Category Archives: social skills

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

Art is a necessity not a luxury

Moving together has been one of the many things this Art we call dance, is here to do.
As every Art, dance brings people together. Inspires them to create communities, helps them realize how much they have in common. Helps them understand one another, encourage and inspire each other to become better. And to become better not only in dance but as human beings!

Can we break apart?

Unfortunately it feels like we already have in some way, broken apart…
Lets take Tango as an example, who knows when we will be able to go back to social dancing…But this is not the only great hit…

This pandemic is the final blow for most Artists living under a great pressure.
With or without Covid19 Artists need 2 or 3 jobs to survive. They run from school to school, from gig to gig, from job to job. Performing Artists make their own costumes, pay for the venues, run the PR. They don’t get paid to rehearse and they don’t even sometimes get paid per show, but per ticket they sell. Every man for himself!

If you talk with any Tango organizer they will tell you how tough it is to sustain the milonga and even worse the festival.
Every Dance teacher can tell you about the endless hours they spend preparing for classes, rehearsing, practicing, taking classes, staying in shape, only to be crushed by the hourly rates that can really be as low as minimum wage in dance schools that are either struggling too or that they have fallen for this destroying mentality of “This is how the Arts are! Nobody does it for the money! You have to really love it to make it”

Art is a necessity not a luxury

This mentality that the Arts are just for hobby, something to pass the time, not a real job…have made the Arts something insignificant, something not necessary, not important, something that is nice to do if you have free time and money.
And us, Artists have fallen for it..! We believe that we have to fit that ridiculous profile of the starving artist we see in all American movies. To make heroes out of ourselves just to prove that we are doing something worthwhile, something important, something necessary.
To prove that to do what you LOVE should be your job, as if that is not obvious!

It is with that mentality, that we will drop all our criteria to get our gig going, to put ourselves out there, to make ourselves known… We will put other Artists down, we will work with the worst of people, we won’t defend our coworker in need, we won’t even defend ourselves. Every man for himself!

Art though is not a luxury; it is not a just nice thing to spend your extra time on. Something you do to forget your sorrows.
The Arts are here to elevate the human mind and spirit. To help people realize their role in this society. Art helps us realize our capabilities; helps us build up inspiration and courage from what people can create together. The Arts give people courage and strength to aspire for a better community, a better society, a better life.

The Artists therefore can not possibly fit that starving artist profile. Can not be crushed people, egoistically running around to get themselves known. The Artists inspire their students, their followers, their audiences. We show people that WE can move the whole world together!

The virus didn’t break us apart, but this economic system where human kind comes always second behind money did
Artists are here to show that nobody is alone! Together WE can move the world!

This is an invitation

The next class you take, the next play you watch, the next song you hear, the next poem you read and the piece of Art you admire, try to see what is this person really try to share with you…

I for example teach you Tango but I also teach you anatomy, biomechanics and how your body was built to move…That is my passion..! But most and foremost I teach you how to research and explore; how to learn through movement. And that is a life skill.

What life skills do other teachers, dancers, painters, writers, musicians, actors…all the other Artists you follow share with you

Remember together WE can move the world!

Chrisa

P.S: and if you want to start dancing right now…haha…here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeFJxkNgUVQ&list=PLllIglFQNLn8TzQscnkvBgsKjdweeEZO-&index=6

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”

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

“Find your passion. Find your love!” Veronica Toumanova

When I asked Veronica Toumanova what would be one phrase that she would like to write on a billboard she said to me:

“Find your passion. Find your love!” 

And then added a phrase of the great Eric Franklin:
“In dance the most important technique is the love of dance”

What I loved about my chat with Veronica Toumanova

You know between Toronto and Paris there is a time difference of 6 hours–they are ahead…! We got this chat set up for Sunday morning 8:30am… What you might not know is that I am not a morning person and that it was Greek Easter on Saturday so I got to bed rather early… in the morning…hahaha

If you are now thinking:
Boohoohoo! Poor Chrisa she didn’t get her beauty sleep..!

You are ABSOLUTELY right!
Because this lady gave me so much energy, so much inspiration, so much power and will and love that I am now empowered for months!

That is what I loved about our chat: her passion and her sharing personality, which I am sure all of you who have taken classes with her have already experienced.

So even though this is a bit longer than all the other Tango chats, I want to encourage you to listen to it, it will make time stop!

If you are looking for inspiration, for answers on why you are suffering in the milongas and classes, for how we learn and why you feel like you are progressing too slow and most importantly how you can keep going when the frustrating moments come..? Then I believe you won’t be disappointed.

So, click on the video above and enjoy!

Chat notes:

How you can reach Veronica Toumanova: www.verotango.com
or through Facebook: Veronica Toumanova
or through Tango Mon Amour: http://www.tangomonamour.com

Read her book “Why Tango”: https://www.amazon.com/Why-Tango-learning-dancing-argentino/dp/1517189470

El Corte milonga/ classes/ workshops: http://www.elcorte.com

Eric Franklin: https://franklinmethod.com