Tag Archives: body mechanics

Spinal Movement and walking.

We have been looking on this theme alignment, posture and balance in the last few posts and today we will take all that work and put it into our walking exploration.

Our body is so cleverly structured! And through dance and other movement practices we get to explore it and create a more clear map of it. Going through my personal practice I started questioning some of the most common cues we hear about posture and walking not just in Tango but in every day life.

Building on posture and walking

One thing I have come to realize is that the model of “one size fits all” instruction, actually fits no one in the end.
We are all unique makes of the same “grand plan” so we are not the same.

We might all have a head, a torso, a pelvis and a spine but all of these are somehow slightly different in each of us. And so it takes some time and effort to understand how you are different from me while following a similar high-level design.

So, I invite you here, just for now, to leave all the things that all ready know to the side and try something different.
This doesn’t mean that all you know is wrong, only that we need the space and the liberty to try something new.

As you will see in our video we are starting by taking a look at Skelli. Yes, yes the skeleton has a name..! haha

So Skelli is a very good imitation of a human skeleton, of that “grand plan” so he will be our map for this video. Remember last week by the way that we were talking about comfort? Well today you have another map as a safety net, to explore in depth posture and walking, that will be the image of Skelli in our video.

A few things to notice

  • Nothing in the body is a straight line and also nothing is set on a 90 degree angle
  • We are made of curves and irregular shapes
  • Everything is somehow related and dissociation is voluntary
  • Especially side reach and rotation are coupled, meaning they always happen together
  • It is a good idea to allow rotation to show up in your side reaches and vice versa for a healthy spine and more efficient movement
  • We have more flection that extension in the spine. That is actually true for all joints.
  • Posture is not arbitrarily good or bad. So it is better to reframe that as helpful or unhelpful or healthy or unhealthy
  • Following the muscle fibres as we move, that are also curving, is less stressful and has more flow compared to following straight pathways of movement
  • Sitting to standing has a lot to teach us about walking
  • Walking is automatic, therefore trying to understand how it works is surely not an easy task.
  • At the end of the day, the more chaotic your walk the better. We have movement along all three axes when we walk so it is bound to be a complete chaos!

Questions to help you in your explorations

If you tried the exercises in the video, then maybe you are already asking some of the questions below. On the other hand if you are still unsure and haven’t gotten to it, maybe you should ask the questions below.. 😉

Do I need to use so much muscle to simply keep my body up? Why squeeze the shoulder blades together if it is opposing the curve of my thoracic spine? Or why pull my tummy in if it is opposing the lumbar curve of my spine? How come good posture seems to be working against the body structure? And what would it mean to follow the body structure? If my hips and shoulders are not square while walking then what are they doing? And how does that affect my connection with my partner when dancing?

Now I know that these might be putting a big question mark to many things that hold a certain importance for you. So to avoid any frustration, think of it as something you can try just for now. It doesn’t have to replace anything you do.

Personally, when I want to try something new, I say to myself “Give it go just for now, just once!”

So what do you say… are you gonna give it a go?

😉

Chrisa

Balance can be misunderstood

In our previous post we were talking about the Neutral Zone and the 0.0 Posture and as it is probably a natural progression, in this post we will talk about balance.

Balance is a term that can get misused quite a lot in everyday life and in Tango. Hopefully through our post today you will get a better definition for and understanding of balance

What do we “think” balance is

When we say balance usually the images that come to mind are of elaborate yoga poses or skilful ballet poses. You know the ones where people are standing on one foot in pointe shoes and they are holding the free leg in some intricate position while smiling and looking cool… haha

In a more real life scenario, I am sure that if you are a follower wearing heels, those first few ochos were probably tricky. If you are leader…. those first few ochos were probably tricky for you too..!

And you have probably been the receptor of cues such as squeeze your glutes or pull your bellybutton to the spine. Which certainly help to some extent if you are standing still but not so much when you are moving.

So if we can sum it up we think of balance as something that we hold or should be able to hold

And what it actually is…

So I will challenge you with a question… What are trying to balance?

So we are trying to balance ourselves over an area of the foot, and in order to do that the main 3 volumes of the body, head, torso and hips need to balanced over each other. And how would we know that they are balanced? How do we measure that?

That would be a balance of forces running through the body so the relationship between the different parts of the body is such that we don’t cause any harm.

Stillness and balance are two separate things and one can exist without the other, as I can be still but the volumes of my body may not be balanced. Let’s see the picture below, which is an exaggerated example but brings the message across. Our head, torso and hips may not be in a balanced relationship but we can be still. And believe me you can do this on one leg as well..!

posture3
Photo credit gamsiz via Foter.com CC/ BY

So lets work together looking for balance and not stillness in this video below:

Balance restored

Our goal therefore through this series of videos is to move in ways that allow for the forces to run through our body efficiently, to not overuse muscle and most importantly not to put our body in harm’s way.

So I will leave you with one last video and if you would like to hear more on balance join our community by subscribing.

Send me your thoughts and questions

Looking forward to hearing from you

Chrisa

Qualities of movement

Back in December we started a donation based series of workshops that were around mindful movement.
Our classes and explorations carried from breathing and posture to walking, music and rhythm. This time we will turn our focus to qualities of movement.

Our goals will be to connect to the world of emotions and feelings and express ourselves through movement. We will also, focus on qualities in the music and how those can be expressed through movement. 

Quality hides in the transition

I am not sure if you have ever felt but I definitely have… this feeling of uncertainty, of something missing even though you have performed a movement “correctly”…?
You would start off correctly, or with what would appear as correct, and end at the right spot but somehow feel like you had missed something in between. A feeling that something is not quite right, or that something was missing

So that is the feeling we will be trying to better understand… Where is it coming from and why? 
What are we really missing?

Becoming aware of the transition from point A to point B can be a way to discover more options, opportunities and qualities in our movement and I hope that you will join me in this journey on Saturday March 27th at 12pm (EST)

Pay from the Heart

This is a donation based workshop because we feel it is important to open up opportunities for people to move even if they are not Tango fans, even if they haven’t really for the last year and especially if they feel that it takes a lot of effort, physical or psychological, to move.

So we have taken down all limitations on our side and we only ask for you to contribute as much as you can, through a donation here: https://paypal.me/Bautanz?locale.x=en_US

And if you can’t contribute a monetary amount still join us, attending is another form of contribution.
So here is the link to our Zoom room for Saturday: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85966158244
Or if you prefer Facebook: https://fb.me/e/435N5uQBj

And maybe you will decide “Qualities of movement” is not for you at the moment, still subscribe for weekly movement inspired emails and future classes

Hope to see you Saturday,

Chrisa

Improvise to feel

Especially at this time where most places are facing another lockdown, we might be finding ourselves wondering why and whether we need to improvise and practice?

Why improvise here and now?

There are some very good reasons to list on why to improvise. To just name a few; we can practice sequences and leading-following, get comfortable with music and our technique and possibly become more expressive. All of that someone might feel are of little importance at the moment though, since we can’t really attend milongas. And I am saying “really” because now where there are milongas there is no partner change, there are restrictions in the number of people attending etc so we don’t really have much of a surprise… We know very well what to expect due to limited shift in partners.

So I get it, it makes perfect practical sense not to improvise, as it relates with the here and now. There is though more, which will lead us to why we need to improvise.

There is a psychological impact from all of this. Connecting through the web is great but not nearly enough. Trying to maintain relationships, friendships and interests is extremely difficult through the web. At the same time despite the fact that some of us have more time, if we don’t commute to work for example, that gets eaten up by stress and worry that is related to with being informed 24/7 by a machine and we need to step away… An endless cycle..!

I won’t therefore argue with anyone who would say that there is not much point in improvising here and now… For all practical and psychological reasons going on hike, doing fitness, yoga or meditation might actually be a better option. What I will do though is ask you to consider why improvise in general?

Why improvise in general?

I would like to suggest to you one other reason to improvise, to dance. And that would be to feel.

Yes, yes to feel! Not to express, not share but to feel! To feel our body moving, our temperature rising, our breath changing. Every part of our body, big or small, moves and has a voice can we feel it? Can we explore this magnificent body deeper, feel more, understand further? And then also look outward feel ourselves in space, and the space around us. Feel US in a totality!

Honestly, the video below is my first ever improvisational video with such context. All others, were made with other motives and reasons. This video it was part of an online class where we were exploring the role of fascia and the connective tissue network of our body. There are some qualities that this network has, that of continuity, fluidity, elasticity, tensegrity, qualities we all look for in our dance, or better said in our movement. Do we explore them though? Hardly ever unless we are in pain and we are forced to.

Going into this song, it was a mind shift though. It felt as everything was falling in place. Every part of my body had its own voice but all singing together in unison. There was even a moment where my arms were asking me to lift them and we actually had to have this conversation:
Arms: Let’s go up!
Mind: You want to go up? Up where?
Arms: Up and out, like about to hug someone or like in a sirtaki dance…
Mind: Are you out of your mind???
hahaha

Only half joking…it really happened and you can see how I slightly give in there and raise the arms. But that is when this idea popped into my mind, improvise to feel what it means to move, to be.

Something unrelated but extremely important for the here and now!

Take good care and DANCE!

Chrisa

P.S: You want some more on the matter, take a look here: https://www.gq.com/story/ido-portal-make-yourself-uncomfortable

P.P.S: We will have a new session of classes starting January 2021, subscribe to find out more

The ocean of movement practices and Tango

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..? 😉

posture #1
Photo credit: yogamama.co.uk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
posture
http://www.mommyish.com/2015/04/15/cloth-diapers-are-the-worst/

What does all that mean for our practice

My suggestion which of course you have probably seen it in our Online Tango Practice and our Argentine Tango Technique– You don’t have to leave the gym..! is that we look deeper and beyond the end result; the end result being how we want to look, what style we want to dance. And that we connect the dots between the different movement practices each of us like to follow.

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.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: We have a similar schedule set up for our Online Classes, if you are interested click here: Online Tango Classes- Live

Different Body-Different Style

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 so awkward 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:

  1. Diversity of styles
  2. 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

A great place to start is this video by Frey Faust: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy6tJZOQ0Ws&t=102s
And also the Youtube page of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen of Body mind centering: https://www.youtube.com/user/BodyMindCentering

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

Enjoy and thank you again,

Chrisa