Tag Archives: awareness

Feeling comfortable, what does it truly mean..?

Feeling comfortable, is commonly associated with feeling good and at ease. Specifically in movement when we are saying we are comfortable in a pose or moving through a sequence, we usually mean that we are. not feeling pain or that we’ve generally got it.

Or like last week when looking at balancing the forces running through our body, when we achieve that we can say we are comfortable. Can we though say the same for the journey to achieve balance? Pushing through frustration when things are not working out in our practice. Or even pushing through pain… Would we say that we are comfortable with what practicing entails overall?

I would think not… but we might need to start thinking about comfort in those terms.

Be Comfortable with being human

One of my dear teachers Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen the other day put up a quick post on how feeling comfortable may be misunderstood.

I will only share an excerpt of her post here with you:
“(…) comfort doesn’t mean not having pain. It’s that we are here in our body. And maybe we are totally miserable but we are here.”

You can read the whole post here if you would like. It is short and truly sweet!

Don’t be mistaken I am not suggesting that you simply accept misery and defeat. Quite the contrary, be comfortable with being angry, frustrated, stressed, upset etc…. (you fill in that gap). Once you are comfortable with that feeling you can more clearly decide how you are going to deal with it.

Let’s take a Tango example, though you can apply this to life off the dancefloor as well of course.
Say you are coming back to social dancing after Covid, you are thirsty for Tango, you have just missed so much!
You get to the milonga, and you don’t get to dance much… suddenly the bad memories are crippling in.
Rejection, loneliness, feeling left out… etc.

That moment what do you do?
Do you pep-talk yourself out of it, forcing yourself to feel ok about the situation?
Or do you try to push past it, not to let disappointment kill the night?
Maybe the third choice, the what-did-I-expect-nothing-has-changed type of reaction.

The above reactions do not really allow us to sit with the feeling that is bubbling up. And they are really distractions or leave-for-later options.
So what I am suggesting is that if you are feeling disappointed, rejected, alone etc. feel comfortable with that feeling. Feel comfortable with being upset! It is absolutely ok!
Once comfortable with the feeling itself, you may then see more possible reactions to it that may resolve the issue.

The solution may not be obvious and most likely won’t just pop-up. You might need to step away from the dancefloor, go the bar, just sit and watch or even call it a night. But you would have taken the first step by saying:
“I am upset about this and I am totally comfortable with that. Now let’s resolve this!”

A little challenge to put things to the test

Another way to test your levels of comfort is of course practicing, and especially practicing alone.
Working on the little things, on the subtle things that may though bring huge change to how you move and dance.

Are you comfortable when things are not really working?
Or when you are not getting it?
Are you comfortable with putting in the time but not seeing immediate results?

I invite you to test it out for yourself with this practice on posture!
And if frustration starts building up, which of course it is not my intention, but if it does…allow yourselves to sit with that feeling comfortably!

So you know, this is kind of putting two birds in one nest. Practice for the body and the mind/ spirit!

Enjoy and join us for more by subscribing at our community

Chrisa

The neutral zone and the 0.0 posture

In our previous post we focused on the milonga and the key differences it has with Tango.
One of those differences referred to posture.  Specifically we observed that in Milonga due to speed we stay in the neutral zone while in Tango we have the time to shape the movement.

So this week, we will look into what we call neutral and range of motion and what shaping looks like.

Defining range of motion to figure out neutral

I am sure that you have heard or even used the term neutral position, for example keep your back in a neutral position.
What does this mean though exactly?

To understand better what it means we need to first speak about range of motion. 
Range of motion in a joint can be simply defined how far we can move around a specific axis, for example how far can we go in extension or flexion. Range of motion differs between different joints. And in the same joint it differs between different directions and around different axes. 
So for example we have a different range of flexion/ extension in our hips compared to our knees. Also though for the hip itself we have different range of flexion/ extension than rotation and we have more flexion compared to extension.
Bottom line it is all different so proceed with caution and keep exploring! and of course it is needless to say that each of us has different ranges of motion as we are all unique makes of the same grand design.

So now what is neutral

Well once you know how much range you have in a given joint, you know the end of range of a movement around an axis. The space between, the space before you reach the end of range is neutral. Neutral is an area, a zone not a specific point. The middle of the neutral zone where we are not committing in any direction we would then be in 0.0 posture..!

What does that all mean for Tango

To make things a bit more specific let’s look at one part of the Tango posture. Let’s look at the mid-back, where your thoracic changes to lumbar.


Here we have it all, flexion-extension, rotation and side reach. We have much more flexion than extension, like we see below.

posture1 NEUTRAL
Photo credit NatBat via Foter.com CC/ BY-NCSA
posture #1 NEUTRAL
Photo credit: yogamama.co.uk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

And anywhere between the end of the flexion-extension range is the neutral zone. In the middle where the joint are not going into flexion or extension we are at 0.

Taking a step

Finding 0 posture is one thing and takes some practice and exploring. But going from that 0 posture into a simple forward step can be tough!
It is actually like we will see in the video below one of the toughest transitions to manage.

And now on top of that we have different walking options, small steps, big steps or tiny steps. Those require a different skill.
Not that we forget or put to the side what we talked about above but when we are dancing we need to be aware but not limited by our anatomy. Every step is or can be unique, responding to the constraints of the dancefloor, to the style of our partner and most importantly the music.

Let’s see how the different types of steps can match some wonderful Tango music

So you have plenty elements to practice on and if you want more subscribe to our community.
Send me any questions or thoughts! 

I would love to hear from you,

Chrisa

Rhythm, is in us all!

Rhythm, for some is something effortless and fun and for others a constant effort and frustration. And the truth is that the fact that it is in us all, doesn’t make it any easier to identify.

But lets take things from the beginning…

What is rhythm?

Rhythm is not the beat of the music or dissecting a music phrase in 7, 9, 11, 4 or 8s and it surely is not steps on a beat, like choreography. All these are methods to explore rhythm but neither of them is rhythm in itself.

I would like to suggest that we explore rhythm as a relationship between direction, velocity and distance. And that relationship is affected by mass, inertia, impact, energy we like to spend, shapes we want to create etc. Let’s look at some examples:

  1. elements moving in the same direction at the same time
  2. elements moving in opposite directions at the same time
  3. elements moving in the same direction at an alternate time
  4. elements moving in opposite directions at an alternate time 
  5. repetition which is inherently rhythmical

Practicing rhythm therefore will need to allow us to further explore and become more aware of those relationships; that are more relationships with world and not only with a specific song.

How to practice rhythm

For the month of March, as part of our Movement and Mindfulness workshops, we explored rhythm as described above and so thankfully I have a 1hr video to share with you, that can lead you through explorations on rhythm and hopefully inspire you to come up with your own explorations as well!

I would suggest you spend some time exploring these symmetries with your arms as it is easier compared to working with legs. Also work for a bit without music before you add your favourite music to accompany you. And you can work with all of these symmetries together or focus on one or two of them at a time, whatever works best for you!

Putting it together in a dance

Such explorations I find them extremely useful as they help me understand what I might be doing unconsciously or what I might feel I can’t reach. Whatever the case maybe though, real-life experience and testing is required after every exploration of every kind. If we don’t take what we learn in our real-life how will it stick? How will it become more than just an exercise? And most importantly how will it teach us to a level where we start changing our old habits and building new ones, aka progressing?

So after you complete the explorations above, or anytime during the video that you feel the need or you feel ready, completely let go of the exploration and just dance. Stop doing the exercise, and just dance. Feel how what you have explored so far manifests itself in your dance.

And of course this doesn’t stop there, step out of your practice shoes but take your practice with you. See, notice how rhythm manifests itself in your everyday life, when breathing, walking, shopping, doing the dishes. Make every big or small thing a dance!

Enjoy and join us for more by subscribing!

Chrisa 

P.S: For more on music and rhythm you can check here and here

Posture and Mindfulness

Following this theme that we have been exploring, for some time now, mindfulness, we shift our focus towards posture; posture and mindfulness

We have talked and explored posture in many different ways however this time, our focus is not on the shape(s) that the body creates that we can characterize as efficient posture.

Our focus is more on becoming aware of our spine, our breath, our back and front body and the space there is between them.
Our goal would be to achieve the desired alignment without though creating unnecessary tension, by pulling on the muscle to achieve a specific position.

So how do we do it?

As you will see in the video above we are starting with breathing. Muscles of the back are also called breathing muscles and not by chance. You can do a simple test yourselves; inhale and exhale and notice how your body moves.

By deepening our inhales and exhales, we make all those movements associated with the breath and posture bigger. And so this way we come into a posture without inhibiting our breath and without using more muscle than what is necessary for us to get there.

One thing that I would like to take the opportunity to stress out here, is allowing yourselves to start where YOU are. This is a very important part of the process. We spend so much time trying to look like someone else, that we forget to acknowledge our starting point. However, that is something that will have a major impact on how we get to our goal and how long it will take.

So physically we are all of the same make but we are also different, maybe you have a more extended or arched back, maybe your breathing pattern is shallower, maybe you are stressed… a thousand maybes! So take some time to notice where you are without any judgement, just being a witness to your own experience and allow yourselves to start from there.

Being respectful and loving to your body will not only have physiological benefits but it will also be the first step towards mindfulness.

The benefits of a mindful posture

Talking about benefits, lets see a couple of more…

So continuing the conversation, acknowledgment without judgement doesn’t mean acceptance, but more realizing, identifying where you are and how that feels. So you go through a body scan, noticing where things are and how things are feeling. The labels of good and bad should be dropped for this one, as there is no good and bad, it just is what it is.

Once you have informed your knowing, then you can start the exploration of your other options of alignment

Other options will then offer a series of benefits, such as:

  • efficiency of movement, so you are not using more energy than what you need
  • following the above, you have better use of muscle
  • better balance of forces within the joints so there are no shear forces going through your joints, pulling them off center
  • following the above you can avoid overuse of ligaments and muscle impingement
  • you will have a comfortable breath while standing and moving
  • your diaphragms can work properly, at the appropriate pace with the necessary movement pattern
  • and generally your organs will be aligned and able to maintain their tone and relationships to one another
  • going to the Tango side of things, you can have more freedom in movement as you won’t need to hold as much
  • movements will feel more connected in your bodies
  • you will be able to dance for longer as you won’t be wasting energy and
  • last but not least we will be able to enjoy our dances more

We had to close this list at some point but in reality once you start with such explorations the benefits are more and more and some more..! (haha)

What if I don’t know where to start, with posture and mindfulness

I think our video above can be an excellent start and also our video from last week. They make a good match and can help slowly deepen your understanding of how the different parts of our upper body interact.

Now if you need more guidance we have our regular classes and workshops starting next week and we will be spending some time on such themes. It would be a great pleasure to have you in one of our groups. Help you and me learn and grow together

So if you want to give that a look check out our regular classes here: Online Tango Classes- Live and here are our Mindfulness Workshops

Hope to see you there and then

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: If you want to get started with some body scanning here you go!

Online dancing in the Covid era

Online dance classes, have filled the web the last couple of months. Great content is shared out there on different platforms and different forms. I couldn’t though resist asking what is the point of this all..? Now, don’t get annoyed, I agree with you..! There a great lot of point in online dancing, in online art sharing, but what is that point exactly?

Remember those good old days when you were just starting Tango and you wanted to know it all? The endless hours spent watching amazing dancers on Youtube. Going to this and that seminar. Getting together with friends to practice and come up with new stuff!

And then finally getting there, at least where you thought there was. Soon after realizing you had missed so many things in the process and had to go back to the beginning.
That then was a tough decision to make! A decision most people make I think…but still that doesn’t make it easy. And I was thinking what was it then that made us all want to start over? Maybe not from zero but still…

Learning is much more fun with friends

All the people I have asked they said it was the community. Not in general the Tango community in their city or town but their community of friends, that kept them going, starting over and doing the trip again. Some communities gave birth to new teachers, new organizers, new performers.

People also noted that once they started losing those connections, they started losing interest in Tango in that intense way. So inevitably the question rises to what will happen now?

This question includes the very important practical issues of dance schools not being able to survive and therefore closing their doors. But also the social issues of loss of a community, of yet another bond.

And so what is the point of learning, of taking online classes when you can’t really share the class with someone in the flesh. When you can’t share what you have learned on a dance floor at least not with an ease of mind…

If being with someone is the thing that makes it all special, then what is the point of learning more when you can’t share?

There is a beautiful point to it all

To be honest I had to stop writing and let this thought sit with me. I wasn’t sure how to articulate the fire that I was feeling. Knowing that just writing “of course there is a point!” wouldn’t be helpful at all.

And as it usually happens, something thankfully came my way, when I took a step back. As I was listening to the radio–yes yes the radio–there was a presentation of a book in Greek titled: “Πανδημία: Τέχνη και Κοινωνία” which translates to: Pandemic: Art and Society. (It is linked here if you speak Greek and would like to read it)

The presenter magically put all those things I had in my mind into some beautiful words!

Art is here, especially in crisis, to enhance the social safety net. There is a collective sentiment of us all being in something together without solely being united around fear.
There is therefore the aspect of listening to the news of any country, in any language and knowing exactly what they are saying aka Covid-second-wave-time-to-hide-again. And there is the aspect of how can we manage our collective fear, which is where Art comes in.

So we are sharing! At this moment we sharing very similar moments, very similar days with every human being of planet earth. The question is do we want to only share the fear or will we share music, dance, photography, film, books, paintings, Art?

Your experience is as important as the information you receive

Art, in any form and in every way that is shared is a necessity, and it is not me saying that, it is actually neuroscientists saying it; “The inestimable quality [of great art] is the opportunity that the brain is offered to give several interpretations, all of them valid (1999, 22f).” Zeki

I use this one quote of the many that one can find in the linked article, because I have experienced this myself. In most of our online classes, during our discussions every student shares a completely different experience. I am not referring to feedback, or comments technical in nature, but observations coming from an informed through experience knowing.

As such our experience is as important, valuable and valid as the information we receive from our teacher, from the artist, from anyone of “authority”.

Especially for music and dance, without any intention to make a distinction of value, consider that, before we are even born we are moving on rhythm.

Aiming to close with that thought; Aside from the findings on benefits of the art to our physical and mental health, especially dance and music are arts deeply related to our becoming.

In that sense therefore it can be soothing, comforting, enlightening, hopeful to dance even if you are connecting online; to listen to music even if it is not a live concert, to paint even if it the outcome sucks…haha. The experience of getting in touch with what is human is what matters. Releasing the mind from the stress and the fear. And most importantly adding a thread to our society’s invisible net that can be there to hold us all

An invitation to dance because it matters

Join me on Wednesday at 12:30pm (Toronto time) on Facebook or Youtube for a mid-week Tango practice. No registration or special invite needed, just hop in… I will make sure we dance as much as possible..!
Wave on the web. Leave a note or comment. Say hello and most importantly move along with me. From whichever part of the world you are joining in

You have probably experienced this common note: “Tango allows me to go anywhere and be amongst people with a common passion!”
We still have that! We are Tangueros and Tangueras! I might not know you and you might not know me… We still have that common passion, Tango so lets dance!

And hey even if you are not dancing Tango, still join us! Move with us, enjoy creating something with your very own hands, feet, heart and mind. If you hate, not a problem try another dance on Thursday! 😉

Chrisa

P.S: Can’t join us? Try a following a recording: Online Tango Practice

Practicing alone-together!

So when I starting practicing alone aka without a partner it was because I could feel that something was missing, that I could be a more active and expressive dancer but I didn’t quite know how to do that.

After some time things settle and I found my ways and Bautanz was born but this is not an article about Bautanz but about one great question I got from a member of our community, Mandy: “Do you have any suggestions for incorporating these ideas [on balance, alignment etc] into a partnership?

Is individual practice the problem?

Mandy explained that though while practicing without her partner everything is great but once they come together to dance things start falling apart.

One of the things, amongst others of course, that causes these off-balance moments is that each partner is working on figuring things out in his/her body and fails to pay attention to what the other person is doing. It is not on purpose that we are ignoring our partner but there are so many other things we need to focus on from one step to the next, that we fail to pay enough attention to our partner.

Many people say point exactly to that in fact to prove that one shouldn’t be practicing alone. That argument however can be defeated when we see soccer players, tennis players, ballerinas you name it training on their own.

Individual practice is not what causes the problem in connection, it is what reveals it! Once you start exploring further a creative process of change starts to happen and that is when start to realize trouble with moving with another person.

Also, as with any change, change in movement habits takes time! For us to realize what we are doing wrong, to explore the suggested other options, to understand how each suits our bodies and then to replace what we don’t need anymore with a new habit; This is a lengthy process, very creative but also lengthy! So it will take some time for things to settle, for new habits to get established so we can then focus more on our connection and how our movement affects our partner.

That is in fact why I created Bautanz and an online course called Intelligent Tango PROGRAMS & COURSES–INTELLIGENT TANGO, to speed the process of creating new habits through an individual practice.

Practicing on how to listen

You are probably wondering if I am actually suggesting that you just keep at it and hope for the best..! haha
Thankfully not, as there is a way to get more connected to your partner and explore movement at the same time and that is through touch, observation and feedback. And that could happen in two ways

Let’s use the above video as an example, if you are not practicing with a partner, during your individual practices you can get feedback from surfaces you can possibly lie down on or lean against. Once on the ground as in the video above you can get bodily feedback on how your head, back, hips and feet are moving on the floor.

You start gathering information on how these body parts move when you move your arms. But also there is the opportunity to observe how your movement changes as you release more weight, or as you turning, if you adjust your head etc.

In this video, all of the above apply of course, but I want to use as an example when you practice with your partner. Aside from the feedback you can gather from meeting the floor you can also ask your partner to place a hand on your shoulders, back, your head or hips, and just observe how you move without affecting your movement, only observing almost like passively following. Touch will reveal to both of you how that specific spot of the body moves and how part affects the other. It will give both you more information about movement that you can then take it with you when you are leading and following. Then of course you change roles, you will be touching and observing 

Time to give feedback…

Last but not least in the process is the exchange of feedback. This is an important part of the process and a rather difficult one. It is very easy to fall into the trap of not expressing how the movement felt. So again using the video above as an example you want to go deeper and describe what your hands felt, for example: “as you were settling in the tabletop position, your shoulder blades felt like they were sliding and turning, as the spine was reorienting. You back muscles felt like they were expanding as your sides and core were condensing.”

Avoid staying on the surface with feedback such as it felt good, or strong or smooth. Try to go a deeper and describe the movement. Make sense out of what your hands felt. Then you try the exercise again focusing on each of the elements your partner noticed and guiding each other through touch. 

Could I do this with Tango drills..?

Absolutely! This process can happen with any movement, only you would probably need to move a bit slower than usual if you are doing walks or ochos. But surely your partner can place their hands on your shoulders, back, chest, stomach, head etc and go through the same process as above.

It will heighten your awareness of your own body and movement but also of your partner’s. Touch is though an excellent way to practice “listening” through touch. Tango is based on touch and the feedback we receive through it. If we are not able to listen through touch and respond then it becomes difficult and the movement has a very mechanical almost robotic quality.

Every practice session needs to be rewarded

Extra bonus… a Dance! I would to encourage you to dance one song after your practice or at a random time without the intention to practice but with the intention to dance and enjoy moving with or without a partner.

It is not however an easy task. You will be putting yourself to the test trying to put all the things “you should be working on” to the side and letting the experience of moving inform your knowing.

I wasn’t doing that for a long time. Instead every chance I got I practiced trying to get things right, trying to get better faster. It was very frustrating, and made my dances really hard to enjoy. So though being in the unknown, without an outline of what needs to be taken care of, of what you need to focus on, can be discomforting, it can also help you understand your body, your movement and your partner at a deeper level.
Plus it is a great reward to allow yourself to dance after spending time practicing!

Touch, observe, listen and don’t fear the unknown!

😉

Chrisa

P.S 3rd week of September we will be starting session of live online classes. If you are interested check it out here: Online Tango Classes- Live