Tag Archives: connection

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!

Posture Correction – Step 1

Last week, we held our monthly Tango Movement Lab, and we kicked off the session by focusing on posture. Specifically, we took the time to identify and understand our default stance. This is incredibly important not only for enhancing our dance skills but also for improving our overall well-being in everyday life.

Today, I’m thrilled to share some valuable tips and effective drills with you. The following videos will help you determine your current posture and make small yet meaningful adjustments that will have a significant impact. By incorporating these practices, you’ll experience a greater sense of comfort and unlock your potential for remarkable progress in your dance journey.

Posture Correction – The first step is awareness

  1. The 6 curves of the spine with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen
    A crucial aspect of understanding our current posture is gaining insight into our structural framework. This concise 2-minute video beautifully illustrates the anatomy of the human spine. By watching it, you’ll acquire the necessary tools to explore and examine your own spine as you work on rebuilding your posture. It’s an invaluable resource that empowers you to take charge of your journey towards improved alignment.
  2. Posture, Alignment and Balance
    In one of our previous practices, you might recall that we explored the topic of posture and even engaged in a similar exercise as in our last workshop. However, we approached it from a slightly different perspective. I encourage you to take note of both approaches and see which one enables you to better identify and become aware of your default stance. It’s fascinating to discover how a fresh angle can shed new light on our self-awareness.
  3. Neutral Zone and the 0.0 Posture
    This article provides a deeper understanding of how you can achieve balance among the three main volumes of your body. Why those concepts hold significance, and how staying within the neutral zone can bring buoyancy to your movements.
  4. Change your life with Alexandre Technique
    Disclaimer: this is the original title of video (haha). I can’t guarantee that a single technique will transform your life. I’ve personally though found the Alexandre Technique to be incredibly beneficial. I came across this very nice video that’s short, sweet and to the point. Around the 3-minute 30-second mark, you’ll discover a quick drill that you can even do while sitting. Trust me, though it may seem simple, it carries remarkable power. So don’t underestimate its potential impact!

Enjoy and subscribe for more tips and drills

Chrisa

Women in Dance

Last week was the International Women’s Day, on the 8th of March. And so the whole week there were different opportunities to come together and celebrate. One of such opportunities included an all-women’s class, that was actually the spark for this blog post.

Women and Dance

Maybe from the title you expected a blog post on the marvellous women in Tango. But really, I wouldn’t know where to begin. A quick search that I had done solely on female singers in Tango, landed me a huge song list; we played some of those songs during 2 practices actually.

So you can imagine that one post on all the amazing women in Tango, would be nearly impossible, let alone all the amazing women in dance in general.

Instead I thought I should speak about a group of women, that are not particularly well-known and may not even be members of a dance community. Women who don’t dance very often, but when they do, they love it!

But before I get to that story, I wonder if you actually know these women..?
They work very hard, and they take care of their family from the youngest member to the oldest. Some of them are recent immigrants and some were born here in Canada. And some are single mothers while others may have gone through some kind of abuse. You look in their eyes and you see the daily struggle.

Do you know them?
Yeah maybe you do. Maybe some of them sat next to you in the subway, or walked by you down the street. Or maybe you are one them.

What do they have to do with dance, you might wonder?
Well, as I said… when they dance, they love it!
Isn’t that, what we all want? To glow from joy after a dance?
Well that is what they did after our class..!
And maybe to some extent that is what dance is all about.

An all-women’s class

So let’s get to that story. It is an all-women’s class; aka no men. No men doesn’t mean no leaders nor does it mean a follower’s technique class. It only means no males in the class.

The reasons for that are pretty straight forward:

  • Some of the women come from a cultural background where they can’t be in the presence of a male who is not part of their family.
  • A number of women were recovering from abuse that came from a male member of their family.
  • The organizers felt that dance can create a safe and supportive environment for the groups of women mentioned above and all-women’s dance classes are uncommon so adding one more to the community, is always a bonus.

And we get in the class, and we have 2 hours ahead of us, so plenty of time to get to know each other and dance.
We got in a circle, and everyone said their name and shared something with the group. This is an introduction I have learned from Body Mind Centering and Axis Syllabus classes. It is a very good ice breaker and you get to hear the hopes and expectations of each individual in the group.

This time I heard words like: excitement, thrill, shyness, uncertainty, opportunity, doing something different, me-time, taking care of myself.
Take a moment to think what words come to your mind, when you are getting ready for your dance class?

How it all went..!

Then we got into dancing. We introduced a theme, and you know me, I wouldn’t be able to start a class without talking about posture and balance..! haha

Between explorations we played a bit with words. In one of our previous post we had talked about getting lost in translation or using words in an unhelpful way. This time though, words opened up great discussions, such as, what it really means to take care of your body. Or how can movement shape your body and your psychology.

But the best part were the kids..! As I said, there were single moms in the class, so of course they had their kiddies with them. And that group of toddlers was just so enthusiastic, seeing a group of 20 women including their moms, moving, dancing, laughing, maybe crying a little bit..! And the music, oh my, you should have seen those kiddies, how they moved to the songs they loved..!

One of them especially, was sitting at the very edge of the stroller, propped up, eyes wide open and moving to the music almost none stop..! There were a couple moments, when a tiny bit of nagging would bubble up, but mom would turn around and say: “Lies and Propaganda!” (hahaha)
And guess what that actually did the trick..! “Lies and Propaganda” put an immediate end to the nagging… haha

We finished the class with yet another circle and this time the words were more like: thankful, happily exhausted, calm, energized, happy, grateful, longing for more.
What words come to mind when you finish your classes?

I don’t know when I will have a chance to work with these women again, but I am grateful that I got to meet them and I got to see the strength they carry with them and the empowering energy they share with the world. If you were one of them, thank you for being there! If not, I invite you to look for that strength within you, and let it shine!

Chrisa

Art and its place in the online world

I have been thinking the last couple of weeks, as things don’t seem to be heading back to normal, what is the place of Art in this online world.

We can’t go out to dance, we can’t go to museum, theatres, concerts… we are social animals but we are not allowed to share anything anymore. So why keep practicing our hobbies, or pick up new ones?

If we can’t go out have a drink, relax with friends, dance, listen to music, then what is the point of doing dance classes, or taking music lessons? As friend told me over the weekend, isn’t it boring taking Tango lessons without a partner?

Isn’t it boring taking Tango online classes without a partner?

Honestly… I don’t know… maybe it is or if not boring others might find depressing or miserable or pointless.

And that probably applies to any artistic endeavour, that is supposed to be shared with other people. However, I think it does have to do with the focus set by the teachers and by the students. And there are many aspects here I would, probably as many as the teachers and the students… haha

Lets see a few of the pros of online classes:

  • It is a form of activity, and it is good to keep active especially at times of lockdown
  • Along with the above it is an activity, that allows your mind to decompress, so it helps with mental health
  • You have a long lasting passion that you want to keep the fire going even if at these challenging times
  • Tango and all other movement practices, in partners and/or groups rely a lot on personal progress, training and practice along partner/ group practices
  • It is a different way to explore your hobby
  • Opportunity to learn for teachers who are at the other end of the world
  • Or to support the teachers you love at home

Should I keep going? All these are amazing reasons no?

However, I think there is a special place for Tango, for dance, for Art in general in this online world… That reminding us of our humanity.

Art is here to remind us, we are still human

Humans are social animals, so no matter how well you are managing the isolation, we are really meant to thrive through community.

Think of our great accomplishments, as a human kind, all appeared in societies that were blooming. Unique figures in Art, Science etc were supported and came out of strong communities. It is through our communities that we are supported to explore and express our unique strengths.

In this vast, impersonal space of the web, it is hard to find a community and not get lost. It is hard to identify and express your unique strengths when instead of a community you have an ocean of users.

And so I think this is where Tango, dance, Art comes in. Art comes in to create an actual web, an actual network with real connections. A web that can’t replace real life, but can remind us of what it is like to be human aka what it is like to build communities.

Our anatomy actually supports this

The fascinating thing in all of this is how this balance between a singular entity and a community, between the I and the WE, as well as the relationships weaved between the two are supported by our anatomy.

We identify as humans due to our anatomy, we have some common characteristics that makes us all identifiable as humans. However, from the obvious characteristics of our face to our bone shape and DNA we are all unique.

And when we say unique, we mean very different… take a look here: https://paulgrilley.com/bone-photos/
As Paul and Suzee Grilley mention in their post: “These images [included in the post linked above] show the normal variation in human bones. None of them are pathological.”

Different bones, different ranges of motions, different aesthetics, sensations, expressions, experiences.

Let’s learn THAT!

Learn how we are Unique

Learning how each of us is unique, we can be more accepting in the other person’s perspective of things. It is also possible that we are more open and understanding to someone experiencing something different.

We can be more kind and accepting with ourselves. Looking at our teachers, we can now understand that we will never look like them, nobody will!
But we can learn from them how we can be us. We can learn how to express more our unique strengths, body structure, past experience, sensations, emotions, thoughts.

We started working with this theme already last week in our Mid-Week Tango Practice:

And we will continue with this theme through our Online Workshops and Online Classes, with our goal being to allow us to be more us, despite the very challenging situations that might be pushing us to the edge

I hope that in one way or another I will have you with me in this journey so please any thoughts you would like to share send them, I would love to read them! Next stop, Mid-Week Tango Practice on Wednesday

😉
Chrisa

“Movement can change your brain, too!”

For years and years we have a debate between body and brain. With different groups having strong opinions over ones power over the other; however more and more studies come to show an intimate connection between the two and bring movement to the stage!

Obvious findings through experience now backed up by science

We have all been in situation where we were feeling a bit blue, went out dancing and felt wonderful afterwards. Or where we have been feeling stressed and went to the gym to let some steam off.

Now there are numerous studies that show that movement, in different forms, aerobic exercise, resistance, flexibility, and balance exercises, Yoga, Qigong and Dance have an effect in the function of our brain. It “modulates stress reactivity and anxiety in humans.” , “increases endogenous opioid activity in the central and peripheral nervous system and may induce a euphoric state and reduce pain” , “boosts mood by increasing a brain protein called BDNF that helps nerve fibers grow.”

Specifically for movement practices where one is required to pay close attention to bodily sensations, position in space and feelings research has shown that such practices are useful adjunctive components to other treatment as they create the alleviation of depressive symptoms. See for example this interesting paper on Yoga practice and PTSD

Dance as a movement practice can have surprising benefits

The above links can surely give you an idea of what scientists mean when they say that change of posture, breathing and rhythm can have a positive change to your brain in various ways.

Dance, which is movement in synchrony with others can have further surprising benefits to “an individual’s self-esteem and their feelings of social connection with a partner.” The results of this study came to show that “individuals felt better about themselves following a period of synchronous compared to asynchronous movement, while they also perceived a greater self-other overlap with their partner.”

This for many of us might come as no surprise. I am sure we all have experienced the both ends of this spectrum of synchrony and asychnony. When in full synchrony with our partner we feel great. When fighting for synchrony for 12mins of a tanda we feel just terrible

In the same paper previous literature is referenced to have noted that “bouts of synchronous activity have been shown to increase cooperation , encourage compliance and conformist behaviour, boost trust, facilitate joint-action capabilities, enhance person memory, and promote compassion and altruism.(…) synchronous action can lead to perceptions of connectedness and the blurring of self-other boundaries between interaction partners. In general, experiencing interpersonal synchrony is seen to establish the common ground on which effective social interactions unfold.”

What I think we all might find interesting here is that communities around the world knew about this already; an experiential knowing that created folk dances, rituals and various other community activities that involve moving together.

Also, movers from various disciplines have described all of the above as firstly our movement informing our knowing. Secondly through discovering ourselves we discover more the other and the world and become more compassionate towards them, towards us.

Moving together is what I am missing

A friend asked me the other day: “Don’t you miss dancing?”
I was torn to tell you the truth… I couldn’t quite tell if I missed it or not.

On one hand I am now used to not having a milonga to go to…And I certainly don’t miss the action of dancing, of moving…

We have the Mid-week Tango practice and Online classes, plus my personal fitness schedule. So I am moving and dancing… What I do miss though is dancing with someone. Synchronizing my movement with other people.

Interestingly enough though all hope is not lost even in this crazy world we live in. In the experiment conducted as part of the research paper linked above, participants had to connect through a video link and perform arm-curls with their partner over the screen. Some were asked to synchronize their movement and some to avoid synchronization. The group of people who synchronized after the experiment reported a higher self-esteem and better connected to their partner.

People who live alone at this time isolation have suffered mentally much more than the rest of us. Can we virtually replace a hug? Surely not!
But maybe there are better ways to connect that we haven’t found yet, that we haven’t explored yet. Maybe there are ways to make these platforms and virtual environments more welcoming, more real…

Who knows..! I guess if we keep on moving and we will see what we can discover!

😉

Chrisa

Are we going back to Tango?

After many months of online chatting I got together friend and also a Tango teacher. We were wondering if we, as a collective of people, will be going back to Tango. And we were sharing experiences from our communities, as she is in a different city, noticing many common reactions from the two communities. Of course there are people already dancing, others that are not taking the risk and a small group of people willing to go back but trying to imagine what would they be “going back” to.

Going back by moving forwards?

So the question we stumbled upon was whether we could possibly be going back by moving forwards? Paradox..? Maybe not..!

This conversation started from the moment we saw each other… It was such a relief seeing each other in the flesh and bone again! And we jokingly said to one another: “Oh! You still exist in real life!” haha

Along with all that there was this great urge to hug and greet each other like any two people would have done under normal circumstances. We didn’t… you know, being in a public space and all..! See hugging is currently a no no and I personally don’t disagree

However, think about the time when going back will happen with no masks, no partner restrictions, no lysol wipes all over the place… Do you think that longing for a hug will express itself through the dance? Is there a possibility that we will be looking for more connection through our dances after this isolation, restrictions and fear? In this way would this actually be moving forward and not going back?

A deeper connection

Someone might say that they were always looking for a deeper connection and I think this to be true for most people. I imagine this though will be multiplied by this great distance we had to keep for such a long time.

We will probably be more like the kids we all saw on the videos online, where they ran to hug their friends after not seeing them for a couple months! haha

You know sometimes on the dance floors you would see the struggle and the persistence at the same time to achieve that connection in the faces of dancers. I imagine this will be effortless, a connecting power coming from within, along with unimaginable joy!

That is my post-covid, going back while moving forwards in Tango plan and the next question would be how would we then maintain that feeling?

That deeper connection can easily fade out once we get back to absolute “normal”. How could we possibly maintain and build that up though?

And I think, without having the experience of course, there are various steps. One being during those first few milongas, where we have the choice of diving in deep to that feeling that we take the dive and allow it to take over.

Then after the milonga, the same evening at home or the next day, there is the opportunity to wake up to the details of that experience and then start analyzing it. After the awe, we can start gently allowing for our mind to make sense of the experience. In other words allow for the experience to inform our knowing. That happens when we start describing in words how the experience felt. For example a dance can be light, intense, heavy, powerful, energetic, grounded, visceral but also spicy, salty, sweet. All great words and the more descriptive and detailed we can get, the better.

Lastly, the bits and pieces we think we have figured out can go into our practice. Not in a forcing way, not for example thinking: “Oh! We have to hold exactly the way we did it last Saturday at the milonga!”. Instead more in an explorative way, as an observer looking for clues of where these words came from. In practice therefore new experiences are created and the cycle starts again.

So I guess I am thinking of this endless spiral of creativity…! Hmmm…what do you guys think? Are we going back to Tango or are we moving forward to new Tango experiences?

Send me your thoughts! 🙂

Chrisa

P.S: Looking at working on the embrace but you doing have a partner?
Try this practice:

And for our Live practices you can check this link out Online Tango Practice

P.P.S: Join the Bautanz community by subscribing for more Tango inspiration, motivation and news on our online program