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!
Dancing… Most of us think of it just as a social activity of a recreational nature. Something we do to spend some good time with friends, to learn something new and to have fun while introducing some moderate (not always) movement in our schedule. Right..?!? Yes and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!
Now think about dance in this last year. Are you taking classes online? Did you go to under-the-radar milongas or social gatherings? Do you dance every hour to a random song you hear on the radio like I do..? If not do you miss dancing? If so has your perspective of what dance is here for, change through this experience?
The social aspect of every dance stems from within
Personally, I haven’t missed dancing as an activity because I still dance. But I have missed sharing the moment and creating something in the moment with someone else. And also the process of getting there, trying to understand my partner, trying to be honest, sharing and empathetic at the same time. This is irreplaceable!
Attending classes online and also offering classes online though made me shift or better said deepen my understanding of where all of the above comes from… and that is, from within each and everyone of us.
Spending some time understanding the human body, your body, through movement, will allow you to better understand yourself and then the other person, the human community and the world as whole. Coming from a place of understanding you can be more empathetic and sharing.
Dancing in the time of the pandemic
Though dance can surely not make the problems magically go away, the fact that we can feel more in control of our movement and our body while reducing stress and tension, can surely make us feel a lot better.
And this is where the dancer in me reaches out to the dancer in you! Keep moving! Keep exploring and learning about all the things that make you, YOU! How you breathe and how you can breathe more freely Or how you walk and how you can walk with more ease Are you holding your head in a position that pushes your whole body out of balance? You know which one that is… zooming into the computer screen! haha And how you move to mitigate the impact of that
Dancing can help us look within, and understand what makes us…us; in the most free, comforting and comfortable way possible. I am not sure if this is just me, but I really need this! And I hope to be sharing this with you tomorrow and every Wednesday at the Tango Movement Lab happening live through Facebook and Youtube at 12:15pm Toronto time. Nothing is required other than you willingness to dance!
Rhythm, for some is something effortless and fun and for others a constant effort and frustration. And the truth is that the fact that it is in us all, doesn’t make it any easier to identify.
But lets take things from the beginning…
What is rhythm?
Rhythm is not the beat of the music or dissecting a music phrase in 7, 9, 11, 4 or 8s and it surely is not steps on a beat, like choreography. All these are methods to explore rhythm but neither of them is rhythm in itself.
I would like to suggest that we explore rhythm as a relationship between direction, velocity and distance. And that relationship is affected by mass, inertia, impact, energy we like to spend, shapes we want to create etc. Let’s look at some examples:
elements moving in the same direction at the same time
elements moving in opposite directions at the same time
elements moving in the same direction at an alternate time
elements moving in opposite directions at an alternate time
repetition which is inherently rhythmical
Practicing rhythm therefore will need to allow us to further explore and become more aware of those relationships; that are more relationships with world and not only with a specific song.
How to practice rhythm
For the month of March, as part of our Movement and Mindfulness workshops, we explored rhythm as described above and so thankfully I have a 1hr video to share with you, that can lead you through explorations on rhythm and hopefully inspire you to come up with your own explorations as well!
I would suggest you spend some time exploring these symmetries with your arms as it is easier compared to working with legs. Also work for a bit without music before you add your favourite music to accompany you. And you can work with all of these symmetries together or focus on one or two of them at a time, whatever works best for you!
Putting it together in a dance
Such explorations I find them extremely useful as they help me understand what I might be doing unconsciously or what I might feel I can’t reach. Whatever the case maybe though, real-life experience and testing is required after every exploration of every kind. If we don’t take what we learn in our real-life how will it stick? How will it become more than just an exercise? And most importantly how will it teach us to a level where we start changing our old habits and building new ones, aka progressing?
So after you complete the explorations above, or anytime during the video that you feel the need or you feel ready, completely let go of the exploration and just dance. Stop doing the exercise, and just dance. Feel how what you have explored so far manifests itself in your dance.
And of course this doesn’t stop there, step out of your practice shoes but take your practice with you. See, notice how rhythm manifests itself in your everyday life, when breathing, walking, shopping, doing the dishes. Make every big or small thing a dance!
Enjoy and join us for more by subscribing!
P.S: For more on music and rhythm you can check here and here
Movement Lab, what is that? Well that is surely a borrowed term, from other movement practices….
In a movement lab, what usually happens is that people get together and “brain” or better said “body” storm; exploring movements, testing ideas, analyzing, giving and getting feedback and generally researching movement.
One can use different tools in such labs; and tools can be different dances, movement practices, meditation practices, anatomy learning, and more or some combination of them all.
Why introduce a Tango movement lab?
Well we have been in this lockdown mode for about a year now, on and off… so what are we really doing here?
What are we practicing or taking classes for? Is there any point practicing elements tightly related and strictly specific to Tango when we can’t go social dancing? And wouldn’t we benefit more if we used Tango as a tool to move better and with more freedom in general?
The reason therefore of letting go of the Tango practice and shifting towards a Tango movement lab, is that the latter will allow us to break free of drills and exercises and instead use Tango only as framework to find ways to move with more freedom.
By the way our first Tango Movement Lab already happened… Check it out here:
How is a Tango movement lab different from a Tango practice?
Practicing follows a different pattern than what we described above. During a practice we focus on a very specific thing; from connection to practicing ochos we are zooming in on a specific element and drilling on what we have learned in order to progress.
That in itself makes practicing necessary and important, especially in the beginning when we are trying to learn all the fundamentals and the “rules” of Tango. It is almost like memorizing words when you are trying to learn a new language. You just go over lists of words or through games and puzzles over and over again in order for them to stick.
But once that is established, how would you grow your vocabulary? Maybe you would go and get into chats with people who speak the language. Or you would see a movie in that language without subtitles, You could start learning about the history of the language and the place. Or even get into how speech is created through the body…. And so many other paths that will help grow your understanding of speaking and expressing yourself through speech overall! And the specific language you were trying to get better at… well that is now just another language… just another tool to help you speak and express yourself with more ease!
A Tango Movement Lab therefore is here to help us move and express ourselves through movement with more ease! Tango will only be another tool!
Who is with me? If you are hit subscribe and meet me every Wednesday at 12:15pm EST on Youtube or Facebook
P.S: If you were looking for practicing though we have a lot of that too… You can start here
Surprise! Don’t you miss it? I know I am speaking only for myself here, but here is the thing, I feel that even if we went to the same milongas every week, there was always the element of surprise. We didn’t know who was going to be there, what music would be playing, which song we will be invited to dance to, how our partner is going to dance to the tanda… And as you can see I left out not knowing who your partner will be because that is something you actually have a choice on. There are so many things in a milonga that are complete mysteries!
Surprise… how do you respond to it?
Now, in contradiction, days have become quite predictable, in our everyday life. I don’t know about you but, I am in an area where there is a lockdown, so my day is predetermined most days of the week.
So there is not much of a surprise, but mostly stressors, like a nasty email, or bad news on TV. Depending on your environment the stressors might actually be part of the day. So somehow all days mesh together… where did 2020 go?
I really miss those social surprises… Going out and having a____(fascinating, unexpected, fun, strange, interesting, boring… you fill in the blank) dance wondering what the next one will be like..! And honestly, I don’t think I can keep it a secret anymore, I don’t want to practice anymore! haha Not though because practicing is pointless, but because there is something else missing and it is not skill.
Hey! I know there is always skill to be acquired, but there will be time to practice on that later… Surprise though and how we/ I respond to it, has been missing for a long time now. What will urge us/ me to get off the chair/ couch/ bed whatever you spend most of your day sitting on.
So I thought we could work on this theme last week during our Mid-Week Tango Practice
Finding New Patterns
The great thing though about “indulging” in surprise is that you can capture feedback, on how you respond to a surprise. How does your body react to an unknown piece of music? Do you tense up or do you go with flow? Are you moving slower or faster? Is it frustrating and why? If it is frustrating how do you get past the frustration? Were there any reactions that surprised you?
All of these and more questions can lead us to so many more options for movement. And as we are about to jump head first into discovering something new….our habits hit the breaks! And so another series of questions starts… What habits do you recognize? For how many of those do you have a recollection of how they were established? Do you need them all? Are they all helpful? Would you consider leaving some of them for a bit to explore more movement options?
All these questions and more can lead us to deeper and more surprising explorations! And you know how it goes… more surprises, more questions, more explorations, more options aaaand loop around again.
So I have put a video together suggesting a path to recognizing habits and building new ones, which I hope you will give try to and enjoy
Surprise yourselves! See what comes out of it! The opportunity for you to express your unique strengths might be just around the corner
P.S: We have a workshop full of surprises coming up on Feb.6th check it out here
I have been thinking the last couple of weeks, as things don’t seem to be heading back to normal, what is the place of Art in this online world.
We can’t go out to dance, we can’t go to museum, theatres, concerts… we are social animals but we are not allowed to share anything anymore. So why keep practicing our hobbies, or pick up new ones?
If we can’t go out have a drink, relax with friends, dance, listen to music, then what is the point of doing dance classes, or taking music lessons? As friend told me over the weekend, isn’t it boring taking Tango lessons without a partner?
Isn’t it boring taking Tango online classes without a partner?
Honestly… I don’t know… maybe it is or if not boring others might find depressing or miserable or pointless.
And that probably applies to any artistic endeavour, that is supposed to be shared with other people. However, I think it does have to do with the focus set by the teachers and by the students. And there are many aspects here I would, probably as many as the teachers and the students… haha
Lets see a few of the pros of online classes:
It is a form of activity, and it is good to keep active especially at times of lockdown
Along with the above it is an activity, that allows your mind to decompress, so it helps with mental health
You have a long lasting passion that you want to keep the fire going even if at these challenging times
Tango and all other movement practices, in partners and/or groups rely a lot on personal progress, training and practice along partner/ group practices
It is a different way to explore your hobby
Opportunity to learn for teachers who are at the other end of the world
Or to support the teachers you love at home
Should I keep going? All these are amazing reasons no?
However, I think there is a special place for Tango, for dance, for Art in general in this online world… That reminding us of our humanity.
Art is here to remind us, we are still human
Humans are social animals, so no matter how well you are managing the isolation, we are really meant to thrive through community.
Think of our great accomplishments, as a human kind, all appeared in societies that were blooming. Unique figures in Art, Science etc were supported and came out of strong communities. It is through our communities that we are supported to explore and express our unique strengths.
In this vast, impersonal space of the web, it is hard to find a community and not get lost. It is hard to identify and express your unique strengths when instead of a community you have an ocean of users.
And so I think this is where Tango, dance, Art comes in. Art comes in to create an actual web, an actual network with real connections. A web that can’t replace real life, but can remind us of what it is like to be human aka what it is like to build communities.
Our anatomy actually supports this
The fascinating thing in all of this is how this balance between a singular entity and a community, between the I and the WE, as well as the relationships weaved between the two are supported by our anatomy.
We identify as humans due to our anatomy, we have some common characteristics that makes us all identifiable as humans. However, from the obvious characteristics of our face to our bone shape and DNA we are all unique.
And when we say unique, we mean very different… take a look here: https://paulgrilley.com/bone-photos/ As Paul and Suzee Grilley mention in their post: “These images [included in the post linked above] show the normal variation in human bones. None of them are pathological.”
Different bones, different ranges of motions, different aesthetics, sensations, expressions, experiences.
Let’s learn THAT!
Learn how we are Unique
Learning how each of us is unique, we can be more accepting in the other person’s perspective of things. It is also possible that we are more open and understanding to someone experiencing something different.
We can be more kind and accepting with ourselves. Looking at our teachers, we can now understand that we will never look like them, nobody will! But we can learn from them how we can be us. We can learn how to express more our unique strengths, body structure, past experience, sensations, emotions, thoughts.
We started working with this theme already last week in our Mid-Week Tango Practice:
And we will continue with this theme through our Online Workshops and Online Classes, with our goal being to allow us to be more us, despite the very challenging situations that might be pushing us to the edge
I hope that in one way or another I will have you with me in this journey so please any thoughts you would like to share send them, I would love to read them! Next stop, Mid-Week Tango Practice on Wednesday