Tag Archives: chrisa assis

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!

More Emotion = I want to see You

Last Sunday we had a Tango Movement Lab (online workshop) on how to respond to the cue “More Emotion”. You can actually see and follow-along the full workshop below.

What could that possibly mean?

Each one of us I am sure can come up with a different response to this question. And so that makes it very difficult to actually decode it; so instead we played with it.

As you will see in the video, we started with a perspective over “emotions”, borrowed by Dr.Alan Watkins, that is very refreshing. So Dr. Watkins, says, in his Tedx Talk  “Why you feel what you feel”, that emotions are energy in motion. They are composite biological signals; stereotypical energy patterns. Feelings on the other hand are the awareness in our minds of that energy. We are the “creators” of emotions. We may be responding to someone or something but we are creating them.

Playing with the music

With that in mind we started playing, playing with music. Now as you will see in the video, this is not a musicality class, it was never indented to be. It is a class were we respond to music and we express that response.
Playing with the music, implies what? Implies that we are not doing sequences, we are really not doing any specific dance; we are simply moving around. Just like we did when we were kids and we heard a song on the radio that we really liked and started moving to it. 

Playing as adults makes us feel safe. It also wakes up that part of the brain responsible for imagination and creativity. So when we start the workshop with “moving around” it is to open that window to imagination.
Then we took the universal dance step, step touch, and really took it to the playground..! haha

Do you remember when you used to go to the playground and go to the slides? The first couple of times were normal and then you would try to slide side-ways, or backwards, or walk up the slide or hang from its sides..! 
That is what we did with the step-touch. Do a step-touch in as many different ways you can think of. 

Being Seen

And lastly we added the “being seen” strategy.
As you will hear me say in the workshop, I think “more emotion” means ” I want to see you”
One of the reasons we don’t have options in how we express ourselves through dance, is that we don’t have a strategy towards “being seen”.
That thought ends today, because I actually have a strategy for you. A 3 step strategy that can transform your dance; and not just Tango but any kind of dance.

“More Emotion” means “I want to see YOU”
For someone though to see you, it is required that YOU would want to be seen. So looping back to the beginning of this email. It all starts with you. You respond. You create. And maybe sometimes you may want to be seen!

Here is the recording again. Try it out and let me know how it went!
Keep on dancing! 🕺💃

Chrisa 

P.S: This is a Pay from the Heart Workshop.
We didn’t have a set ticket so anyone can join for free and anyone can watch the recording for free. If though you can contribute a monetary amount, we kindly ask for your support. You can do so either through an email transfer at: chrisa.assis@bautanz.com or through PayPal.

Lost in translation: Tango Cue #1 “More Emotion!”

“More Emotion”…! Now that is a phrase that can make you go…”huh?!?!”

Last week through our blog, we talked about cliches and confusing phrases used in Tango classes and practicas.
Many of you shared your personal stories about moments in class that made you go “huh?”
Thank you too much for sharing and please keep them coming as we will be translating those in the weeks to come! 

Before we dive in, all of our post are true stories, coming from the community. Some of these phrases actually come from well-known teachers..!
No! we will not share their names..! (hahaha)

“More Emotion”

We will start with one of my favourites, “more emotion”!
Now, what could that mean? Well, it was during a workshop and a dance sequence was being taught. And right when you expect some real crisp cues, the teacher said, “more emotion.”

So, what does “more emotion” really mean? It could mean a few things, such as, making your movements clearer, or more articulated, moving with confidence or getting more into the dance, engaging more with your partner. 

But the tricky part is, everyone might have a different idea of what “more emotion” really means. And you can’t really ask the teacher during class because it would take too much time to come up with something that everyone agrees to.

So my suggestion is to think about what “more emotion” means to you and execute it. Maybe it is dancing more energetically or being more lyrical in how you move. Whatever it is, go for it! The teacher will see what you’re doing and give you more helpful feedback. The more clear you are at delivering your version of “more emotion” the more clear the feedback will be.

When I hear “more emotion” I’m thinking: “do not do the sequence mechanically, simply executing the steps but engage more in the process. Play with it, trying to see how you can shape and form it so that it has some power and character to it. It might mean slowing specific parts and speeding up others, or creating pauses; stretching the steps, embracing tighter or opening the embrace, adding an embellishment etc.” 

Let’s see an example with the ocho cortado

If for example the step is the ocho cortado, you can make it slower, faster, add syncopation to it, stretch it, add pauses, add embellishments or even change the 1st step in the ocho cortado sequence. Check out how we do all that, in this video: Ocho Cortado Rhythmical Variations.

The stretch gives it elasticity, expansion, boldness while the syncopation makes it more playful and crisp.

So, for me “more emotion” sounds like an invitation to make the dance your own, to have fun with it, and to express yourself. It means more boldness, more playfulness, more calmness, or more tenderness or anything you can come up with as you explore different options and possibilities.

Stay tuned for more cliches and confusing phrases being reinterpreted! And don’t forget to share your own stories of confusing dance cues.

Keep on dancing! 🕺💃

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for guidance through your practice, take a look at our training guide “It Takes You to Tango” available on Amazon.

Lost in Translation: Decoding Tango Class Clichés and Confusing Phrases

Have you ever heard people give cues/ advice in a tango class that made you go, “Huh?”.
Like when they say, “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango.” Or maybe someone told you to “walk backwards like you want to walk forwards.” That sounds a bit tricky!

Can you think of any other confusing or cliche things people say in tango class? Share them in the comments! Later, we’ll figure out how to understand and dance to these tricky cues, starting with the cliches!

Tango Class Clichés and how to respond to them

Some phrases are cliches, which means lots of people use them, but they can be a bit confusing. Like when someone says, “Lead with emotion” or “Dance like nobody is watching” or “Don’t think, just dance.” These are like puzzles because they don’t always give a clear message.

Even though these phrases are cliches, they’ve been around for a long time because they can be important. But, to really understand them, it’s like being a detective and asking questions. For example, if your instructor says “Lead with emotion!”, ask for clarification as “what do mean when you say “lead with emotion”? Do you mean with more clarity in direction, with more conviction or with more intention?”

Asking questions is like having a superpower, especially when you’re learning something new. And interestingly enough very few students ask. So at the first couple of classes I usually ask for them, like “Do you know what I mean when I say X?” or “Does this make sense?”

One last example before we leave the cliche section, is one of my personal favourites “Don’t think, just dance”. Which if you ask me, sometimes there’s a little secret frustration behind it, like the teacher might be thinking, “I don’t have more instructions for you, just figure it out!” (haha)

And there is some level of truth to that, meaning that if you need to explore movement on your too in order to get it. As a teacher though, it’s important to explain what you mean by “just dance.” For example, I might say, “Now, let’s try this in a dance. Forget about the exercise and see how it shows up in your dance. If you feel something different, great! If not, that’s okay too. Keep exploring and playing with it!”.

Phrases that make you go, “Huh?”

Now there are some cues that simply are a bad choice of words. For example “bring your energy higher” or “don’t try to make it better, you’ll make it worse” or “dance your own dance”…. What??? haha

From a teacher’s point of view I avoid such phrases, because they are not really that helpful. But as a student I see them as an invitation for a short-term exploration.

Think about it. Say you are in a practica, working on a couple of things and the cue is “dance your own dance”. This advice comes with no restrictions really..! There is no goal or expectations and there is no clear cue for you to follow. Which can be frustrating unless
Which can be frustrating unless you see it as a green light to trying different variations, exploring different options until you find what works for you.

The same goes for something that sounds more technical like “bring your energy higher”. What does that mean really? It can mean anything; that the level of the energy you perform the movement with is low, your intention is unclear, or maybe your upper body is a bit passive, or something entirely different.

Reading though through this paragraph you already have 3 different options to work with and collaborate on with your partner and your teacher; you can make it more dynamic, more crisp or more powerful or even a combination of all 3.

Translating movement to words

Now, why did we treat cliches and confusing advice differently?

Cliches have hidden but valuable messages; unpacking them helps you learn a lot.
After all, they are cliches for a reason..!
On the other hand, confusing phrases are often language misuse. Imagine movement as one language and speech as another. Your teacher during a class tries to translate their actions into words. Sometimes the translation is successful and sometimes not. Responding to them with movement therefore can be a more successful strategy than talking it out.

This was our first attempt at blending words and movement to improve your classes; aiming to share strategies for better understanding and responding to confusing cues. Stay tuned for more detailed posts on successful “translation” and if dance-related confusing phrases come to mind, share them in a note or comment.

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for guidance through your practice, take a look at our training guide “It Takes You to Tango” available on Amazon.

Alone in a Tango Festival – is that really possible?

Let me give you some context here. Nice big Tango festival was taking place here in Toronto end of October; started on Wednesday, ended on Sunday. Perfect opportunity to run a social experiment. 

As you know Friday and Saturday are usually the busiest nights, double milongas, lots of people from out of town and of course shows. So the friend that I usually attend milongas with was unable to join me on Friday and I hesitated for a bit but decided to go and see what happens if I show up alone and follow my own advice, and see what happens.

Tango Festival survival advice..!

Key Advice 1: Commit to yourself, not the event 
Before attending the milonga, doubts often creep in. You may wonder if it’s worth it, whether you’ll dance much, how to pass the time between dances, and where to sit if everyone’s in groups. At this stage, three things are essential:

  1. Make a deal with yourself to prioritize your enjoyment. If you start feeling uncomfortable, bored, or not having fun, give yourself permission to leave.
  2. Arrive 1.5 hours max. before the show(s) to strike a balance between comfort and catching the performance.
  3. Identify your comfort spots in the venue, such as the bar… more on that below..!

Key Advice 2: Go where the fish are (figuratively speaking… of course.. haha)
In a bustling festival, you’re never truly alone. Seek out places of comfort with these qualities:

  1. Relaxation potential.
  2. Visibility.
  3. Populated by others.

The bar is an ideal choice, as it’s a natural gathering spot for festivalgoers. You can get dances, rest, socialize, and be seen by fellow dancers. Some times, depending on the setting the buffet can be another good option, as well as the area where vendors present their Tango shoes or outfits. I would prioritize the bar though, because everyone will pass by the bar, there are stools where you can sit and rest and usually people see you and you can see them.

Key Advice 3: Be proactive
Don’t wait for others to initiate conversations; take the lead. Being at the bar and just waiting for someone else to start a chat is not a very helpful strategy. Similarly, for a dance, embrace the cabeceo, as it’s much more comfortable than risking rejection by directly approaching someone. In a crowded environment, the cabeceo is your ally, opening doors to new dance partners.

Make it about YOU!

Notice that the 3 pointers have a common “vanishing point” or a common perspective if you like. And that is YOU!
Think about it. This is your night out and it is supposed to be fun, it is supposed to be enjoyable and fulfilling. Despite an expected initial nervousness, if you make the necessary negotiations (key advice #1), strategically plan your night (key advice #2) and bring in some social attitude (key advice #3) you can have a splendid Tango festival experience.

If you have similar experiences for lessons learned that you would like to share, please send me an email at chrisa.assis@bautanz.com. I’d love to hear all about them!

Chrisa

P.S: If you need go deeper into mental or psychological boundaries and limitation, read through “It Takes You to Tango” I am sure you will find the advice extremely helpful and most importantly actionable.

The Magic of the Weight Transfer

Every Tango class starts with… “The Walk” and/ or “The Weight Transfer”. The latter is actually, still the walk but we just have to use different wording at some point..! haha
It is in every class, no matter what the level is. We have also made it into this special Tango thing; coming up with cliches such as “if know how to walk, you know how to Tango” or “advanced dancers take beginner’s classes” etc.

You know what though, there is a very good reason why it is very difficult and frustrating to correct how you walk and it has nothing to do with Tango. It actually has to do with evolution. Humans have figured out how to walk while in the process of becoming… you guessed it… humans! So how we walk is a characteristic of humans…. Hey! No, inappropriate jokes..! haha

Do I know how to walk?

Now are you walking as efficiently as nature has built you for?
Most likely not. And that is due to all sorts of habits we pick up as we grow.
Can that change though?
Absolutely! Not with Tango though. But with movement technique.
In movement technique we looks the very chaotic structure of the weight transfer and we dissect it. Then we create multiple, different exercises that appear to be focusing on completely unrelated things. They are however, aiming at the weight transfer and how to help you walk better.

Is walking in Tango the same as walking in real life?
Well that depends…
Firstly, it depends on whether you want to have a specific Tango style.
And secondly, it is slightly affected by one very obvious thing..! That you are walking while in a hug with someone else. Have you tried doing that, down the street?!?! Not easy, yet achievable!

Why learn about the weight transfer?

Now the last question to consider before the video.
What is the point of teaching walking in a Tango class? No idea..!
I think it is actually frustrating for most people.
But let’s change the narrative. What if we agree to do a movement technique class. Now, be careful… not a tango technique class, a movement technique class, where we will focus on how you walk. That kind of class will inevitably “fix” your dancing and it is a whole different narrative. 
Students will not be expecting to be taught how to dance Tango. They will be expecting to learn different tools in order to make their movement as a whole more efficient and enjoyable. And more fun Tango dances are extra bonus..!

So if you agree, I will invite you to do the latter as you follow along through our first Tango Movement Lab of Fall. And of course I would love to read your thoughts and questions on the above and on the exercises in the video, so please write me an email at chrisa.assis@bautanz.com

And here you have it, “The magic of the weight transfer”

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for ways to further support the work we do here at Bautanz, please consider contributing through PayPal