Category Archives: social dancing

Just relax and feel the connection

After decoding the cue “More Emotion” it is time for “Just relax and feel the connection”.

Have I told you how much I love it when people say: “just …. [fill in the gap]”? And especially at a moment of struggle! 
I love it so much, that I have created a separate category for such advice. It is called … “The Nike”. (haha)

The Nike” category

Most advice, under “The Nike” category would have been really good advice if only they didn’t come with “just”. Think about this specific cue: “Just relax and feel the connection”.

I asked chatGPT, what does it think this phrase means in a dance context. It came up with this beautiful paragraph, that ended like: “In the context of dance, the phrase encourages a more immersive and enjoyable experience by fostering a deeper connection between dance partners.”

Now isn’t that a piece of cake?!?! 
Yeah let’s just do that!
haha

So decoding such a cue, reveals how inappropriate this word “just” is.  Because it might sound easy, and like a really good idea, but it is way more difficult than it sounds.

As a first step therefore, my advice to all teachers would be to refrain from using phrases under “The Nike” category and replace them with phrases that deliver the depth of what you are trying to communicate.
For our cue, you can potentially rephrase it to: “Take a moment to identify the points of contact with your partner; take your mind to the hands, the arms, the solar plexus (diaphragm area). See where some tone/ tension/ engagement is necessary and where you might be over tensing the body. Then see if you can relax a bit in those areas where you feel unnecessarily tensed. Check your connection with partner now, see if the quality of it has changed”.

Our students need guidance, so we need to use all our teaching tools wisely, including words. 

As student, next time you hear a phrase from “The Nike” category, try to see if actually removing or replacing the word “just” makes things any clearer. So for example, as a first step I suggest we change “just relax and feel the connection” to “try to relax and feel the connection” before moving to the second step to the decoding process.

Relax and Connect

Now… the words “relax” and “connect”. 
Let’s start with “relax”. If you hear relax and immediately you see yourself on the couch watching Netflix… or in a spa, well… awesome! I love them both! But we need a different kind of relax for dance..! haha

So for most people “relax” means loosening or letting go and they need to reframe that.
“Relax” means identifying areas where we are creating unnecessary tension and trying to release that, while maintaining a level of readiness to move. It is a matter of muscle or postural tone and managing the level of that tone as we dance.

Now the funniest thing is, that usually in a Tango class, the cue “just relax” comes right after all the cues that ask us to engage every possible muscle in our body..! 
Squeeze your glutes, pull your bellybutton to the spine, push your shoulders down, pull your chest up… aaaand relax! hahaha

So how can we feel ready to move without over-engaging the body, without creating unnecessary tension? 
Well, look at that, we have so many videos on that! (haha)
Here are a couple: Posture, alignment and balance
And one that includes the head: Tango Misconceptions Vol.2

As you will notice in the videos once the head, the torso and pelvis are aligned and once we start building on that relationship and funnelling forces through our masses, we are not only feeling relaxed and ready to move, but we are feeling powerful, secure, confident, and much more at ease.
It will take a bit of practice though..! 😉

What about connection?

And this takes us to “connection”.
We all know what connection means and I think we are on the same page on that one. However, I don’t think we all realize the relationship between relaxation and connection; which is an intimate bond.

Connection requires some tension, some tone. If you completely loosen up you won’t feel connected. So if you perceive “just relax” as letting go, it will be very difficult to connect with your partner.
Think about a cat or dog in deep sleep, you can move their legs around and they won’t even notice. Your don’t feel any connection, you only feel their weight.

Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum when you are working hard to even stand, let alone dance, it is almost impossible to even acknowledge your partner.

So managing to be relaxed but ready to move, like we saw in the videos above, is what can open the door for us to acknowledging the music, our partner, the dance floor etc.

“Just relax and feel the connection”

To summarize… excellent cue but it is not as easy as it sounds..! So at the very least remove the “just”.

  1. As a first step, rephrase to “try to relax”.
  2. Second step, relax doesn’t mean letting go, it needs to be balanced with readiness to move.
  3. Notice any areas where you might be holding unnecessary tension.
  4. Then see if you can relax them a bit, find the appropriate tone. Sometimes breathing helps or a gentle shake.
  5. Change your perception over connection; connection starts from you. Not paying attention to how the different parts of your body interact with each other, how they participate in the different movement chains, can become a road-block to connecting with your partner. So work on connecting the dots.
  6. And last but not least, when working with your partner, identify points of contact, how you establish them, what is their role ( contact, support, direction etc.), and how you can move around them, over them or with them.


Give it a go and stay tuned for more on this subject..!
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.

Alone in a Tango Festival – is that really possible?

Let me give you some context here. Nice big Tango festival was taking place here in Toronto end of October; started on Wednesday, ended on Sunday. Perfect opportunity to run a social experiment. 

As you know Friday and Saturday are usually the busiest nights, double milongas, lots of people from out of town and of course shows. So the friend that I usually attend milongas with was unable to join me on Friday and I hesitated for a bit but decided to go and see what happens if I show up alone and follow my own advice, and see what happens.

Tango Festival survival advice..!

Key Advice 1: Commit to yourself, not the event 
Before attending the milonga, doubts often creep in. You may wonder if it’s worth it, whether you’ll dance much, how to pass the time between dances, and where to sit if everyone’s in groups. At this stage, three things are essential:

  1. Make a deal with yourself to prioritize your enjoyment. If you start feeling uncomfortable, bored, or not having fun, give yourself permission to leave.
  2. Arrive 1.5 hours max. before the show(s) to strike a balance between comfort and catching the performance.
  3. Identify your comfort spots in the venue, such as the bar… more on that below..!

Key Advice 2: Go where the fish are (figuratively speaking… of course.. haha)
In a bustling festival, you’re never truly alone. Seek out places of comfort with these qualities:

  1. Relaxation potential.
  2. Visibility.
  3. Populated by others.

The bar is an ideal choice, as it’s a natural gathering spot for festivalgoers. You can get dances, rest, socialize, and be seen by fellow dancers. Some times, depending on the setting the buffet can be another good option, as well as the area where vendors present their Tango shoes or outfits. I would prioritize the bar though, because everyone will pass by the bar, there are stools where you can sit and rest and usually people see you and you can see them.

Key Advice 3: Be proactive
Don’t wait for others to initiate conversations; take the lead. Being at the bar and just waiting for someone else to start a chat is not a very helpful strategy. Similarly, for a dance, embrace the cabeceo, as it’s much more comfortable than risking rejection by directly approaching someone. In a crowded environment, the cabeceo is your ally, opening doors to new dance partners.

Make it about YOU!

Notice that the 3 pointers have a common “vanishing point” or a common perspective if you like. And that is YOU!
Think about it. This is your night out and it is supposed to be fun, it is supposed to be enjoyable and fulfilling. Despite an expected initial nervousness, if you make the necessary negotiations (key advice #1), strategically plan your night (key advice #2) and bring in some social attitude (key advice #3) you can have a splendid Tango festival experience.

If you have similar experiences for lessons learned that you would like to share, please send me an email at chrisa.assis@bautanz.com. I’d love to hear all about them!

Chrisa

P.S: If you need go deeper into mental or psychological boundaries and limitation, read through “It Takes You to Tango” I am sure you will find the advice extremely helpful and most importantly actionable.

“Embrace: Journey of Connection & Expression”

In our last practice we focused quite a bit on the embrace or better said our frame. We also worked on understanding how leading and following works. And so today, I wanted to take the opportunity and expand a bit on all those other elements that turn a frame into an embrace; that make a frame feel like a hug, and a dance like a journey allowing us to connect and express ourselves.

“Embrace” yourselves, for a “hugsy” list..!

  1. Fun Fact: Are you getting enough hugs?
    Are you getting enough hugs? Virginia Satir, a world-renowned family therapist, is famous for saying “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”
    Now, I can’t vouch for the scientific research backing the need for hugs, but hey, it’s always a good thing to have Tango in our lives, right? We can replenish our hug reservoir anytime. It’s a bit funny though, I stumbled upon this article talking about ways to get more hugs, and guess what? Tango wasn’t even mentioned! How could they miss such a fantastic option? 
  2. Hugging can be a social “no-no”
    Our cultural background and upbringing play a significant role in determining our comfort level when it comes to giving and receiving hugs, particularly when embracing strangers. Many of our students, prior to Tango, were not accustomed to hugging in such situations. While they didn’t necessarily have a strong aversion to hugging, they hadn’t realized how much societal “taboos” were hindering their progress in Tango. Feeling uneasy in an embrace can greatly impact your entire dance experience, from communication with your partner to your posture on the dance floor. The sooner you address this and work on embracing and being embraced, the quicker you’ll discover new possibilities in your Tango journey. So, how can you achieve that? Well, a few ideas include understanding the proper framing and using it to communicate effectively with your partner—an aspect you can practice on your own. Additionally, regularly dancing with different partners in various types of embrace also helps. For more tips and additional drills, take a look at the embrace section in the book “It Takes You to Tango” alongside the suggestions provided below. Happy dancing!
  3. Exploring the embrace while having fun
    You’ll discover numerous videos on my channel that delve into the topic of embrace. However, I’ve chosen to share this particular video with you because it incorporates the element of “play” into the practice. Embracing a playful mindset during your learning journey can profoundly impact your progress and overall well-being. Instead of treating practice as another obligatory task to complete before enjoying your hobby, integrate it seamlessly into your passion. Let your practice become an enjoyable part of your hobby, enhancing your overall experience.
  4. Sometimes a silent hug is the only thing to say
    By Robert Brault.

Enjoy and subscribe to our bautanz community for more posts like this.

Chrisa Assis

Women in Dance

Last week was the International Women’s Day, on the 8th of March. And so the whole week there were different opportunities to come together and celebrate. One of such opportunities included an all-women’s class, that was actually the spark for this blog post.

Women and Dance

Maybe from the title you expected a blog post on the marvellous women in Tango. But really, I wouldn’t know where to begin. A quick search that I had done solely on female singers in Tango, landed me a huge song list; we played some of those songs during 2 practices actually.

So you can imagine that one post on all the amazing women in Tango, would be nearly impossible, let alone all the amazing women in dance in general.

Instead I thought I should speak about a group of women, that are not particularly well-known and may not even be members of a dance community. Women who don’t dance very often, but when they do, they love it!

But before I get to that story, I wonder if you actually know these women..?
They work very hard, and they take care of their family from the youngest member to the oldest. Some of them are recent immigrants and some were born here in Canada. And some are single mothers while others may have gone through some kind of abuse. You look in their eyes and you see the daily struggle.

Do you know them?
Yeah maybe you do. Maybe some of them sat next to you in the subway, or walked by you down the street. Or maybe you are one them.

What do they have to do with dance, you might wonder?
Well, as I said… when they dance, they love it!
Isn’t that, what we all want? To glow from joy after a dance?
Well that is what they did after our class..!
And maybe to some extent that is what dance is all about.

An all-women’s class

So let’s get to that story. It is an all-women’s class; aka no men. No men doesn’t mean no leaders nor does it mean a follower’s technique class. It only means no males in the class.

The reasons for that are pretty straight forward:

  • Some of the women come from a cultural background where they can’t be in the presence of a male who is not part of their family.
  • A number of women were recovering from abuse that came from a male member of their family.
  • The organizers felt that dance can create a safe and supportive environment for the groups of women mentioned above and all-women’s dance classes are uncommon so adding one more to the community, is always a bonus.

And we get in the class, and we have 2 hours ahead of us, so plenty of time to get to know each other and dance.
We got in a circle, and everyone said their name and shared something with the group. This is an introduction I have learned from Body Mind Centering and Axis Syllabus classes. It is a very good ice breaker and you get to hear the hopes and expectations of each individual in the group.

This time I heard words like: excitement, thrill, shyness, uncertainty, opportunity, doing something different, me-time, taking care of myself.
Take a moment to think what words come to your mind, when you are getting ready for your dance class?

How it all went..!

Then we got into dancing. We introduced a theme, and you know me, I wouldn’t be able to start a class without talking about posture and balance..! haha

Between explorations we played a bit with words. In one of our previous post we had talked about getting lost in translation or using words in an unhelpful way. This time though, words opened up great discussions, such as, what it really means to take care of your body. Or how can movement shape your body and your psychology.

But the best part were the kids..! As I said, there were single moms in the class, so of course they had their kiddies with them. And that group of toddlers was just so enthusiastic, seeing a group of 20 women including their moms, moving, dancing, laughing, maybe crying a little bit..! And the music, oh my, you should have seen those kiddies, how they moved to the songs they loved..!

One of them especially, was sitting at the very edge of the stroller, propped up, eyes wide open and moving to the music almost none stop..! There were a couple moments, when a tiny bit of nagging would bubble up, but mom would turn around and say: “Lies and Propaganda!” (hahaha)
And guess what that actually did the trick..! “Lies and Propaganda” put an immediate end to the nagging… haha

We finished the class with yet another circle and this time the words were more like: thankful, happily exhausted, calm, energized, happy, grateful, longing for more.
What words come to mind when you finish your classes?

I don’t know when I will have a chance to work with these women again, but I am grateful that I got to meet them and I got to see the strength they carry with them and the empowering energy they share with the world. If you were one of them, thank you for being there! If not, I invite you to look for that strength within you, and let it shine!

Chrisa

Dance to share our humanity

Dance, is probably not one of those things your financial advisor would list as something necessary. And generally Art does not appear high in the charts of things we need to survive. And yet history, but also experience, teaches us otherwise. Art brings us close together, allows us to form communities and to identify all as one, strong human nation. And that is very powerful, once we find the courage and grab the opportunity to share our humanity.

Dance to share

All types of dances and all types of art forms have this power, to bring people together. This is why, for example, juntas in the past would burn books, prevent songs from getting produced, ban theatre productions, even stop people from simply getting together for a celebration.

Especially though the forms of art that relate to folk traditions, and Tango is a great example of that, seem to be even stronger because they are created by more people, they are accessible to more people and generally involve more people. And dance itself being a language that involves the body, gives us the opportunity to communicate and relate to one another in a much more direct way, if of course we don’t get lost in translation.

The question though is what exactly do we share? And this, has been a question that I have asked myself many times, because I think it has a lot of layers to it and the answer changes as I grow, in age and in dance.

So at first I was thinking like a special snowflake, that my dance should be showing MY perspective, MY view of Tango, of dance, of the world. (nothing wrong with that by the way)
As time went by though, I noticed that the above grow smaller, along with the need to prove myself. And I was more interested in sharing the moment.
Sharing the moment, though, means coming in to listen and to respond; building a conversation. This conversation will be painted in the colours me and my partner bring in with us. Colours of experience, of memory and of the senses. Colours that we may not even be aware of. And we trust each other, to receive those colours with care. And this is how art grows.

When presenting to an audience, either in performance or in a class, I share my colours with the audience or the students, along with colours I have managed to absorb from predecessors of the art I am representing and the art I am bringing with me. And then that group of people will need to match me with their colours. As I trust them, they need to trust me and their partners. And this is how art grows.

What does it mean to share?

So what does it mean to share? It means to trust and to be vulnerable. Inevitably if you wish for a dance form not to feel foreign to you, you need to be ready to trust and therefore create this fine balance between being vulnerable and setting expectations for your audience, your students, your teachers, your partners. Because if you don’t have expectations from them what are you trusting them with?

And the level of expectation is built along with the trust and grows along with the sharing. “Sharing means caring” as they say. It is a cliche but you know what, cliches are cliches for a reason. Any dance, any art form received with care can become universal, can move the whole world. And it all happens through us, through me and you.

How we get to share?

Well, the first obvious choice, for those of us in dance, is of course to dance. And in more general terms, to participate in the reproduction or the spreading of the art form we are involved in.

But there is also another element. The element known, in the circles of Somatic Dance and Body Mind Centering, as holding the space for our partners. In Tango this happens in the classes when you hold the space for your teacher or your partner to keep exploring certain elements with you.

But also it happens in the milonga. And maybe you have heard many teachers say this, that Tango is not just the steps or the specific patterns; Tango is the music, the history, the community, everything. Tango grows and flourishes in milongas only if the people present, hold the space for it to grow.

Only if the people present are not there, just to do intricate steps on the music, but to be with the music, in their community, being there for their partners on and off the dance floor. When we are not dancing, we are not wasting time, for Tango to grow in our communities we need to hold the space.

The importance of dance and art in general in our lives

Can we live without art? Sure I guess we can. But it would be dreadful and lonely life.

Some people who have been to Buenos Aires, have experienced this holding of the space in some milongas. They come back and are trying to explain how it was magical but they just can’t find the right words. And the truth is, it is not easy to explain the feeling. But if I had to, I would say, it feels secure, grand, and full of possibilities. Possibilities though, that don’t feel out of reach. No, on the contrary they feel so close to you because you have the whole community backing you up. Magical!

So, I have changed my mind… no! we can’t live without art. It would mean forgetting we are human.

What do you think?

Chrisa