Tag Archives: Dance

Posture in Motion: Rethinking the Way We Walk and Dance

For some time now we have been trying to understand the cliche “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” and as you will see in my post, I am opposed to teaching people how to walk. This is one of the reasons why this Tango Movement Lab is by title about posture. But posture not as a static position, but as a weight -play that is elastic, full of bounce and flow. 
A class that looks at posture as we move, through different weight shifting exercises. So in a sense you will get exercises about your walk… haha… but you won’t be working on how you walk.

The Importance of Fascia

Why go through fascia?
Firstly, it is network that runs through our whole body and we can access it through touch as you can see in the video.
Also, healthy fascia, is elastic and well-hydrated. So, it gives you the support you need, while allowing you to maintain some level of relaxation.
That offers us an opportunity to look at our movement from a very different lens compared to the powerful quality that movement generated through muscles has.
By the way one is not better from the other. Just different.

Why the Superficial Back Line

The Superficial Back Line, is the fascia line that starts at our toes, covers the sole of our feet, runs up the back of our body, goes over our head and hooks up under our eyebrows. So our toes are connected to our forehead. And you can actually feel that through movement. How cool is that!!!

Maybe not cool at all for you…hahaha.
But think that connection for a moment and how it can reflect to a simple back or forward step.
The free leg swinging through, reaching for the step and your whole body is participating in that movement, without additional muscle tone! Now that must be at least a little bit cool! haha

Eat the apple!

What? haha
This is one of my favourite exercises!
One of my Axis Syllabus teachers first introduced me to it and I have been using it in my classes ever since. It is an easy way to find and explore the Superficial Back Line and it relates to a primitive memory that all humans share, aka reaching for an apple.
Even if you tried you wouldn’t be able to forget that… picking your food is what actually made you human..!
So it has a strong reference, it is relatable, easy to remember and most importantly you KNOW when you are doing wrong..! 
Plus, guess what, it leads to a step. See the apple, reach, grab, eat, move to the next one..!

Yeah, I guess we kinda worked on your walking as well..! 😉

Happy dances everyone,
Chrisa

Do You Trust Me?

I was debating whether we needed another post or if we could go straight to our Tango Movement Lab. I decided to throw this post in because I think trust is important to learning process. If you don’t trust your teacher you are not going to learn from them or your learning will be restricted to common knowledge aka something anyone can teach you, even simply Google.

Trust..?

Maybe you are thinking how is that related to decoding the cliche “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango”?
Well, it will help us decode every cliche actually.
When we get in a class, we are trusting that the person we have as our teacher at the very least knows what they are talking about and from there, our trust hopefully will grow.

That is actually why trials and offers exist; to remove some risk; 50% off on your first month; one class for free; Groupon coupons etc.

When they throw in a phrase that is confusing or a cue that is frustrating, a bit of this trust starts shake. 
“Do they really know what they are talking about? Do they really teach the one and only true Argentine Tango?” hahaha

Of course we don’t walk out the moment we hear a cliche but I think cliches and how they are handled are key to building trust.

Building trust

  1. When your teacher uses a cliche and you ask them for clarification like we had talked about when starting this series; how do they respond?
  2. Do they walk the talk? For example, if you ask them “What do you mean by “if you know how to walk, you know how to Tango!”. And they say: “Oh! I mean that you already know a bit of Tango, because Tango is based on walking” but then they turn around and start teaching you how to walk. That is a bit of problem!
  3. There is actually a system in their teaching. There is a structure that gets you somewhere by the end of the class. Maybe you don’t know exactly what the structure is or maybe you can’t even articulate what you got from the class, but you felt the difference.
  4. If they progress in their dancing, their teaching and their social skills.
  5. Do they diversify their learning?
  6. And last but not least, do they support the community by being honest and open. For example, when someone comes to me for private classes. I tell them what I am good at and clarify that if they want sequences I am not the right person for them. Then I recommend a colleague in my community. I don’t do it because I don’t like teaching people. I do it because I know what my strengths and what my colleagues strengths are.

So as you can see pointers 1-4 have to do with how teachers conduct the class and how they deal with cliches.

Trust is earned!

For teachers, even for your steady groups, trust should never be taken for granted.
I constantly think how we as teachers should respond to the above; and I have come up with a list. Hopefully some of the pointers will be helpful to you though some might not apply.

  1. Try to get more and more specific and clear in how you express yourself through words. I hope that you have noticed some progress in my writing through the years of following Bautanz. If not please let me know! 
  2. Give your students a high-level picture of what you will work on, at the beginning of the class. Then in intervals offer detailed information on the subject. I have found that this gives people the opportunity to see the underlying structure without tiring them out.
  3. Distinguish between personal preference/ habit/ structural inheritance and facts. For example, I have quite lax joints, and my knees hyperextend. I try not to let them but sometimes they will. I usually say Do not copy the teacher. This is my structural condition and most likely wouldn’t apply to you”.
    Compared to making it into a fact. For example: “To hold our balance when we step, we push away from the floor, engage the leg, pull the knee cap up”. This implies that this is how we walk generally. Well, we don’t, not in general.
  4. Diversify your learning journey. I take all sorts of classes, trying not isolate myself in Tango and fitness. Stay curious even though it can be tough to put it in your schedule.
  5. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to share. Sharing will allow you to also receive from other professionals, may that be in students or in knowledge.

All of this to say that next week we will have another Tango Movement Lab and I hope that you will show some trust in me and join me!

I will send out the details soon but until then keep on dancing!

Chrisa.

P.S: If you need some practice routines to play around with. Or maybe you are struggling with a mental iceberg, check out “It Takes You Tango” our ultimate practice guide for leaders and followers.

You know how to walk! Now it is time to play!

Lastly week, I think we established that we all know how to walk; which is great..! haha
So I am going to go ahead and say it, for the teachers or aspiring teachers in the Bautanz family, I think that we should not try to teach people how to walk.

There! I said it! ha!
It feels so good!  
Now I will tell you why.

We are all the same but different

Now after last week’s post, I got a couple of messages mainly from teachers saying that they are facing two key challenges;

  1. It is very difficult to teach how to walk and they spend a great amount of time on technique for that.
  2. Everyone in the group walks differently and so it is not easy to change their habits and to get them in sync in order to dance.

And this is the first reason why you shouldn’t teach someone how to walk.

Most of us are of the same “blueprint”; we have the same general “manual”. But for each of us is the manual is applied differently.
These difference can be structural, for example most of us have two legs but my femur bone might be longer than yours, or the arch of my foot might smaller than yours etc. 
The differences can be kinetic, for example, I might have greater range of motion; of course these difference might be related to the above.
But they can also be difference of perception, for example I might be afraid of getting hurt, ergo I am afraid of falling, and so my movement vocabulary is restricted to avoid anything that may result in me falling.

And these differences you might be born with or you may acquire through life.
For example, a ballet dancer like myself has a different structure and movement options compared to a professional horseback rider. Horseback riders develop a very strong interior thigh fascia which then makes them stand and walk in a slightly wider stance. Ballet dancers, have been taught to collect everything in and direct their intention upward.

So as you can gather dance groups are very diverse even when they don’t seem so!

Walking is a complex and complicated movement

On top of that walking is a complex and complicated movement.  
It involves the whole body, in triaxial multiplanar movement and it is based on multiple developmental patterns.
If for any reason, and they are many, any of these developmental patterns is inefficient our walk will be inefficient.

It might be because of the way we were handled at birth, or maybe as toddlers we were forced to stand before we were ready, or as adults we had an injury from which scar tissue has been created and it is inhibiting our movement.

What I am getting at is, that you can’t really teach people how to walk. Even if the issue at hand is glaring at you. You are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

This is therefore the second reason why you shouldn’t teach people how to walk.

Are you really teaching people how to walk?

But lets pause here for a moment and ask ourselves as teachers, do you think we are actually teaching people how to walk?

No!
What we are teaching, is a version of walking with someone that works best for us as teachers and matches our preferred Tango style. And with all the habits, preconceptions, preferences, struggles etc that we have.

Can you see now how frustrating this can be? 
I am hoping that you can relate at a better level with your students here, beyond than “yeah we all go through that”.

If we don’t teach “The Walk”, what do we do?

My suggestion is as follows;

  1. You identify as a Tango teacher not as a kinesiologist or movement professional, unless you have the training to do so. 
  2. Secondly,  instead of trying to teach some form of walk to your students, follow the cliche above and accept their walk is good enough.
  3. Thirdly, give them the opportunity to play. Start with anyone can Tango. Or you can walk and you can pivot ergo you can dance Tango, you can create the comfort zone your students need to be creative, to explore, to play. You can give them options to coordinate that play between them and have potentially a goal, but not in a restrictive way. This way you can actually inform the body through a Tango class and potentially achieve some repatterining of some old habits. Tango, has elements that can stimulate the lower level brain cells, that we talked about last week, responsible for automatic movements such as walking; for example, touch, vibration, the music, spatial coordination, moments of being off balance, sharing an axis, etc. This way it can be a fun but powerful tool for people to expand their movement diet and movement vocabulary.
  4. Lastly, technique classes, if you do any, should not be Tango technique, but movement technique applied to Tango. Again with a series of exercises that allow people to explore key movement concepts, such as balance, posture, alignment, yielding and more. Ending potentially with connecting thread back to Tango.
    Here you might need to educate yourselves prior to teaching someone else. This journey starts with us identifying what we need to work on first. Me for example, due to my ballet training and potentially genetics I am quite flexible, I had to work therefore in not letting my knees hyperextend.   

What should students do?

I know we talked a lot about teachers here. But here are my suggestions for those of us here who are students of Tango.

  1. Don’t think your teacher knows it all. We are all learning all the time. We are all teaching all the time. Similar to leaders follow and followers lead. Teachers learn and students teach.
  2. As we had said when starting this discussion over decoding cliches when things don’t make sense… ask! Politely of course..!
  3. As a by product of the above, do NOT copy the teacher. Teachers are or should be in their own processes, managing their movement options and choices based on their past and current bodily/ mental state. And the same goes for you. So explore the concept/ the movement/ the principle but don’t copy the teacher.
  4. Allow yourself to play! Playing is part of learning. A lot of the routines we have today were discovered by people playing, exploring, messing up and trying again. It can open up great channels of creativity and it is a lot more fun.

And that is it!
OMG! If this isn’t the longest email!

Ok! Get up from your seat and move around.
And stay tuned for our Tango Movement Lab get together coming up. I just need to fix the date for that.

See you soon,
Chrisa.

P.S: If you want to get warmed up for our Tango Movement Lab, you can take a look at “It Takes You to Tango”.

If you know how to walk, You know how to Tango!

How do you feel about that?
Because I can feel some eyes rolling..!
haha

I guess that is why some teachers decided to come up with a different cliche phrase, that goes somewhat like “Walk like you normally do“. Which doesn’t solve the problem because it is equally annoying! haha

This cliche is a bit of a challenge..!

I had a lot of trouble putting my thoughts in line for this one.
For a lot of students, hearing this phrase, is very frustrating and unhelpful. And I get it, you went to a Tango class, and first thing you hear is “if you know how to walk, you know how to Tango“, and by the end of the class you end up thinking, “I don’t even know how to walk!” haha

On the other hand though, there is actually some truth in this cliche. Remember cliches are cliches for a reason; they hold some truth.
All folk dances, are based on walking. From salsa and bachata to greek folk dances, all of them are some variation of our everyday walk. Tango is no exception, if you walk and pivot, you Tango.

Why is it then so frustrating?

I think mainly because all teachers try to teach people how to walk. And to make matters worse, they are teaching a stylized walk that fits to the specific Tango style they follow. 

So one moment they tell you “Walk like you normally do
And the very next, they go into styling; heels together, toes apart, squeeze this, pull that, and of course don’t forget to breathe..!

Needless to say this is not how you normally walk!

But this is not all…!

So you went to a dance school looking to learn to dance Tango and you ended up learning how to stand and walk in style..! 
What usually happens while this all takes place, is a little voice inside your head saying: “I know how to walk!”

And actually this is very true! And not because someone taught you but because it is what humans do.
Walking is an automatic movement; it is part of what we call “human”, we are built to walk.

As such, as Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen explains, “If we are consciously (high brain cells) having to deal with HOW do I fall, HOW do I walk, HOW do I talk, or keep attentive or chew or swallow or sleep, we are constantly thinking about survival and are not free to be really creative“. 

We don’t think about how we walk. It is a complex almost chaotic movement that involves the whole body. So we are dealing with a lot of information and movement patterns over movement patterns.
Again referencing Bonnie “In the brain we have a hindbrain, midbrain and forebrain. The lower the brain cell, the more information that cell and receives and processes. (…) When you try to control an automatic movement with high brain cells, the choice of which cell is going to fire off in which sequence is too great and the resulting action will appear awkward. If you simply find the lowest control centre, the response will happen automatically“.

This explains why this whole process feels very awkward and leaves no room for you to be creative and have fun.

How can translate “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” to something helpful?

Well, I think we have to look at the humble beginnings of Tango and also think of our future in it.
Meaning, as we said in the beginning, Tango is based on the common/ everyday walk and that is mainly why it can be danced by all generations.

To me that is what that phrase really means. No styles, no fanciness but only two people moving together. 

And I am going to tell you a story to prove my point. 
In a milonga that I was organizing, here in Toronto, some time ago, and different people are there dancing, at we are having a great time.
It was the only milonga my father ever attended. He is not a dancing kind of guy.
At the end, as we are walking out, my dad goes to me: “From all of you, the couple I liked the most, was this elderly couple. They had such grace, and comfort and pleasure in their movement. They were really just walking around, not like the rest of you doing all these moves, but they were deeply sharing the moment. It was beautiful!”

So if you are going to use the cliche “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” you have to really do it!
Forget about styling and start working with what you have..!
Put it to the test, see what happens and we will soon be back for more!

Chrisa

P.S: If you need some practice routines to play around with. Or maybe you are struggling with a mental iceberg, check out “It Takes You Tango” our ultimate practice guide for leaders and followers.

The Secrets of the Embrace

Let’s dive into a topic that’s fundamental yet often elusive in the world of dance: connection. In our recent discussions, we’ve been exploring the phrase “Relax to Connect” as a key to unlocking the mysteries of this essential element. So, what does it really mean to relax and connect? And how does it apply to our movements, particularly in dance forms like Tango?

First things first, let’s break down the concept of relaxation in dance. When we talk about relaxing, we’re not talking about slouching lazily; instead, we’re referring to reducing muscle tension, lowering our muscle tone. It’s about finding that sweet spot where we’re grounded and present, yet open and receptive to our partner.

Relaxation through fascia

In our recent Tango Movement Lab workshop, we delved into the idea of relaxation through exploring fascia. Now, you might be wondering, what on earth is fascia? Well, think of it as a multi-layered web that runs throughout our entire body, encompassing muscles, organs, and everything in between. By tuning into our fascia and embracing relaxation, we can tap into a whole new realm of connection.

But why focus on fascia?
Because it’s the key to understanding how our bodies move and interact with one another. Fascia plays a crucial role in facilitating communication between different parts of the body, making it essential for creating seamless connections in dance.

During our workshop, we delved into the four fascia arm lines, which provide a roadmap for exploring the connection between our hands, arms, torso, neck, and head. And for us Tango dancers, this will form the ultimate connection space: the embrace.

The Secrets of the Embrace

So, what are the secrets of the embrace? Well, it’s all about finding that balance between relaxation and engagement, both within ourselves and with our partners. By cultivating a sense of ease and openness in our movements, we create a welcoming space for our partners to join us. And when we explore the arm lines, we’re not just embracing our partners physically; we’re inviting them into our space.

But the key for me here, is to help you build those two levels of connection. One within you and one with another person.
Especially the last arm line that we are exploring, I think we call actually it, the “embrace” line, at least unofficially. It is how we can give fully devoted hugs, bringing the other person into our space. So, I encourage you to take what you’ve learned and experiment with it—whether you’re practicing solo or with a partner. And don’t forget to share your insights and “light bulb” moments with me; I love hearing from you all!

So, until next time, keep on moving and keep on connecting!

Cheers, Chrisa

P.S: Before I sign off, a quick reminder: our workshop operates on a “Pay from the Heart” basis. If you found value in our session and are able to contribute, your support is greatly appreciated. Every little bit helps us continue our mission of spreading the joy of dance far and wide. You can do that through email transfer at: chrisa.assis@bautanz.com or through PayPal.

P.P.S: And if you’re hungry for more knowledge about fascia and its role in movement, I highly recommend checking out the work of Thomas Myers author of Anatomy Trains. It’s a treasure trove of insights that will deepen your understanding of the body and its interconnectedness.

Relax to Connect

In our last post we were talking about how we can decode the cue “Just relax and feel the connection“. 

Remember what we said for most advice, under “The Nike” category? That cues and advice under this category, would have been really good advice if only they didn’t come with “just”.
And my first suggestion was for you to remove the word “just” and then re-examine your options.
This is what we are doing here, today. 
Instead of “just relax and feel the connection” we are saying “relax to connect”.

Relax to Connect

Why relax to connect?
Because in order to connect you need to relax. So it is a cue indicating to you how you can effectively connect..!

Relax, does not mean letting go. And does not mean giving up. Nor does it mean being heavy.
I know this might sound odd, but refine relax for the context of dance to mean, having less tone.
So if you have your weight on one leg, the other leg will not have the same tone as the one holding your weight, it will be looser, aka relaxed.

Are we talking about less tone in general?

Yes and no.
In general allowing for a lower muscle or postural tone, would allow you to tap into other systems of the body, such as the nervous system, it gives you the opportunity to do a quick check-in if you like. Also, as you are moving maintaining a lower tone, will give you the opportunity before further engaging the muscles and the bones, to wake the fascia and therefore experience the interconnectivity of that web. The fascia covers our whole body, goes around and through our organs and through the different layers of your muscles.
So exploring this web you are already exploring connection.

It would be a great way to start a dance, especially if it is the first tanda of the night, or if it is with someone and you need some time figure each other out.

One limb versus the other
In the example above, we compared one leg versus the other in terms of tone. This is an approach special to the Axis Syllabus Research Meshwork, where we noticed that though in most dance forms both legs or both limbs have the same tone, there are significant benefits of the free one being of lesser tone.
 
Why is that?
For various reasons, some of which are:

  1. Because if the tone of the free leg is lower it will achieve centration in the hip-joint.
  2. It will give you extra power in your step, without you working harder, as it swings through with its weight.
  3. And it allows you to negotiate better where your next step is going to be. So if for example someone pushes you, your leg can swing to a spot to catch you from falling.

Now, joint centration… What is that?
Let’s stick with the hip joint. There you have the acetabulum, which is concave and looks like a little hat. And then you have the femur head, which is like… yeah… a little head..! 
Centration, is when the hat covers the biggest portion of the head, here is a picture to give you a better idea.
(picture borrowed by orthoinfo)
So when you relax the tone of your leg and you don’t keep it in a specific position it will look for this head-in-the-hat configuration. 

Connection

And just about now I am sure you are wondering… how is all this related to connection..!
One first level answer, is that because of pointer #3 above, aka being able to negotiate your every step, you will be more adaptable in your dance, able to respond faster because your leg swings over and you can avoid that “freeze” that we sometimes get when we are caught off guard and feel that we are loosing our balance.

But this goes deeper. Because connection starts within you.

There are three ways to move a joint, distally, proximally and centrally.

  1. Distal movement, moving the far side of the joint. Let’s say in the hip, dial movement would be bring your leg straight up.
  2. Proximal movement, moving the near side of the joint, in this case if you bend in the hip.
  3. Central movement, when you move both parts together, so in this case if you bend in the hip as you bring your leg up.

Here is an image, borrowed by the Axis Syllabus Human Movement Lexicon, showing the three options, using the wrist as an example, with the grey lines showing the movement; just to give you a better idea.

Distal movement, tends to isolate the body parts moving from the rest of the body. Proximal and Central movement tend to integrate the moving parts with the rest body, with Central movement achieving the greatest integration.

If you try the central movement of the wrist you will notice that your whole body is moving, and the movement is much much easier.

And if you are wondering if this is a coincidence… no it is not!
Central movement, requires the centration of the joint. So for your hip joint, the hat needs to cover the head as you move. 
With central movement we have full-body integration. So your centrated, relaxed, swinging leg speaks to your spine, to your torso, to your arms and through all that to your partner.

And this is why, you need to relax to connect 😉

Because all this can be better understood through movement, our next online Tango Movement Lab is next  week, Sunday March 17 at 3 pm.  I will send you all the details closer to the date.

Until then you can use this video to practice: “Upper and lower body coordination – The key to happy dances”

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!