Tag Archives: balance

Intelligent Tango– 5min Tango Practice

Intelligent Tango is not only about what you do, but also how you do it and how long you do it for.
We are busy people, and we have limited time
When does that stop being a reason and becomes an excuse?

5min of Intelligent Tango Practice… Are they enough?

Ok! Lets be honest… no of course it is not enough.
It is though a start!

If you sitting at home reading through this thinking what can 5mins do to you… I can ensure you that they will do you a lot more than 0mins!

Firstly, it will get you started
Secondly, it will give you a feeling of accomplishment
Thirdly, you will be able to define what you need to work on
Fourthly, you will get motivated to practice more because you will see results very fast.

A few tips to help you out with setting up your short but intelligent  practice
  1. You don’t have to do as many things as I am doing but I wouldn’t encourage you to do more
  2. You can in fact work on 1 thing. Use for example all your 5mins on posture, or only for walks
  3. Focus on each and every one thing that you are working on.
    On the movement itself but also on all the other smaller movements supporting it.
    Focus on your breathing, to relax any points of tension.
    And lastly, have in mind that you want to be engaged but not tensed
  4. Make sure you have control over your movement
  5. Have also control over what you decide to practice on, instead of hoping from one thing to another randomly
  6. Last but not least, make it about you. Work on things that are important to you, notice your movement with no taboos or do’s and dont’s. Find ways to make this enjoyable and fun.

So with no further a do here is your video:
Intelligent Tango– 5mins Practice

It is simple, fast and sweet! Think about it as the little drop of Tango for your day!

Practice Tango Intelligently! Make your practice an experience

 

Don’t rely on motivation. Rely on results.

Motivation is something vague and completely unreliable. Though, the picture of a dancer being the rough talent, who doesn’t mind really practicing, but doesn’t really need it either because within 1 hour they are dazzeling, is sexier… they are also far from the truth!

Talent is not enough. Motivation alone is not enough. Taking action, following a system and feeding off results is what takes you to the next level

A Motivation rant coming from a loving place

I made this video last Wednesday.
It was a long day but still I felt empowered and motivated and I really wanted to share that with you. I had just taken off my make-up and I did my mobility/ stretch exercise, which is one of my recent most enjoyable tiny habits–always brings a  smile on my face–and that is when I decided I should really do the video because it will just paint the whole picture for you.
So this video starts with a bit of desperational rant…hahaha… but it is all coming loving place and the goal here is to show you a couple of things:

  1. That you should act to get motivated and not the other way around. Same goes for confidence by the way
  2. When we say “act” we are aiming more for consistency than intensity or time spent on the action
  3. Urge you to start now with a tiny habit, with just one drop of Tango in day and scale, because I believe you can. I know you have that fire in you and I would love to see you reaching all your goals while having A LOT of fun!
  4. I am actually sharing a specific exercise. It is going to help you relax your hips, something followers often have trouble with, and at the same time help you work on your balance and rotation of the upper body.
What I would like you to remember from this video

What I would like you to take away from this video, is that Tango, dance and Art in general, aside from everything else give you the opportunity to be a kid again. To feel that because you are learning something new, because you have no idea what the rules are, you’ re gaining some of that time back almost… feel as if you have the whole life ahead of you and you can afford to go all in, you can turn not-knowing-the-rules into an advantage, you can take risks and learn without being too harsh on yourselves…

Ok, enough text..! Here is the video:
Don’t rely on motivation. Rely on results

P.S: Learn for Intelligent Tango and share your thoughts here:

Posture in Tango– Why it feels so unnatural? #2 (yOUR reasons..!)

I wrote this article on posture last week BUT there was a catch to it… There was ONE very important reason missing…YOUR reason on why posture feels unnatural.

I wanted to hear you guys out. See if there was something I was missing. Start a conversation on social media, on a fundamental Tango element.
And I am very glad I did that, instead of just writing the article in full!

Why posture feels unnatural? (yOUR reasons..!)

you mean moving with someone attached to the front of you is supposed to feel natural?” J.
Why tango posture SHOULD feel unnatural to anyone?”  I.

Really now, with all sincerity, since when do any of us walk around with someone stuck on our face?
Certainly NOT me!

So, basically when we get into Tango we are asked to keep our chest open, our shoulders back and down. Head UP!
Hips back, abs tight… (I am already tired just writing this…)
AND to top it all…ATTACH OUR BODY TO SOMEONE ELSE and feel NATURAL!

Even if you have physically managed to have a good posture, while practicing on your own, when you get into an embrace, your posture will get affected by the contact with the other person.
If you are comfortable with the intimacy of the close embrace your posture will become smoother and gentler, allowing you to merge in a real hug.
If you are still uncomfortable, though, your posture will get worse, will feel more and more unnatural and robotic.

It is awkward, the sooner you accept that the better it will be!

Why does everyone tell me that the posture should feel natural?

I am going to tell you a short story…

Being in Greece and learning Tango, I consider myself very lucky! We get many of the great names of Tango visiting.
So there was a period of time when I was meeting a lot of Argentinians.

For Argentinians, a hug and kiss when they meet you is protocol
For Greeks a handshake is enough. If you get passed the handshake, though you get two kisses! haha

So, after many…too many…hugs and kisses. Here I was presenting my thesis…you see it coming right?
A visitor and friend of my professor was there for the presentation.
I finish the presentation, my professor introduces me to our visitor aaaand no, the handshake wasn’t enough. I gave her a hug and two kisses!

Cultural mix-and-match!!!

She smiled at me awkwardly…poor woman!hahaha

I have been more careful ever since, after realizing that what might be natural to me, it might not feel natural to other people.

Why SHOULD everyone feel unnatural?

No, I am sorry you can’t blame your partners for your posture feeling unnatural!
The embrace will just reveal to you the awkwardness, but your partner is not necessarily the one to blame.

Accept the awkwardness and focus on finding what is the causes it.
Is it the connection?
Does the pressure against your partner’s chest, make you stiffen or pull away from your partner?
Is it the frame of the arms?
Do you feel pain in the arms or shoulders?
Is it in the hips and/or lower back?
Are you trying so hard to keep your feet and hips away from your partner that you end up stiffening up?
Is it the intimacy of the close embrace?
Do you change to a robot the moment you get into the embrace?

Find what creates the discomfort, to open up the path to a more enjoyable posture, to a more enjoyable dance!

Always keep in mind though that when dancing with someone, especially if you haven’t danced with them before, awkwardness is not only expected but also natural. Embrace the awkwardness to make the moment special!

Leave your comment below… I might have a few suggestions for you in the next article.

-Chrisa

Make your giros “YUMMY” by bringing them down to the bare essentials

Last week we talked about how we can use embellishments to practice on important Tango elements.
With a simple embellishment, we saw how we can practice balance, posture, disassociation, ochos, timing and much more.
Today we are going to take things a bit further by unweaving our giros step pattern!

What is a giros exactly?
giros
Photo credit: thy khuê via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Oups! Not this one..? haha
Ok!
So a giro is a sequence where, the follower–usually–is moving AROUND the leader.
It can be done in an open or a close embrace. It usually follows slow-slow-quick-quick-slow rhythmical pattern. And it might be of high or low speed.
In terms of footwork, a giro is basically a combination of steps and pivots. Specifically, forward, back and side steps combined with forward and back pivots.

You want the video now, don’t you?
Here you go: A practice drill for some yummy giros
Go to 0:16 to see the actual giros step.

What causes trouble in the giros?

The most common problems followers have in giros are:

“I feel off balance, especially during the back ocho…If I try to make it bigger I fall back, if not, I am moving away from my partner”
“Relying to much on my partner for balance. As I am going around, my partner complains that I am dropping all my weight on him…”
“I am feeling like I can’t keep up…either my steps are too small, or my timing is off, or both…?”

Any of these ring a bell, or many bells..? Mmmm…Yes! I know…
So, what are you noticing though?
The first problem has to do with big back ochos, the second one has to do with body alignment and the third one with steps and timing of the giros…So, aside for the timing, the rest have little to do with the giros itself.

NOW PAY ATTENTION here, this is super important, not only for the sequence we are looking into today, BUT for every sequence in Tango!

The giros reveals the technical problems the followers have. Meaning, you are not having trouble with the back ocho because your giros is not good enough. You are having trouble in your giros because your back ochos are not good enough… Two completely different problems.
Same goes for body alignment, power/ size of your steps, disassociation, posture, even timing!

The giros is not the problem, you are messing these things up even when you are not doing a giros, you just hadn’t realized.

How can we fix it?

All right, lets go back to our video here:
A practice drill for a yummy giros

As you can see I am taking the sequence and I am breaking it down to its bare essential pieces.
Side step, forward step, pivot, side step, back pivot, back step.

When you see it written out this way, it is quite clear what you need to work on:
Walks–forward, side and back
Ochos– front and back

That’s it! If you make those better, your giros WILL be better!

As you can see in the video, in order to practice those elements I put  together, a LINEAR combo of side steps and forward/back ochos.
I start off against the mirror, not only for balance but so I can make sure that I am keeping my distance between me and my artificial partner the SAME throughout the drill.

Not having to go around, I get the chance to:

  1. focus on my footwork
  2. work on the power of my steps, without jeopardizing my balance
  3. alignment and posture
  4. disassociation
  5. transitioning smoothly from one step to the next AND
  6. timing between my steps and pivots

And then I put ALL that to the test…NO partner!
Doing the “NO PARTNER” test will give you great insight. Try to identify which part of the sequence is working out for you and which is giving you trouble.
Don’t just go through the movements, try to see where you are lacking. When you have spotted the culprit, practice on THAT!

For example, say that when you step away from the mirror, during your forward ochos you are having trouble keeping your balance.

STOP RIGHT THERE! Practice your forward ochos ONLY!
Why?
That is what is causing the trouble. If you can’t do it, following  a straight line what makes you think you can do them in a circle?

Do the same thing for any other component…

Don’t go back to the BASICS go back to bare ESSENTIALS

What we did above with the giros you can and SHOULD do for every sequence, from the simplest one to the most intricate!

Why?
First of all, even if you don’t fully remember the sequence–see I know you now ALL too WELL..haha–you can still practice parts of it.

Secondly, to get better at something you need to be able to identify, what it is that is holding you back from progressing. When you have a whole sequence to practice on, it will take a long time and many repetitions to find what it is that makes the whole or part of the sequence go wrong. If you break it down, in a matter of minutes you will know, what it is you need to focus on.

Thirdly, when you break the sequence apart, you can put it  back together in MANY different ways…and work on your improvisation skills too!
Like I am doing with the box/cross/basic step, or however you want to call it.

Fourthly, you don’t have to be an advanced dancer, or to know many sequences to start practicing. Even a SINGLE forward step can be broken down to: Projection, shift of weight and collection.
Work on each one of these elements separately, find the culprit, fix it and your forward steps WILL become better.

Have fun! 😉

-Chrisa

 

 

 

You need to get your Tango Priorities straight…#1: Embellishments!

A friend and student recently told me this:
“I want to change my Tango priorities. Maybe do some work on embellishments.I would like to focus more around the dance itself instead of myself IN the dance.”

hey hey… I know… You are probably thinking:
Embellishments? This is the last thing you should be practicing on….instead you should focus on blah blah blah…
I know I thought of that myself, but instead of rushing to answer her request, I asked her to explain it to me…I wanted to hear her out

And she said: “I feel I have been very egoistic in my dance, trying to show people all the great moves I know. Now I feel it is the time to focus on the dance itself, on its subtleties, on its internal rules.”

But isn’t this the reason why people avoid embellishments?

Why we REALLY avoid embellishments?

I used to believe that people avoid practicing embellishments for two reasons:

  1. Because their teachers have made it clear to them, that embellishments are secondary in Tango. Therefore when they practice, they want to use their time effectively, focusing on Tango priorities, like balance, posture, disassociation, walks, ochos…
  2. Because they are fed up with all these dancers on the dancefloor, doing nice embellishments and then sucking in technique.

There might be some truth in the reasons above BUT my friend’s request made me think, of a more important, underlying reason. Tango is serious dance, and people don’t want to sound superficial by saying:

I want to make things look nice on the dancefloor!
Seeing all these followers doing these beautiful embellishments makes me jealous, I want to learn how to do them too!
Or
I want to make things look tidier, prettier

What is wrong with these statements?
Well if you are asking me…NOTHING!
It is a dance for God’s sake, you are supposed to look good while doing it and most importantly you are supposed to feel good and not guilty!

We are feeling guilty though, either because we are afraid of what other people might think of us and our commitment to Tango or because we judge others with similar criteria…
C’mon, we have all done it…
Looked around to check out the “show off” walking in the cafe on Sunday morning,  too awesome to be real!

The truth is though that our practice can benefit a tons from embellishments, if we use them strategically.

How can embellishments, help us work on priorities for Tango.

When we say priorities in Tango, we mean balance, alignment, posture, walks, ochos, musicality. As you get better, you’d probably have to fit improvisation in there too.

The question is can you work on all these elements, through an embellishment?

YES, you can!
And here is the video to prove it:
Embellishments– More than making things look pretty

Most importantly, though embellishments can help us discover new ways of creating movement, where the outcome might be the same but the quality of the movement is completely different.

And this in itself is a very important element in every dance!

Toe- taps. An opportunity to work on Tango priorities

As you can see, I chose one very simple embellishment, toe-taps.
This was a deliberate choice!
I didn’t want to have a very difficult embellishment to work with, because then naturally, all my focus would be on the embellishment itself.
So, if you don’t want to work on toe-taps, you can choose something else, but make sure it is not too demanding.

Toe-taps, usually happen, before a side step, and the dancer will bend the standing leg for the free leg to extend and tap, before taking that side step.
That in itself might a bit difficult for some of us. So try it a couple of times, staying strong over the standing leg. Without, letting the free leg just flop around, but directing the movement from the standing leg. Nice and controlled.

A great way to work on balance, and on the side step that follows. For which, you will not throw yourselves over. Instead you will control the swing of the free leg, bring it in to center, and the push your way over.

So already you have practiced on:

  1. The embellishment
  2. Balance, proper alignment and posture
  3. Side steps.

Things are about to get more challenging though! Because now you will go into a back step instead of a side step…
Why is it more challenging?
Usually because our hips are not properly aligned, for us to execute the back step and stay balanced.
So, FIND it!
With your focus on the standing side, and with the help of your tailbone, try to find the proper placement for the hips in order to smoothly exit into a back step.

So this time you are working on:

  1. The embellishment
  2. Balance, alignment, posture
  3. Understanding your movement and how your body can create smooth transitions

Things will get a bit tougher, when you will create back ochos from the embellishment.

Before you even think of pivoting, notice the twist created in your core because of the embellishment. Try to feel how it is created from the movement of your hips and your free leg. And notice how it affects your upper body.
When you are ready, activate the standing heel, and bring it around, taking the free leg and the hips with it.
Here too everything is directed by the standing leg. So DON’T hop into your step, bend your knee, extend the free leg, push to step, pivot by bringing the heel around and repeat.

This time therefore you are working on:

  1. The embellishment
  2. Balance, alignment and posture
  3. Disassociation
  4. Back ochos
  5. Understanding your movement and how your body can create smooth transitions

If put some music on, then you can actually create small combinations of the exercises above, and work on your musicality and improvisation too!

But it is not over yet…Lets break some rules!

This is where things get interesting.
As you will see in the second part of the video, I am ONLY moving from the free leg.

Instead of bending the standing knee, to release the free leg, you will swing the free leg out and around to tap, and then let it lead you to a side step.

That in itself, if you haven’t tried it before, will challenge your balance, alignment and posture. Plus it will make you feel a bit weird, especially on the side step, where you NOT allowed to push!

Is it wrong? NO!
It is just a different way to do a side step. Reacting and directing it from the free leg, instead of the standing leg.
Doing the embellishment right before, will help you understand how the free leg can help you move without losing control, and will give you great insight on how you can isolate the axis without creating strain on the leg/hip/shoulder.

So what have been working on here:

  1. The embellishment
  2. Balance, alignment and posture
  3. Side steps
  4. Understanding the power of the free leg
  5. figuring out different flavors of movement and how your body can create smooth transitions
  6. Noticing where there is strain on the standing side–look for it at the femur 😉

You will then, just like before, do back step and then back ochos, directing them from the free leg.
This is quite demanding and will make you rethink your posture, especially on the ochos.
Just like before though, feel how the swing of the free leg, can move your hips back for a back step and around for the ocho. How that energy makes its way up to your core and what effect it has in your upper body.
This prep- work will help you a lot in your back ochos which you will be directing FULLY from the free leg. DON’T PUSH! haha

THE FINAL TEST

Traveling back ochos! What you will be working on?

  1. The embellishment
  2. Balance, alignment and posture
  3. Disassociation
  4. Connection between upper and lower body
  5. Back ochos
  6. Understanding the power of the free leg
  7. Figuring out different flavors of movement and how your body can create smooth transitions
  8. How much do you really need to pivot!

So what do you think now, are embellishments a waste of time?

-Chrisa