I see movement as an ocean where we can’t see the end in length, in width or in depth. We choose one or more movement practices and we start exploring, be it dance, fitness, yoga, martial arts, you decide.
Tango is my chosen way of exploring movement and in understanding my body. Fitness for me comes next and by adding the perspective of strengthening is a strong component in this system of body awareness. I know many people who feel this way for Yoga and Tango, or Tai -Chi and Tango for example with different added perspectives of course.
Movement the connecting thread
The connecting thread between all movement practices is movement itself, movement technique, movement understanding and then body, self and human understanding. With the latter being for me the greatest achievement… but we will get back to that a bit later..!
So movement technique, not Tango technique. Tango is a dance style and as all dance styles has multiple styles itself with some common elements but many different characteristics. To teach therefore all the characteristics that make Tango…Tango… I dive into biomechanics to see how our body is built to move and create these characteristics. To this very thing Fitness comes in to help.
Let’s see posture for example; but lets look at posture not as a pose but as a movement. I bet you can see the common thread with Tango in the pictures below..? 😉
I would like to share with you, the latest Live Tango practice as well as the latest Exercise of the Week as examples of Fitness and Tango!
As you will see it is not some crazy hybrid of the two…haha… on the contrary the two practices keep their grounds and are clearly distinct but the common thread is revealed as well! 😉
And I am sure that if there are any two movement practices you follow, you can find, with some exploration and some digging, the common ground. Then you will feel great power, a force revealing so much more to you about your movement, about your body and human nature and therefore about the other.
This is something I had felt myself but recently one of the members of the Bautanz community shared with me as well as their experience. After a certain time of digging wider and deeper comes a deeper understanding about our partners and other people we share the dance floor with. We listen and observe more but also show more compassion for the other. Through understanding ourselves we understand our partner, we understand our fellow dancers, we understand the world.
After many months of online chatting I got together friend and also a Tango teacher. We were wondering if we, as a collective of people, will be going back to Tango. And we were sharing experiences from our communities, as she is in a different city, noticing many common reactions from the two communities. Of course there are people already dancing, others that are not taking the risk and a small group of people willing to go back but trying to imagine what would they be “going back” to.
Going back by moving forwards?
So the question we stumbled upon was whether we could possibly be going back by moving forwards? Paradox..? Maybe not..!
This conversation started from the moment we saw each other… It was such a relief seeing each other in the flesh and bone again! And we jokingly said to one another: “Oh! You still exist in real life!” haha
Along with all that there was this great urge to hug and greet each other like any two people would have done under normal circumstances. We didn’t… you know, being in a public space and all..! See hugging is currently a no no and I personally don’t disagree
However, think about the time when going back will happen with no masks, no partner restrictions, no lysol wipes all over the place… Do you think that longing for a hug will express itself through the dance? Is there a possibility that we will be looking for more connection through our dances after this isolation, restrictions and fear? In this way would this actually be moving forward and not going back?
A deeper connection
Someone might say that they were always looking for a deeper connection and I think this to be true for most people. I imagine this though will be multiplied by this great distance we had to keep for such a long time.
We will probably be more like the kids we all saw on the videos online, where they ran to hug their friends after not seeing them for a couple months! haha
You know sometimes on the dance floors you would see the struggle and the persistence at the same time to achieve that connection in the faces of dancers. I imagine this will be effortless, a connecting power coming from within, along with unimaginable joy!
That is my post-covid, going back while moving forwards in Tango plan and the next question would be how would we then maintain that feeling?
That deeper connection can easily fade out once we get back to absolute “normal”. How could we possibly maintain and build that up though?
And I think, without having the experience of course, there are various steps. One being during those first few milongas, where we have the choice of diving in deep to that feeling that we take the dive and allow it to take over.
Then after the milonga, the same evening at home or the next day, there is the opportunity to wake up to the details of that experience and then start analyzing it. After the awe, we can start gently allowing for our mind to make sense of the experience. In other words allow for the experience to inform our knowing. That happens when we start describing in words how the experience felt. For example a dance can be light, intense, heavy, powerful, energetic, grounded, visceral but also spicy, salty, sweet. All great words and the more descriptive and detailed we can get, the better.
Lastly, the bits and pieces we think we have figured out can go into our practice. Not in a forcing way, not for example thinking: “Oh! We have to hold exactly the way we did it last Saturday at the milonga!”. Instead more in an explorative way, as an observer looking for clues of where these words came from. In practice therefore new experiences are created and the cycle starts again.
So I guess I am thinking of this endless spiral of creativity…! Hmmm…what do you guys think? Are we going back to Tango or are we moving forward to new Tango experiences?
Send me your thoughts! 🙂
P.S: Looking at working on the embrace but you doing have a partner? Try this practice:
I know everyone is on the web and there is this great big online community being built almost out of nowhere… However, do we move as much as before? Do we take walks in the parks and dance in our living rooms? Have we realized how much we have missed and have we found a way to keep going in a healthy way?
I honestly don’t have any answers for any of the above questions. Judging though from personal experience I have noticed how my mood heavily affects my movement schedule and vice versa during these strange times.
What you were or were not doing before Covid is not relative to the experience really, as there wasn’t really much of a choice in the quarantine. But even now… this is a very strange normality..! We are almost afraid of each other. For me it is not the rules but the unknown…the “what if”…that creates the fear. So how do we battle with that?
Some people have though figured it out
Some people have figured it out. I am not talking about the people appearing on the media pretending to have it all figured out…no…but about others that have spent enough time thinking and preparing for the inevitable. And I think the answer on how to keep going hides somewhere there.
This is Eileen Kramer she is now officially a choreographer but she has never stopped dancing even at the age of 104.
Dancing as she says is “making order out of chaos” and then by the end of the video “good health depends a lot on you, what you eat, what you think, what you have suffered and what you have recovered from. You do have to prepare for age…“
How do we think about the situation we are put in, aka Covid? Can we prepare for similar situation where we would have to deal with another kind of isolation and movement restrictions? How we deal with the distance, the required space? Are we preparing for a future similar situation thinking of how we could better feel and fill this void and stay active. Especially the later, staying active… Creating opportunities to move, to experience sensations and emotions that will give birth to new movement. Can this motivate us, make us feel creative and inspired? Are we preparing for that? Can we include more of that in our lives?
I am not sure we are preparing for the future, I think, we are just making our way through this mess. But maybe that is just me… haha
However, if you feel like I do, it is never too late to start!
A tiny habit, something that will take you for example 30secs to do. You attach that after something you do very often like washing your hands and so you do it every time after you wash your hands. At the end you celebrate! You congratulate yourself! And that is it!
So building a habit can actually be fun, simple and almost effortless. Because you don’t dedicate too much time up front instead you start small and then you keep on building gradually!
You can read all about the method in the link above. But this is what I have come up with to bring this into Tango, the Exercise of the Week. Every week there is one exercise that takes max 2mins to do. Each one of us can decide the action we would like to attach that to and there we have it..! Sparks of moving habits… Any of the exercises can last longer, can become the base of a full Tango practice routine if you would like to build up to that. But starting off, maybe we can’t or we don’t feel like spending 30mins for Tango practice, so starting tiny with 2mins can be the beginning of longer and longer-lasting practice!
Think about it, 2mins nothing really…Do it though every time after you wash your hands aaaand then we have a different story, right?
That is my suggestion and what I have been exploring. Give it go and let me know how it goes!
This is the video from the latest Live Tango practice that we run every week. This week things didn’t go quite as planned… In retrospect nothing terrible happened but I did lose my balance a couple of times and got into show-must-go-on mode! (haha)
Show must go on–when is it useful?
One would think, like I did until today, that especially when you are teaching, dancing in general performing, then there is only one mode, the show-must-go-on mode…
And I can surely agree on certain performance types, such as a dance show, that of course you keep on going. However teaching and practicing, even if it is streaming live, have a different purpose, as during those times we have the opportunity to learn!
So if you notice in the video above there are some imbalances from the beginning of my dance. To which I reacted with stubbornly doing more back ochos, but to no avail. It was only after I slowed things down and then added rebounds that things started actually getting better. However from beginning to end my focus was to keep going and not to take some time to find out why I was off balance.
That of course takes us to nearly the end of the video where there are some more balance issues… Where once more, time is not given to address the issue. So even now that I writing this I can only speculate why I was off balance.
Someone might ask: Well what is the big deal? It only happened once or it happens to everyone or you just kept going… Well it is not really a big deal but more a missed opportunity!
A missed opportunity to figure out what is really wrong
These were moments where I could have paused or I could have at least slowed down.
When we do that we are more able to pay attention, to listen, to stop the fear and the anxiety that are building up and focus on what we are attempting to do. Had I done that, I would have gotten a list of various different things that could have potentially caused the imbalance. However now I got nothing!
So you see what the problem is… Now there is no way to learn from this experience, the opportunity for deeper exploration is lost. Along with it, a step to progress and potentially not being in the same boat again is also lost. In this way I see this as a missed opportunity.
It is a missed opportunity to deepen our understanding, to explore different options and possibly come up with more ideas and variations for exploration. So it is actually a missed opportunity to learn!
My suggestion to you…
If you find yourselves in a similar situation whether it is a one off or a regular case then pause or slow down and try to see if there are different ways to approach whatever it is giving you trouble.
Don’t see it as a moment to push through but an opportunity to go deeper.
That is my suggestion, of course you can decide for yourself how you want to manage those moments while going through one of our other practices for example…haha…which you can find here: https://bautanz.com/online-tango-practice/
P.S: No time for a 30min practice? No worries try out the Tango exercise of the week:
How can one-size-fits-all apply in a social dance setting when we all unique in terms of body type, age, fitness, cultural background etc?
A great question!
After our mid-week Tango practice on Wednesday I a question via Youtube that I felt it is an excellent question for us to discuss how different body types can or cannot fit in certain Tango rules; and overall how the one-size-fits-all doesn’t quite work in social dancing.
Following is the video, from our practice and the question right after that, lets see:
“Chrisa, something that no one ever talks about, and I can’t get non fat dancers to understand, are the techniques needed by the fat dancer. Now, I do not use fat as a bad word, I reclaim it, and refuse to make it synonymous with wrong. And also, I need to accommodate my roundness. It is soawkward to be in class, and have an instructor remind me not to swing a hip, not to arch my back, when the real reason I do these things is because of my large belly. When you have substantial thighs, it changes your stance, collection, even the ability to flick a swift secada. I realize this is off topic from your video, but do you have any insights for the fat dancer? Tricks to maintain tango posture when you have extra curves to work around? Thank you <3″ F.L
The truth of the Style Vs The truth of the Dancer
I want to thank again our commenter for this question and dissect the matter in two parts:
Diversity of styles
Biomechanics Vs Tango Style
Diversity of Styles
There is an unavoidable conflict between the truth carried through by the rules for each style and the truth stemming from the dancer’s experience. Of course there are many ways to train dancers to perform and look a certain way, many types of dance achieve that, with ballet being one excellent example. However there are certain expectations to be met by all ballerinas in terms of looks, body structure and analogies. This is why there are certain restrictions apply in terms of age, body type, body shape, fitness etc. That is also why the choice to follow a career as a professional ballet dancer happens very early in one’s life when the body and character are very adaptable to change. That is also why ballet dancers retire at a very early age.
Social Tango is not like that though. Quite the contrary it is dance that is danced by 90 year olds with very different body analogies, with loss in muscle etc etc. So would we say for example that Oscar and Nina are bad dancers?!?! I highly doubt it! See them in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQotX3sFahI
So as I perceive it, a style is a place to start learning but then we have to take into account the the experience of our body. And those two things are equally important and equally true. Everyone of us is unique in some way, and that uniqueness needs space, a lot of space in a social dance.
Biomechanics Vs Tango Style
We can’t judge a style, a style is based mostly on aesthetics. It is a design. A beautiful design but still a design that one person or a group of people came up with based on their personal goals, experiences, expectations and so on. So it wouldn’t be possible nor fair. But we can judge movement based on anatomy and biomechanics. Then each of us can make an informed decision whether you want to pursuit a specific tango style despite the possible strain or risk due to inconguence with anatomy and biomechanics.
So firstly, based on anatomy and specifically the structure of the human skeleton in order to balance the forces going through the joints and to have an effective distribution of weight when standing on two feet, the placement of the feet should be such to support the hips. Having the feet together 100% doesn’t meet that requirement since the pelvis flairs outward. Similarly, the flair of the feet, meaning the turn out, depends on the structure of your hips, how wide or narrow the hips are. So overall some people will have their feet closer together, not though fully connected, than others and also for some people the turn out will be bigger than others.
Walking and biomechanics
Now when we walk our hips are not supposed to be square, they are supposed to swing, it’s scientifically what we call: locomotion. And it is not the only movement happening in our hips when we walk. In fact walking involves the whole body and the more chaotic it feels the more efficient it most likely is. There is the “C” shape movement we talked about in our practice session and there is also a wave in the spine. You can see all of this here:
Can you stop all this from happening ? Sure you can! But why would you? If you actually look a little closer and dig a little deeper, these movements actually help you connect with your partner in much more efficient way..! You can see it in our previous practices here: https://bautanz.com/online-tango-practice/
And of course along with all that goes posture and centre of gravity. Your posture changes depending on what action you wish to perform. As you can see in the video above maintaining a specific upper body position works against your intention to walk forward or backward and would therefore require more muscle work to make it all happen. Lastly our center of gravity, will be different depending on the shapes we create or have in our bodies. It is not a fixed spot and how could it be? By physics that would be impossible.
My suggestion to you
If you have learned Tango now spend some time learning your body through movement. Understand how one thing relates to the other, what kind of relationships they have and what kind of movements they create due to those relationships and structure
Start learning about your body to better dance with/in/through it. Understanding how our body was built to move for me is the number one step to take when you really want to free up your social dance but also when you want to structure your dance training knowing, acknowledging and weighing in the risks you take compared to the choices you have
Today I wanted to share with you an idea…I am not sure if it will come through as I want it to but I surely hope it does. You can tell me, later in a message if you like..!
Dance I believe has to do with space. How we stand in space. The space we create when dancing. The space we share. Are we reaching towards the other aiming to bring them close or to push them away? Aiming to get close to them or move away from them? How much of our personal space do we want to give up when getting in an embrace? Are we bringing our hands together or are we hugging? In both cases what does that shared space look like? What does the left-over space look like?
So any time we make a movement no matter how big or how small, we shift the space around us.
There is also the opposite notion, how the space forms our movement. Either literally, meaning that you move differently when you are in crowded or small room compared to an empty or big room. Or “metaphorically”, and I am putting that in quotes as I am not sure if it would be equally literal, meaning that you allow the space to move you. You feel the earth, you feel the sky, you feel YOU somewhere there in between, you feel the air around you and you let all that move you.
Lastly, there is seeing the human body as space. Feeling our 3d-ness(I just made up this word..haha..). But feeling how we are not defined but one axis but 3, and embodying that through movement.
The shapes we make!
Some basic anatomy will teach you that no part of our body is actually straight nor set perpendicular to any other. We are comprised by curved surfaces set in oblique positions to one another. See the hip joint below as an example;
Also the muscles wrap around the bones, curving and embracing them, see for example the muscles of the back
Even in the most intimate of places we can see curves and spirals; This is the golden rule revealed here in the structure of our ear and face:
The shapes therefore we create are curvy and bendy and not rectilinear. Our movement is defined more by spirals than straight lines. And spirals can be better expressed through triangulated movement structures than rectilinear structures.
The essence of movement
The essence of movement should therefor capture both points made above. Consider the quality of a spiral. Endless flow of energy, defining space through, within and around it. A vibrating energy, condensing and expanding, relating to the space around not through shooting energy away from it but through yielding, condensing and expanding.
You can see if you look at the picture below that spiral form of the muscles
The question now is how do we explore all that? How do we explore the essence of the spiral? Exploring the mechanics would be one necessary task of course, as it will help you do things efficiently, be more balanced and save energy while moving. It will help you identify the risk of your movement choices, and identify paths to avoid injury. But the essence of the spiral… is a bit of a different thing! You probably have experienced this in those sublime moments when you are dancing and you are you, you are the space, you are the music, you are time, you are body and spirit and soul. Those magical moments that are rare and special It could be the same simple movement, like lifting an arm, only when you dance, you are filling the whole room with that one arm-lift…or that the room itself, the space around you is lifting up that arm. The space is defined by your movement and your movement is supported by the space around you. And when that happens the energy of the spiral flows endlessly, from one movement to the next.
I invite you to explore all of this with me! Our new set of classes in starting June 27th and it is going to be about the embrace, the connection, leading/ following and timing. We will explore the mechanics and the essence of the frame, our walks and ochos with great focus on sensing, feeling and action. I hope to see you there and then! Let me know if you are interested and if you have any questions! https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/online-tango-classes-live/