Category Archives: social skills

Tango Chooses You!

“Tango chooses you”
WoW! Now we are getting really corny! haha
But this is the fun part of the debunking cliches. You get to chat about the really corny ones in hopes to discover little gems in the process.

You don’t choose Tango, Tango chooses you.

This is the full phrase. And I think we all have heard some version of it from someone. And if not, we have definitely heard a story that implies it.

The first thing to notice is, that it does make this whole endeavour sound very serious. And it brings some extra drama in. Tango is not a dance. It is a calling!
Also, it does make people feel special. Tangueros and Tangueras are not like other dancers; oh no! 
They have found their calling and they will commit to it. They are the chosen ones!

Now, I can also see that makes groups of people somehow bond. It might have some benefits, in potentially encouraging people to more patient through their learning. Maybe someone can interpret it as, Tango will find you if you keep at it.

I think though that the latter is a bit of a long shot; based on experience.

What is really happening in our communities?

I think such phrases and attitudes, make Tango sound very exclusionary. And I know a lot of people who have left Tango because they didn’t feel welcomed; I am sure you know a lot of people like that too.

Most Tango communities, even the biggest ones suffer from that. There are all sorts of tricks and strategies to help new members get dances, and make connections, find a group, make friends.
Some are within the realm of expected; you are new ergo you need to work on your social skills to become part of the group.
But in many cases this goes far beyond the realm of expected. And people get disappointed and simply give up.

Secondly, it feeds people’s ego

We have all been through that and those who haven’t will. When we get really good, it feels great and sometimes our egos get the best of us. We don’t need to feed on that little monster now, do we? haha

Lastly, it takes all the fun out of Tango, the element of play and the enjoyment of creativity

Totally related to the above.
This is a totally improvisational dance, so basically the two people need to engage in this game of lead and follow; and see what they come up with.
Notice though that this phrase, actually has the opposite effect. If you feel you have found your calling, you have been chosen, then how would you react to someone not meeting your expectations or challenging you?
Exclude in this scenario, disrespectful people, that may be hurtful to you or others and those not following social etiquette.

Based on experience, most likely you will feel embraced, that they are making you look bad. Most of us wouldn’t engage to make this fun and enjoyable. Most of us, would mentally “push back” and physically try to hold on to our habits/ routines/ preferences.

This is not a game anymore. There is no play here. And it can actually feel boring and discouraging.
If Tango depended only on couples with the same level of movement vocabulary and the same Tango style preferences, it would have become stagnant. Which some, for example Chicho, argue that it already has.   

It is when we play that we feel safe enough to try new things, to take on new adventures and make new discoveries. How many times have you heard from great maestros, that they were just “fooling around” with some friends (other great maestros) when they discovered a famous move. And we see the same happening in all art forms.

Through play we grow. Through play art grows.

From a scientific perspective, play is essential for human brain development. Much more important than cognitive functioning. Much more important than learning of facts. This is a scientific fact.

Tango is a social dance

I know now we have competitions etc. but to its root Tango is a social dance. And as such I don’t think that we would want it to be boring, discouraging, unwelcoming. Don’t get me wrong people might not like it, but they shouldn’t feel disappointed or discouraged or annoyed.

So what do we replace, “Tango chooses you” with?
Honestly, I don’t know. But if you are using the phrase to encourage people to stick with it, I would suggest something like “For each of us is different, some people get it right away and some people need a bit more time. The most important thing though is that you enjoy learning and dancing”
And then actually make your classes fun. As a teacher I would encourage you to bring in more play in your delivery and content. As a participant, allow yourself to play; this is not work or some chore you have to do. You chose Tango as your hobby, so enjoy it!

Keep on dancing 
Chrisa

Do You Trust Me?

I was debating whether we needed another post or if we could go straight to our Tango Movement Lab. I decided to throw this post in because I think trust is important to learning process. If you don’t trust your teacher you are not going to learn from them or your learning will be restricted to common knowledge aka something anyone can teach you, even simply Google.

Trust..?

Maybe you are thinking how is that related to decoding the cliche “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango”?
Well, it will help us decode every cliche actually.
When we get in a class, we are trusting that the person we have as our teacher at the very least knows what they are talking about and from there, our trust hopefully will grow.

That is actually why trials and offers exist; to remove some risk; 50% off on your first month; one class for free; Groupon coupons etc.

When they throw in a phrase that is confusing or a cue that is frustrating, a bit of this trust starts shake. 
“Do they really know what they are talking about? Do they really teach the one and only true Argentine Tango?” hahaha

Of course we don’t walk out the moment we hear a cliche but I think cliches and how they are handled are key to building trust.

Building trust

  1. When your teacher uses a cliche and you ask them for clarification like we had talked about when starting this series; how do they respond?
  2. Do they walk the talk? For example, if you ask them “What do you mean by “if you know how to walk, you know how to Tango!”. And they say: “Oh! I mean that you already know a bit of Tango, because Tango is based on walking” but then they turn around and start teaching you how to walk. That is a bit of problem!
  3. There is actually a system in their teaching. There is a structure that gets you somewhere by the end of the class. Maybe you don’t know exactly what the structure is or maybe you can’t even articulate what you got from the class, but you felt the difference.
  4. If they progress in their dancing, their teaching and their social skills.
  5. Do they diversify their learning?
  6. And last but not least, do they support the community by being honest and open. For example, when someone comes to me for private classes. I tell them what I am good at and clarify that if they want sequences I am not the right person for them. Then I recommend a colleague in my community. I don’t do it because I don’t like teaching people. I do it because I know what my strengths and what my colleagues strengths are.

So as you can see pointers 1-4 have to do with how teachers conduct the class and how they deal with cliches.

Trust is earned!

For teachers, even for your steady groups, trust should never be taken for granted.
I constantly think how we as teachers should respond to the above; and I have come up with a list. Hopefully some of the pointers will be helpful to you though some might not apply.

  1. Try to get more and more specific and clear in how you express yourself through words. I hope that you have noticed some progress in my writing through the years of following Bautanz. If not please let me know! 
  2. Give your students a high-level picture of what you will work on, at the beginning of the class. Then in intervals offer detailed information on the subject. I have found that this gives people the opportunity to see the underlying structure without tiring them out.
  3. Distinguish between personal preference/ habit/ structural inheritance and facts. For example, I have quite lax joints, and my knees hyperextend. I try not to let them but sometimes they will. I usually say Do not copy the teacher. This is my structural condition and most likely wouldn’t apply to you”.
    Compared to making it into a fact. For example: “To hold our balance when we step, we push away from the floor, engage the leg, pull the knee cap up”. This implies that this is how we walk generally. Well, we don’t, not in general.
  4. Diversify your learning journey. I take all sorts of classes, trying not isolate myself in Tango and fitness. Stay curious even though it can be tough to put it in your schedule.
  5. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to share. Sharing will allow you to also receive from other professionals, may that be in students or in knowledge.

All of this to say that next week we will have another Tango Movement Lab and I hope that you will show some trust in me and join me!

I will send out the details soon but until then keep on dancing!

Chrisa.

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

When the Embrace Whispers

When the Embrace Whispers: A heartwarming novel about unexpected turns, rediscovering passion, and tango.
Available on Amazon and on www.whentheembracewhispers.com

When the Embrace Whispers is a novel about Sarah, a woman yearning for more beyond the ordinary. Her life takes an unexpected turn when she discovers tango, leading her into a world brimming with passion and self-discovery.

This story beautifully intertwines Sarah’s journey through love, loss, friendship, and the courage to pursue her heart’s desires. It’s a poignant tale that celebrates life’s unexpected turns, the rediscovery of passion, and the liberating power of dance.

This novel, exploring themes of freedom and transformation, is a testament to finding joy and meaning in unforeseen places. It’s a powerful reminder to embrace life’s rhythms and the beauty of second chances.

About the author

Dimitris Bronowski is a social tango dancer and a good friend. You might know him as the author of the book ‘Tangofulness: Exploring Connection, Awareness, and Meaning in Tango,’ which has been translated into 12 languages. He began dancing tango in 2009, and it has enriched his life with moments of meaning, friendships, love, family, happiness, travels, and over 3000 prolonged hugs. He is here to share this joy with you through his books. 

You can find “When the Embrace Whispers” on Amazon but also on www.whentheembracewhispers.com

I hope that you will enjoy Dimitris’ newest novel, and that it will inspire your dances in 2024. Because what better way to start the new year than with a new novel..!

Chrisa

P.S: Go over to www.whentheembracewhispers.com, take a look, get the novel, devour it (haha) and then send me your thoughts, either as a comment to this post below or straight to my email at chrisa.assis@bautanz.com. It is always such a great pleasure reading through your thoughts, about your perspective and your experience.

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.

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

Dance as an act of kindness

Most of us would never think about taking a dance class as an act of kindness. Think though, for a moment how you got into dance. Maybe you were dancing ever since you were a child. Or perhaps you picked it up at a much older age. Maybe you went with a friend or because you wanted to make new friends. Or possibly to meet a special someone. Whatever your reason was, the decision to learn how to dance was satisfying a need, a personal need.

And that is where it all begins…

Being kind starts with you

Noticing your needs and addressing them is an act of kindness. And it doesn’t even have to be as serious as I am making it sound. Simply, feeling the need to do something fun or something new with other people, and addressing this need by going to a dance class, is an act of kindness.

Same goes with choosing how to learn and how to practice dance. Or in general how to progress in any movement practice. Learning how to respect and listen to your body and tend to its needs is an act of kindness. Understanding when it is time to pause and when it is time push and respecting those limits without feeling like your body is letting you down is an act of kindness.

As we age we need our awareness to grow so that we can still enjoy our life and so that we can keep learning and growing. Can we do what we did 10 or 15 years ago? Somethings certainly not. But consider all those things that turned out to be bad ideas; only you lacked the awareness to know back then. Or what about all those things that you wouldn’t even think of trying out 10 or 15 years ago because you lacked the experience and the imagination. Bottom line, we change. And if we want to keep enjoying life we need to be cognizant of that change and adapt.

Another act of kindness, adapting. And adapting does not mean giving up, it means recognizing your options and identifying moments of opportunity to create more options for yourself.

How dance helps us adapt

I am sure you can now see where all this is going. Dance, teaches you how to adapt and create options. Learn to hug versatility and variety because this is our environment.

So if your practice is not going well one day, take a step back, pause for a second. Every practice is never the same as the one before or the one after it. Maybe you are tired or preoccupied. Can you find a way to keep moving? Is “keep moving” even a good option for you in this moment? If not what could be a good option? Stillness? Ok! You can learn a lot in stillness as well.

See, our movement practice should run on kindness in order for us to progress or we will end up tired battling through every frustrating moment.

And that of course spills into our relationship with our partners. Now you may be working with one specific partner or this can be applied to a social setting, like a milonga, where you may be changing partners. In both cases, but especially in the latter, kindness always wins!

When things don’t work out, think of all the tough moments you have gone through and safely assume that your partner has been through the same. Don’t get judgemental, instead see if you can find or create options for yourself? This might actually be revealing to you. It may show you a different way to approach your dancing. Not simply offering different technique tools but offering THE technique tool!

Which is… Adapting! Or simply put, making do with what you got! A much kinder approach towards yourself and towards your partner.

Try it out next time you practice or go to a milonga, it is actually fun!

Chrisa

P.S: For more writings such as this, that go beyond technique tips, check out our book “It Takes You to Tango”