Tag Archives: body mind centering

Online dancing in the Covid era

Online dance classes, have filled the web the last couple of months. Great content is shared out there on different platforms and different forms. I couldn’t though resist asking what is the point of this all..? Now, don’t get annoyed, I agree with you..! There a great lot of point in online dancing, in online art sharing, but what is that point exactly?

Remember those good old days when you were just starting Tango and you wanted to know it all? The endless hours spent watching amazing dancers on Youtube. Going to this and that seminar. Getting together with friends to practice and come up with new stuff!

And then finally getting there, at least where you thought there was. Soon after realizing you had missed so many things in the process and had to go back to the beginning.
That then was a tough decision to make! A decision most people make I think…but still that doesn’t make it easy. And I was thinking what was it then that made us all want to start over? Maybe not from zero but still…

Learning is much more fun with friends

All the people I have asked they said it was the community. Not in general the Tango community in their city or town but their community of friends, that kept them going, starting over and doing the trip again. Some communities gave birth to new teachers, new organizers, new performers.

People also noted that once they started losing those connections, they started losing interest in Tango in that intense way. So inevitably the question rises to what will happen now?

This question includes the very important practical issues of dance schools not being able to survive and therefore closing their doors. But also the social issues of loss of a community, of yet another bond.

And so what is the point of learning, of taking online classes when you can’t really share the class with someone in the flesh. When you can’t share what you have learned on a dance floor at least not with an ease of mind…

If being with someone is the thing that makes it all special, then what is the point of learning more when you can’t share?

There is a beautiful point to it all

To be honest I had to stop writing and let this thought sit with me. I wasn’t sure how to articulate the fire that I was feeling. Knowing that just writing “of course there is a point!” wouldn’t be helpful at all.

And as it usually happens, something thankfully came my way, when I took a step back. As I was listening to the radio–yes yes the radio–there was a presentation of a book in Greek titled: “Πανδημία: Τέχνη και Κοινωνία” which translates to: Pandemic: Art and Society. (It is linked here if you speak Greek and would like to read it)

The presenter magically put all those things I had in my mind into some beautiful words!

Art is here, especially in crisis, to enhance the social safety net. There is a collective sentiment of us all being in something together without solely being united around fear.
There is therefore the aspect of listening to the news of any country, in any language and knowing exactly what they are saying aka Covid-second-wave-time-to-hide-again. And there is the aspect of how can we manage our collective fear, which is where Art comes in.

So we are sharing! At this moment we sharing very similar moments, very similar days with every human being of planet earth. The question is do we want to only share the fear or will we share music, dance, photography, film, books, paintings, Art?

Your experience is as important as the information you receive

Art, in any form and in every way that is shared is a necessity, and it is not me saying that, it is actually neuroscientists saying it; “The inestimable quality [of great art] is the opportunity that the brain is offered to give several interpretations, all of them valid (1999, 22f).” Zeki

I use this one quote of the many that one can find in the linked article, because I have experienced this myself. In most of our online classes, during our discussions every student shares a completely different experience. I am not referring to feedback, or comments technical in nature, but observations coming from an informed through experience knowing.

As such our experience is as important, valuable and valid as the information we receive from our teacher, from the artist, from anyone of “authority”.

Especially for music and dance, without any intention to make a distinction of value, consider that, before we are even born we are moving on rhythm.

Aiming to close with that thought; Aside from the findings on benefits of the art to our physical and mental health, especially dance and music are arts deeply related to our becoming.

In that sense therefore it can be soothing, comforting, enlightening, hopeful to dance even if you are connecting online; to listen to music even if it is not a live concert, to paint even if it the outcome sucks…haha. The experience of getting in touch with what is human is what matters. Releasing the mind from the stress and the fear. And most importantly adding a thread to our society’s invisible net that can be there to hold us all

An invitation to dance because it matters

Join me on Wednesday at 12:30pm (Toronto time) on Facebook or Youtube for a mid-week Tango practice. No registration or special invite needed, just hop in… I will make sure we dance as much as possible..!
Wave on the web. Leave a note or comment. Say hello and most importantly move along with me. From whichever part of the world you are joining in

You have probably experienced this common note: “Tango allows me to go anywhere and be amongst people with a common passion!”
We still have that! We are Tangueros and Tangueras! I might not know you and you might not know me… We still have that common passion, Tango so lets dance!

And hey even if you are not dancing Tango, still join us! Move with us, enjoy creating something with your very own hands, feet, heart and mind. If you hate, not a problem try another dance on Thursday! 😉

Chrisa

P.S: Can’t join us? Try a following a recording: Online Tango Practice

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

Embrace-Go beyond the push and pull

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

Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen of Body Mind Centering

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!

Trust your body to find it!

Chrisa

P.S: For more videos such as this, on weekly subscribe to bautanz.com and if you want to organize your own practice at home at your own time maybe you would like to take a look at this: https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/

A Dance Chat with Mariko Tanabe

I met Mariko Tanabe only a couple of years ago, but a met Body Mind Centering around 10 years ago or maybe more

At that time, it was JUST a cool new thing to learn… and you can imagine what happened when frustration started building.. There were no steps, it was always all improvisational, and slow… and tough..! it like we were always looking for something but without knowing what we were looking for while getting more frustrated in the process… Reminds you of something..? haha
Does any of this have to do with Tango…? (yes…read on..!hah)

The years went by I felt that there more to be discovered, that I hadn’t reached my full potential yet, but I didn’t know how to explore and reach that potential. Thankfully Pablo Veron was in Montreal and I grabbed the opportunity for a private class…

Needless to say the class was amazing..! Of the whole class though there was ONE phrase that changed my Tango-life, “Think about your atlas”…
At that moment, something in mind went: “BOOM! I know what I need to do..!”
As they say though, when the student is ready the teacher will come. And surely enough, Mariko Tanabe was running a workshop in Toronto shortly after. Body Mind Centering was there for me and I  was ready to dive into it!
What I was missing then was not the technique… It was urge, the hunger to explore beyond steps, sequences and technique tips; to discover how the human body was built to move and unlock in this way more efficient and expressive ways to dance.
I would like to extend an invitation
So if you are feeling stuck and you know that you are missing something but you are not sure what that something is. If you want to find ways to make your dances more enjoyable for the body and the mind and to give yourself the opportunity to keep on moving despite any limitations then I think you will enjoy this chat with Mariko Tanabe a lot.
If you would like to take a class with Mariko and you are in Toronto, you are in luck…
https://www.estheryoga.com/application/anatomy-for-yoga-teachers/
If you are in Montreal, you are in even greater luck: https://espritenmouvement.com
Enjoy,
Chrisa
P.S: if you are looking for more chats like this: https://bautanz.com/tango-chatting-dancers-grab-coffee/

Want to Tango for an opportunity to BE yourself? Then..dance the rules

Why are you dancing..?
Let me guess… Mmmmm… For an opportunity to be yourself, to express yourself?

And it is indeed a beautiful opportunity, a safe and colorful way of meeting oneself!But this is exactly where the trouble begins…haha…

If we just wanted to go out and spend time with friends, or be in the milongas just to practice our moves, things would have been pretty straight forward and a lot less stressful and painful.
The fact though that we are looking for ways to “dance like nobody’s watching”, if I may be allowed the cliche… 😉 means that our nights at the milonga mean a lot more

What stops us though from meeting and expressing ourselves, from just dancing?

Simple answer… The RULES!

For most people Tango is a difficult because it has so many rules that make them “(…) get so anxious on the dance floor trying to remember all of them”

So how can we make rules part of our dance so we don’t have to think about them anymore? How can we EMBODY the rules?

Embody…mmmm…such a fancy word..haha… How about we try to make a bit more sense of the word by writing down at least 10 things that come to mind when you think of “embodying”. Ready? GO!

  1. Be yourself..maybe?
  2. ….

Here is my list:

Freedom

Safety

Awareness

Present

In the Moment

Past

Knowledge

Truth

Expression

Unison

Logic

Realization

Ok? So if you have come up with your list which would probably be different than mine, lets see how it works in dancing.

At this point I want to call in an expert on the matter, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen with excerpt from her book “Sensing, feeling and Action”

“ The process of embodiment is a being, not a doing process, not a thinking process. It is an awareness process in which the guide and witness dissolve into cellular consciousness. (…)
Embodiment is automatic presence, clarity and knowing without having to search for it or pay attention. As they say in Zen, “When you eat, eat. When you sleep, sleep” (…)”

There are 3 steps in the process of embodiment: VIsualization, Somatization and Embodiment.

Visualization is the process by which the brain imagines aspects of the body and, in doing so, informs the body that it (the body) exists. (…)
Somatization is the process by which the kinesthetic (movement), proprioceptive (position), and tactile (touch) sensory systems inform the body that it (the body) exists. (…)
Embodiment is the cells’ awareness of themselves. You let go of your conscious mapping. It is a direct experience, there are no intermediary steps or translation. There is no guide, no witness.
There is the fully known consciousness of the experienced moment initiated from the cells themselves. In this instance, the brain is the last to know. There is complete knowing. There is peaceful comprehension. Out of this embodiment process emerges feeling, thinking, witnessing, understanding. The source of this process is love”

So based on this excerpt does it sounds like you need more Tango classes, more milongas or hours and hours of practice?

Not really, right? Bonnie’s description feels like more natural, more personal, and one that depends more on us and getting close with ourselves and less on others.

So lets do exactly THAT instead:

  1. OBSERVE

    Look for the images that can fuel visualization. Go to milongas not for the dances, but for the images. Observe, try to find the Tango rules in other peoples bodies.
    Before you start to practice on anything, from posture to embellishments, take one moment to visualize what you want your body to do.

  2. Movement, Position and Touch

    You would have to go through the movements noticing not what makes them right, but what makes them feel good.
    Attempt to find that same comfort in different positions. Compare for example the comfort of your posture when simply standing to when you are walking or doing ochos.
    Then go deeper than that and find the “rules” of posture in other positions in your everyday life, in your other activities–like walking to the supermarket.
    Somatic dance is the holistic approach to moving and by becoming 1% better in your everyday life activities, you will become better in your Tango too.
    Lastly touch is extremely important to understand who you are, who the other is and what you are together through movement. So practice on that awareness either with a real partner and with an artificial one–the floor or the wall…

  3. Explore with Love

    Explore your movement for the chance to find yourself no matter how cheesy this may sound to you.
    Embodiment as Bonnie says is experiencing movement initiated from within. Not just doing the proper steps, but allowing for “feeling, thinking, witnessing, understanding” to emerge.
    Creating a practice based on exploring the rules instead of imposing the rules, not only feels more natural and more enjoyable but also it allows to be yourself in practice

  4. Avoid practicing for hours

    It is absolutely pointless!
    As you can gather from the above, locking yourselves up in a room aimlessly going from drill to drill, without any focus or goal, is absolutely pointless and it will actually get you to quit sooner than later.
    Instead build on your ability to stop BEFORE your technique fails you

  5. TRACK all this down

    A quick note, a little video, something to help you when you decide to revisit that day’s practice
    Avoid tracking your progress based on other people’s reactions or feedback alone, and tap into your emotional, mental and psychological state before and after your class/practice or milonga.
    Are you feeling better, stronger, calmer, more focused or more aware? Your body knows better sometimes..!
    You can use metrics as well, like how many of my ochos felt good today? Or how many milongas felt great this month?

  6. Give yourself a BREAK

    When you are dancing, dance! You can’t correct anything on the dance floor
    Allow yourself to make mistakes. Laugh at your mistakes. Enjoy your dances with all their flaws. Dance for the sake of feeling alive, for that very opportunity to be yourself and not for hitting every point on your checklist.
    This will be your only true motivation on practicing again the next day!

Grab the opportunity to BE yourself, you deserve it!

Chrisa