Category Archives: social dancing

Online dancing in the Covid era

Online dance classes, have filled the web the last couple of months. Great content is shared out there on different platforms and different forms. I couldn’t though resist asking what is the point of this all..? Now, don’t get annoyed, I agree with you..! There a great lot of point in online dancing, in online art sharing, but what is that point exactly?

Remember those good old days when you were just starting Tango and you wanted to know it all? The endless hours spent watching amazing dancers on Youtube. Going to this and that seminar. Getting together with friends to practice and come up with new stuff!

And then finally getting there, at least where you thought there was. Soon after realizing you had missed so many things in the process and had to go back to the beginning.
That then was a tough decision to make! A decision most people make I think…but still that doesn’t make it easy. And I was thinking what was it then that made us all want to start over? Maybe not from zero but still…

Learning is much more fun with friends

All the people I have asked they said it was the community. Not in general the Tango community in their city or town but their community of friends, that kept them going, starting over and doing the trip again. Some communities gave birth to new teachers, new organizers, new performers.

People also noted that once they started losing those connections, they started losing interest in Tango in that intense way. So inevitably the question rises to what will happen now?

This question includes the very important practical issues of dance schools not being able to survive and therefore closing their doors. But also the social issues of loss of a community, of yet another bond.

And so what is the point of learning, of taking online classes when you can’t really share the class with someone in the flesh. When you can’t share what you have learned on a dance floor at least not with an ease of mind…

If being with someone is the thing that makes it all special, then what is the point of learning more when you can’t share?

There is a beautiful point to it all

To be honest I had to stop writing and let this thought sit with me. I wasn’t sure how to articulate the fire that I was feeling. Knowing that just writing “of course there is a point!” wouldn’t be helpful at all.

And as it usually happens, something thankfully came my way, when I took a step back. As I was listening to the radio–yes yes the radio–there was a presentation of a book in Greek titled: “Πανδημία: Τέχνη και Κοινωνία” which translates to: Pandemic: Art and Society. (It is linked here if you speak Greek and would like to read it)

The presenter magically put all those things I had in my mind into some beautiful words!

Art is here, especially in crisis, to enhance the social safety net. There is a collective sentiment of us all being in something together without solely being united around fear.
There is therefore the aspect of listening to the news of any country, in any language and knowing exactly what they are saying aka Covid-second-wave-time-to-hide-again. And there is the aspect of how can we manage our collective fear, which is where Art comes in.

So we are sharing! At this moment we sharing very similar moments, very similar days with every human being of planet earth. The question is do we want to only share the fear or will we share music, dance, photography, film, books, paintings, Art?

Your experience is as important as the information you receive

Art, in any form and in every way that is shared is a necessity, and it is not me saying that, it is actually neuroscientists saying it; “The inestimable quality [of great art] is the opportunity that the brain is offered to give several interpretations, all of them valid (1999, 22f).” Zeki

I use this one quote of the many that one can find in the linked article, because I have experienced this myself. In most of our online classes, during our discussions every student shares a completely different experience. I am not referring to feedback, or comments technical in nature, but observations coming from an informed through experience knowing.

As such our experience is as important, valuable and valid as the information we receive from our teacher, from the artist, from anyone of “authority”.

Especially for music and dance, without any intention to make a distinction of value, consider that, before we are even born we are moving on rhythm.

Aiming to close with that thought; Aside from the findings on benefits of the art to our physical and mental health, especially dance and music are arts deeply related to our becoming.

In that sense therefore it can be soothing, comforting, enlightening, hopeful to dance even if you are connecting online; to listen to music even if it is not a live concert, to paint even if it the outcome sucks…haha. The experience of getting in touch with what is human is what matters. Releasing the mind from the stress and the fear. And most importantly adding a thread to our society’s invisible net that can be there to hold us all

An invitation to dance because it matters

Join me on Wednesday at 12:30pm (Toronto time) on Facebook or Youtube for a mid-week Tango practice. No registration or special invite needed, just hop in… I will make sure we dance as much as possible..!
Wave on the web. Leave a note or comment. Say hello and most importantly move along with me. From whichever part of the world you are joining in

You have probably experienced this common note: “Tango allows me to go anywhere and be amongst people with a common passion!”
We still have that! We are Tangueros and Tangueras! I might not know you and you might not know me… We still have that common passion, Tango so lets dance!

And hey even if you are not dancing Tango, still join us! Move with us, enjoy creating something with your very own hands, feet, heart and mind. If you hate, not a problem try another dance on Thursday! 😉

Chrisa

P.S: Can’t join us? Try a following a recording: Online Tango Practice

“Movement can change your brain, too!”

For years and years we have a debate between body and brain. With different groups having strong opinions over ones power over the other; however more and more studies come to show an intimate connection between the two and bring movement to the stage!

Obvious findings through experience now backed up by science

We have all been in situation where we were feeling a bit blue, went out dancing and felt wonderful afterwards. Or where we have been feeling stressed and went to the gym to let some steam off.

Now there are numerous studies that show that movement, in different forms, aerobic exercise, resistance, flexibility, and balance exercises, Yoga, Qigong and Dance have an effect in the function of our brain. It “modulates stress reactivity and anxiety in humans.” , “increases endogenous opioid activity in the central and peripheral nervous system and may induce a euphoric state and reduce pain” , “boosts mood by increasing a brain protein called BDNF that helps nerve fibers grow.”

Specifically for movement practices where one is required to pay close attention to bodily sensations, position in space and feelings research has shown that such practices are useful adjunctive components to other treatment as they create the alleviation of depressive symptoms. See for example this interesting paper on Yoga practice and PTSD

Dance as a movement practice can have surprising benefits

The above links can surely give you an idea of what scientists mean when they say that change of posture, breathing and rhythm can have a positive change to your brain in various ways.

Dance, which is movement in synchrony with others can have further surprising benefits to “an individual’s self-esteem and their feelings of social connection with a partner.” The results of this study came to show that “individuals felt better about themselves following a period of synchronous compared to asynchronous movement, while they also perceived a greater self-other overlap with their partner.”

This for many of us might come as no surprise. I am sure we all have experienced the both ends of this spectrum of synchrony and asychnony. When in full synchrony with our partner we feel great. When fighting for synchrony for 12mins of a tanda we feel just terrible

In the same paper previous literature is referenced to have noted that “bouts of synchronous activity have been shown to increase cooperation , encourage compliance and conformist behaviour, boost trust, facilitate joint-action capabilities, enhance person memory, and promote compassion and altruism.(…) synchronous action can lead to perceptions of connectedness and the blurring of self-other boundaries between interaction partners. In general, experiencing interpersonal synchrony is seen to establish the common ground on which effective social interactions unfold.”

What I think we all might find interesting here is that communities around the world knew about this already; an experiential knowing that created folk dances, rituals and various other community activities that involve moving together.

Also, movers from various disciplines have described all of the above as firstly our movement informing our knowing. Secondly through discovering ourselves we discover more the other and the world and become more compassionate towards them, towards us.

Moving together is what I am missing

A friend asked me the other day: “Don’t you miss dancing?”
I was torn to tell you the truth… I couldn’t quite tell if I missed it or not.

On one hand I am now used to not having a milonga to go to…And I certainly don’t miss the action of dancing, of moving…

We have the Mid-week Tango practice and Online classes, plus my personal fitness schedule. So I am moving and dancing… What I do miss though is dancing with someone. Synchronizing my movement with other people.

Interestingly enough though all hope is not lost even in this crazy world we live in. In the experiment conducted as part of the research paper linked above, participants had to connect through a video link and perform arm-curls with their partner over the screen. Some were asked to synchronize their movement and some to avoid synchronization. The group of people who synchronized after the experiment reported a higher self-esteem and better connected to their partner.

People who live alone at this time isolation have suffered mentally much more than the rest of us. Can we virtually replace a hug? Surely not!
But maybe there are better ways to connect that we haven’t found yet, that we haven’t explored yet. Maybe there are ways to make these platforms and virtual environments more welcoming, more real…

Who knows..! I guess if we keep on moving and we will see what we can discover!

😉

Chrisa

Tango as a tool towards a richer life

If this isn’t a path towards a richer life then what is…?
We stop “aloneness” becoming loneliness through our ability to form relationships. (…) You may ask what has this to do with Yoga, but I think it has everything to do with yoga. Our yoga practice, if preformed intelligently, is a self-exploration. We learn about the way in which we inhabit our bodies. (…) Slowly we can find more about ourselves(…) [we gain] a sense of being a more complete person (…) Friendships can broaden and deepen, and our capacity to love- the pinnacle of human achievement- becomes greater.(…) ” Pete Blackaby, “Intelligent Yoga
If you take out yoga and replace it with Tango or anything other activity you are passionate about, you will realize that you have more than enough tools to treat loneliness.
Maybe the time is not right just yet… or maybe you hadn’t thought about it this way…
Three weeks ago we were talking about loneliness and how it is not fair to you or to your community to treat loneliness with Tango.
Let’s dive right in today…
First, a vital distinction though between treatment and support
Our expectations are too high when we try to treat loneliness with Tango/ yoga/ any hobby.
But our expectations are levelled when we have pinned down the source of the problem, we have identified possible steps to take and we seek support from Tango/ yoga/ any other hobby.
I am going to use myself as an example. When I first came to Canada, I knew nobody of course.
I started teaching right away and I went to every milonga possible, making Tango my main and only pool of people.
What I didn’t factor in was:
  1. Your students can’t be your best friends it is unprofessional
  2. Entering a Tango or any other long established community is not really easy.  People are settled in groups and you only see them once or twice a week. Depending on your shy-levels it can take you from months to years.
I would go out, feeling uncomfortable because I always had to be careful with my students being around. Plus I couldn’t just ditch them to hang around with anybody else. And honestly, I was starting to feel comfortable despite the discomfort, of at least having a group.
The thing is if you don’t/ can’t make an effort torch out to people, they won’t dance with you, simply because they don’t know you. People like to dance with their friends; they are on a night out with their friends.
Very soon, I came to realize that:
  1. Being confident in your own country doesn’t guarantee you will be confident in another
  2. I wasn’t get asked to dance enough which made me feel left out and like i-wasn’t-good-enough.
And here an endless cycle begins where you go to the milonga, stick with your group; since you are not creating opportunities to meet more people, people are not asking you to dance which makes you feel undervalued and unworthy and so you are even more afraid of reaching out. Feeling lonely, even in the presence of other people, and frustrated you stop going to the milongas altogether, blaming the community for being unwelcoming and with a weird energy…
What does that even mean I don’t know..!haha
Now what was the one thing that could have saved me all this frustration…. but has nothing to do with Tango?
Can you find it?
“Create opportunities to meet more people, is the beginning to a richer life”
Being alone brings you in a very vulnerable state. The moment you find someone to hang out with, you settle, even if you know you shouldn’t.
THAT is where Tango or Yoga as we saw above, can play a supportive role but you have to make that change of mindset off the dance floor and outside of the dance school.
Practicing Tango/ other hobby in a way that allows you to explore yourself and grow your skills and your self-awareness is key to becoming more confident and projecting that confidence outward.
So aim on practicing not just for skill but for mindset.
Get to know and love yourself more and that will radiate outward and attract people who actually love to hang out with you.
On a more practical level, Tango is a rather safe environment compared to a work environment and so there you can try different social strategies, see which works best and then use them it to enter other social groups.
Of course the two pointers are interrelated. The better dancer and the more aware of your value you become, the easier it will be to approach strangers as you will know you have something to share.
You will feel more confident creating opportunities to meet new people but also a lot more powerful to nourish them.
Remember Tango is only a dance. But if you practice it intelligently it can become a powerful tool towards self-awareness, to self-love and to richer relationships.
Chrisa
P.S: Intelligent Tango is here: Intelligent Tango

It is unfair to treat loneliness with Tango

What does loneliness feel like?
When you are lonely, how is your body feeling?

I think it feels like extreme hunger…
After not having eaten for hours, after your stomach has stopped gurgling and your hands have stopped shaking, after you’ve gotten used to feeling weak, and you are just feeling empty

You can still carry on with your day, but at the same time you feel empty, and you are hoping to find some kind of support.

If and when you get the opportunity to eat you grab anything offered to you, anything placed in front of you!

After having filled your stomach though you can be feeling anything from relief and happiness to fear, sadness and desperation, depending on how you got to experience extreme hunger.

That is what loneliness feels like, to me; like emotional hunger.

Tango to meet new people Vs Tango to feel closer to people.

Notice the difference….

Tango being a social dance is indeed a great place for meeting new people.
We start with classes where usually we find a group of people that we get closer with. Then we start going to milongas and there slowly but surely we get to meet more and more people.

It is a good and healthy way to expand our circle of friends and acquaintances 

Going to Tango though because we want to feel closer to another human being, to feel connected; because we are lonely, is something completely different.
Empty and deprived of human connection, when the opportunity to feel connected presents itself we just grab it. We take any dance we can get, no questions asked…

Best case scenario; our dances are just ok, not terrible, not great, just ok. This way they fill some part of the gap, leaving us asking for more… Under the sweetness of having been emotionally fed, it is possible that we will feel confident enough to take this further, and connected with our partner after the tanda ends. It is likely that we will actually make a new friend..!

If the dance is bad then it will make us absolutely miserable.
Not only because we hate the dance or the partner or both but mostly because we expected to hate, we knew we would probably them but we couldn’t refuse them. Proven right, we step off the dance floor, more disappointed with ourselves than ever! 

This though is NOT the worst case scenario…

In fact, the dances that are great are the WORST!
I am referring to the dances that a bit of magic happens… Where you feel that you and your partner are the perfect match… And the whole tanda is just an endless flow, that unfortunately is bound to end..! You finish the tanda and you are in a dreamy state… Feeling so full with emotion, you almost feel….shhhh…in L.O.V.E.

You leave the dance floor and reality starts to kick-in. And again you might anything from relief and happiness to fear, sadness and desperation depending on what got you so emotionally deprived.

See…we can’t win on the dance floor… but we might be able to win off it!

It is unfair to treat loneliness with Tango!

Meeting people through Tango is a good idea. Making Tango the medium through which we experience closeness and connection is unfair!

It is unfair to us. But also unfair to Tango, to Art and to our community.

No dance form on its own can defeat loneliness. But it can empower us to reach out to other people. It can inspire us and give us the confidence boost we need to start expressing ourselves more and connecting to people who are in tune with what we have to say.

Free your dances from that burden…
You only know how to do that because you know the root of the problem.
Accepting there is a problem is step one.
Identifying where the real problem lies is step two Exploring different ways of solving it is step three

And there Tango can help… by being Tango… By being JUST a dance!

Is it easy? NO
Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!

Chrisa

P.S.: There is one person I haven’t gotten the chance to thank enough for this, my teacher Ramit Sethi, who taught me the strategy behind finding a way out and gave me the tools to start expressing myself and effectively reaching loads of other people. He gave me the opportunity to create Bautanz. Now I can say “WE” and not “I”

“Nobody dances with me… I am too old!”– Tango and the age- issue

“Nobody dances with me… I am too old! All the leaders prefer to dance with the younger, sexier dancers even though they are not good dancers” Many followers, who feel their age is their biggest burden

I have heard this phrase so many times and it always made me feel sad and even guilty.
During every attempt though I made to help  would get a you-are-too-young type of response

And so for years I avoided writing about the matter until today…

The follower’s view on the age- issue

Most followers have a sad story to share, where they have felt left out, ignored and unwanted.
And there are not stories only from the milongas but also from practicas and even classes…

Follower’s will tell you things like:

“Leaders avoid me. They won’t even look at me” OR
“Dancers that I have known for years, even friends of mine… dance only with the young, sexy dancers who can’t even dance properly, and completely ignore me” OR
“I have been taking classes for years only to go to milongas and get to dance 2 tandas maximum during which I would be dancing with the worst dancers, who don’t even smell good..!”

They go on to blame their age, their not so-revealing outfits and… of course… Mother Nature…
Yes leaders…
Followers believe it is in your nature to go after the first young, sexy thing you see in the room

But is this the truth..?

A leader’s view on the age- issue

I am not a man and therefore I can’t say if this is true or not…

Most men though will tell you that this is not the case at all… at least not in Tango.

** DISCLAIMER: Here we are talking about decent men who are not using Tango as the last resort to get close to a woman..! **

Hahaha
(Not a joke… though)

What they do say though is things like:
“The attractivity of a dancer is made up of several ingredients. First and foremost the dance skills. But what makes here a pleasure to dance with is more than that. Sympathy is important, that young sparkle in her eyes, an empathic connection aside from tango. A tasteful dress and a personal attitude that matches her age doesn’t do harm, either. These are the same things that make a women attractive in general. I am not talking about romantic thoughts, I mean character and identity. It’s the very same for men, by the way, although they admittedly have the minority advantage in tango.” ( a thoughtful comment found under this article: In search of Tango: The age prejudice in Tango)

Or from the same article:
“Men get avoided and turned down for dances because of their age, grey hair, appearance, height, skill, clique membership, position in the hierarchy, etc. We don’t know why we’re refused; it’s uncomfortable for everybody if we ask why, so we don’t ask. Sometimes our invitations to dance are turned down, and then we see our invitee on the dance floor with somebody else thirty seconds later. This is very unpleasant. We too endure tandas with followers that are not very enjoyable.”  Or

“Its not so much age as the lack of beauty and isn’t this just the story of life? We all seek beauty in various forms and tango is no exception.”

I am not too old… I don’t get asked by the best dancers… And I DON’T care!

As I said I am not attracted to women and therefore I can’t tell you if the guys are using the above and more as excuses for not dancing with you… But I truly don’t think that this is the case….

Personally, and I hope you will believe me, I am not one of those followers who won’t stop dancing all night, and not because I am picky…

I will dance with everyone except from people who rude and/ or hurtful.
This is my standard and I won’t take one step back from it simply because dancing with someone hurtful or rude makes me feel worse than sitting, enjoying the music and chatting with a friend.

Having standards is important as it will save you from physical and psychological pain PLUS it shows good dancers and most importantly good people that they are in your niche instead of some rude bum looking do all the crazy moves he has picked from the web…

How do you ensure you choose correctly..?
This is what I do…
When I am not dancing, I am looking at the people… how they approach their partners, how they reach in the embrace, what they do between the dances, how the finish the tanda and get off the dance floor…. Overall, how they treat their partners…

MEN..! Be nice!
It goes a long way…

And because I know you are probably thinking…” I AM nice!”
Here are a few extra tips…

  1. Practice on things that matter on the dance floor
    For example, posture, proper clear leading, good listening, embrace and musicality over fancy moves
  2. Be respectful but not too serious
    For example, allowing people to chat and excusing yourself when you interrupt them is not old school, it is good manners.
    Properly asking someone for a dance and not creeping up on a follower, again good manners
  3. Be presentable.
    It always wins over being young… That is why women still like George Clooney. He has style and he doesn’t pretend he is still 20
    So if you are 50 dress like a 50 year old living in 2018..!
  4. A fresh scent
    Now I am not saying you smell bad, but that doesn’t mean you smell good..! Sooo, try to smell good without overdoing it
Now back to you followers…

Practicing will give your better technique and therefore confidence… but you don’t only need confidence you also need to stick to your standards even if it means that for a little while you will be dancing less…

But you know what because I know you are probably already thinking things like:
“You are still young and good looking” or
“Everyone wants to dance with you, you are a teacher…” or
some combo of the two comments above…

So since I can’t win, and I don’t want to make you feel sadder and myself guiltier I will let a man do the work for me… haha

Now, don’t start with, “I am looking to get more dances not more dates”
Of course Tango is Tango and life is life… but hear Matthew Hussey out first..!

Can you… or better said… can WE become:

  1. Practice on things that matter on the dance floor
    Meaning technique, listening, posture, embrace, musicality
  2. Be more social
    A smile, between dances goes a long way. And a friendly chat or even a joke goes even longer.
    But even when you are sitting out, chat with the people next to you, relax back in your chair and enjoy the music, look at the dance floor being genuinely interested
  3. Be presentable
    Your outfit must say that you care about that night.
    That you put some effort to find something nice to wear. And not for others but also for you, choose things that make YOU feel good and then you can project that outward
  4. A fresh scent
    Something light, soft and elegant such work. It doesn’t even have to be perfume, it can be body lotion..! 😉

So can we become, as Matthew saying that video, playful, sexy, nurturing and independent..?

I think so and if you think so too just hit subscribe.
We can do together..!

Chrisa

I am not just sitting… I am Being!

Wednesday 12:00pm… (a regular day turned to an experience of being)

It was an amazing day outside. And so I set out to go for a quick walk… 5mins… A quick breath out of the studio..!

The sun was bright and warming and the little sitting “garden” where I spent my summers last year, had expanded and looked beautiful and so I walked straight to it  for a few moments of peace..!

But alas… The moment I sat down my fingers were reaching for the phone… I resisted and instead I looked at the other people,  some in groups chatting, some alone reading the paper, having lunch or tapping on their phone.

I am not going to lie, it did feel uncomfortable, being there alone, doing nothing…

My fingers reached for the phone… I resisted…!
This time I focused on everything else around me…
The trees
The flowers
The people passing by
The squirrels chasing each other…

I listened to the sounds of the city coming, to the song of the birds, to the people chatting next to me…
(…turns out my Spanish have gotten better after all! haha…)

I just sat there…

I did nothing else aside from taking all of this in… And somehow through listening to the environment, to everything around me somehow that made me aware of where I was in that environment, made me feel a part of it.

My phone buzzed… I ignored it…
Instead I closed my eyes and turned to face the sun!
Feeling the warmth, listening intently, and doing nothing more than being present!

My phone buzzed again… Again, I ignored it…
I knew I only had one minute before I had to head back inside! So I allowed myself to just BE for that one minute.

I am not just sitting. I am Being..!

You are probably wondering what does all this have to do with Tango…
But for years, when I heard people saying things like: “I can just sit there and listen to the music…!”
I thought they were being pretentious, because I couldn’t figure out how someone can just sit there alone and not feel like a loser or at least feel embarrassed or frustrated…

But this experience was a little light bulb moment for me.
It was tough in the beginning to push away the discomfort of sitting there alone doing nothing and so I started doing something…

I listened actively, looked intently, and allowed myself to be present in that moment.

And so I am hoping to inspire you to do the same.  To  allow yourselves to BE in the environment of your garden, your home, your dance studio, your weekly milonga.

To listen actively to the music, to look intently at the dancers on the floor. And to hear the whispers, the laughter of the people beside you, the glasses ticking and the wine pouring.

Listen to the environment to find yourself present in that environment. You are not just sitting. You are BEING!

😉
Chrisa
P.S: If you want a drop of inspiration such as this one, you can get them now through Alexa: Drops of inspiration