Category Archives: Tango walks

Posture in Motion: Rethinking the Way We Walk and Dance

For some time now we have been trying to understand the cliche “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” and as you will see in my post, I am opposed to teaching people how to walk. This is one of the reasons why this Tango Movement Lab is by title about posture. But posture not as a static position, but as a weight -play that is elastic, full of bounce and flow. 
A class that looks at posture as we move, through different weight shifting exercises. So in a sense you will get exercises about your walk… haha… but you won’t be working on how you walk.

The Importance of Fascia

Why go through fascia?
Firstly, it is network that runs through our whole body and we can access it through touch as you can see in the video.
Also, healthy fascia, is elastic and well-hydrated. So, it gives you the support you need, while allowing you to maintain some level of relaxation.
That offers us an opportunity to look at our movement from a very different lens compared to the powerful quality that movement generated through muscles has.
By the way one is not better from the other. Just different.

Why the Superficial Back Line

The Superficial Back Line, is the fascia line that starts at our toes, covers the sole of our feet, runs up the back of our body, goes over our head and hooks up under our eyebrows. So our toes are connected to our forehead. And you can actually feel that through movement. How cool is that!!!

Maybe not cool at all for you…hahaha.
But think that connection for a moment and how it can reflect to a simple back or forward step.
The free leg swinging through, reaching for the step and your whole body is participating in that movement, without additional muscle tone! Now that must be at least a little bit cool! haha

Eat the apple!

What? haha
This is one of my favourite exercises!
One of my Axis Syllabus teachers first introduced me to it and I have been using it in my classes ever since. It is an easy way to find and explore the Superficial Back Line and it relates to a primitive memory that all humans share, aka reaching for an apple.
Even if you tried you wouldn’t be able to forget that… picking your food is what actually made you human..!
So it has a strong reference, it is relatable, easy to remember and most importantly you KNOW when you are doing wrong..! 
Plus, guess what, it leads to a step. See the apple, reach, grab, eat, move to the next one..!

Yeah, I guess we kinda worked on your walking as well..! 😉

Happy dances everyone,
Chrisa

You know how to walk! Now it is time to play!

Lastly week, I think we established that we all know how to walk; which is great..! haha
So I am going to go ahead and say it, for the teachers or aspiring teachers in the Bautanz family, I think that we should not try to teach people how to walk.

There! I said it! ha!
It feels so good!  
Now I will tell you why.

We are all the same but different

Now after last week’s post, I got a couple of messages mainly from teachers saying that they are facing two key challenges;

  1. It is very difficult to teach how to walk and they spend a great amount of time on technique for that.
  2. Everyone in the group walks differently and so it is not easy to change their habits and to get them in sync in order to dance.

And this is the first reason why you shouldn’t teach someone how to walk.

Most of us are of the same “blueprint”; we have the same general “manual”. But for each of us is the manual is applied differently.
These difference can be structural, for example most of us have two legs but my femur bone might be longer than yours, or the arch of my foot might smaller than yours etc. 
The differences can be kinetic, for example, I might have greater range of motion; of course these difference might be related to the above.
But they can also be difference of perception, for example I might be afraid of getting hurt, ergo I am afraid of falling, and so my movement vocabulary is restricted to avoid anything that may result in me falling.

And these differences you might be born with or you may acquire through life.
For example, a ballet dancer like myself has a different structure and movement options compared to a professional horseback rider. Horseback riders develop a very strong interior thigh fascia which then makes them stand and walk in a slightly wider stance. Ballet dancers, have been taught to collect everything in and direct their intention upward.

So as you can gather dance groups are very diverse even when they don’t seem so!

Walking is a complex and complicated movement

On top of that walking is a complex and complicated movement.  
It involves the whole body, in triaxial multiplanar movement and it is based on multiple developmental patterns.
If for any reason, and they are many, any of these developmental patterns is inefficient our walk will be inefficient.

It might be because of the way we were handled at birth, or maybe as toddlers we were forced to stand before we were ready, or as adults we had an injury from which scar tissue has been created and it is inhibiting our movement.

What I am getting at is, that you can’t really teach people how to walk. Even if the issue at hand is glaring at you. You are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

This is therefore the second reason why you shouldn’t teach people how to walk.

Are you really teaching people how to walk?

But lets pause here for a moment and ask ourselves as teachers, do you think we are actually teaching people how to walk?

No!
What we are teaching, is a version of walking with someone that works best for us as teachers and matches our preferred Tango style. And with all the habits, preconceptions, preferences, struggles etc that we have.

Can you see now how frustrating this can be? 
I am hoping that you can relate at a better level with your students here, beyond than “yeah we all go through that”.

If we don’t teach “The Walk”, what do we do?

My suggestion is as follows;

  1. You identify as a Tango teacher not as a kinesiologist or movement professional, unless you have the training to do so. 
  2. Secondly,  instead of trying to teach some form of walk to your students, follow the cliche above and accept their walk is good enough.
  3. Thirdly, give them the opportunity to play. Start with anyone can Tango. Or you can walk and you can pivot ergo you can dance Tango, you can create the comfort zone your students need to be creative, to explore, to play. You can give them options to coordinate that play between them and have potentially a goal, but not in a restrictive way. This way you can actually inform the body through a Tango class and potentially achieve some repatterining of some old habits. Tango, has elements that can stimulate the lower level brain cells, that we talked about last week, responsible for automatic movements such as walking; for example, touch, vibration, the music, spatial coordination, moments of being off balance, sharing an axis, etc. This way it can be a fun but powerful tool for people to expand their movement diet and movement vocabulary.
  4. Lastly, technique classes, if you do any, should not be Tango technique, but movement technique applied to Tango. Again with a series of exercises that allow people to explore key movement concepts, such as balance, posture, alignment, yielding and more. Ending potentially with connecting thread back to Tango.
    Here you might need to educate yourselves prior to teaching someone else. This journey starts with us identifying what we need to work on first. Me for example, due to my ballet training and potentially genetics I am quite flexible, I had to work therefore in not letting my knees hyperextend.   

What should students do?

I know we talked a lot about teachers here. But here are my suggestions for those of us here who are students of Tango.

  1. Don’t think your teacher knows it all. We are all learning all the time. We are all teaching all the time. Similar to leaders follow and followers lead. Teachers learn and students teach.
  2. As we had said when starting this discussion over decoding cliches when things don’t make sense… ask! Politely of course..!
  3. As a by product of the above, do NOT copy the teacher. Teachers are or should be in their own processes, managing their movement options and choices based on their past and current bodily/ mental state. And the same goes for you. So explore the concept/ the movement/ the principle but don’t copy the teacher.
  4. Allow yourself to play! Playing is part of learning. A lot of the routines we have today were discovered by people playing, exploring, messing up and trying again. It can open up great channels of creativity and it is a lot more fun.

And that is it!
OMG! If this isn’t the longest email!

Ok! Get up from your seat and move around.
And stay tuned for our Tango Movement Lab get together coming up. I just need to fix the date for that.

See you soon,
Chrisa.

P.S: If you want to get warmed up for our Tango Movement Lab, you can take a look at “It Takes You to Tango”.

If you know how to walk, You know how to Tango!

How do you feel about that?
Because I can feel some eyes rolling..!
haha

I guess that is why some teachers decided to come up with a different cliche phrase, that goes somewhat like “Walk like you normally do“. Which doesn’t solve the problem because it is equally annoying! haha

This cliche is a bit of a challenge..!

I had a lot of trouble putting my thoughts in line for this one.
For a lot of students, hearing this phrase, is very frustrating and unhelpful. And I get it, you went to a Tango class, and first thing you hear is “if you know how to walk, you know how to Tango“, and by the end of the class you end up thinking, “I don’t even know how to walk!” haha

On the other hand though, there is actually some truth in this cliche. Remember cliches are cliches for a reason; they hold some truth.
All folk dances, are based on walking. From salsa and bachata to greek folk dances, all of them are some variation of our everyday walk. Tango is no exception, if you walk and pivot, you Tango.

Why is it then so frustrating?

I think mainly because all teachers try to teach people how to walk. And to make matters worse, they are teaching a stylized walk that fits to the specific Tango style they follow. 

So one moment they tell you “Walk like you normally do
And the very next, they go into styling; heels together, toes apart, squeeze this, pull that, and of course don’t forget to breathe..!

Needless to say this is not how you normally walk!

But this is not all…!

So you went to a dance school looking to learn to dance Tango and you ended up learning how to stand and walk in style..! 
What usually happens while this all takes place, is a little voice inside your head saying: “I know how to walk!”

And actually this is very true! And not because someone taught you but because it is what humans do.
Walking is an automatic movement; it is part of what we call “human”, we are built to walk.

As such, as Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen explains, “If we are consciously (high brain cells) having to deal with HOW do I fall, HOW do I walk, HOW do I talk, or keep attentive or chew or swallow or sleep, we are constantly thinking about survival and are not free to be really creative“. 

We don’t think about how we walk. It is a complex almost chaotic movement that involves the whole body. So we are dealing with a lot of information and movement patterns over movement patterns.
Again referencing Bonnie “In the brain we have a hindbrain, midbrain and forebrain. The lower the brain cell, the more information that cell and receives and processes. (…) When you try to control an automatic movement with high brain cells, the choice of which cell is going to fire off in which sequence is too great and the resulting action will appear awkward. If you simply find the lowest control centre, the response will happen automatically“.

This explains why this whole process feels very awkward and leaves no room for you to be creative and have fun.

How can translate “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” to something helpful?

Well, I think we have to look at the humble beginnings of Tango and also think of our future in it.
Meaning, as we said in the beginning, Tango is based on the common/ everyday walk and that is mainly why it can be danced by all generations.

To me that is what that phrase really means. No styles, no fanciness but only two people moving together. 

And I am going to tell you a story to prove my point. 
In a milonga that I was organizing, here in Toronto, some time ago, and different people are there dancing, at we are having a great time.
It was the only milonga my father ever attended. He is not a dancing kind of guy.
At the end, as we are walking out, my dad goes to me: “From all of you, the couple I liked the most, was this elderly couple. They had such grace, and comfort and pleasure in their movement. They were really just walking around, not like the rest of you doing all these moves, but they were deeply sharing the moment. It was beautiful!”

So if you are going to use the cliche “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” you have to really do it!
Forget about styling and start working with what you have..!
Put it to the test, see what happens and we will soon be back for more!

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.

The Magic of the Weight Transfer

Every Tango class starts with… “The Walk” and/ or “The Weight Transfer”. The latter is actually, still the walk but we just have to use different wording at some point..! haha
It is in every class, no matter what the level is. We have also made it into this special Tango thing; coming up with cliches such as “if know how to walk, you know how to Tango” or “advanced dancers take beginner’s classes” etc.

You know what though, there is a very good reason why it is very difficult and frustrating to correct how you walk and it has nothing to do with Tango. It actually has to do with evolution. Humans have figured out how to walk while in the process of becoming… you guessed it… humans! So how we walk is a characteristic of humans…. Hey! No, inappropriate jokes..! haha

Do I know how to walk?

Now are you walking as efficiently as nature has built you for?
Most likely not. And that is due to all sorts of habits we pick up as we grow.
Can that change though?
Absolutely! Not with Tango though. But with movement technique.
In movement technique we looks the very chaotic structure of the weight transfer and we dissect it. Then we create multiple, different exercises that appear to be focusing on completely unrelated things. They are however, aiming at the weight transfer and how to help you walk better.

Is walking in Tango the same as walking in real life?
Well that depends…
Firstly, it depends on whether you want to have a specific Tango style.
And secondly, it is slightly affected by one very obvious thing..! That you are walking while in a hug with someone else. Have you tried doing that, down the street?!?! Not easy, yet achievable!

Why learn about the weight transfer?

Now the last question to consider before the video.
What is the point of teaching walking in a Tango class? No idea..!
I think it is actually frustrating for most people.
But let’s change the narrative. What if we agree to do a movement technique class. Now, be careful… not a tango technique class, a movement technique class, where we will focus on how you walk. That kind of class will inevitably “fix” your dancing and it is a whole different narrative. 
Students will not be expecting to be taught how to dance Tango. They will be expecting to learn different tools in order to make their movement as a whole more efficient and enjoyable. And more fun Tango dances are extra bonus..!

So if you agree, I will invite you to do the latter as you follow along through our first Tango Movement Lab of Fall. And of course I would love to read your thoughts and questions on the above and on the exercises in the video, so please write me an email at chrisa.assis@bautanz.com

And here you have it, “The magic of the weight transfer”

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for ways to further support the work we do here at Bautanz, please consider contributing through PayPal

Buoyancy in Movement

Describing buoyancy is not a straightforward task. It’s something that can be felt or observed in the quality of movement, but putting it into words is challenging. However, if I were to attempt it, I would say it involves a sense of support, fullness, smoothness and confidence.

Last week we were talking about alignment and balance. This week I wanted to share some drills that will allow you to explore buoyancy and observe how it manifests in the person’s body on screen.

Observing Buoyancy

I first wanted to share with two videos that will not only give you some good exercises to work on but also the professionals performing them are inspiring movers that make buoyancy evident, even through video.

  1. Basic Spinal Wave
    Presenting a fantastic video featuring Ido Portal, where he explores movements on the sagittal plane. In this short yet impactful video, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to the spinal wave, followed by a demonstration by Ido himself. This drill can be immensely helpful in rebuilding your posture. Consider also, watching the end first to witness the magical smoothness of his spinal wave, and then follow it up with the step-by-step section. Enjoy the journey!
  2. Building Vitality, Strength, Flexibility, Flow, and Ease through Embodying Our Muscles
    This is a full online class from one of the most charismatic and influential movement professionals, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. In this class she explores muscles with us. There is so much more to muscles than resistive exercises and stretching! Muscles have their own inner world and interrelationships that, when explored, open up another way of knowing and experiencing movement. Embodied movement at this level gives us a path to directly connect with the ‘mind’ of our muscles and provides a dynamic foundation for brain-oriented, consciously-directed movement.

Tango focused exercises for you to practice

  1. Back Ochos–ONE powerful drill
    In this video, we’ll be honing in on one essential aspect in our ochos—the spine.
    Sure, movement can be complicated and intricate, but it’s precisely this intricacy that gives it that deceptively simple appearance. By taking it one step at a time, we’ll begin to unravel the complexities, gradually making sense of how all the pieces come together harmoniously. So, let’s focus on the spine and unlock its potential!
  2. Musicality, Breathing and Posture
    This is live online workshop from August of 2022 where we focused on musicality, breathing, and posture. Our mission here is twofold: first, we aim to explore and establish the fundamental relationship between these three themes, and secondly, we want to equip you with the tools to create practice routines that seamlessly combine these different elements.
    When we’re just starting out, it can be challenging to craft a practice session that incorporates multiple themes and also fits into our busy schedules. That’s where this video comes in handy, as it’ll provide you with some valuable insights on how to achieve that balance.

As a side note, all the exercises we used in the last video above were borrowed from the book: “It Takes You to Tango – The Ultimate Guide to Tango Training for Leaders and Followers.” In this book, you’ll discover a wide array of videos supporting two chapters of Tango drills. But that’s not all! You’ll also find helpful tips on defining your level and goals, setting up a schedule, overcoming any barriers that might be hindering your progress, and even learning social skills and milonga etiquette.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

Alignment and Balance – Getting to Know Ourselves

Knowing how to use the words “alignment” and “balance” accurately is crucial because they describe the condition of our body. If we mix them up, things can get a bit confusing.

Alignment serves to describe how various body masses relate to each other, like the alignment between the torso and hips. However, it’s essential to recognize that this alignment path isn’t a straightforward line; our bodies consist of curved elements and oblique orientations, making things a bit more intricate.

Balance, on the other hand, revolves around the forces at play within our bodies. Just maintaining stillness doesn’t necessarily imply balance, as we may unknowingly be generating internal friction. Achieving balanced alignment entails finding the optimal position where forces can flow through the body efficiently. In contrast, imbalanced alignment often requires more effort.

Yet, it’s not a simple case of one being inherently good while the other is bad. There’s a nuanced aspect to consider. Occasionally, being overly efficient in our movements might impede muscle growth, prompting us to incorporate conscious inefficiencies in moderation. Additionally, certain dance styles may call for embracing inefficiencies to achieve specific aesthetics.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s about striking the right balance. Being mindful, understanding our bodies, and avoiding excessive strain can prevent injuries, accelerate recovery, and instill a sense of confidence in our movements. So, let’s embrace this journey of discovering optimal alignment and balance to move through life with grace and resilience!

So let’s dive more into this with some actual drills:  

  1. Foot Alignment and the Shift of Weight
    In this video we will be exploring the intriguing world of weight transfer during side and back steps. It is quite common for individuals to inadvertently place an excessive amount of weight on their big toe, which, from a health perspective, is not ideal. However, fear not, as we have you covered with some fantastic exercises designed to help break this habit. Our primary objective is to guide you towards adopting a healthier foot alignment, precisely over the middle of your foot. By doing so, you will be able to prevent foot, ankle, knee, or hip discomfort, and even potential injuries. So, let’s begin, and together, we will be showcasing how these exercises can help you move like a pro while keeping those troublesome aches and pains at bay!
  2. Alignment and Re-Alignment of the embrace
    This is more an exploration rather than a drill. So here you will need to spend a couple of moments first disconnecting for the image you see on your screen, and instead focus on noticing what your structure looks like. How your forearm relates to the rest of the upper will be unique to you and so this is where you need to start from and what you need to remember throughout this exploration; don’t copy the teacher.
  3. 10 min Practice: Legs, Balance, Alignment and Spice
    And here is another drill, that combines elements of fitness or yoga with tango exercises. As you immerse yourself in this video, you’ll discover varying levels of efficiency at play. The initial section which is more fitness oriented, can serve as an energizing “work-out,” but you are offered the flexibility to adjust the level of efficiency and therefore intensity, based on your specific objectives. So, get ready to embark on this dynamic journey, where you can reap both the benefits of tango finesse and invigorating physical activity!
  4. Graciela Gonzalez and Ezequiel Mendoza
    The one and only Graciela Gonzalez; the Maestra of many of the Maestros and Maestras popular today. Look at the confidence, the certainty, the awareness. She is so grounded, and in-tune with her body. Clean movement, someone can even say simple but it holds some strange kind of magic. When looking for a good example of balance and alignment, my mind when straight to her. If you have a chance to see her or get a class with her don’t skip it; she is tough but she is worth it!

Enjoy and join our community for even more tips and drills! And if you want a comprehensive guide for your Tango practice, try out “It Takes You to Tango”

Chrisa