Tag Archives: intelligent tango

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”.

Buoyancy in Movement

Describing buoyancy is not a straightforward task. It’s something that can be felt or observed in the quality of movement, but putting it into words is challenging. However, if I were to attempt it, I would say it involves a sense of support, fullness, smoothness and confidence.

Last week we were talking about alignment and balance. This week I wanted to share some drills that will allow you to explore buoyancy and observe how it manifests in the person’s body on screen.

Observing Buoyancy

I first wanted to share with two videos that will not only give you some good exercises to work on but also the professionals performing them are inspiring movers that make buoyancy evident, even through video.

  1. Basic Spinal Wave
    Presenting a fantastic video featuring Ido Portal, where he explores movements on the sagittal plane. In this short yet impactful video, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to the spinal wave, followed by a demonstration by Ido himself. This drill can be immensely helpful in rebuilding your posture. Consider also, watching the end first to witness the magical smoothness of his spinal wave, and then follow it up with the step-by-step section. Enjoy the journey!
  2. Building Vitality, Strength, Flexibility, Flow, and Ease through Embodying Our Muscles
    This is a full online class from one of the most charismatic and influential movement professionals, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. In this class she explores muscles with us. There is so much more to muscles than resistive exercises and stretching! Muscles have their own inner world and interrelationships that, when explored, open up another way of knowing and experiencing movement. Embodied movement at this level gives us a path to directly connect with the ‘mind’ of our muscles and provides a dynamic foundation for brain-oriented, consciously-directed movement.

Tango focused exercises for you to practice

  1. Back Ochos–ONE powerful drill
    In this video, we’ll be honing in on one essential aspect in our ochos—the spine.
    Sure, movement can be complicated and intricate, but it’s precisely this intricacy that gives it that deceptively simple appearance. By taking it one step at a time, we’ll begin to unravel the complexities, gradually making sense of how all the pieces come together harmoniously. So, let’s focus on the spine and unlock its potential!
  2. Musicality, Breathing and Posture
    This is live online workshop from August of 2022 where we focused on musicality, breathing, and posture. Our mission here is twofold: first, we aim to explore and establish the fundamental relationship between these three themes, and secondly, we want to equip you with the tools to create practice routines that seamlessly combine these different elements.
    When we’re just starting out, it can be challenging to craft a practice session that incorporates multiple themes and also fits into our busy schedules. That’s where this video comes in handy, as it’ll provide you with some valuable insights on how to achieve that balance.

As a side note, all the exercises we used in the last video above were borrowed from the book: “It Takes You to Tango – The Ultimate Guide to Tango Training for Leaders and Followers.” In this book, you’ll discover a wide array of videos supporting two chapters of Tango drills. But that’s not all! You’ll also find helpful tips on defining your level and goals, setting up a schedule, overcoming any barriers that might be hindering your progress, and even learning social skills and milonga etiquette.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

Dance to share our humanity

Dance, is probably not one of those things your financial advisor would list as something necessary. And generally Art does not appear high in the charts of things we need to survive. And yet history, but also experience, teaches us otherwise. Art brings us close together, allows us to form communities and to identify all as one, strong human nation. And that is very powerful, once we find the courage and grab the opportunity to share our humanity.

Dance to share

All types of dances and all types of art forms have this power, to bring people together. This is why, for example, juntas in the past would burn books, prevent songs from getting produced, ban theatre productions, even stop people from simply getting together for a celebration.

Especially though the forms of art that relate to folk traditions, and Tango is a great example of that, seem to be even stronger because they are created by more people, they are accessible to more people and generally involve more people. And dance itself being a language that involves the body, gives us the opportunity to communicate and relate to one another in a much more direct way, if of course we don’t get lost in translation.

The question though is what exactly do we share? And this, has been a question that I have asked myself many times, because I think it has a lot of layers to it and the answer changes as I grow, in age and in dance.

So at first I was thinking like a special snowflake, that my dance should be showing MY perspective, MY view of Tango, of dance, of the world. (nothing wrong with that by the way)
As time went by though, I noticed that the above grow smaller, along with the need to prove myself. And I was more interested in sharing the moment.
Sharing the moment, though, means coming in to listen and to respond; building a conversation. This conversation will be painted in the colours me and my partner bring in with us. Colours of experience, of memory and of the senses. Colours that we may not even be aware of. And we trust each other, to receive those colours with care. And this is how art grows.

When presenting to an audience, either in performance or in a class, I share my colours with the audience or the students, along with colours I have managed to absorb from predecessors of the art I am representing and the art I am bringing with me. And then that group of people will need to match me with their colours. As I trust them, they need to trust me and their partners. And this is how art grows.

What does it mean to share?

So what does it mean to share? It means to trust and to be vulnerable. Inevitably if you wish for a dance form not to feel foreign to you, you need to be ready to trust and therefore create this fine balance between being vulnerable and setting expectations for your audience, your students, your teachers, your partners. Because if you don’t have expectations from them what are you trusting them with?

And the level of expectation is built along with the trust and grows along with the sharing. “Sharing means caring” as they say. It is a cliche but you know what, cliches are cliches for a reason. Any dance, any art form received with care can become universal, can move the whole world. And it all happens through us, through me and you.

How we get to share?

Well, the first obvious choice, for those of us in dance, is of course to dance. And in more general terms, to participate in the reproduction or the spreading of the art form we are involved in.

But there is also another element. The element known, in the circles of Somatic Dance and Body Mind Centering, as holding the space for our partners. In Tango this happens in the classes when you hold the space for your teacher or your partner to keep exploring certain elements with you.

But also it happens in the milonga. And maybe you have heard many teachers say this, that Tango is not just the steps or the specific patterns; Tango is the music, the history, the community, everything. Tango grows and flourishes in milongas only if the people present, hold the space for it to grow.

Only if the people present are not there, just to do intricate steps on the music, but to be with the music, in their community, being there for their partners on and off the dance floor. When we are not dancing, we are not wasting time, for Tango to grow in our communities we need to hold the space.

The importance of dance and art in general in our lives

Can we live without art? Sure I guess we can. But it would be dreadful and lonely life.

Some people who have been to Buenos Aires, have experienced this holding of the space in some milongas. They come back and are trying to explain how it was magical but they just can’t find the right words. And the truth is, it is not easy to explain the feeling. But if I had to, I would say, it feels secure, grand, and full of possibilities. Possibilities though, that don’t feel out of reach. No, on the contrary they feel so close to you because you have the whole community backing you up. Magical!

So, I have changed my mind… no! we can’t live without art. It would mean forgetting we are human.

What do you think?

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”

What do we call balance?

We often say, I need to work on “balance” or “I can’t keep my balance”. And when we actually go ahead to practice we start with standing on 1 foot, maybe doing embellishments with the free leg or coming up on our toes and holding.

Therefore when we say balance, we mean being able to hold ourselves still in a specific position for a long period of time.

Balance Vs Stillness

Creating a hold or simply being still, is that the same as being balanced?
Well… not necessarily! Because we might able to be still but the main volumes of our body may still not be balanced. For example, we might be hunched over, with our hips tilted back and our chin protruding forward. Try it… it is a very common pose! haha

This comes to show that still does not necessarily mean balanced.
So what is balance? Or better yet what are trying to balance?

We are trying to balance the forces running through our body, so that our movement can be efficient and safe. In this context if we actually would like to hold, balancing the 3 main volumes of our body, head, torso and hips, can lead to a comfortable efficient hold instead of a trembling/ troubling structure.

What are the cues that we are in balance, aside from we don’t feel in any key joint such as the hip joint?

  • We feel relaxed but at the same time
  • Ready to move and we also
  • Notice that our breathing is not inhibited and therefore has a comfortable flow.

And what would be the benefit of such an approach?
Aside from creating safer and more efficient movement, it will allow us to be more aware and also it will allow us to focus on balance while moving and not while holding. Holding can helpful and such an approach can help you in creating efficient holding too; however if you are practicing dance it is necessary to practice balance while moving.

This is exactly what we are working on in our latest workshop. Try the recording, and let us know how it went!

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: For more on tips and drills visit our Technique Page

Don’t forget to breathe..!

“Don’t forget to breathe!” I love the absurdity of this phrase..! 
Honestly, how did this become a cue I wonder..? haha
Have you tried to hold your breath through a pose during yoga for example..? Unless you are a very good diver, holding your breath could only last a few torturous seconds and you would definitely know! 

Can we forget to breathe?

You can’t really forget to breathe. Because you don’t need to remember to breathe, you simply, automatically do. If you are holding your breath you also know, it is very clear, intentional and obvious. So what do they mean by that cue?

My take on this is, when we are holding a position or when we are overthinking something our breathing may be inhibited, meaning it might not be as efficient as it could be. As such every action feels effortful, straining and draining.
For example, if you pull your bellybutton in then your ribcage can not expand and move upward with every inhale and so your breathing will be inhibited, your inhales will be shallow and you will feel as if you are holding your breath. 

It is not really therefore that we forget to breathe, but other movement choices may be coming in the way of efficient and effortless breathing thus creating that feeling of a hold of breath.

What can we do to change that?

With this explanation in mind, we can start looking at the movement patterns of breathing and allow for those movement patterns to inform our posture and our movement as a whole. This way our breathing will flow and we will feel supported by the renewed energy of every breath.

To support this approach our cues will also have to change. The cue “don’t forget to breathe” though it might come handy some times, reminding to pause and breathe fully, it is addressing the issue causing the inhibition. It needs therefore to be replaced by a cue addressing posture and movement options. The quality of our breathing can actually be a new cue in it of itself. As you are practicing notice your breathing; are you feeling that your breathing flows effortlessly uninhibited? If not try to find the right adjustment in your posture and movement to free the breath.

Chrisa

P.S: Interested in a breathing and posture workshop, check out this video

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