Tag Archives: movement culture

Posture in Motion: Rethinking the Way We Walk and Dance

For some time now we have been trying to understand the cliche “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” and as you will see in my post, I am opposed to teaching people how to walk. This is one of the reasons why this Tango Movement Lab is by title about posture. But posture not as a static position, but as a weight -play that is elastic, full of bounce and flow. 
A class that looks at posture as we move, through different weight shifting exercises. So in a sense you will get exercises about your walk… haha… but you won’t be working on how you walk.

The Importance of Fascia

Why go through fascia?
Firstly, it is network that runs through our whole body and we can access it through touch as you can see in the video.
Also, healthy fascia, is elastic and well-hydrated. So, it gives you the support you need, while allowing you to maintain some level of relaxation.
That offers us an opportunity to look at our movement from a very different lens compared to the powerful quality that movement generated through muscles has.
By the way one is not better from the other. Just different.

Why the Superficial Back Line

The Superficial Back Line, is the fascia line that starts at our toes, covers the sole of our feet, runs up the back of our body, goes over our head and hooks up under our eyebrows. So our toes are connected to our forehead. And you can actually feel that through movement. How cool is that!!!

Maybe not cool at all for you…hahaha.
But think that connection for a moment and how it can reflect to a simple back or forward step.
The free leg swinging through, reaching for the step and your whole body is participating in that movement, without additional muscle tone! Now that must be at least a little bit cool! haha

Eat the apple!

What? haha
This is one of my favourite exercises!
One of my Axis Syllabus teachers first introduced me to it and I have been using it in my classes ever since. It is an easy way to find and explore the Superficial Back Line and it relates to a primitive memory that all humans share, aka reaching for an apple.
Even if you tried you wouldn’t be able to forget that… picking your food is what actually made you human..!
So it has a strong reference, it is relatable, easy to remember and most importantly you KNOW when you are doing wrong..! 
Plus, guess what, it leads to a step. See the apple, reach, grab, eat, move to the next one..!

Yeah, I guess we kinda worked on your walking as well..! 😉

Happy dances everyone,
Chrisa

Do You Trust Me?

I was debating whether we needed another post or if we could go straight to our Tango Movement Lab. I decided to throw this post in because I think trust is important to learning process. If you don’t trust your teacher you are not going to learn from them or your learning will be restricted to common knowledge aka something anyone can teach you, even simply Google.

Trust..?

Maybe you are thinking how is that related to decoding the cliche “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango”?
Well, it will help us decode every cliche actually.
When we get in a class, we are trusting that the person we have as our teacher at the very least knows what they are talking about and from there, our trust hopefully will grow.

That is actually why trials and offers exist; to remove some risk; 50% off on your first month; one class for free; Groupon coupons etc.

When they throw in a phrase that is confusing or a cue that is frustrating, a bit of this trust starts shake. 
“Do they really know what they are talking about? Do they really teach the one and only true Argentine Tango?” hahaha

Of course we don’t walk out the moment we hear a cliche but I think cliches and how they are handled are key to building trust.

Building trust

  1. When your teacher uses a cliche and you ask them for clarification like we had talked about when starting this series; how do they respond?
  2. Do they walk the talk? For example, if you ask them “What do you mean by “if you know how to walk, you know how to Tango!”. And they say: “Oh! I mean that you already know a bit of Tango, because Tango is based on walking” but then they turn around and start teaching you how to walk. That is a bit of problem!
  3. There is actually a system in their teaching. There is a structure that gets you somewhere by the end of the class. Maybe you don’t know exactly what the structure is or maybe you can’t even articulate what you got from the class, but you felt the difference.
  4. If they progress in their dancing, their teaching and their social skills.
  5. Do they diversify their learning?
  6. And last but not least, do they support the community by being honest and open. For example, when someone comes to me for private classes. I tell them what I am good at and clarify that if they want sequences I am not the right person for them. Then I recommend a colleague in my community. I don’t do it because I don’t like teaching people. I do it because I know what my strengths and what my colleagues strengths are.

So as you can see pointers 1-4 have to do with how teachers conduct the class and how they deal with cliches.

Trust is earned!

For teachers, even for your steady groups, trust should never be taken for granted.
I constantly think how we as teachers should respond to the above; and I have come up with a list. Hopefully some of the pointers will be helpful to you though some might not apply.

  1. Try to get more and more specific and clear in how you express yourself through words. I hope that you have noticed some progress in my writing through the years of following Bautanz. If not please let me know! 
  2. Give your students a high-level picture of what you will work on, at the beginning of the class. Then in intervals offer detailed information on the subject. I have found that this gives people the opportunity to see the underlying structure without tiring them out.
  3. Distinguish between personal preference/ habit/ structural inheritance and facts. For example, I have quite lax joints, and my knees hyperextend. I try not to let them but sometimes they will. I usually say Do not copy the teacher. This is my structural condition and most likely wouldn’t apply to you”.
    Compared to making it into a fact. For example: “To hold our balance when we step, we push away from the floor, engage the leg, pull the knee cap up”. This implies that this is how we walk generally. Well, we don’t, not in general.
  4. Diversify your learning journey. I take all sorts of classes, trying not isolate myself in Tango and fitness. Stay curious even though it can be tough to put it in your schedule.
  5. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to share. Sharing will allow you to also receive from other professionals, may that be in students or in knowledge.

All of this to say that next week we will have another Tango Movement Lab and I hope that you will show some trust in me and join me!

I will send out the details soon but until then keep on dancing!

Chrisa.

P.S: If you need some practice routines to play around with. Or maybe you are struggling with a mental iceberg, check out “It Takes You Tango” our ultimate practice guide for leaders and followers.

If you know how to walk, You know how to Tango!

How do you feel about that?
Because I can feel some eyes rolling..!
haha

I guess that is why some teachers decided to come up with a different cliche phrase, that goes somewhat like “Walk like you normally do“. Which doesn’t solve the problem because it is equally annoying! haha

This cliche is a bit of a challenge..!

I had a lot of trouble putting my thoughts in line for this one.
For a lot of students, hearing this phrase, is very frustrating and unhelpful. And I get it, you went to a Tango class, and first thing you hear is “if you know how to walk, you know how to Tango“, and by the end of the class you end up thinking, “I don’t even know how to walk!” haha

On the other hand though, there is actually some truth in this cliche. Remember cliches are cliches for a reason; they hold some truth.
All folk dances, are based on walking. From salsa and bachata to greek folk dances, all of them are some variation of our everyday walk. Tango is no exception, if you walk and pivot, you Tango.

Why is it then so frustrating?

I think mainly because all teachers try to teach people how to walk. And to make matters worse, they are teaching a stylized walk that fits to the specific Tango style they follow. 

So one moment they tell you “Walk like you normally do
And the very next, they go into styling; heels together, toes apart, squeeze this, pull that, and of course don’t forget to breathe..!

Needless to say this is not how you normally walk!

But this is not all…!

So you went to a dance school looking to learn to dance Tango and you ended up learning how to stand and walk in style..! 
What usually happens while this all takes place, is a little voice inside your head saying: “I know how to walk!”

And actually this is very true! And not because someone taught you but because it is what humans do.
Walking is an automatic movement; it is part of what we call “human”, we are built to walk.

As such, as Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen explains, “If we are consciously (high brain cells) having to deal with HOW do I fall, HOW do I walk, HOW do I talk, or keep attentive or chew or swallow or sleep, we are constantly thinking about survival and are not free to be really creative“. 

We don’t think about how we walk. It is a complex almost chaotic movement that involves the whole body. So we are dealing with a lot of information and movement patterns over movement patterns.
Again referencing Bonnie “In the brain we have a hindbrain, midbrain and forebrain. The lower the brain cell, the more information that cell and receives and processes. (…) When you try to control an automatic movement with high brain cells, the choice of which cell is going to fire off in which sequence is too great and the resulting action will appear awkward. If you simply find the lowest control centre, the response will happen automatically“.

This explains why this whole process feels very awkward and leaves no room for you to be creative and have fun.

How can translate “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” to something helpful?

Well, I think we have to look at the humble beginnings of Tango and also think of our future in it.
Meaning, as we said in the beginning, Tango is based on the common/ everyday walk and that is mainly why it can be danced by all generations.

To me that is what that phrase really means. No styles, no fanciness but only two people moving together. 

And I am going to tell you a story to prove my point. 
In a milonga that I was organizing, here in Toronto, some time ago, and different people are there dancing, at we are having a great time.
It was the only milonga my father ever attended. He is not a dancing kind of guy.
At the end, as we are walking out, my dad goes to me: “From all of you, the couple I liked the most, was this elderly couple. They had such grace, and comfort and pleasure in their movement. They were really just walking around, not like the rest of you doing all these moves, but they were deeply sharing the moment. It was beautiful!”

So if you are going to use the cliche “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango” you have to really do it!
Forget about styling and start working with what you have..!
Put it to the test, see what happens and we will soon be back for more!

Chrisa

P.S: If you need some practice routines to play around with. Or maybe you are struggling with a mental iceberg, check out “It Takes You Tango” our ultimate practice guide for leaders and followers.

The Secrets of the Embrace

Let’s dive into a topic that’s fundamental yet often elusive in the world of dance: connection. In our recent discussions, we’ve been exploring the phrase “Relax to Connect” as a key to unlocking the mysteries of this essential element. So, what does it really mean to relax and connect? And how does it apply to our movements, particularly in dance forms like Tango?

First things first, let’s break down the concept of relaxation in dance. When we talk about relaxing, we’re not talking about slouching lazily; instead, we’re referring to reducing muscle tension, lowering our muscle tone. It’s about finding that sweet spot where we’re grounded and present, yet open and receptive to our partner.

Relaxation through fascia

In our recent Tango Movement Lab workshop, we delved into the idea of relaxation through exploring fascia. Now, you might be wondering, what on earth is fascia? Well, think of it as a multi-layered web that runs throughout our entire body, encompassing muscles, organs, and everything in between. By tuning into our fascia and embracing relaxation, we can tap into a whole new realm of connection.

But why focus on fascia?
Because it’s the key to understanding how our bodies move and interact with one another. Fascia plays a crucial role in facilitating communication between different parts of the body, making it essential for creating seamless connections in dance.

During our workshop, we delved into the four fascia arm lines, which provide a roadmap for exploring the connection between our hands, arms, torso, neck, and head. And for us Tango dancers, this will form the ultimate connection space: the embrace.

The Secrets of the Embrace

So, what are the secrets of the embrace? Well, it’s all about finding that balance between relaxation and engagement, both within ourselves and with our partners. By cultivating a sense of ease and openness in our movements, we create a welcoming space for our partners to join us. And when we explore the arm lines, we’re not just embracing our partners physically; we’re inviting them into our space.

But the key for me here, is to help you build those two levels of connection. One within you and one with another person.
Especially the last arm line that we are exploring, I think we call actually it, the “embrace” line, at least unofficially. It is how we can give fully devoted hugs, bringing the other person into our space. So, I encourage you to take what you’ve learned and experiment with it—whether you’re practicing solo or with a partner. And don’t forget to share your insights and “light bulb” moments with me; I love hearing from you all!

So, until next time, keep on moving and keep on connecting!

Cheers, Chrisa

P.S: Before I sign off, a quick reminder: our workshop operates on a “Pay from the Heart” basis. If you found value in our session and are able to contribute, your support is greatly appreciated. Every little bit helps us continue our mission of spreading the joy of dance far and wide. You can do that through email transfer at: chrisa.assis@bautanz.com or through PayPal.

P.P.S: And if you’re hungry for more knowledge about fascia and its role in movement, I highly recommend checking out the work of Thomas Myers author of Anatomy Trains. It’s a treasure trove of insights that will deepen your understanding of the body and its interconnectedness.

More Emotion = I want to see You

Last Sunday we had a Tango Movement Lab (online workshop) on how to respond to the cue “More Emotion”. You can actually see and follow-along the full workshop below.

What could that possibly mean?

Each one of us I am sure can come up with a different response to this question. And so that makes it very difficult to actually decode it; so instead we played with it.

As you will see in the video, we started with a perspective over “emotions”, borrowed by Dr.Alan Watkins, that is very refreshing. So Dr. Watkins, says, in his Tedx Talk  “Why you feel what you feel”, that emotions are energy in motion. They are composite biological signals; stereotypical energy patterns. Feelings on the other hand are the awareness in our minds of that energy. We are the “creators” of emotions. We may be responding to someone or something but we are creating them.

Playing with the music

With that in mind we started playing, playing with music. Now as you will see in the video, this is not a musicality class, it was never indented to be. It is a class were we respond to music and we express that response.
Playing with the music, implies what? Implies that we are not doing sequences, we are really not doing any specific dance; we are simply moving around. Just like we did when we were kids and we heard a song on the radio that we really liked and started moving to it. 

Playing as adults makes us feel safe. It also wakes up that part of the brain responsible for imagination and creativity. So when we start the workshop with “moving around” it is to open that window to imagination.
Then we took the universal dance step, step touch, and really took it to the playground..! haha

Do you remember when you used to go to the playground and go to the slides? The first couple of times were normal and then you would try to slide side-ways, or backwards, or walk up the slide or hang from its sides..! 
That is what we did with the step-touch. Do a step-touch in as many different ways you can think of. 

Being Seen

And lastly we added the “being seen” strategy.
As you will hear me say in the workshop, I think “more emotion” means ” I want to see you”
One of the reasons we don’t have options in how we express ourselves through dance, is that we don’t have a strategy towards “being seen”.
That thought ends today, because I actually have a strategy for you. A 3 step strategy that can transform your dance; and not just Tango but any kind of dance.

“More Emotion” means “I want to see YOU”
For someone though to see you, it is required that YOU would want to be seen. So looping back to the beginning of this email. It all starts with you. You respond. You create. And maybe sometimes you may want to be seen!

Here is the recording again. Try it out and let me know how it went!
Keep on dancing! 🕺💃

Chrisa 

P.S: This is a Pay from the Heart Workshop.
We didn’t have a set ticket so anyone can join for free and anyone can watch the recording for free. If though you can contribute a monetary amount, we kindly ask for your support. You can do so either through an email transfer at: chrisa.assis@bautanz.com or through PayPal.

The Magic of the Weight Transfer

Every Tango class starts with… “The Walk” and/ or “The Weight Transfer”. The latter is actually, still the walk but we just have to use different wording at some point..! haha
It is in every class, no matter what the level is. We have also made it into this special Tango thing; coming up with cliches such as “if know how to walk, you know how to Tango” or “advanced dancers take beginner’s classes” etc.

You know what though, there is a very good reason why it is very difficult and frustrating to correct how you walk and it has nothing to do with Tango. It actually has to do with evolution. Humans have figured out how to walk while in the process of becoming… you guessed it… humans! So how we walk is a characteristic of humans…. Hey! No, inappropriate jokes..! haha

Do I know how to walk?

Now are you walking as efficiently as nature has built you for?
Most likely not. And that is due to all sorts of habits we pick up as we grow.
Can that change though?
Absolutely! Not with Tango though. But with movement technique.
In movement technique we looks the very chaotic structure of the weight transfer and we dissect it. Then we create multiple, different exercises that appear to be focusing on completely unrelated things. They are however, aiming at the weight transfer and how to help you walk better.

Is walking in Tango the same as walking in real life?
Well that depends…
Firstly, it depends on whether you want to have a specific Tango style.
And secondly, it is slightly affected by one very obvious thing..! That you are walking while in a hug with someone else. Have you tried doing that, down the street?!?! Not easy, yet achievable!

Why learn about the weight transfer?

Now the last question to consider before the video.
What is the point of teaching walking in a Tango class? No idea..!
I think it is actually frustrating for most people.
But let’s change the narrative. What if we agree to do a movement technique class. Now, be careful… not a tango technique class, a movement technique class, where we will focus on how you walk. That kind of class will inevitably “fix” your dancing and it is a whole different narrative. 
Students will not be expecting to be taught how to dance Tango. They will be expecting to learn different tools in order to make their movement as a whole more efficient and enjoyable. And more fun Tango dances are extra bonus..!

So if you agree, I will invite you to do the latter as you follow along through our first Tango Movement Lab of Fall. And of course I would love to read your thoughts and questions on the above and on the exercises in the video, so please write me an email at chrisa.assis@bautanz.com

And here you have it, “The magic of the weight transfer”

Enjoy,

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for ways to further support the work we do here at Bautanz, please consider contributing through PayPal