Tag Archives: Argentine Tango

The cross – Tango Basics

It usually goes this way; a theme is chosen, with today’s theme being the cross, and then we start working on it or with it from various perspectives.

The cross where do we get stuck: a Tango perspective

Our intention overall is to understand what causes the trouble and specifically for the cross why we get stuck; why we’re unable to move past the cross itself.
So in this first video we put the 2 most important stickie points under the microscope; we found paths to avoid getting stuck; we identified the body mechanics supporting these paths and made sure to look for them in our walks and embellishments.

Sticky point 1: how the free leg crosses. Without even shifting the weight crossing might be an uncomfortable position, causing a feeling of imbalance. And so we start this practice with an embellishment. 

Sticky point 2:  shifting the weight. We either fall into it and we then get stuck or we try so hard to stay lifted that we don’t allow any other movement to happen but pressing into the floor or we try to keep everything square ignoring the fact that we are already in a twisted position. And so the second part of the video really tries to point out how the different parts of the body reorient towards the right or towards the left, through osculation for the legs to be released from the cross.
And aaaall this leads us to…

Taking it a bit further than just the cross…

We asked ourselves how does all this work on the cross can inform our body and our everyday movement and so in the next two videos we are looking to inform our walks. And then we are diving deeper into how the leg fits and moves inside the hip and how the hip moves around the leg

And a bit further…

If you think about it, there are so many spots in our body that we feel pain during Tango but also during our everyday life. Two of the most common ones is the hip joint and the lower back. Thankfully they are connected…haha… so by making our movement in the hip joint more efficient we can get rid of back pain and vice versa of course. And soooo happy feet give us happy dancers

And this is how I see practicing Tango; as an opportunity. An opportunity to create freedom in my dances but also to create healthier movement habits overall.

And so if you want to take things further yourselves, this work is based on the findings and the teachings of Frey Faust the founder of Axis syllabus (http://www.axissyllabus.org)

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: You want more practices like this one? Well then, you can visit: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango-technique/ and you can subscribe to get a new video every Wednesday! 😉

Giro Technique; 3 Videos to spin around with

Giro technique…it can be tough but we will smoothly get through it… 😉
In our previous post https://bautanz.com/2019/03/20/music-sensing-feeling-and-action/ we were looking at rhythmical explorations.
We used rebounds, walks and ochos and tried to figure out how these three elements, these basic Tango elements, can help us create something special on the dance floor.

These very elements though, we can find them in giros and naturally… this is what this post is about… Giro technique! 

2 Rhythmical variations

If you have been in Tango for some time you’ve probably been taught the giro step following this basic rhythmic pattern: quick quick slow slow

And the truth is that this pattern even though we don’t HAVE to necessarily follow it, works quite smoothly; it has a nice flow to it and that is why we are not going to be changing that rhythm today. We’re only going to be exploring it further…

The transition between quick-quick and slow, slow…

I think an image here can help us a little bit with his exploration.
Imagine a rainbow and on one end of the rainbow we have black and on the other end we have white and in between we have all the colours, every colour possible.
Our transition is THAT rainbow!
On one edge of the  of the rainbow will be the “quick” part and on the other end will be the “slow” part.
In variation #1 we will stay closer to the quick edge of the rainbow while in variation #2 we will move closer to the slow part. As we switch between the two, we will notice the colours in between and how our perception of them changes as we transition

If you are a beginner in Tango and you don’t know the giro step yet, then I would recommend that you watch the whole video from beginning to end and then just start practicing the step itself without worrying about the rhythm at all.
Don’t worry about the quick- quick ,slow, slow, just do the footwork and once you feel more comfortable with the with a step itself then you can move on to exploring the variations
If though you are familiar with the giro step I would encourage you to start from the END of the video from the very last exercise that focuses solely on the transition itself and then make your way through variations 1 and 2

Giro Technique: 8 anchoring points

Another vital transition for the giros, is the transition from standing on 2 feet to balancing over 1 foot and vice versa 
This transition hides a lot of habits, good and bad. And of course good habits are more than welcome…haha… the bad habits on the other hand we want to notice them and hopefully through our practices replace with more efficient ones

So here are some extra tips that can help you this video:

  • Listen for any trouble. Tension tends to be quite “vocal” through our bodies but we usually because we think it is normal for tension to manifest itself, we don’t pay attention to it. So distinguish between strength and unnecessary tension. Some of the most common places we find tension are: the hip joints, the lower back, the shoulders, the neck, the sternum, the face muscles
    So when you lift one leg up, make a quick check, take your mind through all of the above spots in your body and see if you can relax them
  • Standing with the weight split between the 2 feet. Notice how you reach for the connection with the floor tracing from the bottom up; from foot, to ankle, to knee, to hip, to ribcage, to arms, to neck and head.
  • You are special. Accept that your body is slightly different than your friend’s, your teacher’s or mine. Your focus should be to experience all the tips you hear in the video and not to bring the leg as high as I do, or to twist as much as I do. These movements exist in your body already; they live in your everyday walk, Tango is only an opportunity to expose them, become aware of them and possibly make them more efficient over time. So pay close close attention.

Hands to Ribs – A top-to-bottom practice

After talking about rhythm and after trying to understand and explore further the transition from 2 feet to a 1 foot balance, in this giro technique video, we are going to look into pivots and specifically we’re going to explore further the preparation phase for the pivots within the giros.

One of the most common mistakes we make in giros is skipping or pulling through the preparation phase; the phase where we are still transitioning from one foot to the other but we know there is a pivot coming and so we are preparing your body for the pivot; those very few seconds before the pivot happens.

What we will be doing in this video is acknowledging first of all that in-between stage, finding within our giro step.

And then we will be focusing on how the upper and lower body are working together during that phase, we will be looking at how much energy and power we need to create and use to make our way around the pivot and last but certainly not least we will be focusing on finding the right timing for the pivot to start.

Many a times we are running a little bit behind getting stuck in that in-between phase or as we mentioned before we really rush through it and we hop straight into the pivot so our goal here is to be able to avoid both of these troubling bad habits and to build a habit where we we are in control of the transition from a linear movement to a circular movement

Soooo that is all folks, at least for today. Giro technique right before the weekend milongas, perfect! And if you loved this and you want more, join the community of Bautanz!
I share a video every Wednesday… 😉

Chrisa
P.S: You can also check out our online classes: https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/

Music: sensing, feeling and action

“There are many elements involved, all concerned with the perception, decoding and synthesis of sound and time and thus there are many forms of amusia” (…) “A.L Benton distinguishes receptive from interpretive or performance and identifies more than a dozen varieties”
Musicophilia- Tales of Music and the Brain, pg. 106
(https://www.oliversacks.com/books-by-oliver-sacks/musicophilia/)

Based on Oliver Sacks the author of Musicophilia, there are quite a few different musicality trouble. For example, one might experience, rhythm deafness, tone deafness, cultural rhythm deafness, no sense of scale, melody or harmony, pitch discrimination, dystimbria and more…

And that is because music is not just beats per minute…

Starting from the music

Usually what happens is, we go to a class, we learn a bunch of sequences, either to no-music or on a specific song.
Then we go to the milongas but we are not able to perform these same sequences on the music, unless we are lucky enough and that one song that our teacher used in class, is played in the milonga.
That creates a feeling of emptiness, as if we didn’t really dance.

In order to address this issue, we will focus on the music itself first. So go ahead and choose any 4 songs you like, from different orchestras, and start with actively listening, trying to make sense of the music.

Making sense of the music, happens in many ways:

  • through hearing for its beat, tempo, rhythm etc
  • seeing it, usually the timbre of the music is expressed as colour
  • through taste, often times musicians when they talk about pitch they use taste-related words
  • through movement; you might catch yourself tapping your foot, or swinging the arms
  • or you might hum or sing etc

Try initially to just let all of these things happen, and make a note of them. Even if they are distasteful, don’t stop them from happening.
Be simply a witness and not a judge to the process

On a second level, we use movement to become aware of what the music feels like.
Personally, I did this like so:

Use simple, very basic movements that will not trouble you technically, to capture what the music feels like to you.

Initially, you will most likely become aware of your emotions, like feeling sad or happy, and attempt to express them through movement.

After that initial response though, try to look for the words behind those adjectives.
For example, the music might feel like a punch or a gentle touch. It might be like a total collapse or a light hop. Maybe it is epidermic or visceral.

The words will describe, how your body expresses your emotions, for example, sad could be bodily expressed through total collapse, while happy could be a light hop.

Finding the flow of the movement

The previous video will allow to notice your strengths and your weaknesses regarding perceiving and interpreting music.

Have in mind that “No one has all the talents, cognitively or emotionally. Tchaikovsky was keenly aware that his great fertility of melody was not matched by a comparable grasp of musical structure”
Musicophilia- Tales of Music and the Brain, pg. 98

This comes to say that overall we should acknowledge our weakness and bet on our strengths!
And since I am here writing an article on musicality aiming to help anyone who finds him/herself as weak in perceiving and/or interpreting music, I will suggest for this next video, that we focus on something that we all are a bit stronger in; movement; basic Tango movement.

Every move has an optimal rhythm. A rhythm that allows us to perform it efficiently and smoothly. That rhythm needs to match the rhythm of the music, for the movement to make sense, express what the music feels like and create a sense of calmness and confidence.

Taking action

You know when your teacher says: “Don’t think, just do it!”
There is a time to work with consciousness as shown in the videos above and a time when you need to act on things.

On the dance floor there is really no time to think things through, to put your conscious mind to work. On the dance floor it is the time to ACT! And hopefully you have practiced enough for that action to be successful

Sooooo after all this work, I think you deserve an extra night out, on the dance floors allowing yourself to respond, to act on the music!

But if you like more videos on musicality you can look at this page: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango-technique/musicality/

Enjoy,
Chrisa

P.S: The title is inspired by the wonderful book written by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen: https://store.burchfieldrose.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=SFABOOK


Proper Alignment and Improper Alignment

It all started from this short video on Improper Alignment:

Ido Portal, the importance of improper alignment

As Ido Portal says in the video, “improper alignment is a certainty not a possibility.”
Practising therefore for those moments of improper alignment is crucial for our progress but also for our understanding of our body.

Managing the weight transfer

As you can tell from the video when I first introduced this exercise, it was the first step towards better alignment.

Here though I want to invite you to change your focus…instead of looking for the perfect communication path between the different parts of the body, focus on feeling every little tiny bit of your foot; even to the expense of that communication.

For example, see how far out you can take your heels out before you drop to the floor. Notice how that improper alignment makes you feel. Or the reverse how far in you can bring your heels…and again notice how that makes you feel.

Don’t try to fix it! 
Only exaggerate as much as possible without, of course, causing harm to yourselves, and notice, make mental notes of the experience.

A yummy practice for our feet

In this video, we are exploring the limits of our base of our feet. We are creating and playing with improper alignment.

Because if you don’t know where the edge is, what improper alignment feels like. How will you find the centre, a safe place where you can just be without any tension or uncertainty?

And as Ido Portal says there is no proper alignment, but proper preparation… for misalignment.
We can get off balance any second of the day… lets prepare for THAT!

Feet: Alignment and Misalignment

This third video explores transitioning; changing our level, shifting our weight, and moving in space.
Personally, I don’t believe that standing on one leg or doing calf raises endlessly will make your steps steadier, smoother or more powerful and secure.
Becoming aware of the how your feet manage the transition from the right to the left and the front to the back, definitely will though.

Does that mean, that you don’t need to ever to do balance drills again..?
NOPE!
haha
It means that you will have to include them in a more holistic practice, one that focuses on the transition and not solely on the drill itself. One that focuses on improper alignment as a certainty. One that explores the edges and the limits as much as the centre

Tango Technique made Fun; Embellishments

Embellishments…hmmm… for some an absolute no-no and for others a must- have!
The good thing about this article is that whether you will use the embellishments in your dance is completely irrelevant…

How embellishments can shape your practice

Especially one of the embellishments that I chose can NOT be done in a milonga. It is the kind of embellishment, you can only do if you show up really early or leave really late.

We will by-pass therefore the debate on the appropriateness of embellishments and we will focus on what we can learn from them, if we let them shape our practice

Aside from the obvious first step; of figuring out how to actually do the embellishment, here are the next levels we can take our practice to:

  • Exploring the balance between tension and relaxation. To do an embellishment, you need to free the “free” leg of any unnecessary tension that will slow it down.
  • Becoming aware of our body position. How does our posture need to change, so we can spare that leg, and still feel good, confident and strong
  • And timing. When is the right time to start the embellishment, and when should it end. How can we transition smoothly into the next step

These are the key elements we will be focusing on in this article. If you can of any more leave a comment below, to start up a chat..!

Relaxation Vs Tension

In this first video, we are focusing more on the first two pointers, from the list above.
We start by relaxing the legs and the arms. And our goal is to keep them relaxed as we gradually create tension in the core.
When we make our way to standing, we shift our focus to body alignment. How do shift the body to allow for one leg to move freely in space?

Becoming aware, of the balance points available to us and the lines of alignment being formed in our bodies, we can create freedom and power without jeopardizing balance and strength.

Embellishments in their purest form

In this video, the second one of the series, we are getting more and more analytical, with our movement. We are breaking the embellishments down to movement blocks and we take each one and create an exercise around it.

This helps us dive a bit deeper into all the elements on our list, even timing… As we begin to notice where and when the movement starts in our body and where and when it ends.

Perfect timing

And last but not least, a video that focuses on body position and timing.

When our body is positioned properly, we are ready to act, that is quite obvious. What is not obvious is the opposite… being aware of time and opportunity to act. Timing therefore and body position are intimately tied together. We need to be ready WHEN the opportune moment comes our way.

Practice smart, might mean, work on embellishments

Maybe you think embellishments are a waste of time. That they won’t let you focus on what truly matters. And that they are superficial unnecessary elements, that most dancers tend to use when their technique is in fact poor.

I don’t blame you, I believed all that myself and still do to some extent. I would like though to invite you to see embellishments, for what they are. Off the dance floor and outside the dance studios, they are nothing more than movements. And we can be taught from any movement as simple or as complicated it may be.

And if you want to keep practicing smart with movements then visit this page: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango-technique/tango-technique-workout/

But if you don’t want to wait for the next video and you want set your practice now then this link is more appropriate: https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/

Till next time, tango on! 😉

Chrisa

Don’t think..!Just be yourself!

How many times have you heard this phrase:
“Don’t think! Just feel and be yourself!”

OMG!
I hate it!

And the worst thing is, I have said it myself to many people… Now I guess it is a good time to apologize…
I am sorry, truly sorry, for adding on to your frustration but believe me I didn’t do it on purpose.

Being a beginner at something again, now after many years, teaches me every time I get in class, that being yourself in something foreign is impossible!
If you know nothing about that new thing; how can you possibly know who you are in it?

Be yourself… because in this society you are not allowed to be lost!

When you start Tango or any other new thing for that matter … but lets stick to Tango for now… You are going to  feel confused, lacking in some way, frustrated or simply put lost!

You are doing something new, specifically dancing with a stranger in your face! If that person is not a strange you are still moving together in ways you usually don’t. And you have to find a way to lead and follow some step successfully while following the social codicos of a milonga and meeting people’s expectations.

All this inevitably will make you stand differently, move differently, BE differently. It will make you lose your identity…. But only in a good way!

Should you just accept it then..?

Passive acceptance, can be the first step, but it shouldn’t be the only step.

Instead of trying with all your strength to bring what you know of “yourself” in the dance, start seeing yourself and your body as maybe your old neighbourhood; a place you hadn’t been in for a long time.

Start with noticing things that look and feel familiar… and then notice the things that surprise you, the things you have never seen before, you didn’t know existed in your body, in your movement vocabulary, in yourself!

Tango and any other activity can be an opportunity to get lost and find yourself again and again. An opportunity to surprise yourself.
And yes! It is hard and it sucks in the beginning but keep at it for the day, when you will be able to say to yourself:

“Well! I didn’t know you had it in you!”

😉
Chrisa

P.S: Would you like more posts like this..?
https://bautanz.com/2018/10/11/tango-as-a-tool-toward-a-richer-life/