I see movement as an ocean where we can’t see the end in length, in width or in depth. We choose one or more movement practices and we start exploring, be it dance, fitness, yoga, martial arts, you decide.
Tango is my chosen way of exploring movement and in understanding my body. Fitness for me comes next and by adding the perspective of strengthening is a strong component in this system of body awareness. I know many people who feel this way for Yoga and Tango, or Tai -Chi and Tango for example with different added perspectives of course.
Movement the connecting thread
The connecting thread between all movement practices is movement itself, movement technique, movement understanding and then body, self and human understanding. With the latter being for me the greatest achievement… but we will get back to that a bit later..!
So movement technique, not Tango technique. Tango is a dance style and as all dance styles has multiple styles itself with some common elements but many different characteristics. To teach therefore all the characteristics that make Tango…Tango… I dive into biomechanics to see how our body is built to move and create these characteristics. To this very thing Fitness comes in to help.
Let’s see posture for example; but lets look at posture not as a pose but as a movement. I bet you can see the common thread with Tango in the pictures below..? 😉
I would like to share with you, the latest Live Tango practice as well as the latest Exercise of the Week as examples of Fitness and Tango!
As you will see it is not some crazy hybrid of the two…haha… on the contrary the two practices keep their grounds and are clearly distinct but the common thread is revealed as well! 😉
And I am sure that if there are any two movement practices you follow, you can find, with some exploration and some digging, the common ground. Then you will feel great power, a force revealing so much more to you about your movement, about your body and human nature and therefore about the other.
This is something I had felt myself but recently one of the members of the Bautanz community shared with me as well as their experience. After a certain time of digging wider and deeper comes a deeper understanding about our partners and other people we share the dance floor with. We listen and observe more but also show more compassion for the other. Through understanding ourselves we understand our partner, we understand our fellow dancers, we understand the world.
How can one-size-fits-all apply in a social dance setting when we all unique in terms of body type, age, fitness, cultural background etc?
A great question!
After our mid-week Tango practice on Wednesday I a question via Youtube that I felt it is an excellent question for us to discuss how different body types can or cannot fit in certain Tango rules; and overall how the one-size-fits-all doesn’t quite work in social dancing.
Following is the video, from our practice and the question right after that, lets see:
“Chrisa, something that no one ever talks about, and I can’t get non fat dancers to understand, are the techniques needed by the fat dancer. Now, I do not use fat as a bad word, I reclaim it, and refuse to make it synonymous with wrong. And also, I need to accommodate my roundness. It is soawkward to be in class, and have an instructor remind me not to swing a hip, not to arch my back, when the real reason I do these things is because of my large belly. When you have substantial thighs, it changes your stance, collection, even the ability to flick a swift secada. I realize this is off topic from your video, but do you have any insights for the fat dancer? Tricks to maintain tango posture when you have extra curves to work around? Thank you <3″ F.L
The truth of the Style Vs The truth of the Dancer
I want to thank again our commenter for this question and dissect the matter in two parts:
Diversity of styles
Biomechanics Vs Tango Style
Diversity of Styles
There is an unavoidable conflict between the truth carried through by the rules for each style and the truth stemming from the dancer’s experience. Of course there are many ways to train dancers to perform and look a certain way, many types of dance achieve that, with ballet being one excellent example. However there are certain expectations to be met by all ballerinas in terms of looks, body structure and analogies. This is why there are certain restrictions apply in terms of age, body type, body shape, fitness etc. That is also why the choice to follow a career as a professional ballet dancer happens very early in one’s life when the body and character are very adaptable to change. That is also why ballet dancers retire at a very early age.
Social Tango is not like that though. Quite the contrary it is dance that is danced by 90 year olds with very different body analogies, with loss in muscle etc etc. So would we say for example that Oscar and Nina are bad dancers?!?! I highly doubt it! See them in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQotX3sFahI
So as I perceive it, a style is a place to start learning but then we have to take into account the the experience of our body. And those two things are equally important and equally true. Everyone of us is unique in some way, and that uniqueness needs space, a lot of space in a social dance.
Biomechanics Vs Tango Style
We can’t judge a style, a style is based mostly on aesthetics. It is a design. A beautiful design but still a design that one person or a group of people came up with based on their personal goals, experiences, expectations and so on. So it wouldn’t be possible nor fair. But we can judge movement based on anatomy and biomechanics. Then each of us can make an informed decision whether you want to pursuit a specific tango style despite the possible strain or risk due to inconguence with anatomy and biomechanics.
So firstly, based on anatomy and specifically the structure of the human skeleton in order to balance the forces going through the joints and to have an effective distribution of weight when standing on two feet, the placement of the feet should be such to support the hips. Having the feet together 100% doesn’t meet that requirement since the pelvis flairs outward. Similarly, the flair of the feet, meaning the turn out, depends on the structure of your hips, how wide or narrow the hips are. So overall some people will have their feet closer together, not though fully connected, than others and also for some people the turn out will be bigger than others.
Walking and biomechanics
Now when we walk our hips are not supposed to be square, they are supposed to swing, it’s scientifically what we call: locomotion. And it is not the only movement happening in our hips when we walk. In fact walking involves the whole body and the more chaotic it feels the more efficient it most likely is. There is the “C” shape movement we talked about in our practice session and there is also a wave in the spine. You can see all of this here:
Can you stop all this from happening ? Sure you can! But why would you? If you actually look a little closer and dig a little deeper, these movements actually help you connect with your partner in much more efficient way..! You can see it in our previous practices here: https://bautanz.com/online-tango-practice/
And of course along with all that goes posture and centre of gravity. Your posture changes depending on what action you wish to perform. As you can see in the video above maintaining a specific upper body position works against your intention to walk forward or backward and would therefore require more muscle work to make it all happen. Lastly our center of gravity, will be different depending on the shapes we create or have in our bodies. It is not a fixed spot and how could it be? By physics that would be impossible.
My suggestion to you
If you have learned Tango now spend some time learning your body through movement. Understand how one thing relates to the other, what kind of relationships they have and what kind of movements they create due to those relationships and structure
Start learning about your body to better dance with/in/through it. Understanding how our body was built to move for me is the number one step to take when you really want to free up your social dance but also when you want to structure your dance training knowing, acknowledging and weighing in the risks you take compared to the choices you have
So do you WANT to practice? I am not being sarcastic or playing any tricks nor have I prepared a crazy Tango bootcamp practice routine… I am really asking.
Everyone says you HAVE to practice… We even have the appropriate cliches for it: “Practice makes perfect” Not to mention the set mastery time frames: 10,000 hours to mastery
Nobody has stoped to ask: Why aim for perfection? Why aim for mastery? What is the purpose in aiming and practising for those things? Especially now in this world that almost everything seems to have been put on pause!
I feel a shift, a very strong shift in what we call practice in what we mean by practice.
Practice has almost lost its meaning… but it can get a different meaning, different substance and presence in our lives.
Before we were practicing to enjoy our dances more, to be more free and creative on the dance floor… to be more confident in the milongas. To dance more. To become better dancers.
Not much point in all of this is there? And this is sad and strange… So I think that our practices now, can truly help us BE Be more patient , more present, more grounded, more focused, more calm, more ready Can help us keep moving and keep growing despite the haul Become aware of what the human body is about… what it can do! Fascinating!
We can’t dance with others. But we can dance with ourselves. And that will make us that much better when the time comes to go back out there and really HUG!
I suggesting you practice to be more YOU. Spend this time practicing and really enjoy moving. Use this time to throw away the stress and the insecurity by establishing a strong body awareness. Now that every little thing in our lives has changed, we can take a few moments every day, to find peace in what has been here with us for million of years and that is a body through motion.
You don’t need to practice. You need to invest! Invest in yourself!
The embrace is where Tango lives… In all practical ways the Tango is created within and through the embrace.
There is a lot Do(s) and Don’t(s) out there on the embrace, so I was hoping to create more of an opportunity for everyone to explore the different body parts that form the embrace, and bring forward more experiential knowledge than Tango-specific advice
Relationship of the Individual Fingers with the Shoulder Girdle and Ribs
In this video Bonnie, founder of Body Mind Centering (https://www.bodymindcentering.com) talks about the process of creation and specifically how are hands are created from the pinky to the thumb while at the same time our ribs are formed from top to bottom. She then goes on to explore that relationship.
When I first came across the video, I found it fascinating! It completely changed my understanding of my body in space and my relationships with others. Everyday we reach and touch with our hands, almost everything around us; multiple times a day we are making a choice whether this touch may or may not be reflected in our posture, our movement, our mood.
Leading and following is what we call these very choices in Tango. In the following video using the exercise Bonnie shared above and adding walks and ochos I am inviting you explore the movement chain through the embrace
This was a…bad…experience
Bad experiences… moments we have sworn never to dance with THAT person again… pain, discomfort, frustration… Yes, I know…some memories can be haunting! We now though have a chance to fix it; or some of it
First, we need to understand where the pain and the discomfort we experience in the embrace comes from; and then hopefully though this video you will know how to avoid putting yourself in unsafe positions and how to mitigate the impact of an improper action coming from your partner
Seeing the big picture of the hug
So the videos above will help you immensely in acknowledging dangerous positions and finding healthier ones for the joints. Also, it will help you recover faster if you are experiencing pain or discomfort after a milonga
What though doesn’t recover as fast as the body–and we know that can be rather slow–is our psychology. I as many other followers have fallen in the trap of avoiding to dance with anyone new because I didn’t want to risk another sore shoulder or back. it took a long time before I could trust what my eyes could see, in terms of who is a partner who will “listen” to subtle body cues and adjust his/her position. So, the issue here is not to simply find the right embrace for you BUT to find the way to be flexible and adjust your position to help yourself and/or your partner. Usually the necessary adjustment is very subtle but it seems huge The feeling of relief though when you find that sweet spot where your embrace is genuine and your movement is free it is even greater!
It is interesting to see people’s reactions to boleos. I am actually sure quite a few people probably won’t read this article because it includes the word boleos in the title…but for those who are here now be prepared for a bit of a twist to your regular boleo experience…haha
Boleos are not high kicks..!
So what is a boleo? A boleo is a change of direction on a turn, on a pivot It doesn’t have to be powerful, it doesn’t have to be high or super low and of course it doesn’t have to be a kick
Certainly there potential for all the things mentioned above…all of them though refer to style and not to the essence of what a boleo is.
ALL we need for a good boleo
And unfortunately it is not love…haha
2 are the main ingredients for a great boleo:
Timing as with everything in life and
The balance between energy contained and shared
The following video looks into both of these main items and sets the base for fancier boleos and more in depth explorations
Look beyond the kick- Enhance your Tango technique
If we look at a boleo for what it is, a change of direction and make our focus to make as smooth as possible whether contain or share energy, we will soon discover that there certain elements such as the hip axis that if we focused on them we could have a completely different experience during our dances.
The next two videos go progressively deeper into exploring the hip axis and especially the last one creates the link to other Tango essentials such as our walks and ochos
Walks and ochos are the two elements at the heart of Tango; every sequence with maybe the exception of off-axis sequences are based on walks and ochos
It is therefore important to get a good understanding of how walks and ochos work and how they can be tied together. And this is exactly what we will be focusing on in this post
Zooming In: Walks and Pivotal timing
In this first video we are putting our walks under the microscope. We capture though the whole body, aiming to understand how all the dots connect.
By focusing on the feet, the legs, the hips, the torso and the spine we will discover that the opportune moment for a pivot, hides within our step.
Once that discovery is made, we can see how a walk can turn into an ocho and vice versa. This way walks and ochos aren’t as separate, disconnected Tango elements that are need a sequence to connect them. This way we get to create options for ourselves on and off the dance floor.
Tango Technique: Zoom In on Ochos #2
In this second video there is a great focus on the upper body but again not as a separate entity.
The human body has so many fascinating links. The psoas major for example, originates in the outer surfaces of the vertebral bodies of T12 and L-1-L-3. T8-T12 is where your thoracic spine changes to Lumbar spine, so a muscle that goes around your hip reaches all the way up to your second- last rib… Fascinating! (Look here for more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psoas_major_muscle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iliopsoas)
It is all connected I tell you!hahaha And by exploring these connections we can make our dances have much more flow, freedom and efficiency.
Tango, Body mechanics and Energy management
What was implied or talked about as secondary in the two previous videos, becomes primary now… Energy management..! Energy management not in a spiritual, abstract way, but in a very physical way. Managing the energy our bodies need to perform a movement and how can we manage our energy so it is not wasted.
Basically in this video we are aiming to make Tango feel a bit easier, at least in execution…haha…meaning that walking across the floor shouldn’t feel like a physically demanding task and pivoting also.
We put styling and personal preference to the side to examine how the body was in fact built to create these movements. Some being more chaotic than others, will require further exploration; and funnily enough walking is probably the most chaotic of all as it requires a lot of movements around different axises and on different planes.
So we have tried to come up with exercises that can help us understand a bit of the chaos, and possibly add to it; exercises that will allow us to feel a bit more comfortable in this chaotic movement and that will allow us to define the opportune moments for a change
I hope you have enjoyed this as much as I have. If you have any questions, comments or light-bulb moments drop me a line, I would love to chat with you!