Tag Archives: Argentinet Tango practice

Show must go on Or taking a moment to figure things out?

This is the video from the latest Live Tango practice that we run every week. This week things didn’t go quite as planned…
In retrospect nothing terrible happened but I did lose my balance a couple of times and got into show-must-go-on mode! (haha)

Show must go on–when is it useful?

One would think, like I did until today, that especially when you are teaching, dancing in general performing, then there is only one mode, the show-must-go-on mode…

And I can surely agree on certain performance types, such as a dance show, that of course you keep on going. However teaching and practicing, even if it is streaming live, have a different purpose, as during those times we have the opportunity to learn!

So if you notice in the video above there are some imbalances from the beginning of my dance. To which I reacted with stubbornly doing more back ochos, but to no avail. It was only after I slowed things down and then added rebounds that things started actually getting better. However from beginning to end my focus was to keep going and not to take some time to find out why I was off balance.

That of course takes us to nearly the end of the video where there are some more balance issues… Where once more, time is not given to address the issue. So even now that I writing this I can only speculate why I was off balance.

Someone might ask: Well what is the big deal? It only happened once or it happens to everyone or you just kept going…
Well it is not really a big deal but more a missed opportunity!

A missed opportunity to figure out what is really wrong

These were moments where I could have paused or I could have at least slowed down.

When we do that we are more able to pay attention, to listen, to stop the fear and the anxiety that are building up and focus on what we are attempting to do. Had I done that, I would have gotten a list of various different things that could have potentially caused the imbalance. However now I got nothing!

So you see what the problem is… Now there is no way to learn from this experience, the opportunity for deeper exploration is lost. Along with it, a step to progress and potentially not being in the same boat again is also lost.
In this way I see this as a missed opportunity.

It is a missed opportunity to deepen our understanding, to explore different options and possibly come up with more ideas and variations for exploration. So it is actually a missed opportunity to learn!

My suggestion to you…

If you find yourselves in a similar situation whether it is a one off or a regular case then pause or slow down and try to see if there are different ways to approach whatever it is giving you trouble.

Don’t see it as a moment to push through but an opportunity to go deeper.

That is my suggestion, of course you can decide for yourself how you want to manage those moments while going through one of our other practices for example…haha…which you can find here: https://bautanz.com/online-tango-practice/

😉

Enjoy

Chrisa

P.S: No time for a 30min practice? No worries try out the Tango exercise of the week:

Different Body-Different Style

How can one-size-fits-all apply in a social dance setting when we all unique in terms of body type, age, fitness, cultural background etc?

A great question!

After our mid-week Tango practice on Wednesday I a question via Youtube that I felt it is an excellent question for us to discuss how different body types can or cannot fit in certain Tango rules; and overall how the one-size-fits-all doesn’t quite work in social dancing.

Following is the video, from our practice and the question right after that, lets see:

“Chrisa, something that no one ever talks about, and I can’t get non fat dancers to understand, are the techniques needed by the fat dancer. Now, I do not use fat as a bad word, I reclaim it, and refuse to make it synonymous with wrong. And also, I need to accommodate my roundness. It is so awkward to be in class, and have an instructor remind me not to swing a hip, not to arch my back, when the real reason I do these things is because of my large belly. When you have substantial thighs, it changes your stance, collection, even the ability to flick a swift secada. I realize this is off topic from your video, but do you have any insights for the fat dancer? Tricks to maintain tango posture when you have extra curves to work around? Thank you <3″ F.L

The truth of the Style Vs The truth of the Dancer

I want to thank again our commenter for this question and dissect the matter in two parts:

  1. Diversity of styles
  2. Biomechanics Vs Tango Style

Diversity of Styles

There is an unavoidable conflict between the truth carried through by the rules for each style and the truth stemming from the dancer’s experience. Of course there are many ways to train dancers to perform and look a certain way, many types of dance achieve that, with ballet being one excellent example. However there are certain expectations to be met by all ballerinas in terms of looks, body structure and analogies. This is why there are certain restrictions apply in terms of age, body type, body shape, fitness etc. That is also why the choice to follow a career as a professional ballet dancer happens very early in one’s life when the body and character are very adaptable to change. That is also why ballet dancers retire at a very early age.

Social Tango is not like that though. Quite the contrary it is dance that is danced by 90 year olds with very different body analogies, with loss in muscle etc etc. So would we say for example that Oscar and Nina are bad dancers?!?! I highly doubt it!
See them in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQotX3sFahI

So as I perceive it, a style is a place to start learning but then we have to take into account the the experience of our body. And those two things are equally important and equally true.
Everyone of us is unique in some way, and that uniqueness needs space, a lot of space in a social dance.

Biomechanics Vs Tango Style

We can’t judge a style, a style is based mostly on aesthetics. It is a design. A beautiful design but still a design that one person or a group of people came up with based on their personal goals, experiences, expectations and so on. So it wouldn’t be possible nor fair. But we can judge movement based on anatomy and biomechanics. Then each of us can make an informed decision whether you want to pursuit a specific tango style despite the possible strain or risk due to inconguence with anatomy and biomechanics.

So firstly, based on anatomy and specifically the structure of the human skeleton in order to balance the forces going through the joints and to have an effective distribution of weight when standing on two feet, the placement of the feet should be such to support the hips. Having the feet together 100% doesn’t meet that requirement since the pelvis flairs outward. Similarly, the flair of the feet, meaning the turn out, depends on the structure of your hips, how wide or narrow the hips are.
So overall some people will have their feet closer together, not though fully connected, than others and also for some people the turn out will be bigger than others.

Walking and biomechanics

Now when we walk our hips are not supposed to be square, they are supposed to swing, it’s scientifically what we call: locomotion.
And it is not the only movement happening in our hips when we walk. In fact walking involves the whole body and the more chaotic it feels the more efficient it most likely is.
There is the “C” shape movement we talked about in our practice session and there is also a wave in the spine. You can see all of this here:

Can you stop all this from happening ?
Sure you can! But why would you? If you actually look a little closer and dig a little deeper, these movements actually help you connect with your partner in much more efficient way..!
You can see it in our previous practices here: https://bautanz.com/online-tango-practice/

And of course along with all that goes posture and centre of gravity. Your posture changes depending on what action you wish to perform. As you can see in the video above maintaining a specific upper body position works against your intention to walk forward or backward and would therefore require more muscle work to make it all happen.
Lastly our center of gravity, will be different depending on the shapes we create or have in our bodies. It is not a fixed spot and how could it be? By physics that would be impossible.

My suggestion to you

If you have learned Tango now spend some time learning your body through movement. Understand how one thing relates to the other, what kind of relationships they have and what kind of movements they create due to those relationships and structure

A great place to start is this video by Frey Faust: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy6tJZOQ0Ws&t=102s
And also the Youtube page of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen of Body mind centering: https://www.youtube.com/user/BodyMindCentering

Start learning about your body to better dance with/in/through it. Understanding how our body was built to move for me is the number one step to take when you really want to free up your social dance but also when you want to structure your dance training knowing, acknowledging and weighing in the risks you take compared to the choices you have

Enjoy and thank you again,

Chrisa

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

Rhythm, music and style in your ochos & boleos

Yesterday we talked about musicality in the walk, so today I wanted us to dig a little bit deeper into capturing the essence of the music. And we will be using ochos and boleos to do that.

It is not though a video on technique. But a video on flavour, taste, and style…

Why did I choose ochos and boleos..?

First of all they are a vital part of Tango, especially ochos.
The main reason though was that they come as a package with so many rules, do’s-and-dont’s and styles that the more we learn the more frustrated we get…!

Look at the beginning of this video for example…
Yes it is me…unfortunately…haha

Look at that  grim expression on my face… You can actually see what is going on in my head…

  1. Keep the body to your partner
  2. Hips stay square
  3. Hold that posture
  4. Step-and-turn (put a robotic voice to this…)

Who wants to be dancing like that?!?!
I look awful! It looks like I am doing military service here…  hahaha

Thank fully I didn’t stop practising…

What am I doing differently, in that second part..?

Firstly, even though in the first video I am focused, you can see I am not in the movement, I am in my head thinking about the “should”, “could”, “would”…
Compared to the second video, that I am in the moment, commited to the movement

Secondly, my whole body is participating in the movement. The ochos are more about connection and upper-and-lower body dialog than disassociation.

That is exactly what I meant yesterday when I said that if you leave all the work to the legs, you will never stop feeling like a robot.
In order to have an effortless, efficient, enjoyable dance, your whole body needs to be active.
And in order to be able to FEEL, embody the music, you need to allow your whole body to move, to dance, like I am doing in the second part of the video.

Thirdly, I am matching the energy, the style, the dynamics and the feeling of the ochos with that of the boleos.
This, interestingly enough is a big issue for followers…
How are we supposed to do a boleo?
Where should I place my knee?
How powerful should it be… etc etc

Good boleos come from a good ochos, those two are intimately connected!
So find THAT connection first and then the right boleo will come out of it. All the 3 boleo versions you can see in the video are correct, so you can use either one depending on the energy, the music, your mood, the space etc

Choosing between techniques

Because I know that many of you will see this video and think: “But MY teacher says your ochos shoule be like this… and your boleos have to be like so…”

I don’t care what your teacher says… And you know why?
Because your teacher is probably correct!

This video is not here to prove your teacher right or wrong though. This is not the issue…
The issue here is to encourage you to try different techniques, different ideas, different styles… And most importantly to get your whole body moving, to get your WHOLE BODY dancing!

Then and only then you will be able to fully express yourselves, through movement.  You will be able to attempt a taste of the different styles of Tango, and choose the one that feels better for you depending on the music, who you are dancing with, your mood etc.
This way every dance will be a special experience for you and your partners.

The scariest question of the video…

Is this going to take 2 YEARS?
hahaha

It is true… THIS is how long it took me AND I practised every day for 2 hours A DAY.
You can imagine how frustrating that must have been. You can actually see the frustration in my face, in the 2015 video… its insane!

But you don’t have to go through that for 2 years…

You don’t have to make the same mistakes I made, you can actually save yourselves some frustration and anguish by practising a lot smarter, with the right material, sequenced in the proper way, here at bautanz.com by subscribing to this page and getting more goodies and Tango tips on your email weekly

Or through joining Intelligent Tango– the course,  where I have sellected the best exercises from my practice and I have sequenced them for you: https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/

Hope to see you there,
Chrisa

Tango Heels… Own them don’t just wear them

I am not sure where you stand on Tango heels… I hope I am not laughing on my own here..! hahaha
Heels and generally shoes are super important, not only in Tango but in our everyday life.
Shoes protect our foot from the environment. They shouldn’t though, at the same time, restrict the foot from properly moving, and perceiving the environment.

Heels are they that evil?

Personally,  I don’t want to get into the conversation of whether heels are healthy for us physically and psychologically– I won’t even comment on the latter–for 4 reasons.

  1. In Tango women wear heels, that is how the dance is danced– they don’t have to be stilettos, they don’t have to be high, they just can’t be flat. When you are attending a milonga, you need to look that you are part of the party… If you are showing up in jeans, a star-trek t-shirt and all- stars and then you are wondering why nobody is asking you to dance… It is because they think you are NOT there to dance
  2. Bio-mechanically heels are not considered the best of shoes, but a heel in the dance actually helps the dancer find the forward alignment required for Tango
  3. Tango shoes, if they are of good quality, provide support, protection and flexibility, that you can hardly ever find in a street shoe and especially in flats.
  4. I don’t see how wearing-flats-and-dancing-on-your-toes all night is a better alternative… It is actually a lot worse, because there is no support for your heel and your toes take all the load

Extra, ultra personal reason that is secretly admited by almost everyone: They look good!

How can make our experience in our Tango heels as beautiful as the shoes themselves

It is funny but we make many mistakes when it comes to buying shoes and especially our Tango heels.

If you are a little bit like me you probably buy with two criteria:

  1. How it looks and
  2. Whether you can afford it

Then as you will hear me saying in the video, the shoes arrive and it takes you two years to actually feel good dancing in them because you overestimated your abilities and they were actually too high.
Yeah..! To my defence it only happened once, they were really beautiful and now I wear them all the time! haha

I even have proof: Milonga practice in the sun..!

In the video following you will find a few tips on how to choose the right pair, in terms of quality,  size and height. Tips on how to align yourselves over heels without hurting your back and a fitness sequence to get those legs a bit stronger, because the stronger they are the better you can handle heels.

Heels…Own them don’t just wear them!

Have fun!
Chrisa

P.s: If you want more detailed tips for the exercises presented in the blog, subscribe to the newsletter for a bunch of Tango goodies!

P.P.S: If you want a program that has deconstructed Tango to its essential elements–posture, balance, walks and ochos. If you are interested in a program giving you all the tips on making the right selection of exercises, recipes on how to sequence these exercises and suggestions on how to scale your practice and anchor it to things you already know, check out Intelligent Tango at: https://bautanz.com/programs-and-courses/
I put Intelligent Tango together based on my own practice. My intention though is to give you the freedom and the responsibility to make this your practice. To build the dancer you want to be on the dance floor.
I would like to hear your comments and thoughts to make this a great class!

Followers in Tango! Heaven or Hell?

Dear Followers,
Have you ever been out in a milonga and felt like this:
Followers in trouble
Or maybe…even like this:
Followers in trouble
Are you thinking:
“I don’t know, I feel bored” or
“You know, it is the energy in the milonga” or
“After dancing with some of these people I feel that my level is dropping” or
“Where did all the good dancers go?”

Have you ever thought you might be Tango depressed? (The more I think about it, the more I believe this might actually be a medical term…haha)
You are not the only one and plus it is not just you being sad or unmotivated or uninspired, there are some valid reasons why you are feeling like that..!

So, followers, let’s assume for the sake of this article that all of the above and twice as more are true..!
That would mean that you have spent all this time doing something that bores you, in places that are not to your liking, with people you don’t necessarily like and although you are dancing, despite all odds, you are getting worse!

Then why are you still dancing Tango?
And this the moment of crisis! Tango Crisis!
Why am I still doing this dance? Should I more take classes? Is it worth practicing? Why even sacrifice my night for a milonga?

And yet here you are!
Which, means you don’t need me to tell you why you need to take classes, or to prove to you that it is worth going to milongas, or to talk about the importance of practice..?
You know all that already, what you don’t know is how to get out of this Tango- crisis cycle!

So let’s take a step back from all this and see the bigger picture here. It must feel disappointing, frustrating, tiring, maybe even embarrassing sometimes to put yourself out there and not get what you need or even what you deserve, so would it really help now if I told you that the more you practice, the better you will become and therefore your experience in the milonga will be better..?

NO! It wouldn’t help!
WHY?
Because firstly, you know that already!
Secondly, you see no point in practicing, because you feel you have already invested too much time and this is not enjoyable, so what’s the point?

So before we get to what to do,  let’s identify some mental icebergs we–followers–have entering the milonga.

1)”If I get better I will get more dances”.
NOT true! Haha
For various reasons… the basic ones, firstly everyone perceives “better” in a different way. Secondly, the better you get, the more you expect and thirdly the milonga is not a competition is a social gathering so whether people will decide to spend 12mins with you, right in their face has to do with many other things aside from your level.
Bottom line, get better for yourself not in order to get more dances!

2) “I am in a milonga, I HAVE to dance”
The milonga is a party, you shouldn’t feel obligated to do anything. Dance when you want to and if that is not happening, chat with people, enjoy your drink, listen to the music. Go in with an open heart and an open mind, engage in conversation, smile, get to know people, if that leads to a dance that is great if not it is ok, make the best out if it, a milonga is a club with Tango music basicly!

3) “Nobody is asking me to dance, therefore I suck!” or “Good dancers never dance with me, so I suck!”
As followers we often times wait a whole night to get a dance. It is terrible to feel left out, to watch people enjoying their dances, while you are sitting there waiting. It doesn’t mean though that you suck! Instead of letting these thoughts take over your mind, take the lead, go where the fish are, for example the bar..! Talk to people. Most of the times people won’t ask you to dance because they don’t know you. Leaders do not always choose followers based on level!

4) “Nobody is asking me to dance, they are so unwelcoming!”
It is terrifying going to a milonga. And especially, followers going to a milonga alone. It is normal and understandable to feel a bit taken aback. Believe me though,  most people in the milongas are very nice people, you only need to give them the time to get to know you and you to know them. Make yourself feel at ease and then people will respond to that!

So what we really have is a combination of dance and social skills and both need time and practice of course to blossom.

We are looking at followers who are getting better because they love Tango, who dance only because they love to, who feel confident enough to improvise while dancing and who bring in a beautiful personality! Who doesn’t want to dance with THEM? Who doesn’t want to be with THEM?

So what do we do to become THEM?

  1. DO NOT even think about practicing to start! You don’t have the motivation yet. You need to feel good to start practicing.
  2. Choose pieces of music that you like. You might feel that Tango music doesn’t speak to you,  but you need time to get to know it, as it is very diverse. Plus it is, what is playing in the  milongas…To start though, just find songs with a steady beat, trying to include 1 or 3 traditional Tango songs.
  3. Set aside some free time for Tango in your day. Be realistic here, NOT more than 30mins!
  4. Before that time comes bring out your best of shoes!
    If your Tango- time is after work, for example, bring the shoes out before you leave in the morning or the night before, so when you get home you can’t escape it!
  5. DANCE! Wear those beautiful shoes and just DANCE. By the wall, the kitchen table, a counter, a windowsill.  Play with it. Don’t practice, just experience your body moving to the music. No embellishments, no choreography, no intricate steps,  only pure movement. DANCE
  6. Get into this with a child’s mind. Children don’t look at a video before they get on the swings, they just goo for it. You have come this far, I am sure, you have enough to dance, so do NOT watch videos. You are not trying to see how it should look on the outside but how it should feel on the inside! Believe me, it is instant satisfaction, once you get passsed this fearful stage of the first dance.
  7. Reward yourselves at the end..! Find something that you like to do and tell yourself you are going to get that at the end of your dance session.
    A nice bubble bath? A glass of wine? An improvisation video like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaQ3tCo7X1Q
  8. Try to be consistent, make it your thing, without making it a routine. Find yourself in Tango! And if you saw the video above say to yourself: IF SHE CAN DO IT SO CAN I!
  9. After a few times–how long, depends on you–you can start adding a few minutes of practice. Maybe 10-15mins of working on some basic elements of Tango, such as your balance, your projections, your walks, your ochos etc…
  10. Most importantly do what most people forget about, while trying to get better…HAVE FUN!
How do I know this works..?

Well I do it every day! And yes, some days I feel great from the very first moment and other days I am on the verge of going for coffee but then I dance and it just all goes away, the satisfaction is instant and you just want to dance more and more!
After that,  you really  want to practice. You practice for those three minutes of instant satisfaction, those three minutes of freedom, those Queenie moments of Tango bliss. You practice for YOU!

Plus, if you are wondering if leaders will notice any of this, this is a quote I read in a blog: “Followers must learn to improvise or else it is like dancing with dead weight..!” Strong, not my style, but to the point and most importantly it means that good leaders will be able to notice the difference.

Enjoy,
-Chrisa

Pictures:
1)
Photo credit: Ed Yourdon via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
2)Photo credit: LHG Creative Photography via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND