Tag Archives: Argentine tango dance

Lost in translation: Tango Cue #1 “More Emotion!”

“More Emotion”…! Now that is a phrase that can make you go…”huh?!?!”

Last week through our blog, we talked about cliches and confusing phrases used in Tango classes and practicas.
Many of you shared your personal stories about moments in class that made you go “huh?”
Thank you too much for sharing and please keep them coming as we will be translating those in the weeks to come! 

Before we dive in, all of our post are true stories, coming from the community. Some of these phrases actually come from well-known teachers..!
No! we will not share their names..! (hahaha)

“More Emotion”

We will start with one of my favourites, “more emotion”!
Now, what could that mean? Well, it was during a workshop and a dance sequence was being taught. And right when you expect some real crisp cues, the teacher said, “more emotion.”

So, what does “more emotion” really mean? It could mean a few things, such as, making your movements clearer, or more articulated, moving with confidence or getting more into the dance, engaging more with your partner. 

But the tricky part is, everyone might have a different idea of what “more emotion” really means. And you can’t really ask the teacher during class because it would take too much time to come up with something that everyone agrees to.

So my suggestion is to think about what “more emotion” means to you and execute it. Maybe it is dancing more energetically or being more lyrical in how you move. Whatever it is, go for it! The teacher will see what you’re doing and give you more helpful feedback. The more clear you are at delivering your version of “more emotion” the more clear the feedback will be.

When I hear “more emotion” I’m thinking: “do not do the sequence mechanically, simply executing the steps but engage more in the process. Play with it, trying to see how you can shape and form it so that it has some power and character to it. It might mean slowing specific parts and speeding up others, or creating pauses; stretching the steps, embracing tighter or opening the embrace, adding an embellishment etc.” 

Let’s see an example with the ocho cortado

If for example the step is the ocho cortado, you can make it slower, faster, add syncopation to it, stretch it, add pauses, add embellishments or even change the 1st step in the ocho cortado sequence. Check out how we do all that, in this video: Ocho Cortado Rhythmical Variations.

The stretch gives it elasticity, expansion, boldness while the syncopation makes it more playful and crisp.

So, for me “more emotion” sounds like an invitation to make the dance your own, to have fun with it, and to express yourself. It means more boldness, more playfulness, more calmness, or more tenderness or anything you can come up with as you explore different options and possibilities.

Stay tuned for more cliches and confusing phrases being reinterpreted! And don’t forget to share your own stories of confusing dance cues.

Keep on dancing! 🕺💃

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for guidance through your practice, take a look at our training guide “It Takes You to Tango” available on Amazon.

Dance like a child..!

I always struggled with phrases such as “just dance”, they feel a bit ambiguous. I know what they mean obviously, but they can mean a lot and nothing at the same time. And so I am afraid that creates a wall for people new to the dance community, instead of liberating them. So I thought maybe we can use a different phrase, for example “dance like a child”.

“Just dance”, what does it mean?

To me, the way I understand it and the way I have used it in the past ( with no success), it means without thinking about the rules. Allowing yourself to enjoy the moment of dancing without having to think of what you have to do. Without having any expectations or trying to meet any standards. Maybe I missing something here but I am sure that I am close.

Now the problem is, this is not obvious to someone still learning to dance.
Why? Well I think for a couple of reasons.

If this phrase is used to describe the “warm-up dance” (we will get to this one is a bit), aka if this phrase is used at the beginning of a class or practice; well it is contradicting the reason people are there. People have walked in a class or practice to learn and advance their skill. They are in a completely different mindset compared to “just dance”. Inescapably the instinctual reaction is “I can’t just dance, that is why I am here”.

Secondly, if we are using this phrase in a social setting, such as a milonga, let’s consider the following problem. The amount of time the average person, wishing to adverse their skill, spends in a class/ practise environment far overshadows their dance time. So they are better at think-and-do than just do.

Thirdly, and naturally coming from the other two points, “just dance” is a skill itself. Dancing is a skill but just-dancing is just a little bit of a different skill. Which means it also requires training.

So bottom line, the average person receiving the cue, may understand all the words in “just dance”, may guess the meaning of the phrase but has no idea of how to actually begin to do that. Not to mention that they might not understand the phrase in the same way as it is told. Because you may have a different understanding of “just dance” than me. And as such, I think, we need a better phrase and system to help people build on this skill.

Dance like a child

Dance like a child or move like child, depending on the setting and the type of dance one teaches, can get us out of this little word trap.

Ask anyone, and they will be able to tell you what dance/ move like a child means. They will probably use words like, “freely”, “without limitations”, “carefree”, “not caring about the rules”, “having fun”, “moving around”, “doing whatever they want”, “living the moment”, “expressive” etc. I am sure you can come up with some more of your own. All though easily and securely leading to … enjoying the moment without thinking about the rules or someone watching..!

Which is EXACTLY what we want!

So I would like to invite you to start every practice and if possible every class with such a dance. A dance where you actually dance like a child.
Some teachers already start their class with a dance. And here I have another wording issue… haha
That dance is usually called a “warm up dance”.

Now to some level it is a warm up; your body is getting warm which is necessary for most activities. But I don’t really like the term in this context. Warm up is so fitness oriented, it kind of creates the wrong idea. Maybe we can say a prep dance instead of a warm up dance.

Prep dance, as in preparation dance. We are preparing ourselves, body, mind and spirit, for our class or practice. Which I think, even mentally can create the possibility for us to leave what we already know behind and open a window for new knowledge.

To fun prep dances everyone! Dance like a child!

Chrisa,

P.S: For more tips that go beyond technique check out our Guide: “It Takes You to Tango”

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”

Tango Misconceptions and how to dance through them

We have shared a lot of practical tips and drills on Tango and that this post can be a bit different and focus on misconceptions about Tango. We will get a chance in this way to exchange thoughts and ideas on things that we thought worked but actually didn’t or vice versa we thought they didn’t work and we realized they worked wonders.

If you have Tango misconception stories, share them with me, either by commenting on this post or by filling out this survey..!

Tango misconceptions and the “one-size-fits-all”

We usually start Tango or any type of dance really, to learn something new, to have fun, to have a social yet productive evening out, to share some time with a friend or partner etc. In general, it is for a social/ fun reason that we get into it. And so we don’t expect to feel stuck, frustrated, tired and like failures…haha…while we are at it..!

There are many reasons why this might have happened and may happen to us, but one of the many reasons, is actually the one size fits all approach that is followed some times in teaching dance in general and Tango in particular.

Now, let’s clarify one thing before we carry on, I am not saying that no rules apply and that everyone should find their own Tango. 
What I am saying is that the way one teaches those rules, whether they are related to a specific Tango style or not, needs to be adaptable to the group and the individuals in that group. 
Every one of us has a different body, different movement habits, a different background and therefore a different understanding of dance and movement. As such we can not be expected to all learn in the same way.

Therefore, when something is presented to us as “this is how it is”, and even worse when body mechanics are thrown into the mix to support purely stylistic rules, it is highly possible that many of us will not be able to work it out in our bodies; or if we do, it might still feel uncomfortable. 

So with all that in mind, lets take a look at our first video on Tango misconceptions where we explore what is actually a stylistic rule compared to body mechanics rule. 

A misconception is not a lie and doesn’t imply complete ignorance..!

Before we carry on, I wanted to add a note here for all of us that might be struggling with a specific element and may now be thinking that they have been let down by their teachers and/ or by themselves.

A misconception is not a lie nor does it imply complete ignorance. A misconception is a different understanding maybe even a misunderstanding. So if you are feeling a bit frustrated now, think that this how we learn, how we progress. We make assumptions, some of them will stand and some will need to be reassessed. This whole process is what brings us to knowledge. So you haven’t wasted your time! On the contrary you have been learning! And most importantly, you have been engaging in something that you are passionate about!

As you will see in our video below, we start with the misconception of ochos being a stand-alone Tango step; but we don’t stop there. We will then see a different perspective, where the ochos are simply “walks in different directions”. We are exploring a different perspective and we are acknowledging the shift from how we were approaching ochos before. This way we are 2 things:

  1. That ochos are really walks and not a special step and
  2. How to learn and progress. In the beginning we see and practice ochos as a stand alone step; that may be necessary to reduce frustration. After a while though we need to reassess and start connecting the dots between walking and ochos, for Tango as a whole to make sense.

Making the healthy choice

Before I let you go, I would like to share 2 insights with the group:

  • When you find that a movement is uncomfortable or even worse painful, take a moment to assess. I know this might sound obvious but it is not really obvious when we are in action. Usually we see other people following through and we think we should push through the discomfort. Take a moment to consider whether this movement is rewarding for you at the moment. The end result may be something you want to work towards; but if you experiencing discomfort, you still haven’t found the right path to get there.
    Misconceptions may be hiding in the end result or in the path or in both. If any part of the movement feels wrong to you, it probably is..!
  • Sometimes progress comes not from practicing Tango itself. It can some from a shift in our understanding of movement in small everyday type of movement habits. 
    Posture is great example! If you introduce in small dosages of mindfulness and awareness on how you carry your body through your everyday life, this will make your day more enjoyable and change your posture in Tango inevitably. It doesn’t apply to every Tango element but it captures a fair bit!

So what Tango misconceptions have you tackled..? Share your great stories with me I would love to hear them! And don’t forget to subscribe for more content such as this

Enjoy,

Chrisa Assis

P.S: Completely unrelated but it will brighten your day… Check out Pro Dancer Shoes, they have an amazing collection for all Tango shoe lovers. I got a pair of my own, I loved it and now I am proudly affiliated with them. Take a look! 😉

An Amateur “of” Tango

Amateur, the lover, the friend. The word goes back to 1784, from the French amateur “one who loves, lover” (16c., restored from Old French ameour), which of course comes from the Latin word amatorem (nominative amator) “lover, friend,” with the agent noun from amatus, past participle of amare “to love” 

Amateur, one who loves…

Isn’t it beautiful? To be able to say I am an amateur Tango dancer and know the love you are expressing!
Lovers of Tango, of Dance and Movement, that is what we are! We are explorers and friends of research and discovery. Not only because we want to be better or feel better while we are dancing but simply because we love to dance, we love Tango!

I am not sure about you but sometimes while we are trying to fix all of the things pointed out to us by our teachers, we get lost. We might lose our target, and think that adjusting successfully to cues meets the goal. Then after a while we realize that such a goal is unattainable, it always shifts since it is actually set by another person. Plus it doesn’t quite speak to the heart… have you noticed that?

Maybe we start and we are excited to see and feel some change but after a while, if we focus solely on fixing and on what needs to be fixed, we start losing interest..! It is actually kinda funny… we recognize we are doing better but that is not enough to keep us going..!

Focus on the love

My invitation to you therefore is to focus on the love itself. Here are some examples of refocusing…
Practice? Reframe to love discovering through motion
Learning new steps? Love creating together

Put your heart to it, feel your whole self is being part of this process not just a mind instructing legs and arms. Love how your arms are holding, how toes are articulating, how your blood is flowing warming your whole body up. Be an Amateur! Enjoy every moment of the process! 🙂

If you are feeling ready, how about we start here: https://youtu.be/h89Muu_GgtM

Enjoy and join us for more by subscribing to our Bautanz community

Chrisa

Music Exploration – Rhythm, Beat & Embellishments

It is common and at some times good strategy to separate the above during different classes/ practices on music exploration, in order to dedicate the necessary time to each of them. Sometimes they may come together in a musicality class where choreography is used to explore music textures and qualities or to work on the skill of building a choreography.

What I would like to suggest to you is that you see all these elements as ways to explore the music, as ways to make a map of the song so that you can move and express yourself through it with more ease.

Rhythm is all!

Who said that? Yup! that was indeed MJ

Rhythm is a basically a set of relationships based on three criteria:

  • the goal – aka where we are going
  • how far that is and
  • how fast we are going

And the above are affected by the mass that is moving; for example an arm versus the whole body. Also, the surface on which the item is moving, if there is traction or not and more.

As you can see in the video above there are many different ways to explore these relationships, we can count, clap, sing, dance or we can simply spend some time just listening.

And listening starts from within. There is one vital element that most of us, especially when dancing with someone else, tend to forget. And that is our breathing. There is rhythm in our breathing and that rhythm is unique to us, and very much dependent on what we are doing from one moment to the next. Therefore, every music exploration should start internally before we reach outward, as we are doing in the video above.

Lastly, before we go the beat, notice that though in the video we are playing mostly with the arms the feet are participating only they are not main focus. They can of course be the route through which we explore all of these relationships, so I invite you to give it try… it is truly a lot of fun!

And the beat goes on

I learned this exercise a few years ago from the wonderful Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes. And it has been an exercise that I have been going back to over and over again because it is not only very helpful, fun and challenging but also as an idea, as a music exploration strategy, it is something that you can apply to any and all sequences.

So what happens in this particular video, is that we take a routine that is very well known and broadly used in Tango, in this case the ocho cortado and we start changing the relationship of the steps with the beat.
This is the idea behind the exercise and so now you can understand that you can do the same thing, with the Tango basic/ box step, with the giro step and with any other sequence really.

How does this help us though map out the music?

OK! I want to share a strategy with you here, that again applies to all the things we practice on, but we will stick with the specifics of this exercise to have some solid reference. Suggested practice steps:

  1. Practice each variation separately, one by one with and without the music.
  2. Make little groups of 2 variations to practice on the music. How you choose? Well, there two ways that I usually follow:
    • Group the variation you are the most comfortable with every other, making groups of 2
    • Or group very different variations, for example from our video, the very slow/ mellow version with the syncopated version
  3. Second last step, decide on how many times you would like to do each variation lets say 4 times each. You put the music on and you do each variation 4 times, one after the other until the song is over.
  4. Very last step..! Let all the practice go and dance! What does that mean? You put the music back on and you let the music guide you as to which variation is more appropriate for that moment. As you can understand this is a step that may last for some time.

It is advised that you stick with the same song as you go through the steps above and that you see this as a flexible structure, and not a linear process. Meaning that you can go back and forth between steps, stick with one step for your whole practice one day and the next day you carry on etc. Basically, notice what your needs are as you go through the structure and give permission to yourself to adjust the strategy to your needs.

Embellishments – A music exploration power tool!

In this last video, we are playing with embellishments. Of course what you see in the video are only 3 of the many embellishments you can do on ochos but they have been specifically chosen. They will help us broaden our vocabulary and our understanding of the timing of the ochos, they are great tools for us to express ourselves better and have a bit of fun trying things out on the music but also and most importantly they can help us map out the textures of the music.

Embellishments in particular, because of their nature, they are add ons they are not required, they are one of the greatest tools to capture the textures of the music. Often times the same embellishment can be aggressive and powerful or spicy and playful depending on how you perform it.

So following the same strategy as described above try to see what textures you can capture and express with the 3 embellishments of our video during your music exploration session.

Music is much more than steps on the beat

Closing this short blog post, I hope that you have been inspired to look deeper into what the rhythm and the beat are and how you can explore them but also to look beyond them when you are trying to understand and relate to the music.

Think of the beat as the basic grid for each song. Over that grid we then have multiple layers. Some are consistently in the spotlight and some are making brief appearances with solos or by bridging musical phrases.

It is essential to get a clear understanding of the structure of the song, of the grid and then of the different layers that come over it in order to then be able to fully listen and express the music through your dance. And of course, the fact that we may be able to hear all the different layers doesn’t mean that we will dance to them; it is important though that we are able to hear them while we are dancing.

We have spent a couple of our Tango Movement Labs working on these elements so you can certainly visit the latest videos on that list and of course join us on Wednesday for a live practice. Tango Movement Lab runs every Wednesday 12:15pm EST through Facebook and Youtube

And of course if you don’t want to miss any of the extra goodies that I weekly put out, subscribe to the community of Bautanz

Take care and keep of moving

Chrisa

P.S: For another music posts, click here