Tag Archives: dance improvisation

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.

3 Tips that Have Reshaped my Practice

When it comes to setting up a practice routine for dance or any movement regimen, let’s face it: it’s easier said than done. We all start off bursting with enthusiasm, but somehow that fire fizzles out along the way. We find ourselves struggling to stay motivated, unsure of where to direct our efforts, and feeling like we’re stuck in a never-ending loop. And, of course, life loves to throw curveballs, getting in the way of our progress.

But fear not, my Tango friends! Today, I’ve got three fantastic tips that have completely reshaped my own practice. These little nuggets of wisdom have helped me define my goals, stay on track, and most importantly, turned my practice into a delightful and enjoyable experience. So, get ready to infuse your dance or movement routine with renewed purpose and a whole lot of fun. Let’s dive in and level up your practice game!

3 Enjoyable Tips for You to Explore

1: Dance Like a Child

One practice-altering revelation for me has been incorporating a dance right at the start of my practice session. But here’s the kicker—it’s not your typical “let’s fix everything” or “let’s incorporate new moves” kind of dance. No, no. It’s a dance solely dedicated to pure enjoyment. Picture this: I pick a favorite song, turn up the volume, and let loose, simply because it’s a song that makes me want to move. Trust me, this simple act enhances the overall enjoyment of your practice, sets the perfect tone for the session, minimizes mental struggles, and serves as a gentle reminder of why you embarked on this journey—to revel in the sheer joy of dancing!

2: Finding the Embrace

The second secret weapon up my sleeve, is mixing and matching and the best examples of that are my video practices on the embrace, like the one linked above. I love to mix and match. In each video, you’ll notice I incorporate various props and movement practices, creating a rich tapestry of exploration. Here’s the scoop: I draw inspiration from different disciplines like yoga, Axis Syllabus, and Body Mind Centering, and apply their insights to Tango. It’s all about connecting the dots, you know? By doing so, my progress skyrockets, and the whole journey becomes immensely enjoyable.

Oh, and let me tell you about the magical world of props! They can be game-changers. For example, elastic bands can be used to map out movements or gain a deeper understanding of how your body functions. They can also provide invaluable insights into specific muscle groups and enhance your overall body awareness. So, get ready to open up new avenues of exploration and elevate your dance experience to the next level with these ingenious ideas from other practices. It’s time to connect the dots and expand your awareness like never before!

3: Noticing

Now, let me share with you one last tip that I absolutely adore: the power of observation! I’ve discovered that paying close attention to how others dance and move is a priceless tool for understanding my own body and its capabilities. This practice starts right in your dance classes. Instead of merely watching your teacher demonstrate a movement, strive to see beyond the surface. Look for the hidden secrets within—the underlying conditions that allow them to execute the movement effortlessly. Observe how their intentions are conveyed through their body and motion.

By embracing this approach, you take your learning to a whole new level. Sure, you might not be able to replicate the movement exactly as they demonstrate it, right then and there. But you gain a profound understanding of the intention behind the movement and the necessary conditions required for its execution. It may take a little time and patience, but trust me, the journey is both fascinating and incredibly beneficial.

So, get ready to sharpen your observation skills and unlock a world of insight. You’ll be amazed at how this simple practice enhances your dance journey and propels you toward new levels of mastery.

These were just three key tips, I have way more to share so stay tuned by subscribing to our Bautanz community and if you want tips and drills from social skills to actual practice videos, then check out our guide “It Takes You to Tango”, you won’t be disappointed.

Chrisa

Dance like a child..!

I always struggled with phrases such as “just dance”, they feel a bit ambiguous. I know what they mean obviously, but they can mean a lot and nothing at the same time. And so I am afraid that creates a wall for people new to the dance community, instead of liberating them. So I thought maybe we can use a different phrase, for example “dance like a child”.

“Just dance”, what does it mean?

To me, the way I understand it and the way I have used it in the past ( with no success), it means without thinking about the rules. Allowing yourself to enjoy the moment of dancing without having to think of what you have to do. Without having any expectations or trying to meet any standards. Maybe I missing something here but I am sure that I am close.

Now the problem is, this is not obvious to someone still learning to dance.
Why? Well I think for a couple of reasons.

If this phrase is used to describe the “warm-up dance” (we will get to this one is a bit), aka if this phrase is used at the beginning of a class or practice; well it is contradicting the reason people are there. People have walked in a class or practice to learn and advance their skill. They are in a completely different mindset compared to “just dance”. Inescapably the instinctual reaction is “I can’t just dance, that is why I am here”.

Secondly, if we are using this phrase in a social setting, such as a milonga, let’s consider the following problem. The amount of time the average person, wishing to adverse their skill, spends in a class/ practise environment far overshadows their dance time. So they are better at think-and-do than just do.

Thirdly, and naturally coming from the other two points, “just dance” is a skill itself. Dancing is a skill but just-dancing is just a little bit of a different skill. Which means it also requires training.

So bottom line, the average person receiving the cue, may understand all the words in “just dance”, may guess the meaning of the phrase but has no idea of how to actually begin to do that. Not to mention that they might not understand the phrase in the same way as it is told. Because you may have a different understanding of “just dance” than me. And as such, I think, we need a better phrase and system to help people build on this skill.

Dance like a child

Dance like a child or move like child, depending on the setting and the type of dance one teaches, can get us out of this little word trap.

Ask anyone, and they will be able to tell you what dance/ move like a child means. They will probably use words like, “freely”, “without limitations”, “carefree”, “not caring about the rules”, “having fun”, “moving around”, “doing whatever they want”, “living the moment”, “expressive” etc. I am sure you can come up with some more of your own. All though easily and securely leading to … enjoying the moment without thinking about the rules or someone watching..!

Which is EXACTLY what we want!

So I would like to invite you to start every practice and if possible every class with such a dance. A dance where you actually dance like a child.
Some teachers already start their class with a dance. And here I have another wording issue… haha
That dance is usually called a “warm up dance”.

Now to some level it is a warm up; your body is getting warm which is necessary for most activities. But I don’t really like the term in this context. Warm up is so fitness oriented, it kind of creates the wrong idea. Maybe we can say a prep dance instead of a warm up dance.

Prep dance, as in preparation dance. We are preparing ourselves, body, mind and spirit, for our class or practice. Which I think, even mentally can create the possibility for us to leave what we already know behind and open a window for new knowledge.

To fun prep dances everyone! Dance like a child!

Chrisa,

P.S: For more tips that go beyond technique check out our Guide: “It Takes You to Tango”

Dance as an act of kindness

Most of us would never think about taking a dance class as an act of kindness. Think though, for a moment how you got into dance. Maybe you were dancing ever since you were a child. Or perhaps you picked it up at a much older age. Maybe you went with a friend or because you wanted to make new friends. Or possibly to meet a special someone. Whatever your reason was, the decision to learn how to dance was satisfying a need, a personal need.

And that is where it all begins…

Being kind starts with you

Noticing your needs and addressing them is an act of kindness. And it doesn’t even have to be as serious as I am making it sound. Simply, feeling the need to do something fun or something new with other people, and addressing this need by going to a dance class, is an act of kindness.

Same goes with choosing how to learn and how to practice dance. Or in general how to progress in any movement practice. Learning how to respect and listen to your body and tend to its needs is an act of kindness. Understanding when it is time to pause and when it is time push and respecting those limits without feeling like your body is letting you down is an act of kindness.

As we age we need our awareness to grow so that we can still enjoy our life and so that we can keep learning and growing. Can we do what we did 10 or 15 years ago? Somethings certainly not. But consider all those things that turned out to be bad ideas; only you lacked the awareness to know back then. Or what about all those things that you wouldn’t even think of trying out 10 or 15 years ago because you lacked the experience and the imagination. Bottom line, we change. And if we want to keep enjoying life we need to be cognizant of that change and adapt.

Another act of kindness, adapting. And adapting does not mean giving up, it means recognizing your options and identifying moments of opportunity to create more options for yourself.

How dance helps us adapt

I am sure you can now see where all this is going. Dance, teaches you how to adapt and create options. Learn to hug versatility and variety because this is our environment.

So if your practice is not going well one day, take a step back, pause for a second. Every practice is never the same as the one before or the one after it. Maybe you are tired or preoccupied. Can you find a way to keep moving? Is “keep moving” even a good option for you in this moment? If not what could be a good option? Stillness? Ok! You can learn a lot in stillness as well.

See, our movement practice should run on kindness in order for us to progress or we will end up tired battling through every frustrating moment.

And that of course spills into our relationship with our partners. Now you may be working with one specific partner or this can be applied to a social setting, like a milonga, where you may be changing partners. In both cases, but especially in the latter, kindness always wins!

When things don’t work out, think of all the tough moments you have gone through and safely assume that your partner has been through the same. Don’t get judgemental, instead see if you can find or create options for yourself? This might actually be revealing to you. It may show you a different way to approach your dancing. Not simply offering different technique tools but offering THE technique tool!

Which is… Adapting! Or simply put, making do with what you got! A much kinder approach towards yourself and towards your partner.

Try it out next time you practice or go to a milonga, it is actually fun!

Chrisa

P.S: For more writings such as this, that go beyond technique tips, check out our book “It Takes You to Tango”

How does this song go? Singing through movement

Singing through movement, has been my latest attempt to explain what “just dance” really means.
It is funny but so many people say just dance but they don’t really know what that means or they can’t even execute themselves.

“Just Dance” Vs…

Usually if you ask someone to explain “just dance” they will start using other equally ambiguous advise, such as without thinking, or like no one is watching, or forget about the rules.

Why is this ambiguous advise?
Well in Tango, but this applies to other dances as well, especially when you are starting out, you need to think. Tango is a fully improvisational dance. That means you are on your own putting one and two together, while connecting with your partner and with the music.

Secondly, it is in a social environment, people who are not dancing, are watching. It doesn’t mean that they are being judgemental, at least not all of them (haha), but they are watching.

Thirdly, every class is on the rules. Technique rules, musicality rules, even rules on how you improvise and put sequences together. So it is very hard to forget them and just dance.

What I mean to say is that we might be fully understanding the meaning of all of these words but we have no plan on how to implement the advise. Which leads to a lot of confusion and frustration on and off the dance floor.

…”Sing through movement”

I am sure you have been in a situation where you are talking about a song you like but suddenly you can’t really remember anything about it. You can’t remember the title, the singer, the orchestra, the lyrics, nothing but only the rhythm. So if you tried to describe it to a friend you would probably say: “You know, it is the one that goes like na, na-na-na, na…”

haha
Well, singing with movement is exactly that. You do the “na, na-na-na, na” only not with sound but with movement. You are using your body to represent the music, as if you were another instrument of the orchestra. In the beginning of your practice, the movement can be small maybe a gentle shift of weight from one foot to the other but truly committed to delivering the music.

Then as you start making steps, stick with this concept. Instead of trying to come up with steps to match the music, practice letting the music move you in the room. We are not looking for elaborate footwork, in fact you can restrict yourself to walking only. The goal is to keep this quality, singing through movement. Making your whole body sing the song and not just your feet trying to execute steps.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: Here is a practice on musicality if you want to continue working on it.

Active couch potato – Are you one of them?

I love this! Active couch-potatoes! Haha
I found out about this “term” from a member of our community of Bautanz, when during one of our discussions they mentioned this article.

But why is this the title of our newsletter today?
Well one can simply think, well Tango is an activity, therefore if you dance and practice Tango you are not an active couch potato.
And I would agree this is definitely one aspect of it. But there is more to it I think, at least in my experience.

Dancing Vs Going to the gym

Comparing dancing Tango or any dance, to going to the gym there are three things that make dancing special. 

  • One is the social aspect of it, you create something with someone else, it is a joint effort that brings something to life in the moment.
  • Secondly, it is something special because you can’t replicate it, you do it there and then and after that no matter how many times you repeat the action it is never exactly the same.
  • And lastly, even in practice or even if you are dancing in your kitchen there is the pure joy of moving your body simply because you just feel like it. Not because you have to, not because you will get fit, not because it is healthy but just because. Pure joy, created by you in the moment.

There is a lot of value in that, I feel. And it can help us avoid being an active couch potato as well, if we allow for little moments of joy. Dance around, when a song you love comes up. Or when you are doing the laundry or the dishes or while waiting for the kettle to boil.

Create little moments of joy, anytime, anywhere..!

Chrisa

P.S: For more ideas on how to do visit our video library.