Tag Archives: it takes you to 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”.

I was almost right..! Is this the best way to communicate?

Communication some times can be tricky! Especially when it is in a dance where we mainly communicate in body language and not verbally.

So here is how this post came to be. It is actually a funny story though it involves a doctor, and it goes like this.
I met with a friend after her doctor had called to say that it wasn’t an emergency she needed to face after all. Only he didn’t say “I was wrong”. He actually said “I was almost right!” only he wasn’t right at all… haha
Good news for my friend and a very interesting situation for anyone working on communication skills.

Mis-communication in a dance

I am sure you have been in a similar situation, where the other person sort of admits they were wrong. Either by saying “I wasn’t entirely right” or even worse “I was wrong but you …. (fill-in the gap with something equally wrong you did)”

In dance the same verbal communication can take place sometimes but physical cues are more common. There can be a power battle between the partners. In such cases nobody enjoys the tanda even if they managed to get things to go their way.

The issue though is not to explore who is right and who is wrong in a given situation. The issue here is to see how we can communicate better.

So think of the last time, that you had this mis-communication with your dance-partner. Maybe it was a different perspective on the music, or they led something and you did something else or vice versa.
How was that expressed? And what happened next?

Where you pushing and pulling on each other for the rest of the song? Did you use some leading or back-leading trick to correct the situation? How did your partner respond? And did any of you accept responsibility? Did you let go of the tension and admitted in body language that the other was right?

It is not a very easy thing to do actually, especially as you are improvising. But maybe now, after the fact, you can explore the situation. There is actually a simple exercise you can do.
List 10 circumstances where you felt that you were wrong but instead you acted as if you were almost right. And then 10 circumstances where your partner was wrong and again they acted as if they were almost right.

It might subtle. And it could only have been for a moment and then you changed back to your ordinary sweet self..! 😉
But think back to uncomfortable or even painful dances you have had. Bring back to your memory nasty milonga nights, or frustrating practices and/ or classes. See if somewhere in there you reacted or you were faced with the attitude above.

How to communicate instead

Now as you know, I really like to share some practical advice to a problem. At least, share thoughts on options that one can explore in order to make their Tangos more enjoyable.

This is not an easy one, but I will do my best to share some thoughts. I hope you will find them helpful!

If you have the “It takes You to Tango” guide, you can find in there some tips on how to handle situations in the social environment of a milonga. This specific situation was not clearly included therein. There is though a note on leaving in the middle of the tanda. Let’s start from this “extreme” option.

As you will see in the book, from my perspective, leaving someone on the dance floor is to be reserved for extreme situations. Situations where you are in pain, or you are in extreme discomfort and you feel this is harmful to you.

Though it is not the option to use all the time, have it at your back pocket for emergency situations. Still though, there is a way to do it. No need for drama!
Simply saying “thank you” will do the trick most of the times. In the rare, you might need to add a “I need to take a break”.

Now lets look at other options, that may come a bit more handy

Here are a couple, from my personal experiences on the dance floor:

  • Firstly, especially if I am dancing with friend, I simply say “sorry”. Quite obvious but an easy way to communicate that I was wrong.
  • Once I realize a mistake, I try to get where my leader wants me to be in an embellished way. Adding a gentle giggle, if you are that kind of a person, can also work.
  • In cases where the other person has messed up, I usually follow the previous pointer. Making a little moment out of the mistake always releases the tension. Plus you might actually come up with a new move after some refinement.
  • Further to the above, when a leader actually whispers “sorry”. Respond with an embellishment or make something out of the “mistake”; it shows kindness.
  • Where we are not talking about a mistake but a necessary adjustment, for example speed or orientation etc. we need to keep the dialog open through the embrace. Leaders will need to listen to followers. Followers will need to be able to communicate a message to their leaders. For example, if you are about to bump into someone behind you. Followers use the embrace to stop your leader from taking a back step. Or if the leader is going too fast for you; use the embrace and maybe even an embellishment to show that a change in speed is necessary. Leaders listen to your followers!
  • For cases where I can feel tension building, because of lack of communication, personally I choose to let it pass. I prefer not to continue the power struggle so I adjust to make it work no matter who is right. Then when the tanda ends I can decide whether or not to dance with that person again.

So those are my ways to communicate with my partners. I am sure that you have probably discovered many others that have worked for you. The main element here though is when you are wrong admit it and work with your partner to fix it. When you are right don’t hold a grudge and work with your partner to fix it. Painful or uncomfortable situations excluded of course.

Chrisa