Tag Archives: Improvisation

Improvise to feel

Especially at this time where most places are facing another lockdown, we might be finding ourselves wondering why and whether we need to improvise and practice?

Why improvise here and now?

There are some very good reasons to list on why to improvise. To just name a few; we can practice sequences and leading-following, get comfortable with music and our technique and possibly become more expressive. All of that someone might feel are of little importance at the moment though, since we can’t really attend milongas. And I am saying “really” because now where there are milongas there is no partner change, there are restrictions in the number of people attending etc so we don’t really have much of a surprise… We know very well what to expect due to limited shift in partners.

So I get it, it makes perfect practical sense not to improvise, as it relates with the here and now. There is though more, which will lead us to why we need to improvise.

There is a psychological impact from all of this. Connecting through the web is great but not nearly enough. Trying to maintain relationships, friendships and interests is extremely difficult through the web. At the same time despite the fact that some of us have more time, if we don’t commute to work for example, that gets eaten up by stress and worry that is related to with being informed 24/7 by a machine and we need to step away… An endless cycle..!

I won’t therefore argue with anyone who would say that there is not much point in improvising here and now… For all practical and psychological reasons going on hike, doing fitness, yoga or meditation might actually be a better option. What I will do though is ask you to consider why improvise in general?

Why improvise in general?

I would like to suggest to you one other reason to improvise, to dance. And that would be to feel.

Yes, yes to feel! Not to express, not share but to feel! To feel our body moving, our temperature rising, our breath changing. Every part of our body, big or small, moves and has a voice can we feel it? Can we explore this magnificent body deeper, feel more, understand further? And then also look outward feel ourselves in space, and the space around us. Feel US in a totality!

Honestly, the video below is my first ever improvisational video with such context. All others, were made with other motives and reasons. This video it was part of an online class where we were exploring the role of fascia and the connective tissue network of our body. There are some qualities that this network has, that of continuity, fluidity, elasticity, tensegrity, qualities we all look for in our dance, or better said in our movement. Do we explore them though? Hardly ever unless we are in pain and we are forced to.

Going into this song, it was a mind shift though. It felt as everything was falling in place. Every part of my body had its own voice but all singing together in unison. There was even a moment where my arms were asking me to lift them and we actually had to have this conversation:
Arms: Let’s go up!
Mind: You want to go up? Up where?
Arms: Up and out, like about to hug someone or like in a sirtaki dance…
Mind: Are you out of your mind???
hahaha

Only half joking…it really happened and you can see how I slightly give in there and raise the arms. But that is when this idea popped into my mind, improvise to feel what it means to move, to be.

Something unrelated but extremely important for the here and now!

Take good care and DANCE!

Chrisa

P.S: You want some more on the matter, take a look here: https://www.gq.com/story/ido-portal-make-yourself-uncomfortable

P.P.S: We will have a new session of classes starting January 2021, subscribe to find out more

10min Tango practice on leg strengthening, alignment and side steps

Okay! Now there is tip-heavy video coming up on leg strengthening and alignment so I don’t want to take time here to give more tips instead I would like to use this space to suggest a few Practice combos; a few other videos that could work extremely well with this newer video so you can grow your practice

First things first though… Your video for the week…

10min Tango practice on legs, alignment and side steps

Sometimes 10 minutes are more than enough.
Especially when you are starting to build your individual practice it is better to start small and expand steadily as the time goes by.
Why?
Simply, because you are still unsure of what you need to work on, what you should focus on, what your strengths are, what you should invest more time in and how…

You also need to consider this: if you START with a 1 hour practice where are going to go from there?
How will you grow beyond that, when your body and mind starts asking for more..?

When you are building your practice therefore you need to make sure that your short-term goals are not shadowing your long-term goals.

If though you are ready to invest a bit more time here are few directions you can take your practice towards…

1. Focusing on leg strengthening and balance

Add on the video we were working from 2 weeks ago if you want to work more on leg strengthening and establishing a stronger base:

10min Tango Practice on legs and balance

2. Focusing on biomechanics–how our body was built to work

Many of the tips in our video for this week have to do with how our legs move inside our hips and our hips move around our legs.
Understanding anatomy through movement not only will give you greater freedom when you dance/ move but it will also allow you to get to know your body and yourself better.

So if you want to take it into that direction, you can add this video along:

Followed by this video:

3. Making it a well-rounded practice

Depending how much time you have and how much time you can spend on your Tango during the week, you can schedule your practices in two ways:

  1. Every day you focus on something different, ex: one day on legs and balance and the other on ochos
  2. You only practice a couple times a week and so you need to work on all the fundamentals in one go, ex:
    A 20min Tango practice on posture, walks and ochos
4. Focusing on musicality

You can even take this into musicality. Technique and musicality are not at all separate. Aside from the obvious connection–aka the stronger your technique is the easier it will be to focus on the music–there is a more physical connection as well.

How you step, how you twist, how you hold your body and overall how you move will allow you to express yourself differently on the music.
Therefore after this week’s leg strengthening video can do this one:

And then this one:

It all started with leg strengthening…. But you have many choices

We started with a video on legs and alignment and look at where we are now..! haha

You have so many options, the above are only a few examples of the plethora of options that you have.
It all depends on what you want to focus on, what are your strengths and what are shortcomings.
No option is better from the other. All of them have something equally important and interesting to offer you. So it is really up to you where you want to take this!

And that is the beauty of Tango overall..!
You start with leg strengthening but from there you can grow in many many different directions all of which will make you a much better dancer and most importantly a better human.

If you decide it is worth investing your time in moving better on and off the dance floor, Tango is a great dance for that. It is heavy on technique and it throws in your face the question:

Do you want to Tango only for fun OR do you want the opportunity to move freely, get to know your body and yourself better and even become happier?

If you want the latter you should also check this out: Intelligent Tango

Let me know how your practice is going and don’t forget to have fun while you are it!

Chrisa

P.S: I read every email so don’t hesitate to shoot me an email with your questions. If I don’t answer you right away, please don’t get offended… instead give me about a week max..! 😉

 

 

Embellishments that go beyond spicing

We’ve talked about sequences, we’ve talked about technique, we’ve talked about the embrace… so how can we possibly leave embellishments out of the game?

Many dancers look down on embellishments. They see them as fluff; as something secondary and unimportant.
Today though I will attempt to change their mind by using an embellishment to practice on:

  1. Balance
  2. Posture
  3. Timing
  4. Effortless movement
  5. Listening and connecting to our partner
Embellishments that go beyond spicing

The video is heavy on technique tips, tips on how to make this beautiful embellishment fit your dance as seamlessly as possible and tips on how to transfer the details of this experience into the rest of your dance.
So I will grab the opportunity to elaborate more on the hidden message of the video… which is NOT Intelligent Tango…haha… but the relationship that can be created between partners because of this and many other embellishments

When the specific embellishment is successful and spicy, there is a feeling of a slight delay in the pivot. It is not really a delay but a change in rhythm.
Here is why…
The leader drives the pivot BUT it is the follower’s free leg the comes rapping around first and then the actual pivot happens.
So leaders… it feels like your follower is stuck… but THAT stickiness will create the momentum, the power that we want for the embellishment to come to light!

How do we mess this up…
The followers are either exaggerating, slowing the pivot down and/ or they are not using the embrace to let their partner know they want to do something fancy with their feet.

The leaders on the other hand having not received any cue that something different is happening push their partners around because they think they got stuck on the pivot… OR if the follower did communicate her wish to do an embellishment, it is very likely that the leader didn’t hear it…

Tango is a partner’s dance

I heard me say it the beginning of the video as well.
I was thinking of doing a practice on embellishments but I wasn’t really sure which one to choose and how to structure the practice so we get massive knowledge from it.
So when one of my students of Intelligent Tango told how delighted he was by the support built in the program, that was gave me the idea to structure around which I structured the video.

In Tango we are building up a conversation and yet I clearly remember taking women’s technique classes where the teacher would focus almost exclusively on how to keep the action on the feet; how we block what we do with our feet from getting transmitted to our partner.
Why..?
So we won’t disturb the leader…

You can imagine what happened afterwards right?
Frustraaaation! haha

Followers trying to do embellishments without giving any indication to the leader that they are attempting an extra movement.
And leaders complaining that they didn’t know where the follower was and that they felt disconnected because of the embellishments
But the followers came back at them with: “You don’t give any time to do an embellishment!”

Unfortunately the leaders are right on this one…
How do expect for someone to give time for an embellishments when they don’t know you want to do one…?
If you don’t communicate with your leaders, they can’t possibly know you even need more time..!

Tango is a partners dance and there is needs to more than I give you the lead and you do it.
There needs to be support and understanding from both ends.
And for that to happen we both need to use the embrace not only to share a message but also listen to what our partner is telling us and provide comfort.

How can we practice on that through this embellishment
  1. Start with doing simple forward ochos–NO embellishment and notice the rhythm
  2. Add the embellishment and notice the change in rhythm
  3. After figuring out the rhythm and the footwork, focus on what the rest of the body is doing
  4. Do it against the wall and notice how the pressure in your hands is changing
  5. Use your breath to relax any tension you might be holding
  6. Practice both plain ochos and ochos with an embellishment with your partner. If you are a follower make sure that you let your leader know you are going to do the embellishment and if you are leader listen for the cue
  7. Share feedback with your partner and try again

Tango like any dance is based on communication. We all dance to share something with someone. We need therefore to find ways to practice becoming better in listening and in sharing!

Bring your NEW moves on the floor! (remembering sequences vol.#2)

Last week we were talking new moves, about the Art of Choreography and  the art of learning and remembering sequences.

The 6 six steps outlined in last week’s article focused more on helping you learn and remember new sequences and therefore they can help you build a strategy for picking up new steps faster and remembering them for longer.

Today we are taking this a step further…

Bringing your NEW moves on the floor

After being more strategic about how you receive and store the new knowledge coming in the form of steps… (haha)… sooner than later you will start noticing that picking up new moves is not the issue anymore… Building a great vocabulary will not be really a problem anymore…

What will be a problem is bringing all the new moves on the dance floor and integrating them with the routines and sequences you already.

Man is a creature of habit…

I am sure you have heard it said many times before… “Man is a creature of habit”… and like everything in life dance too is based on habits
Those habits will support effortless technique, mindful movement and of course creativity.
Though good technique might seem to be a very difficult habit to pick up on, I think creativity is much more challenging, simply because it pushes us to step out of our comfort zone and therefore make us feel exposed, weak, unsure, uncomfortable and even afraid at some level.

For these very reasons we will avoid 2 very common cliches:

  1. Just Do It! 
    Yes, you will need to take action at some point. Ideas and words will not take you there, you need actions. But having a recipe that you can follow instead of throwing in every ingredient available is also very important AND very comforting.
  2. Be present/ be in the moment/ don’t think
    It goes usually hand in hand with cliche #1.
    Though often times it is a good advice, unfortunately it only works for people who can by will erase the past– aka a very small percentage of people.
    Being creatures of habit our past strong affects our future. Habits being built over years and years of good and bad experiences, are very tough to break–and movement habits are no different. There are some people who can disconnect from the past and therefore redirect the present but personally I haven’t met one yet…

What we will do instead, is acknowledge where we are now and then start making tiny changes one step at time.

5 steps to help you bring NEW moves in your Tango

Starting with realizing where we are, what we are really good at and where we are lacking. And then building new habits around our strongest anchors!

  1. At a practica or at the end of a class, dance a couple of different–in style– songs and get it on video
  2. Write down the sequences those videos have in common. The sequences you used the most in all your videos. These are your anchors!
    The default sequences, the sequences that have become habits and therefore you do them without even thinking about them
  3. Choose 1 of those sequences… You will later add more to the mix, but start small
  4. Then during your next practice: Say: every time I do Sequence X(the one you chose) I will be doing Y right after it (Y being the new step you want to introduce to your dance)
    Example: After every giro I will be doing a colgada
    And actually DO it for the whole practica!
  5. When you start doing Y at free will, meaning without the need of the anchor–the old sequence you had it attached to–you can move on to another new sequence you want to include in your dance

Before you know your repertoire of moves will have grown immensely!

2 side notes that I think will be useful here:
  1. This whole process can be challenging and fun at the same time. Don’t let yourself get frustrated if you start practicing and you forget to do Y after X… haha… Laugh and start again!
    It is bound to happen. It will happen to everyone and the more annoyed you get the worse is going to be.
    So laugh it out and try again!
  2. I wouldn’t recommend doing this in a milonga, but not only for the reason you are thinking about–aka disrupting the flow of the pista.
    A comfort zone is called comfort zone for a reason… You need to be in a state of comfort to indulge yourself to other things that are important in social dancing such as: connection, musicality, the embrace…
    Allow yourself to find a place of comfort in a milonga, without having to think of anchors and steps.
    You will wear yourself down if you don’t allow time for pure fun!

Have fun and if you want more tips and drills and tricks, subscribe to our weekly newsletter..!

“Fun Is Good” Dr. Seuss

Chrisa

The Art of choreography– learning and remembering sequences

How many times does a teacher need to tells us…?
Tango is an improvisational dance. Remembering sequences is not important!

And yet here we are… in another milonga doing the same thing over and over again, dance after dance and getting frustrated!

The truth about improvisation in Tango

Just for the record, I want to say that I fully agree with you!

Now that we set the record straight…haha…
Why are talking here briefly about improvisation?
Because the first step to improvising is putting sequences together on the spot..!

Nike’s “just do it” doesn’t apply in milongas or better said it doesn’t apply in the beginning of any activity and for a long time after that…

I will say this though, with no intension to avoid the question, but only to provide some comfort…
In Tango you can do whatever you want as long as you can lead it or as long as you are following
Does this mean that we are in a deep chaos, with no beginning or end?
No, of course not!
It only means that doing something different than what you learned in class, is NOT wrong especially if the other person is still there with you… It is simply different
And it also means that you need to be a bit more courageous and try things, because very few things in Tango are actually wrong…!

You have already taken the big risk of walking into a class and starting something new. That is always a stressful moment, where we feel out of our comfort zone, exposed and vulnerable. But you did it!
You pushed through the taboos, the excuses, the time restrictions and you did it… Isn’t it only fair that you will allow yourself to have fun while growing and learning more and more things in activity you love?

This is therefore what I would like to inspire you to do…. to see that initial step as a big, as a HUGE step. To congratulate yourself for taking it and for not giving up. And lastly to realize that the hardest part of over and that now it is time to have some fun!

Then next time you make a mistake following the tips below, laugh it out and try again!
Learning and practicing Tango can and should be FUN!

Ok! Now it is time for some tips for learning and remembering sequences
  1. Identify the following categories of steps in Tango, as per Pedro Farias*
    1. Linear steps
    2. Circular steps
    3. Off- axis steps
  2. Based on this categorization, rethink of all the sequences you know and use often in Tango
  3. Break each sequence down to 2 parts:
    1. basic building blocks
    2. transition moves
      Your blocks or your transitions will be in one of the above categories–linear, circular or off-axis.
  4. Bring intention into the sequence.
    Try to understand why the teacher chose that block or that transition. You can do that in two ways–which actually work very well together

    1. ask the teacher why..?
    2. find the answer by trying other possible transitions or building blocks.
      Play with it to understand why it works the way it does.
      Lets use an example here… say part of a sequence is a back ocho, could you possibly do it with a back step, and if so, where would you end up on the dance floor?
  5. Practice the blocks and the transitions separately
  6. Practice the sequence itself and then practice the same sequence only with the blocks mixed up.
The Art of choreography

The plan above might not be the easiest-6-steps-to-remembering-sequences list, despite the fact that it works… Because though Bautanz was created to make the balance between practice-time and fun-time shift to our favour and therefore make our Tango life easier, I have and extra tip for you…

What does artistically remembering sequences stand for?
Meaning if “remembering sequences” is a skill what is the activity that is based on that skill?

… Learning choreography

Learning a choreography and dancing a choreography, is an activity based on “learning and remembering sequences”. Of course, there is more to choreography than remembering sequences, but this is a story for another article.
For now what is crucial to realize is that our brain doesn’t differentiate Tango steps from contemporary dance steps, for example.
It is all steps to be remembered and therefore exactly the same skill.

If therefore, you want to build on remembering sequences faster you need to add a choreography based activity to your schedule.
This way you are adding extra practice time on the very skill of remembering sequences, avoiding though the burn-out that focusing solely on 1 activity causes.

What kind of activity can you do..?
It can a choreography based dance class (contemporary, hip-hop, jazz etc), a cardio dance class, cardio Hi-lo class, a Zumba class or some types martial arts classes.
And if all of the above sound like too much… you can start with something simple and fun straight from Youtube in the privacy of your own home:
https://youtu.be/RzYegenvzRE

Have fun!
Chrisa
P.S: If you do use the video, follow Andy a couple of times, then try to do it without looking at your screen. When you can do the whole thing without taking a glimpse at the video, it is time for a new song!

“Find your passion. Find your love!” Veronica Toumanova

When I asked Veronica Toumanova what would be one phrase that she would like to write on a billboard she said to me:

“Find your passion. Find your love!” 

And then added a phrase of the great Eric Franklin:
“In dance the most important technique is the love of dance”

What I loved about my chat with Veronica Toumanova

You know between Toronto and Paris there is a time difference of 6 hours–they are ahead…! We got this chat set up for Sunday morning 8:30am… What you might not know is that I am not a morning person and that it was Greek Easter on Saturday so I got to bed rather early… in the morning…hahaha

If you are now thinking:
Boohoohoo! Poor Chrisa she didn’t get her beauty sleep..!

You are ABSOLUTELY right!
Because this lady gave me so much energy, so much inspiration, so much power and will and love that I am now empowered for months!

That is what I loved about our chat: her passion and her sharing personality, which I am sure all of you who have taken classes with her have already experienced.

So even though this is a bit longer than all the other Tango chats, I want to encourage you to listen to it, it will make time stop!

If you are looking for inspiration, for answers on why you are suffering in the milongas and classes, for how we learn and why you feel like you are progressing too slow and most importantly how you can keep going when the frustrating moments come..? Then I believe you won’t be disappointed.

So, click on the video above and enjoy!

Chat notes:

How you can reach Veronica Toumanova: www.verotango.com
or through Facebook: Veronica Toumanova
or through Tango Mon Amour: http://www.tangomonamour.com

Read her book “Why Tango”: https://www.amazon.com/Why-Tango-learning-dancing-argentino/dp/1517189470

El Corte milonga/ classes/ workshops: http://www.elcorte.com

Eric Franklin: https://franklinmethod.com