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Setting up your own practice

Practice, easier said than done!
What do we focus on? For how long? And how can make it sustainable? Are only a few of the questions that soon pop-up after we decide to set up our own practice.

Let’s say you are taking classes and you also took our workshop last week, so now you have a few things to practice on, but there is no indication of where to start.
There are so many different things you can start with, but which one should you explore first?

In this post, we are going to use the recording of our last workshop to see how you can start setting up your own practice.
So let’s get started!

A practice routine that works

We will use our latest workshop recording as an example to set up our practice routine. However, you can take materials from any of the classes you have attended.

  1. Step #1: Put it on your calendar. If it is not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist. To get started you need to make time in your day for your practice or it is never going to happen. Aim for 10-15 mins if this is your first time practicing on your own or if you haven’t practiced on your own for a long time. This is not about quantity but quality. This time frame is more than enough for someone we is now starting.
  2. Step #2: Start with a dance. You might have noticed that all of our workshops start with a dance. I think it really helps to get our mind and body ready to practice. It allows us to get into the mindset of practice in an enjoyable way and at the same time we are giving ourselves the opportunity to notice where we are that day. Notice any trouble, any holdbacks, any glitches as we gently move with the music.
    If you feel that you need more than one dance, of course you can add that to your routine.
  3. Step #3: Set your element of focus. It might be something you have been working on for some time, or something you discovered through your dance (step #2). Try to be as specific as possible. For example, let’s say you are starting out with: “I need to work on my posture”.
    Ok! What about your posture? Is it to do with balance, movement, anatomy, breathing, efficiency? Try to be specific.
  4. Step #4: Start with what feels as an emergency to you at the moment. Following the example above, all of these elements may sound important and necessary. You will of course capture a few of them in one practice but not all of them. So start with what feels as an emergency to you on that day, knowing that sooner than later you will be exploring the rest.
  5. Step #5: Start where you are. Continuing with the example of posture, in the beginning of the video we are exploring flexion and extension of the spine in order to find the 0.0 posture. When we are working with the placement of the thorax you will hear me say that “you need to start where you are, not where you should be“.
    Start where you are. identify the end of range for flexion and extension. Then shift your focus to the path from one end to the other end. Lastly, notice the middle of that path. Give yourself the opportunity to identify whether your go-to position is helpful or not. And then start exploring other options to find the one that works best for you.
    There is no point trying to replace a habit by forcing a new rule on your body. The body needs time to adjust and a rule is easily forgotten if your body is not given that necessary time. Through movement our body will find way to establish that rule, without force but through understanding and ease.   
  6. Step #6: Record and celebrate your practice. Take notes of what worked and what didn’t so you can come back to it the next time.
    Mark every practice you complete on your calendar. It can be a check-mark, or a smiley face or anything that works for you. Mark though the day as a day that you practiced. And congratulate yourself for having made it. All of this is for encouragement. For when you miss a practice and feel blue. Such days will come!
    Then instead of feeling like you will never be successful in your practice, look at your calendar! You will see all the smiley faces you have there already. Acknowledge the great work and effort you have already put into your practice.
  7. Last but not least, remember “the more the better” is not quite accurate here, especially in the beginning. Start small and grow! Start maybe with 10-15 mins, that would translate to a dance and an exercise. You will see that soon you will grow your practice in time and content.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: You can find more advise such as this along with a huge list of practice videos in our book “It Takes you to Tango – The Ultimate Guide for Leaders and Followers”

Don’t forget to breathe..!

“Don’t forget to breathe!” I love the absurdity of this phrase..! 
Honestly, how did this become a cue I wonder..? haha
Have you tried to hold your breath through a pose during yoga for example..? Unless you are a very good diver, holding your breath could only last a few torturous seconds and you would definitely know! 

Can we forget to breathe?

You can’t really forget to breathe. Because you don’t need to remember to breathe, you simply, automatically do. If you are holding your breath you also know, it is very clear, intentional and obvious. So what do they mean by that cue?

My take on this is, when we are holding a position or when we are overthinking something our breathing may be inhibited, meaning it might not be as efficient as it could be. As such every action feels effortful, straining and draining.
For example, if you pull your bellybutton in then your ribcage can not expand and move upward with every inhale and so your breathing will be inhibited, your inhales will be shallow and you will feel as if you are holding your breath. 

It is not really therefore that we forget to breathe, but other movement choices may be coming in the way of efficient and effortless breathing thus creating that feeling of a hold of breath.

What can we do to change that?

With this explanation in mind, we can start looking at the movement patterns of breathing and allow for those movement patterns to inform our posture and our movement as a whole. This way our breathing will flow and we will feel supported by the renewed energy of every breath.

To support this approach our cues will also have to change. The cue “don’t forget to breathe” though it might come handy some times, reminding to pause and breathe fully, it is addressing the issue causing the inhibition. It needs therefore to be replaced by a cue addressing posture and movement options. The quality of our breathing can actually be a new cue in it of itself. As you are practicing notice your breathing; are you feeling that your breathing flows effortlessly uninhibited? If not try to find the right adjustment in your posture and movement to free the breath.

Chrisa

P.S: Interested in a breathing and posture workshop, check out this video

P.P.S: Want more posts such as this? Subscribe to join the Bautanz community.

 

I was almost right..! Is this the best way to communicate?

Communication some times can be tricky! Especially when it is in a dance where we mainly communicate in body language and not verbally.

So here is how this post came to be. It is actually a funny story though it involves a doctor, and it goes like this.
I met with a friend after her doctor had called to say that it wasn’t an emergency she needed to face after all. Only he didn’t say “I was wrong”. He actually said “I was almost right!” only he wasn’t right at all… haha
Good news for my friend and a very interesting situation for anyone working on communication skills.

Mis-communication in a dance

I am sure you have been in a similar situation, where the other person sort of admits they were wrong. Either by saying “I wasn’t entirely right” or even worse “I was wrong but you …. (fill-in the gap with something equally wrong you did)”

In dance the same verbal communication can take place sometimes but physical cues are more common. There can be a power battle between the partners. In such cases nobody enjoys the tanda even if they managed to get things to go their way.

The issue though is not to explore who is right and who is wrong in a given situation. The issue here is to see how we can communicate better.

So think of the last time, that you had this mis-communication with your dance-partner. Maybe it was a different perspective on the music, or they led something and you did something else or vice versa.
How was that expressed? And what happened next?

Where you pushing and pulling on each other for the rest of the song? Did you use some leading or back-leading trick to correct the situation? How did your partner respond? And did any of you accept responsibility? Did you let go of the tension and admitted in body language that the other was right?

It is not a very easy thing to do actually, especially as you are improvising. But maybe now, after the fact, you can explore the situation. There is actually a simple exercise you can do.
List 10 circumstances where you felt that you were wrong but instead you acted as if you were almost right. And then 10 circumstances where your partner was wrong and again they acted as if they were almost right.

It might subtle. And it could only have been for a moment and then you changed back to your ordinary sweet self..! 😉
But think back to uncomfortable or even painful dances you have had. Bring back to your memory nasty milonga nights, or frustrating practices and/ or classes. See if somewhere in there you reacted or you were faced with the attitude above.

How to communicate instead

Now as you know, I really like to share some practical advice to a problem. At least, share thoughts on options that one can explore in order to make their Tangos more enjoyable.

This is not an easy one, but I will do my best to share some thoughts. I hope you will find them helpful!

If you have the “It takes You to Tango” guide, you can find in there some tips on how to handle situations in the social environment of a milonga. This specific situation was not clearly included therein. There is though a note on leaving in the middle of the tanda. Let’s start from this “extreme” option.

As you will see in the book, from my perspective, leaving someone on the dance floor is to be reserved for extreme situations. Situations where you are in pain, or you are in extreme discomfort and you feel this is harmful to you.

Though it is not the option to use all the time, have it at your back pocket for emergency situations. Still though, there is a way to do it. No need for drama!
Simply saying “thank you” will do the trick most of the times. In the rare, you might need to add a “I need to take a break”.

Now lets look at other options, that may come a bit more handy

Here are a couple, from my personal experiences on the dance floor:

  • Firstly, especially if I am dancing with friend, I simply say “sorry”. Quite obvious but an easy way to communicate that I was wrong.
  • Once I realize a mistake, I try to get where my leader wants me to be in an embellished way. Adding a gentle giggle, if you are that kind of a person, can also work.
  • In cases where the other person has messed up, I usually follow the previous pointer. Making a little moment out of the mistake always releases the tension. Plus you might actually come up with a new move after some refinement.
  • Further to the above, when a leader actually whispers “sorry”. Respond with an embellishment or make something out of the “mistake”; it shows kindness.
  • Where we are not talking about a mistake but a necessary adjustment, for example speed or orientation etc. we need to keep the dialog open through the embrace. Leaders will need to listen to followers. Followers will need to be able to communicate a message to their leaders. For example, if you are about to bump into someone behind you. Followers use the embrace to stop your leader from taking a back step. Or if the leader is going too fast for you; use the embrace and maybe even an embellishment to show that a change in speed is necessary. Leaders listen to your followers!
  • For cases where I can feel tension building, because of lack of communication, personally I choose to let it pass. I prefer not to continue the power struggle so I adjust to make it work no matter who is right. Then when the tanda ends I can decide whether or not to dance with that person again.

So those are my ways to communicate with my partners. I am sure that you have probably discovered many others that have worked for you. The main element here though is when you are wrong admit it and work with your partner to fix it. When you are right don’t hold a grudge and work with your partner to fix it. Painful or uncomfortable situations excluded of course.

Chrisa

Tango a way to tell our story..!

Though this is mainly a Tango and movement practice focused website, today I want to share with you a short personal story.
So after my practice the other day, I was preparing this video for Pro Dancer shoes. At the time I didn’t think much of it. It in the beginning just yet another video only focused on the feet. But things were not as straight forward as I had initially thought.
Let me tell you… It took me 20mins to finish! And it involved a lot of starting and stoping and a bit of frustration of course.

Tango can be frustrating some times..!

Some time had to go by, for me to realize the reason I was getting frustrated. I was focusing so so much on the shoes than on the dance itself.

Let me just show the 1st attempt that I think it is acceptable and so I can actually share it with you. It is not the 1st attempt of that day, it is the 1st acceptable attempt.

The intent was to show case the shoes. The problem is that focusing on that thought I wasn’t really paying attention to anything else. The result is having a feeling of disconnect to the music and my feelings of the dance.

As you can understand, even in this acceptable version frustration is still there and for good reason!

So what did I do?

Well the obvious..! I thought: “ok, forget about the shoes and JUST dance!” 
There was a moment that I actually thought, I am making no progress so there is not much point to this. I should instead simply dance and if something worth sharing comes out of it, then all the better!

Of course, things started getting better, and I actually really enjoyed myself plus the video is pretty good I think. At least it does the job and most importantly I was happier doing it.

Of course this is Tango related but not because it is about a Tango video

So why am I telling you this?

Let’s take shoes out of the story and pick something else. What do you feel uncomfortable with in your dance? The beat, the sequences, the posture, if your partner is going to get bored…? Whatever it is, think about how that issue affects your time in the milonga. Think how it grabs all your focus, and doesn’t let you see anything else. It actually spoils your night!

The thing is, that whatever the issue is, it can’t be solved in the milonga and the more you focus on that you are missing out on everything else!

Especially, for milongas, focus on having a good time! Allow yourself to enjoy your dances, to embrace your partners and get lost in the music! I am sure you have missed that as much as I have.
There is no point missing out for something you can’t possibly do anything about at that moment plus in many cases if you go with flow things get actually a lot better!

Tango a way to tell your story

So to transition to our drills and tips, even these very tips and drills, remember they are here to help and not to become trapping elements for you to stress over when you are dancing in milonga.
Practice, devote time in your practice but also enjoy the fruits of this practice!

Lastly, after sharing all this wisdom.. (haha) only keep the advise if it helps you and if not put it to the side and find what works for you! 😉

Let me know your thoughts in the comments or better yet subscribe to our community and continue the conversation there!

Enjoy,

Chrisa

Tango Misconceptions and how to dance through them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making the healthy choice

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

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

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

Enjoy,

Chrisa Assis

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

Our Feet, Tango, Injuries and… the Weather!

See that title..? haha
From feet to Tango, to injuries and all the way to weather… Things that might appear unrelated, sometimes interestingly enough they do connect in this vast network we call the human body. 

Our body responds to everything, in some way… it might be an obvious response or it might be a very subtle one. Leading and following in Tango is actually based on responding…not only from the follower but also from the leader.

Injuries and how to prevent them

After sharing the video above, that was on feet as the foundation of our walk, I received a set of interesting questions/ thoughts. They were around ankle stability and injury and how we can prevent them or be able to live with and dance through them.

To prevent them we need to increase our knowledge and awareness of the human body, so we can make healthier movement choices. Tango allows us to explore that because it is based on walking. Discovering how we were built to walk will help our Tango but will also give us the tools we need to prevent injury, to the extent possible of course.

Accidents do happen though… so what do we do then..?

How can we get to a point where we feel safe and secure in our bodies after being injured? 
Injury may actually be a second chance to learn more about our body. If you need a brace for example learn what it does, and which part of your ankle is it supporting/ replacing. Then explore that area with tenderness and care. You will see that slowly your mind will start creating a map of that joint area. The injury tore the map to pieces and now carefully with massage and subtle movement you can put the pieces of the map together. 
Will that bring the joint back to its initial state?
Well, that depends on the injury of course, it may or it may not. But what it will certainly do is give you the awareness you need to move on that foot; for example give you a clear picture of the range of motion around all axes or of the necessary alignment. You can then make better choices as you are moving/ dancing.

Again, Tango at its bare bones is such a caring dance! You can take it really slow if you like and notice where and when you need to make adjustments as you take a step. And if you have a good partner along with you, you can have immediate feedback on how any of the choices affect your posture, or even your energy/ tension/ connection.

Social Tango or maybe we can say Tango Salon, is not really a dance with special requirements, like for example ballet, unless of course we go into specific Tango styles that focus on creating a specific image. That makes Tango ideal for all ages to enjoy and for everyone of us to become a bit wiser on body mechanics.

Now you probably wonder how is the weather related to feet, injury or Tango..!

Noticing how the weather affects you, is the first step to awareness. Every day can not be the same, so why are so shocked when we actually notice that. If you are feeling stiff because it is cold, then give yourself a bit of time to warm up before you start going about your day. Or if you wake up and you are low in energy and your tone is low, then give yourself some time to bring that tone up. In both examples by the way gentle shaking helps..!

The idea overall is, spend time becoming more aware of YOU..! And to get started you don’t need to do anything else but to notice how your body feels when you wake up every day. Then as your awareness increases you will be able to capture more and more feedback, as you move and as you dance.

Maybe this video on feet and weight transfer trajectory can be the second step…

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

Chrisa

P.S: If you are wearing heels when you are dancing, check this article out