I see movement as an ocean where we can’t see the end in length, in width or in depth. We choose one or more movement practices and we start exploring, be it dance, fitness, yoga, martial arts, you decide.
Tango is my chosen way of exploring movement and in understanding my body. Fitness for me comes next and by adding the perspective of strengthening is a strong component in this system of body awareness. I know many people who feel this way for Yoga and Tango, or Tai -Chi and Tango for example with different added perspectives of course.
Movement the connecting thread
The connecting thread between all movement practices is movement itself, movement technique, movement understanding and then body, self and human understanding. With the latter being for me the greatest achievement… but we will get back to that a bit later..!
So movement technique, not Tango technique. Tango is a dance style and as all dance styles has multiple styles itself with some common elements but many different characteristics. To teach therefore all the characteristics that make Tango…Tango… I dive into biomechanics to see how our body is built to move and create these characteristics. To this very thing Fitness comes in to help.
Let’s see posture for example; but lets look at posture not as a pose but as a movement. I bet you can see the common thread with Tango in the pictures below..? 😉
I would like to share with you, the latest Live Tango practice as well as the latest Exercise of the Week as examples of Fitness and Tango!
As you will see it is not some crazy hybrid of the two…haha… on the contrary the two practices keep their grounds and are clearly distinct but the common thread is revealed as well! 😉
And I am sure that if there are any two movement practices you follow, you can find, with some exploration and some digging, the common ground. Then you will feel great power, a force revealing so much more to you about your movement, about your body and human nature and therefore about the other.
This is something I had felt myself but recently one of the members of the Bautanz community shared with me as well as their experience. After a certain time of digging wider and deeper comes a deeper understanding about our partners and other people we share the dance floor with. We listen and observe more but also show more compassion for the other. Through understanding ourselves we understand our partner, we understand our fellow dancers, we understand the world.
How can one-size-fits-all apply in a social dance setting when we all unique in terms of body type, age, fitness, cultural background etc?
A great question!
After our mid-week Tango practice on Wednesday I a question via Youtube that I felt it is an excellent question for us to discuss how different body types can or cannot fit in certain Tango rules; and overall how the one-size-fits-all doesn’t quite work in social dancing.
Following is the video, from our practice and the question right after that, lets see:
“Chrisa, something that no one ever talks about, and I can’t get non fat dancers to understand, are the techniques needed by the fat dancer. Now, I do not use fat as a bad word, I reclaim it, and refuse to make it synonymous with wrong. And also, I need to accommodate my roundness. It is soawkward to be in class, and have an instructor remind me not to swing a hip, not to arch my back, when the real reason I do these things is because of my large belly. When you have substantial thighs, it changes your stance, collection, even the ability to flick a swift secada. I realize this is off topic from your video, but do you have any insights for the fat dancer? Tricks to maintain tango posture when you have extra curves to work around? Thank you <3″ F.L
The truth of the Style Vs The truth of the Dancer
I want to thank again our commenter for this question and dissect the matter in two parts:
Diversity of styles
Biomechanics Vs Tango Style
Diversity of Styles
There is an unavoidable conflict between the truth carried through by the rules for each style and the truth stemming from the dancer’s experience. Of course there are many ways to train dancers to perform and look a certain way, many types of dance achieve that, with ballet being one excellent example. However there are certain expectations to be met by all ballerinas in terms of looks, body structure and analogies. This is why there are certain restrictions apply in terms of age, body type, body shape, fitness etc. That is also why the choice to follow a career as a professional ballet dancer happens very early in one’s life when the body and character are very adaptable to change. That is also why ballet dancers retire at a very early age.
Social Tango is not like that though. Quite the contrary it is dance that is danced by 90 year olds with very different body analogies, with loss in muscle etc etc. So would we say for example that Oscar and Nina are bad dancers?!?! I highly doubt it! See them in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQotX3sFahI
So as I perceive it, a style is a place to start learning but then we have to take into account the the experience of our body. And those two things are equally important and equally true. Everyone of us is unique in some way, and that uniqueness needs space, a lot of space in a social dance.
Biomechanics Vs Tango Style
We can’t judge a style, a style is based mostly on aesthetics. It is a design. A beautiful design but still a design that one person or a group of people came up with based on their personal goals, experiences, expectations and so on. So it wouldn’t be possible nor fair. But we can judge movement based on anatomy and biomechanics. Then each of us can make an informed decision whether you want to pursuit a specific tango style despite the possible strain or risk due to inconguence with anatomy and biomechanics.
So firstly, based on anatomy and specifically the structure of the human skeleton in order to balance the forces going through the joints and to have an effective distribution of weight when standing on two feet, the placement of the feet should be such to support the hips. Having the feet together 100% doesn’t meet that requirement since the pelvis flairs outward. Similarly, the flair of the feet, meaning the turn out, depends on the structure of your hips, how wide or narrow the hips are. So overall some people will have their feet closer together, not though fully connected, than others and also for some people the turn out will be bigger than others.
Walking and biomechanics
Now when we walk our hips are not supposed to be square, they are supposed to swing, it’s scientifically what we call: locomotion. And it is not the only movement happening in our hips when we walk. In fact walking involves the whole body and the more chaotic it feels the more efficient it most likely is. There is the “C” shape movement we talked about in our practice session and there is also a wave in the spine. You can see all of this here:
Can you stop all this from happening ? Sure you can! But why would you? If you actually look a little closer and dig a little deeper, these movements actually help you connect with your partner in much more efficient way..! You can see it in our previous practices here: https://bautanz.com/online-tango-practice/
And of course along with all that goes posture and centre of gravity. Your posture changes depending on what action you wish to perform. As you can see in the video above maintaining a specific upper body position works against your intention to walk forward or backward and would therefore require more muscle work to make it all happen. Lastly our center of gravity, will be different depending on the shapes we create or have in our bodies. It is not a fixed spot and how could it be? By physics that would be impossible.
My suggestion to you
If you have learned Tango now spend some time learning your body through movement. Understand how one thing relates to the other, what kind of relationships they have and what kind of movements they create due to those relationships and structure
Start learning about your body to better dance with/in/through it. Understanding how our body was built to move for me is the number one step to take when you really want to free up your social dance but also when you want to structure your dance training knowing, acknowledging and weighing in the risks you take compared to the choices you have
So do you WANT to practice? I am not being sarcastic or playing any tricks nor have I prepared a crazy Tango bootcamp practice routine… I am really asking.
Everyone says you HAVE to practice… We even have the appropriate cliches for it: “Practice makes perfect” Not to mention the set mastery time frames: 10,000 hours to mastery
Nobody has stoped to ask: Why aim for perfection? Why aim for mastery? What is the purpose in aiming and practising for those things? Especially now in this world that almost everything seems to have been put on pause!
I feel a shift, a very strong shift in what we call practice in what we mean by practice.
Practice has almost lost its meaning… but it can get a different meaning, different substance and presence in our lives.
Before we were practicing to enjoy our dances more, to be more free and creative on the dance floor… to be more confident in the milongas. To dance more. To become better dancers.
Not much point in all of this is there? And this is sad and strange… So I think that our practices now, can truly help us BE Be more patient , more present, more grounded, more focused, more calm, more ready Can help us keep moving and keep growing despite the haul Become aware of what the human body is about… what it can do! Fascinating!
We can’t dance with others. But we can dance with ourselves. And that will make us that much better when the time comes to go back out there and really HUG!
I suggesting you practice to be more YOU. Spend this time practicing and really enjoy moving. Use this time to throw away the stress and the insecurity by establishing a strong body awareness. Now that every little thing in our lives has changed, we can take a few moments every day, to find peace in what has been here with us for million of years and that is a body through motion.
You don’t need to practice. You need to invest! Invest in yourself!
It takes a few years for us to find a good structure for our Tango practice. In the beginning we just do what we did in a class or a workshop. Then we get together with friends and practice different figures probably attend guided practicas Some of us will keep practicing in some way or form but most will most likely stop after a certain period time. Interestingly enough in both cases we will reach the same sticky point which is the moment we realize what we have been or have not been doing, serves us no more and that we are officially stuck!
How a Tango practice works
I have found myself stuck a couple of times, feeling that I am making no progress whatsoever. And it is only recently that I realized that for a practice to work it can’t just be plain repetition of steps and rules.
Cognitively understanding and executing steps and being able to perform well in Tango are two very different things.
And so here in Bautanz we invite you to start looking for efficiency in your movement while practicing instead of reviewing rules
Why look for efficiency?
One obvious reason is saving ourselves from unnecessary hardship, injury and pain. The road to efficiency though goes through understanding the structure of our bodies and becoming aware of the way they are built to move. Our practice therefore doesn’t start from the end result but from the structure of the human body.
I know this probably sounds like a lot of work and as matter of fact, it is! However, if you feel that you haven’t found your personal style in Tango; that something just doesn’t fit; or that you are stuck or missing something…wouldn’t it make sense to assess your own body and build your practice on the finding of that assessment?
Every one of us has a slightly different body, so what makes more sense: 1. a one way fits all or 2. identify unique strengths and limitations and build on that
I believe it is the latter… and so the videos above and below are created as suggestions, as ideas. They are based on biomechanics. And they are here as starting points for you. Hopefully as you move more and learn more you will be able to put together practices that better serve your own expectations and needs.