Tag Archives: better teachers

Lost in Translation: Decoding Tango Class Clichés and Confusing Phrases

Have you ever heard people give cues/ advice in a tango class that made you go, “Huh?”.
Like when they say, “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango.” Or maybe someone told you to “walk backwards like you want to walk forwards.” That sounds a bit tricky!

Can you think of any other confusing or cliche things people say in tango class? Share them in the comments! Later, we’ll figure out how to understand and dance to these tricky cues, starting with the cliches!

Tango Class Clichés and how to respond to them

Some phrases are cliches, which means lots of people use them, but they can be a bit confusing. Like when someone says, “Lead with emotion” or “Dance like nobody is watching” or “Don’t think, just dance.” These are like puzzles because they don’t always give a clear message.

Even though these phrases are cliches, they’ve been around for a long time because they can be important. But, to really understand them, it’s like being a detective and asking questions. For example, if your instructor says “Lead with emotion!”, ask for clarification as “what do mean when you say “lead with emotion”? Do you mean with more clarity in direction, with more conviction or with more intention?”

Asking questions is like having a superpower, especially when you’re learning something new. And interestingly enough very few students ask. So at the first couple of classes I usually ask for them, like “Do you know what I mean when I say X?” or “Does this make sense?”

One last example before we leave the cliche section, is one of my personal favourites “Don’t think, just dance”. Which if you ask me, sometimes there’s a little secret frustration behind it, like the teacher might be thinking, “I don’t have more instructions for you, just figure it out!” (haha)

And there is some level of truth to that, meaning that if you need to explore movement on your too in order to get it. As a teacher though, it’s important to explain what you mean by “just dance.” For example, I might say, “Now, let’s try this in a dance. Forget about the exercise and see how it shows up in your dance. If you feel something different, great! If not, that’s okay too. Keep exploring and playing with it!”.

Phrases that make you go, “Huh?”

Now there are some cues that simply are a bad choice of words. For example “bring your energy higher” or “don’t try to make it better, you’ll make it worse” or “dance your own dance”…. What??? haha

From a teacher’s point of view I avoid such phrases, because they are not really that helpful. But as a student I see them as an invitation for a short-term exploration.

Think about it. Say you are in a practica, working on a couple of things and the cue is “dance your own dance”. This advice comes with no restrictions really..! There is no goal or expectations and there is no clear cue for you to follow. Which can be frustrating unless
Which can be frustrating unless you see it as a green light to trying different variations, exploring different options until you find what works for you.

The same goes for something that sounds more technical like “bring your energy higher”. What does that mean really? It can mean anything; that the level of the energy you perform the movement with is low, your intention is unclear, or maybe your upper body is a bit passive, or something entirely different.

Reading though through this paragraph you already have 3 different options to work with and collaborate on with your partner and your teacher; you can make it more dynamic, more crisp or more powerful or even a combination of all 3.

Translating movement to words

Now, why did we treat cliches and confusing advice differently?

Cliches have hidden but valuable messages; unpacking them helps you learn a lot.
After all, they are cliches for a reason..!
On the other hand, confusing phrases are often language misuse. Imagine movement as one language and speech as another. Your teacher during a class tries to translate their actions into words. Sometimes the translation is successful and sometimes not. Responding to them with movement therefore can be a more successful strategy than talking it out.

This was our first attempt at blending words and movement to improve your classes; aiming to share strategies for better understanding and responding to confusing cues. Stay tuned for more detailed posts on successful “translation” and if dance-related confusing phrases come to mind, share them in a note or comment.

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for guidance through your practice, take a look at our training guide “It Takes You to Tango” available on Amazon.

A beginner in Tango in the times of Covid

Well, you know how at the beginning of this craziness everyone was saying this lockdown is an opportunity?
Now you can learn anything you like but never had the time…you can take better care of yourself…listen to you..etc.etc…So I am wondering if any beginner in Tango or in anything really, kept at it?

I had a few people reach out to asking whether through the class I have online (https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/online-tango-classes-live/) they can learn Tango…
What was I supposed to say…? The obvious answer at least for my class is no! And that is what I would say in the beginning…
But then I gave it some thought, and said well there so many benefits in one learning how the body is built to move through a dance… so why not…and so I then said… No but you can learn how to move and believe me you will be ahead of the game when things get back to normal..! Oh my goodness..! haha

Would this have really worked?

Honestly, I don’t think so! And not only for a technique class but for any online class.

Let me explain why, and feel free send me your thoughts on the matter.

In a normal situation, even if we were following classes/ videos/ practices online we had the opportunity to go to a class with other people, to go to a milonga or practica. To embrace, to touch, to feel, to move together. This all was part of the process! So our online learning was in addition to that, not subsidizing that.

Now what do we have..?
In some places with a partial lockdown still in place we don’t have access to any group activity. While in place where measures have been lifted we have very small groups of people, with masks, staying with the same partner and overall being overwhelmed by worry if not fear.
In both cases we are not in a place where we can learn… Either because there is no really human contact or because we are still unsure whether we can trust the human being next to us.

And that is for any beginner in any dance, not only Tango.

See something is missing…

You see dance at least for me is supposed to liberate you. To help you open up to another human being, to share the moment with them. In Tango we do in an embrace, in ballet you are standing next to each other, but we are still there together, breathing the same air, sweating on the same floor and briefly or not so briefly touching.
Can we do all that while constantly thinking: “Stay 2m away”?

No I don’t think so…And please don’t tell me to wear a mask in class, because guess what breathing your own CO2 for 2hrs while dancing is equally unhealthy..!

I have been thinking about this for a long time. It was actually the reason why I didn’t start doing online classes right away.

You see bautanz is an online community for practicing and enhancing and developing your Tango and your movement. But it was always meant to move in parallel with in person class. The reason for this is that we, as in people, are social animals. We learn from being touched by others, touched is used here literally and figuratively of course. That is what I felt was missing from doing all this online.

So as a beginner or not what do we do?

One of my teachers Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, from Body mind Centering (https://www.bodymindcentering.com) says: “The mind of the room has changed” when the group shifts their perspective on something. There is this communal thinking, this communal understanding that builds from each individual’s thinking but also informs each individual thinking.
That is what is missing..!

So if we can get a glimpse of that through the web, we would have won something that could teach us all, being a beginner or a teacher.
Will we magically become Tango champions in one night? Will we go the next milonga–whenever that happens–and just hop on the dancefloor no problem..?
No of course not…but this is what I think we will have… A sense of the other! A sense of gathering, a sense of touch without touching, a sense of a network that moves together.
Currently alone-together, but soon simply together

I believe this experience as whole is only achievable by in-person classes, but a little drop of it, might be possible. And that possibility is my hope… I hope we will get past this worry and fear. That we will trust each other again. And that by being a beginner not in Tango but in socializing we can get even closer together.

I am thinking therefore of a new format for a class, where we take moments to listen and share. Share not only in words, but also by acknowledging the time we are spending with all these other people from around the world. I hope that by the end of this class session, I will have something to report form this little experiment!

If you are already able to do in-person classes, what ways are you finding to hold the space for each other?

Send me your thoughts,

Chrisa

Don’t think..!Just be yourself!

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

OMG!
I hate it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should you just accept it then..?

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

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

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

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

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

😉
Chrisa

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

Tradition Vs Modernism — Tango Traditional Vs Tango Nuevo

“I think tradition is something living not something dead. It is the opposite of habit (…) It is not a habit; If a tradition is alive, it is a living thing and it helps.
That is one side. The other side is modernism;
Modernism is the result of an area of experiences. And one has to grow his way, so to say, in this field which is more or less unknown, un-proved and un-checked.
So I don’t see why the two things should be opposite; They both belong to life” Giorgos Seferis

Tango Traditional Vs Tango Nuevo

I remember back in 2008–when Tango Nuevo had taken over Europe–I was in a festival and the Dj during one of the milongas was playing the oldest recording of the oldest Tangos possible…

We were about to kill ourselves!

2018… Anything Traditional is the true Tango and we can’t even think of listening at another Gotan Project song…

hahaha
Well isn’t life funny..?

In milongas, practicas even classes around the Tango world there is this debate on what kind of music should be played–traditional Tango or Tango Nuevo?

With the underlying question being, which one is the authentic Tango; the REAL Tango?

For years, I had a role in this game…
In the beginning, I was defending the Nuevo music bands, like they were my own…haha
You see… I had learned Tango listening to those very bands; and though I became a great defender of traditional later I have to say, on THAT music… I learned Tango well, VERY well!

And so maybe that was why I was saying things like:
“The beat is a lot more clear than the traditional songs” or
“This is the kind of music younger people can connect to” or
“This is 2000 and 8!” (all this was me, but maybe it was you too)

Then, slowly I started reading about the music, the roots, the tradition, the history of Tango. I got to learn and later understand and love that very tradition which in the past, I had so easily pushed away.

But I hadn’t learnt my lesson…
Yet again, now on the opposite side, I defended traditional Tango against Tango Nuevo…haha…
Saying things like:
“You have to learn the tradition, you have to at least attempt to understand what created Tango” or worse
“This isn’t even real Tango, it is club music” (all this was me, but maybe you too)

Now, I am asking myself, why..? Why do we have to choose one versus the other? Is this even a logical and healthy debate? Why can I NOT like both?

Tradition & Modernism — “They both belong to life”

When I heard this very old interview of Giorgos Seferis two days ago, I saw more clearly the answer to the questions above.

He says: “I don’t see why the two things should be opposite; they both belong to life”

Why waste time debating between traditional and Nuevo music when we can spend that time to discover and enjoy good music
And why debate over which is the real Tango when we can instead learn the tradition and explore the endless creative options we have in a modern society.

But most importantly instead of creating more and more separation in our communities why not work together to explore and learn from the past and take the tradition further by keeping it alive; by giving it new shape and breath; and most importantly by sharing it

(Photo by karurosuros on Trend hype / CC BY)

It is all connected– Tango, Yoga and beyond

My Tango chats are usually with other Tango professionals… like the recent one with Veronica Toumanova.
This time though I decided to do something different… or is it actually the same..?
Hmmm… We shall soon find out, I guess..!
But today I chatting Tango, Yoga, learning strategies, teaching approaches, social and life skills

Tango, Yoga and everything in between

Jill Newberry Evans of jillyoga.ca is a friend and great coworker.

For a very long time now we have been talking about how we teach movement, how our students express their needs and goals and how we can help them get closer to their goals by exposing the different paths they can follow to get there.

Every time we got started that kind of a chat we always found ourselves finishing each other’s sentences and sharing stories that had so much in common that “it is all connected” became like  our little slogan

And so we thought… since it is all connected and since we can learn from one another why not bring this chat to world of the web so other people who are involved in different and seemingly unrelated activities can start connecting the dots and finding this way other more efficient and fun ways to get to their goals.

It is all connected…

We believe that there is a connecting thread, not only between Tango and Yoga but between all activities.
As Jill told me during one of our chats: “I don’t teach Yoga… I teach movement and life skills!

There are times that narrowing down and focusing on your ONE favorite activity will help to boost your progress…
But there is also the time when you need to revisit the principles of that activity under a different light and approach it following a slightly different path to be able to experience it in its totality; to be able to grow in it

We would love to hear your thoughts and comments along with your struggles and stories so we can get back with more!

My Tango community is so unwelcoming… or it might be just me

“It might be just me, but I really feel that the Tango community here is not very forgiving. And it is actually a bit unwelcoming..!” Many many people

Classic NPS case!
New to the Playground Syndrome

What is NPS or New to the Playground Syndrome?

New in the Playground Syndrome, is a Tango disorder. The patient relives the scariest childhood experience—aka walking into the playground without mommy, daddy or a friend.

It is typically associated with awkwardly walking in the milongas, not talking/ dancing with anyone other than his/her group/ partner and wishing that somebody else will make the first move to come and greet them.

It is something almost ALL beginners will experience and plenty of other-level dancers when entering a new community.

I should send this in to Wikipedia and make it a thing! Hahaha

But first… lets explore the most common cures for NPS, why they usually don’t work and what you should do instead!

The most common cures to NPS and why they usually fail
  1. Don’t rush to hit the milongas. Wait until the time is right..!
  2. Stick to the practica/ milonga of your school
  3. Make a new practice/ milonga that is going to be better than all the others
  4. Try to persuade oneself that he/ she is NOT really interested in dancing but mostly learning— it can be true, but you probably know that before you even start taking classes…

Why these common cures do NOT usually work?
Well, simply because they try to avoid the problem than fix it.

Let’s start with #4: I don’t really like social dancing, I mostly enjoy the classes, learning the Tango

Most people, want to learn a/ another dance and that is how the end up in Tango. Maybe they saw it in a movie or in Dancing with the Stars and it looked interesting…

How did you start Tango?

If it was something similar to the reason above, and it wasn’t because you were on mission to discover the fundamental relationship underlying the development of perception—aka the dialogue between movement and touch… mmmm

I am pretty sure you are in it for the dance.

So stop wasting your time trying to persuade yourselves that you don’t care about social dancing, because that in itself will bring more bitterness and frustration.
As your knowledge and Tango vocabulary grows, the feeling of all of it being pointless will grow along with it. At some point, you will have no real incentive to keep learning.

Same goes with #2: Stay in your own playground…

We all know deep down why that is problematic. You are only dancing with same people, who know the same sequences as you, following a specific style of dancing and music.

After a while you are on autopilot. There is NO challenge which inevitably leads to 0 progress.

And I know what you are now saying to yourselves…
“Buuuut all these other places the music is not that good and the dancers are a bit snobbish, the space is not well- arranged, the host is obnoxious” …  And all that jazz!

How do I know? Hahah

Because I have said those EXACT same things myself!

No place was good enough for me… Until I realized that all these other places where perfectly fine but I was just too comfortable were I was and afraid to exit my comfort zone…
I mean they do call it comfort zone for a reason! Hahaha

But if you want to keep getting better, you need to step out of it!

So we are left with 2 more cures…

#1: Wait for the opportune time to go the milonga..!

And I ask you this; How can you tell?
And say, ok… your teacher will tell when it is the right time to go—if they are not involved in the crazy Tango politics that is…

But do we really want to make this grade 5 or a work environment were if you do your home work or if you work hard enough you get A+ or a promotion?

That is why I think this doesn’t really work… because it brings in the very ONE thing we are ALL looking to escape from when picking an artistic hobby— running after performance goals!

And
#3: Doing YOUR very own event that is going to be better than any other event in town…

EVERY beginner in the world has thought and/ or attempted to set up an event that would shake the WHOLE Tango scene to its foundation..!

Even the person writing this article, thought that her ideas were so unique. That she was of the very few artistic and courageous dancers to lead the change in her Tango community..! UNSUCCESSFULLY! Hahaha

Not because people sabotaged me but because I was an idiot!

So this one doesn’t usually work, for a number of reasons:

  1. What WE think is better, might not be better for everybody else.
  2. We have no idea on how to actually host an event and we don’t even ask anyone who has done it before.
  3. If we ask for people’s opinion, we usually ask people we know will agree with us OR fail to really listen to their feedback.
How to cure New to the Playground Syndrome

After extensive research, endless talks with leaders and followers and some s****y experiences of my own this is what I would do if I was a beginner again:

  1. I would ask my teacher what is the biggest mistake a beginner makes when starting to dance the Tango socially.
  2. Ask my teacher what are the fundamental elements of Tango
  3. Find out who are the best Tango professionals to look out for
  4. At the end of each class I would ask him/ her how what we did can be used on the dance floor.
  5. I would make notes of what we did, how they fit the fundamentals and how avoided or not the common mistake in class
  6. Watch A LOT of videos of high end Tangueros- as, OBSERVING. Not copying, or trying to learn sequences but observing their dance and noting anything that I find interesting
  7. Go to the milongas after maximum a month. BUT I wouldn’t participate, I would only OBSERVE. The etiquette, the rules, the mood, the atmosphere… Everything!
  8. I would try to spot or ask the person at the door or the organizer who are the best dancers in the room and focus on them
  9. If I had the opportunity I would chat with them in a very relaxed way about their experience so far—not for technique, or drills or anything like that… keep things general and cool
  10. Go to different milongas and repeat those same steps for a good period of time.
  11. Chat with my teacher and fellow dancers about all the things I have found interesting, from week to week.
  12. Ask good questions and give sincere and good quality feedback.
  13. After a while Video tap myself… REALITY CHECK! haha

If I came for a different dance community or another city/ country where we had some different layout for the milongas which I thought it would work. THIS is what I would do:

  1. I would first examine the constraints and obstacles closely. Being brutally honest with myself, see if by changing my attitude towards the obstacles can actually make your experience better.
  2. Talk to the organizers about hosting events. How do they do it, what troubles have they been facing, what they have tried in the past, what worked and what didn’t, how did they even end up doing what it is that they are doing… LISTEN very closely BUT take everything you hear with a grain of salt
  3. Chat with dancers—other than your friends—and tell them in full detail your idea. Look for their REACTION to it.
    If they say: “Yeah great idea…” Don’t do it… They won’t even show up.
    But if they say something: “OMG! Are you in my head, I have been thinking about something like this for days. So how to WE start, how can I help”
    THAT is true hope that your idea might actually be able to stand..!
  4. And maybe instead of doing something NEW, try to help something older get better..!

So, I don’t mean to discourage you, on the contrary I want  you to see your community with different eyes.

Aside from the constraints there is always room for more creativity, for more freedom and a lot more fun.

It is up to YOU though to see past the constraints, to create opportunities, to chat with people, to give and learn from your community before you earn from it—not necessarily in a monetary way of course.

Many of the obstacles, are things you have some control over as well.

Like the Cabeceo

Or building up your social skills in general: Networking your way through Festivals

Maybe building up your improvisational skills, to grow your vocabulary without learning new steps: Lets Improvise

Or becoming better in musicality, so you can enjoy your dances more AND give more to your partner even if you have only been dancing for 6 months: Musicality MORE than just steps on the beat

There are many things YOU can do TODAY that can transform your experience in the milongas

And as a subscriber of Bautanz you get even more tools for physical and mental transformation, the only thing you need to do is join us..!