Tag Archives: body awareness

Just relax and feel the connection

After decoding the cue “More Emotion” it is time for “Just relax and feel the connection”.

Have I told you how much I love it when people say: “just …. [fill in the gap]”? And especially at a moment of struggle! 
I love it so much, that I have created a separate category for such advice. It is called … “The Nike”. (haha)

The Nike” category

Most advice, under “The Nike” category would have been really good advice if only they didn’t come with “just”. Think about this specific cue: “Just relax and feel the connection”.

I asked chatGPT, what does it think this phrase means in a dance context. It came up with this beautiful paragraph, that ended like: “In the context of dance, the phrase encourages a more immersive and enjoyable experience by fostering a deeper connection between dance partners.”

Now isn’t that a piece of cake?!?! 
Yeah let’s just do that!
haha

So decoding such a cue, reveals how inappropriate this word “just” is.  Because it might sound easy, and like a really good idea, but it is way more difficult than it sounds.

As a first step therefore, my advice to all teachers would be to refrain from using phrases under “The Nike” category and replace them with phrases that deliver the depth of what you are trying to communicate.
For our cue, you can potentially rephrase it to: “Take a moment to identify the points of contact with your partner; take your mind to the hands, the arms, the solar plexus (diaphragm area). See where some tone/ tension/ engagement is necessary and where you might be over tensing the body. Then see if you can relax a bit in those areas where you feel unnecessarily tensed. Check your connection with partner now, see if the quality of it has changed”.

Our students need guidance, so we need to use all our teaching tools wisely, including words. 

As student, next time you hear a phrase from “The Nike” category, try to see if actually removing or replacing the word “just” makes things any clearer. So for example, as a first step I suggest we change “just relax and feel the connection” to “try to relax and feel the connection” before moving to the second step to the decoding process.

Relax and Connect

Now… the words “relax” and “connect”. 
Let’s start with “relax”. If you hear relax and immediately you see yourself on the couch watching Netflix… or in a spa, well… awesome! I love them both! But we need a different kind of relax for dance..! haha

So for most people “relax” means loosening or letting go and they need to reframe that.
“Relax” means identifying areas where we are creating unnecessary tension and trying to release that, while maintaining a level of readiness to move. It is a matter of muscle or postural tone and managing the level of that tone as we dance.

Now the funniest thing is, that usually in a Tango class, the cue “just relax” comes right after all the cues that ask us to engage every possible muscle in our body..! 
Squeeze your glutes, pull your bellybutton to the spine, push your shoulders down, pull your chest up… aaaand relax! hahaha

So how can we feel ready to move without over-engaging the body, without creating unnecessary tension? 
Well, look at that, we have so many videos on that! (haha)
Here are a couple: Posture, alignment and balance
And one that includes the head: Tango Misconceptions Vol.2

As you will notice in the videos once the head, the torso and pelvis are aligned and once we start building on that relationship and funnelling forces through our masses, we are not only feeling relaxed and ready to move, but we are feeling powerful, secure, confident, and much more at ease.
It will take a bit of practice though..! 😉

What about connection?

And this takes us to “connection”.
We all know what connection means and I think we are on the same page on that one. However, I don’t think we all realize the relationship between relaxation and connection; which is an intimate bond.

Connection requires some tension, some tone. If you completely loosen up you won’t feel connected. So if you perceive “just relax” as letting go, it will be very difficult to connect with your partner.
Think about a cat or dog in deep sleep, you can move their legs around and they won’t even notice. Your don’t feel any connection, you only feel their weight.

Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum when you are working hard to even stand, let alone dance, it is almost impossible to even acknowledge your partner.

So managing to be relaxed but ready to move, like we saw in the videos above, is what can open the door for us to acknowledging the music, our partner, the dance floor etc.

“Just relax and feel the connection”

To summarize… excellent cue but it is not as easy as it sounds..! So at the very least remove the “just”.

  1. As a first step, rephrase to “try to relax”.
  2. Second step, relax doesn’t mean letting go, it needs to be balanced with readiness to move.
  3. Notice any areas where you might be holding unnecessary tension.
  4. Then see if you can relax them a bit, find the appropriate tone. Sometimes breathing helps or a gentle shake.
  5. Change your perception over connection; connection starts from you. Not paying attention to how the different parts of your body interact with each other, how they participate in the different movement chains, can become a road-block to connecting with your partner. So work on connecting the dots.
  6. And last but not least, when working with your partner, identify points of contact, how you establish them, what is their role ( contact, support, direction etc.), and how you can move around them, over them or with them.


Give it a go and stay tuned for more on this subject..!
Chrisa
 
P.S: if you are looking for more advice ranging from perspective to practice drills, check out our practice guide “It Takes You to Tango”, I think you will love it!

Alignment and Balance – Getting to Know Ourselves

Knowing how to use the words “alignment” and “balance” accurately is crucial because they describe the condition of our body. If we mix them up, things can get a bit confusing.

Alignment serves to describe how various body masses relate to each other, like the alignment between the torso and hips. However, it’s essential to recognize that this alignment path isn’t a straightforward line; our bodies consist of curved elements and oblique orientations, making things a bit more intricate.

Balance, on the other hand, revolves around the forces at play within our bodies. Just maintaining stillness doesn’t necessarily imply balance, as we may unknowingly be generating internal friction. Achieving balanced alignment entails finding the optimal position where forces can flow through the body efficiently. In contrast, imbalanced alignment often requires more effort.

Yet, it’s not a simple case of one being inherently good while the other is bad. There’s a nuanced aspect to consider. Occasionally, being overly efficient in our movements might impede muscle growth, prompting us to incorporate conscious inefficiencies in moderation. Additionally, certain dance styles may call for embracing inefficiencies to achieve specific aesthetics.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s about striking the right balance. Being mindful, understanding our bodies, and avoiding excessive strain can prevent injuries, accelerate recovery, and instill a sense of confidence in our movements. So, let’s embrace this journey of discovering optimal alignment and balance to move through life with grace and resilience!

So let’s dive more into this with some actual drills:  

  1. Foot Alignment and the Shift of Weight
    In this video we will be exploring the intriguing world of weight transfer during side and back steps. It is quite common for individuals to inadvertently place an excessive amount of weight on their big toe, which, from a health perspective, is not ideal. However, fear not, as we have you covered with some fantastic exercises designed to help break this habit. Our primary objective is to guide you towards adopting a healthier foot alignment, precisely over the middle of your foot. By doing so, you will be able to prevent foot, ankle, knee, or hip discomfort, and even potential injuries. So, let’s begin, and together, we will be showcasing how these exercises can help you move like a pro while keeping those troublesome aches and pains at bay!
  2. Alignment and Re-Alignment of the embrace
    This is more an exploration rather than a drill. So here you will need to spend a couple of moments first disconnecting for the image you see on your screen, and instead focus on noticing what your structure looks like. How your forearm relates to the rest of the upper will be unique to you and so this is where you need to start from and what you need to remember throughout this exploration; don’t copy the teacher.
  3. 10 min Practice: Legs, Balance, Alignment and Spice
    And here is another drill, that combines elements of fitness or yoga with tango exercises. As you immerse yourself in this video, you’ll discover varying levels of efficiency at play. The initial section which is more fitness oriented, can serve as an energizing “work-out,” but you are offered the flexibility to adjust the level of efficiency and therefore intensity, based on your specific objectives. So, get ready to embark on this dynamic journey, where you can reap both the benefits of tango finesse and invigorating physical activity!
  4. Graciela Gonzalez and Ezequiel Mendoza
    The one and only Graciela Gonzalez; the Maestra of many of the Maestros and Maestras popular today. Look at the confidence, the certainty, the awareness. She is so grounded, and in-tune with her body. Clean movement, someone can even say simple but it holds some strange kind of magic. When looking for a good example of balance and alignment, my mind when straight to her. If you have a chance to see her or get a class with her don’t skip it; she is tough but she is worth it!

Enjoy and join our community for even more tips and drills! And if you want a comprehensive guide for your Tango practice, try out “It Takes You to Tango”

Chrisa

Posture Correction – Step 1

Last week, we held our monthly Tango Movement Lab, and we kicked off the session by focusing on posture. Specifically, we took the time to identify and understand our default stance. This is incredibly important not only for enhancing our dance skills but also for improving our overall well-being in everyday life.

Today, I’m thrilled to share some valuable tips and effective drills with you. The following videos will help you determine your current posture and make small yet meaningful adjustments that will have a significant impact. By incorporating these practices, you’ll experience a greater sense of comfort and unlock your potential for remarkable progress in your dance journey.

Posture Correction – The first step is awareness

  1. The 6 curves of the spine with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen
    A crucial aspect of understanding our current posture is gaining insight into our structural framework. This concise 2-minute video beautifully illustrates the anatomy of the human spine. By watching it, you’ll acquire the necessary tools to explore and examine your own spine as you work on rebuilding your posture. It’s an invaluable resource that empowers you to take charge of your journey towards improved alignment.
  2. Posture, Alignment and Balance
    In one of our previous practices, you might recall that we explored the topic of posture and even engaged in a similar exercise as in our last workshop. However, we approached it from a slightly different perspective. I encourage you to take note of both approaches and see which one enables you to better identify and become aware of your default stance. It’s fascinating to discover how a fresh angle can shed new light on our self-awareness.
  3. Neutral Zone and the 0.0 Posture
    This article provides a deeper understanding of how you can achieve balance among the three main volumes of your body. Why those concepts hold significance, and how staying within the neutral zone can bring buoyancy to your movements.
  4. Change your life with Alexandre Technique
    Disclaimer: this is the original title of video (haha). I can’t guarantee that a single technique will transform your life. I’ve personally though found the Alexandre Technique to be incredibly beneficial. I came across this very nice video that’s short, sweet and to the point. Around the 3-minute 30-second mark, you’ll discover a quick drill that you can even do while sitting. Trust me, though it may seem simple, it carries remarkable power. So don’t underestimate its potential impact!

Enjoy and subscribe for more tips and drills

Chrisa

3 Tips that Have Reshaped my Practice

When it comes to setting up a practice routine for dance or any movement regimen, let’s face it: it’s easier said than done. We all start off bursting with enthusiasm, but somehow that fire fizzles out along the way. We find ourselves struggling to stay motivated, unsure of where to direct our efforts, and feeling like we’re stuck in a never-ending loop. And, of course, life loves to throw curveballs, getting in the way of our progress.

But fear not, my Tango friends! Today, I’ve got three fantastic tips that have completely reshaped my own practice. These little nuggets of wisdom have helped me define my goals, stay on track, and most importantly, turned my practice into a delightful and enjoyable experience. So, get ready to infuse your dance or movement routine with renewed purpose and a whole lot of fun. Let’s dive in and level up your practice game!

3 Enjoyable Tips for You to Explore

1: Dance Like a Child

One practice-altering revelation for me has been incorporating a dance right at the start of my practice session. But here’s the kicker—it’s not your typical “let’s fix everything” or “let’s incorporate new moves” kind of dance. No, no. It’s a dance solely dedicated to pure enjoyment. Picture this: I pick a favorite song, turn up the volume, and let loose, simply because it’s a song that makes me want to move. Trust me, this simple act enhances the overall enjoyment of your practice, sets the perfect tone for the session, minimizes mental struggles, and serves as a gentle reminder of why you embarked on this journey—to revel in the sheer joy of dancing!

2: Finding the Embrace

The second secret weapon up my sleeve, is mixing and matching and the best examples of that are my video practices on the embrace, like the one linked above. I love to mix and match. In each video, you’ll notice I incorporate various props and movement practices, creating a rich tapestry of exploration. Here’s the scoop: I draw inspiration from different disciplines like yoga, Axis Syllabus, and Body Mind Centering, and apply their insights to Tango. It’s all about connecting the dots, you know? By doing so, my progress skyrockets, and the whole journey becomes immensely enjoyable.

Oh, and let me tell you about the magical world of props! They can be game-changers. For example, elastic bands can be used to map out movements or gain a deeper understanding of how your body functions. They can also provide invaluable insights into specific muscle groups and enhance your overall body awareness. So, get ready to open up new avenues of exploration and elevate your dance experience to the next level with these ingenious ideas from other practices. It’s time to connect the dots and expand your awareness like never before!

3: Noticing

Now, let me share with you one last tip that I absolutely adore: the power of observation! I’ve discovered that paying close attention to how others dance and move is a priceless tool for understanding my own body and its capabilities. This practice starts right in your dance classes. Instead of merely watching your teacher demonstrate a movement, strive to see beyond the surface. Look for the hidden secrets within—the underlying conditions that allow them to execute the movement effortlessly. Observe how their intentions are conveyed through their body and motion.

By embracing this approach, you take your learning to a whole new level. Sure, you might not be able to replicate the movement exactly as they demonstrate it, right then and there. But you gain a profound understanding of the intention behind the movement and the necessary conditions required for its execution. It may take a little time and patience, but trust me, the journey is both fascinating and incredibly beneficial.

So, get ready to sharpen your observation skills and unlock a world of insight. You’ll be amazed at how this simple practice enhances your dance journey and propels you toward new levels of mastery.

These were just three key tips, I have way more to share so stay tuned by subscribing to our Bautanz community and if you want tips and drills from social skills to actual practice videos, then check out our guide “It Takes You to Tango”, you won’t be disappointed.

Chrisa

Dance as an act of kindness

Most of us would never think about taking a dance class as an act of kindness. Think though, for a moment how you got into dance. Maybe you were dancing ever since you were a child. Or perhaps you picked it up at a much older age. Maybe you went with a friend or because you wanted to make new friends. Or possibly to meet a special someone. Whatever your reason was, the decision to learn how to dance was satisfying a need, a personal need.

And that is where it all begins…

Being kind starts with you

Noticing your needs and addressing them is an act of kindness. And it doesn’t even have to be as serious as I am making it sound. Simply, feeling the need to do something fun or something new with other people, and addressing this need by going to a dance class, is an act of kindness.

Same goes with choosing how to learn and how to practice dance. Or in general how to progress in any movement practice. Learning how to respect and listen to your body and tend to its needs is an act of kindness. Understanding when it is time to pause and when it is time push and respecting those limits without feeling like your body is letting you down is an act of kindness.

As we age we need our awareness to grow so that we can still enjoy our life and so that we can keep learning and growing. Can we do what we did 10 or 15 years ago? Somethings certainly not. But consider all those things that turned out to be bad ideas; only you lacked the awareness to know back then. Or what about all those things that you wouldn’t even think of trying out 10 or 15 years ago because you lacked the experience and the imagination. Bottom line, we change. And if we want to keep enjoying life we need to be cognizant of that change and adapt.

Another act of kindness, adapting. And adapting does not mean giving up, it means recognizing your options and identifying moments of opportunity to create more options for yourself.

How dance helps us adapt

I am sure you can now see where all this is going. Dance, teaches you how to adapt and create options. Learn to hug versatility and variety because this is our environment.

So if your practice is not going well one day, take a step back, pause for a second. Every practice is never the same as the one before or the one after it. Maybe you are tired or preoccupied. Can you find a way to keep moving? Is “keep moving” even a good option for you in this moment? If not what could be a good option? Stillness? Ok! You can learn a lot in stillness as well.

See, our movement practice should run on kindness in order for us to progress or we will end up tired battling through every frustrating moment.

And that of course spills into our relationship with our partners. Now you may be working with one specific partner or this can be applied to a social setting, like a milonga, where you may be changing partners. In both cases, but especially in the latter, kindness always wins!

When things don’t work out, think of all the tough moments you have gone through and safely assume that your partner has been through the same. Don’t get judgemental, instead see if you can find or create options for yourself? This might actually be revealing to you. It may show you a different way to approach your dancing. Not simply offering different technique tools but offering THE technique tool!

Which is… Adapting! Or simply put, making do with what you got! A much kinder approach towards yourself and towards your partner.

Try it out next time you practice or go to a milonga, it is actually fun!

Chrisa

P.S: For more writings such as this, that go beyond technique tips, check out our book “It Takes You to Tango”

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.