! Creating options or better yet having options readily available while we improvise.

Rhythmical Variations that create options

One of the most fascinating exercises I have been taught, was by Mariana Montes and Sebastian Arce in a festival in Kalamata Greece, quite a few years back now. It was around the ocho cortado, and how one can perform the step in different rhythms.

The rhythmical variations we were taught back then were so fascinating to me, not only because they offered me different ways to do the same step, and therefore match it to different music but because I got to reshape the step.

Ok! Before I get into that, let me share with you a video where I have reproduced that ocho cortado rhythmical variation exercise so we can actually have a point of reference

Reshaping the ocho cortado

Usually we see the Ocho Cortado as one whole sequence consisting of 6 steps. When we go through the rhythmical variation #1 where we step on the downbeat, every one of these steps, by having its own beat, becomes an entity of its own.

Then when we add the pauses on step #3 and #6 the ocho cortado breaks into 2 sequences instead of 1 and the same happens when we syncopate it.

When we go slow, though we are now playing with one sequence, the sequence is now very flexible, greyed out around the edges almost. And lastly, taking a step on beat #7, shifts the beginning and ending of the sequence around, so we really end up with 6 different sequences.

See how much richer our dance vocabulary has become just by playing with only one of the most basic Tango sequences. Now think of all the other sequences you have learned over the years, can you do something similar? Can you possibly come up with ideas on how shift and reshape those sequences?

Creating options is another skill!

I have learned this from James Altucher who is not a Tango dancer but he is surely an explorer..! So he said, that he practices on his idea muscle daily! Fascinating right?

He uses it for business. We can use it for Tango… and for business of course if you like.
So here is my suggestion, and believe me it is fun..!
Now that you have an idea of how this can work out, take one of the basic Tango sequences, such as the box step or even just walking, write down 5 different ways that you think you can perform that step and then actually try those ideas out with music!

If you need some inspo we will be doing something similar in a Tango Movement Lab on Wednesday 12:15pm going on live through Facebook and Youtube. And if you are looking for even more inspo join our classes that will be full of rhythm and music..!

Hope to see you soon,

Chrisa

Keep dancing! Keep Moving!

Dancing… Most of us think of it just as a social activity of a recreational nature. Something we do to spend some good time with friends, to learn something new and to have fun while introducing some moderate (not always) movement in our schedule. Right..?!? Yes and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Now think about dance in this last year. Are you taking classes online? Did you go to under-the-radar milongas or social gatherings? Do you dance every hour to a random song you hear on the radio like I do..?
If not do you miss dancing? If so has your perspective of what dance is here for, change through this experience?

The social aspect of every dance stems from within

Personally, I haven’t missed dancing as an activity because I still dance. But I have missed sharing the moment and creating something in the moment with someone else. And also the process of getting there, trying to understand my partner, trying to be honest, sharing and empathetic at the same time. This is irreplaceable!

Attending classes online and also offering classes online though made me shift or better said deepen my understanding of where all of the above comes from… and that is, from within each and everyone of us.

Spending some time understanding the human body, your body, through movement, will allow you to better understand yourself and then the other person, the human community and the world as whole. Coming from a place of understanding you can be more empathetic and sharing.

Dancing in the time of the pandemic

Though dance can surely not make the problems magically go away, the fact that we can feel more in control of our movement and our body while reducing stress and tension, can surely make us feel a lot better.

And this is where the dancer in me reaches out to the dancer in you!
Keep moving! Keep exploring and learning about all the things that make you, YOU!
How you breathe and how you can breathe more freely
Or how you walk and how you can walk with more ease
Are you holding your head in a position that pushes your whole body out of balance? You know which one that is… zooming into the computer screen! haha
And how you move to mitigate the impact of that

Dancing can help us look within, and understand what makes us…us; in the most free, comforting and comfortable way possible. I am not sure if this is just me, but I really need this! And I hope to be sharing this with you tomorrow and every Wednesday at the Tango Movement Lab happening live through Facebook and Youtube at 12:15pm Toronto time. Nothing is required other than you willingness to dance!

Lets get exploring together!

Chrisa

Rhythm, is in us all!

Rhythm, for some is something effortless and fun and for others a constant effort and frustration. And the truth is that the fact that it is in us all, doesn’t make it any easier to identify.

But lets take things from the beginning…

What is rhythm?

Rhythm is not the beat of the music or dissecting a music phrase in 7, 9, 11, 4 or 8s and it surely is not steps on a beat, like choreography. All these are methods to explore rhythm but neither of them is rhythm in itself.

I would like to suggest that we explore rhythm as a relationship between direction, velocity and distance. And that relationship is affected by mass, inertia, impact, energy we like to spend, shapes we want to create etc. Let’s look at some examples:

  1. elements moving in the same direction at the same time
  2. elements moving in opposite directions at the same time
  3. elements moving in the same direction at an alternate time
  4. elements moving in opposite directions at an alternate time 
  5. repetition which is inherently rhythmical

Practicing rhythm therefore will need to allow us to further explore and become more aware of those relationships; that are more relationships with world and not only with a specific song.

How to practice rhythm

For the month of March, as part of our Movement and Mindfulness workshops, we explored rhythm as described above and so thankfully I have a 1hr video to share with you, that can lead you through explorations on rhythm and hopefully inspire you to come up with your own explorations as well!

I would suggest you spend some time exploring these symmetries with your arms as it is easier compared to working with legs. Also work for a bit without music before you add your favourite music to accompany you. And you can work with all of these symmetries together or focus on one or two of them at a time, whatever works best for you!

Putting it together in a dance

Such explorations I find them extremely useful as they help me understand what I might be doing unconsciously or what I might feel I can’t reach. Whatever the case maybe though, real-life experience and testing is required after every exploration of every kind. If we don’t take what we learn in our real-life how will it stick? How will it become more than just an exercise? And most importantly how will it teach us to a level where we start changing our old habits and building new ones, aka progressing?

So after you complete the explorations above, or anytime during the video that you feel the need or you feel ready, completely let go of the exploration and just dance. Stop doing the exercise, and just dance. Feel how what you have explored so far manifests itself in your dance.

And of course this doesn’t stop there, step out of your practice shoes but take your practice with you. See, notice how rhythm manifests itself in your everyday life, when breathing, walking, shopping, doing the dishes. Make every big or small thing a dance!

Enjoy and join us for more by subscribing!

Chrisa 

P.S: For more on music and rhythm you can check here and here

Dancers are explorers

Yes yes, you did read that right..! Dancers are explorers!
It doesn’t matter in what type of dance you are in. If you are in any type of dance, in any type of movement practice you are potentially an explorer!

How do we start exploring?

We start our journeys as explorers from the moment we follow this urge to move, to learn about movement. The moment we listen to this inner wish to create and express ourselves through movement. And of course the moment when put ourselves in a vulnerable place and reach out to the other and connect.

This moment in time is probably different for everyone of us, but it is surely before we step in a dance studio. It might even be when we are watching someone else move… who knows!

Thinking back to when you took your first step. All the sensations, feelings and emotions that came up and how you responded to them. This active start of exploring the relationships between the different parts of the body, the music, the other people around us or with us; how all that makes us feel… And I would go as far as to say exploring who we are, as a person, as a human and as part of the world.

We start with a little choreography, then we learn about the music, the culture, the stories, the people, the gossip…
Next we practice and we start discovering other options, we reach out to people who we feel can help, we partner up and practice, exchange ideas, fight with another person… We learn about ourselves, about others, about humans, about history, about it all!

Everything becomes part of that journey

Living an explorer’s life, you must have felt that everything relates to your journey of discovery. Cliches such “Tango is like life” or “Life is a Tango” are cliches for a reason..!

Of course they are not reflective of reality, but they express possibly a common feeling, that of things that seem unrelated but unexpectedly come together to form a thread or network. Without therefore getting too romantically affected (though that is perfectly fine as well) by the cliches above, we can see opportunities for greater explorations

And a greater exploration, another link in the network, seems to be this research conducted by S. Elefante, M. V. Arenillas, S. Jovicic, M. Elefante, C. Black, of the University of Vienna.

It is an article looking at the common threads and the differences between the grand balls of Vienna and the milongas of Buenos Aires, at different time periods and locations, involving different social groups, musical genres, social etiquette, dress code and of course the closing of each event.

Balls and Milongas in Vienna and Buenos Aires: analysis and comparison

Borrowed from the official abstract sent to me by the team: “At the end of this historical journey, we can conclude that what undoubtedly unifies the balls of the past, those of today, and the milongas, is the the common desire of the guests to dance and enjoy. So, let us go back to the message from H. Ferrer and indirectly also from his aunt…‘Let us both dance’. What truly matters is to simply spend a pleasant evening and have fun dancing”

Isn’t it magical!
How our passion for a dance will not only drive us to learn more about a foreign culture but it will also push us to research for any common elements with our own culture. Making us in this way explorers of the world!

😉
Chrisa

P.S: From more become a member of our community and subscribe to Bautanz- Constructing Dance
P.P.S: For similar stories check also: Musicality_A Musical Journey to the past

The element of Surprise

Surprise! Don’t you miss it?
I know I am speaking only for myself here, but here is the thing, I feel that even if we went to the same milongas every week, there was always the element of surprise. We didn’t know who was going to be there, what music would be playing, which song we will be invited to dance to, how our partner is going to dance to the tanda… And as you can see I left out not knowing who your partner will be because that is something you actually have a choice on. There are so many things in a milonga that are complete mysteries!

Surprise… how do you respond to it?

Now, in contradiction, days have become quite predictable, in our everyday life. I don’t know about you but, I am in an area where there is a lockdown, so my day is predetermined most days of the week.

So there is not much of a surprise, but mostly stressors, like a nasty email, or bad news on TV. Depending on your environment the stressors might actually be part of the day. So somehow all days mesh together… where did 2020 go?

I really miss those social surprises… Going out and having a____(fascinating, unexpected, fun, strange, interesting, boring… you fill in the blank) dance wondering what the next one will be like..! And honestly, I don’t think I can keep it a secret anymore, I don’t want to practice anymore! haha
Not though because practicing is pointless, but because there is something else missing and it is not skill.

Hey! I know there is always skill to be acquired, but there will be time to practice on that later… Surprise though and how we/ I respond to it, has been missing for a long time now.
What will urge us/ me to get off the chair/ couch/ bed whatever you spend most of your day sitting on.

So I thought we could work on this theme last week during our Mid-Week Tango Practice

Finding New Patterns

The great thing though about “indulging” in surprise is that you can capture feedback, on how you respond to a surprise. How does your body react to an unknown piece of music? Do you tense up or do you go with flow? Are you moving slower or faster? Is it frustrating and why? If it is frustrating how do you get past the frustration? Were there any reactions that surprised you?

All of these and more questions can lead us to so many more options for movement. And as we are about to jump head first into discovering something new….our habits hit the breaks! And so another series of questions starts… What habits do you recognize? For how many of those do you have a recollection of how they were established? Do you need them all? Are they all helpful? Would you consider leaving some of them for a bit to explore more movement options?

All these questions and more can lead us to deeper and more surprising explorations! And you know how it goes… more surprises, more questions, more explorations, more options aaaand loop around again.

So I have put a video together suggesting a path to recognizing habits and building new ones, which I hope you will give try to and enjoy

Surprise yourselves! See what comes out of it! The opportunity for you to express your unique strengths might be just around the corner

😉

Chrisa

P.S: We have a workshop full of surprises coming up on Feb.6th check it out here

Posture and Mindfulness

Following this theme that we have been exploring, for some time now, mindfulness, we shift our focus towards posture; posture and mindfulness

We have talked and explored posture in many different ways however this time, our focus is not on the shape(s) that the body creates that we can characterize as efficient posture.

Our focus is more on becoming aware of our spine, our breath, our back and front body and the space there is between them.
Our goal would be to achieve the desired alignment without though creating unnecessary tension, by pulling on the muscle to achieve a specific position.

So how do we do it?

As you will see in the video above we are starting with breathing. Muscles of the back are also called breathing muscles and not by chance. You can do a simple test yourselves; inhale and exhale and notice how your body moves.

By deepening our inhales and exhales, we make all those movements associated with the breath and posture bigger. And so this way we come into a posture without inhibiting our breath and without using more muscle than what is necessary for us to get there.

One thing that I would like to take the opportunity to stress out here, is allowing yourselves to start where YOU are. This is a very important part of the process. We spend so much time trying to look like someone else, that we forget to acknowledge our starting point. However, that is something that will have a major impact on how we get to our goal and how long it will take.

So physically we are all of the same make but we are also different, maybe you have a more extended or arched back, maybe your breathing pattern is shallower, maybe you are stressed… a thousand maybes! So take some time to notice where you are without any judgement, just being a witness to your own experience and allow yourselves to start from there.

Being respectful and loving to your body will not only have physiological benefits but it will also be the first step towards mindfulness.

The benefits of a mindful posture

Talking about benefits, lets see a couple of more…

So continuing the conversation, acknowledgment without judgement doesn’t mean acceptance, but more realizing, identifying where you are and how that feels. So you go through a body scan, noticing where things are and how things are feeling. The labels of good and bad should be dropped for this one, as there is no good and bad, it just is what it is.

Once you have informed your knowing, then you can start the exploration of your other options of alignment

Other options will then offer a series of benefits, such as:

  • efficiency of movement, so you are not using more energy than what you need
  • following the above, you have better use of muscle
  • better balance of forces within the joints so there are no shear forces going through your joints, pulling them off center
  • following the above you can avoid overuse of ligaments and muscle impingement
  • you will have a comfortable breath while standing and moving
  • your diaphragms can work properly, at the appropriate pace with the necessary movement pattern
  • and generally your organs will be aligned and able to maintain their tone and relationships to one another
  • going to the Tango side of things, you can have more freedom in movement as you won’t need to hold as much
  • movements will feel more connected in your bodies
  • you will be able to dance for longer as you won’t be wasting energy and
  • last but not least we will be able to enjoy our dances more

We had to close this list at some point but in reality once you start with such explorations the benefits are more and more and some more..! (haha)

What if I don’t know where to start, with posture and mindfulness

I think our video above can be an excellent start and also our video from last week. They make a good match and can help slowly deepen your understanding of how the different parts of our upper body interact.

Now if you need more guidance we have our regular classes and workshops starting next week and we will be spending some time on such themes. It would be a great pleasure to have you in one of our groups. Help you and me learn and grow together

So if you want to give that a look check out our regular classes here: Online Tango Classes- Live and here are our Mindfulness Workshops

Hope to see you there and then

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: If you want to get started with some body scanning here you go!