“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.
P.S: Interested in a breathing and posture workshop, check out this video
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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:
That ochos are really walks and not a special step and
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
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! 😉
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…
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P.S: If you are wearing heels when you are dancing, check this article out
Last week we were taking about posture and whether one can/ should maintain a specific body position throughout the dance. Inevitably therefore the conversation turned to ochos and whether we should cross the legs.
Crossing the legs in Tango
Let’s first take a look at what that means exactly in the Tango world. You might already be familiar with the specific movement option, but in case you are not, we are talking about bringing one leg right in line with the other while stepping forward or backwards. We are usually cued to do that to isolate the movement of the torso from that of the hips.
Why do choose to cross the legs?
When we cross the legs we lock the hips and lower spine in position. That creates the impression of the hips being square and parallel to the floor. Also, the upper body appears to have a clean rotation over the lower body with a more sharp disassociation.
What limitations does that movement option have?
This option however has some limitations. First, it limits the side tilt range of the spine. Side tilt, as we will see in the video below is coupled with torsion due to the anatomy of the spine, meaning the two movements always happen together.
Second, due to the side tilt limitation, the angle of the pivot is also limited. You see the bigger the pivot the more necessary the side tilt is. With the hips in a lock the side tilt may happen further up in the spine where it may affect the embrace, create tension in our neck, arms and between the shoulder blades and throw us off balance.
What does that mean physically for us?
From an anatomy perspective there are two important issues with this option. One is the side tilt limitation we talked about above. The second is that we will have sheer of forces running outward to the right and left of each hip joint.
Starting from the latter, when we place one foot in front of the other, then our movement options are at the end of range, for example we are at the end of range for adduction. That creates a feeling of tension or pressure through key joint surfaces, such as the hips and knees.
That is though related to the upper body as well. It limits the options our spine has at diaphragm height in terms of torsion and side tilt. Why is that? Well the reasons are more than one, but it really boils down to the shape and orientation of the joints, the muscles and connective tissue of the human body.
So would we say this is a movement option that we want to maintain in our vocabulary?
In terms of Tango it can be a stylistic option that creates a very powerful and dynamic impression. However if we are to use it we would need to be aware of the physical limitations and risks which we spoke about above.
From an anatomical point of view it certainly is not the most efficient and healthy option for us. It locks certain parts of the body and that requires a lot more muscle work to pull through an ocho. If we don’t care so much for the Tango style it is better to choose a movement option that allows the whole body to participate in a more efficient way.
Let me know what you think and send me your questions on this matter or any other to do with posture or ochos..!
Do you keep your posture? Or better said, to you think of posture as something that you hold/ keep or as something that you move through, something that changes?
As part of our Q&A section on Posture we are exploring the perspective of “holding a posture”. If you have any question/ thought, send it through at firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to hear from you.
Until then though let’s see the question/ trouble/ thought of the week:
Q: When you keep your posture in one way, does it help or hinder your dance? Are there other ways to keep your posture that are more or less effective?” Overly keeping my posture hinders my movement.
A: Overall, and this is related to your questions regarding ochos and saccadas that have already reached me, posture is a moment by moment case. Meaning that we can’t have the same posture when we are walking, standing, pivoting etc. We can’t see posture in Tango as one thing that we set it and forget it because it is part of our movement. An example from life would be expecting to have the same posture when we are standing and when we are running or when we are sitting. We are asking our body to take a specific action, for each action to be successful AND efficient the whole body will need to coordinate and participate. So to run we will incline a bit forward something we don’t need to do when standing, amongst other things.
In Tango it is the same thing, especially when we are working with torsion. Torsion is one of the most dangerous actions we can ask our body to do. Our spine only allows it in specific areas and it is always coupled with side tilt; based on spine anatomy torsion and side tilt always go together. That means therefore that when we twist to get in an ocho, our shoulders would be uneven; one would be higher than the other. We can use muscle to hide the side tilt, so it is not obvious BUT it is still happening in the spine plus when you engage the muscle you won’t be able move easily in and out of the ochos. The latter you are already feeling most likely…
We have many times talked about posture through this blog, but now we are actually opening the floor to you to send us any questions on posture.
The floor is open and you can send us in your questions or trouble at email@example.com
But as we gather your questions, we would like to start answering some as we wait.
Questions on posture #1
How can one modify the exercises, ideas and more, to one’s body?
This is a question we should all be asking any time we are attempting an exercise/ routine/ movement for the first time even if it looks simple. I would invite therefore to use this answer as a map to make any other Tango or non-Tango video your own. So let’s get right to it:
First things first, let go of any of any preset cues/ understanding/ ideas of how your posture SHOULD be. Regardless of whether they are right or wrong, they will not allow you to identify where you are at and what you need at the moment. Which naturally leads us to:
Secondly, we have our body assessment. For this particular video, notice the following, without intervening to make things “right”:
How you sit in your chair. Do you sit all the way back or do you stay at the front of the chair? Do you flex the spine or sit upright? Where are your feet placed? Are you crosslegged? Ask all of these questions and more creating a clear picture of how your body looks and feels when you sit in your chair. You want to be as detailed as possible, as if you were describing it to someone who can’t see you
How your body looks and feels when you stand. Like above you want to identify in full detail how the three volumes of your body–head, torso and hips– are arranged when you are standing. Remember not how they should be, but how they actually are. So are you flexing or extending the spine? Do you pull your tummy in? Are your hips tipping forward or back? How about your feet are they together or apart? Are you looking down? Everything! Full body scan from head to toe.
Last but not least for this section; how do YOU transition? Do you push off your chair or knees? Is there any discomfort when you are sitting and standing? Do you roll back a bit to stand? All these questions and more to be able to get a clear picture of how you transition from sitting to standing and vice versa.
Now let’s get to the specific video at hand
Watch the video, identifying the goal of the video and listening to the steps/ cues/ process identified without though copying the person in the video, in this case me.
Putting all the above together. We are starting seated in our video, so you start in your seat, however your posture is when you are sitting, notice if you are already in flexion and see if can feel your tail on the seat. It will be subtle..! If you don’t feel you can add a bit more flexion. Nothing will happen if you do anyways, as long as you are consciously making the decision to do so. Then from this stage onwards, I would advise you not to look at the video, but only listen to the audio. Identify not with the image but with the goals and cues. For example, stay focused in creating the gentle pressure of your tail to your seat and in noticing how the rest of your spine reacts to that, instead of trying to match what you see.
Remember, we are all unique makes of a grand design! So one is not exactly the same as the other. Use this exercise as a way to create a better map of how YOUR body is!
Any questions on posture?
These was our 1st Q&A, there is more coming in the weeks to follow, with videos accompanying our posts. We invite you therefore once again to send us your thoughts, questions and trouble. We would love to see and read them and most importantly we would love to be able to help you out!
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