If you had the opportunity to practice with me on Wednesday you probably noticed that a big part of the class was about this wave-like, this spiral movement our body follows when walking that can help us transition smoothly to ochos.
The spiral as an experience
I wanted to share some extra information on the idea behind this practice and a few extra videos that you can practice with. The idea behind all this is the defining element of the spiral. The spiral is not just some random shape that happens to appear in certain parts of the body. It is not just a shape that allows for efficiency of movement. The spiral is our existence, it is literally our DNA. And DNA being the carrier of hereditary material it is experience! The spiral in this way exists in our every move from our cells to our highest boleos!
Therefore, finding the spiral in your movement, even in the ones that look fairly straight, will heighten your awareness of your movement and it will energize your whole body with it’s vibrancy.
An important characteristic: progressive wholeness
When picturing a spiral of any type, we associate it, and rightfully so, with continuous energy. However, I would like to add to that and say that there is also the element of progressive wholeness A spiral always moves switching between condensing and expanding, with continuous transition between the two and a continuous coexistence. Try to feel the movement through your body when you walk and when you ocho–in the latter it is of course more evident–as a transition and coexistence of condensing and expanding. Instead of thinking how each muscle body part should move try to feel whole. And specifically a wholeness deriving from the continuous flow of the spiral and not through squeezing, pulling, pushing, holding etc.
And so to make it more specific let’s look at our practice. We explored forward and backward ochos feeling how the back and core muscles condense and expand and how one can create a different quality of movement making one or the other action (condensing-expanding) primary. This is an excellent practice to follow if you wish to explore different Tango styles but also if you want to work on expressing yourself better on the music.
It is interesting to see people’s reactions to boleos. I am actually sure quite a few people probably won’t read this article because it includes the word boleos in the title…but for those who are here now be prepared for a bit of a twist to your regular boleo experience…haha
Boleos are not high kicks..!
So what is a boleo? A boleo is a change of direction on a turn, on a pivot It doesn’t have to be powerful, it doesn’t have to be high or super low and of course it doesn’t have to be a kick
Certainly there potential for all the things mentioned above…all of them though refer to style and not to the essence of what a boleo is.
ALL we need for a good boleo
And unfortunately it is not love…haha
2 are the main ingredients for a great boleo:
Timing as with everything in life and
The balance between energy contained and shared
The following video looks into both of these main items and sets the base for fancier boleos and more in depth explorations
Look beyond the kick- Enhance your Tango technique
If we look at a boleo for what it is, a change of direction and make our focus to make as smooth as possible whether contain or share energy, we will soon discover that there certain elements such as the hip axis that if we focused on them we could have a completely different experience during our dances.
The next two videos go progressively deeper into exploring the hip axis and especially the last one creates the link to other Tango essentials such as our walks and ochos
Walks and ochos are the two elements at the heart of Tango; every sequence with maybe the exception of off-axis sequences are based on walks and ochos
It is therefore important to get a good understanding of how walks and ochos work and how they can be tied together. And this is exactly what we will be focusing on in this post
Zooming In: Walks and Pivotal timing
In this first video we are putting our walks under the microscope. We capture though the whole body, aiming to understand how all the dots connect.
By focusing on the feet, the legs, the hips, the torso and the spine we will discover that the opportune moment for a pivot, hides within our step.
Once that discovery is made, we can see how a walk can turn into an ocho and vice versa. This way walks and ochos aren’t as separate, disconnected Tango elements that are need a sequence to connect them. This way we get to create options for ourselves on and off the dance floor.
Tango Technique: Zoom In on Ochos #2
In this second video there is a great focus on the upper body but again not as a separate entity.
The human body has so many fascinating links. The psoas major for example, originates in the outer surfaces of the vertebral bodies of T12 and L-1-L-3. T8-T12 is where your thoracic spine changes to Lumbar spine, so a muscle that goes around your hip reaches all the way up to your second- last rib… Fascinating! (Look here for more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psoas_major_muscle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iliopsoas)
It is all connected I tell you!hahaha And by exploring these connections we can make our dances have much more flow, freedom and efficiency.
Tango, Body mechanics and Energy management
What was implied or talked about as secondary in the two previous videos, becomes primary now… Energy management..! Energy management not in a spiritual, abstract way, but in a very physical way. Managing the energy our bodies need to perform a movement and how can we manage our energy so it is not wasted.
Basically in this video we are aiming to make Tango feel a bit easier, at least in execution…haha…meaning that walking across the floor shouldn’t feel like a physically demanding task and pivoting also.
We put styling and personal preference to the side to examine how the body was in fact built to create these movements. Some being more chaotic than others, will require further exploration; and funnily enough walking is probably the most chaotic of all as it requires a lot of movements around different axises and on different planes.
So we have tried to come up with exercises that can help us understand a bit of the chaos, and possibly add to it; exercises that will allow us to feel a bit more comfortable in this chaotic movement and that will allow us to define the opportune moments for a change
I hope you have enjoyed this as much as I have. If you have any questions, comments or light-bulb moments drop me a line, I would love to chat with you!
Giro technique…it can be tough but we will smoothly get through it… 😉 In our previous post https://bautanz.com/2019/03/20/music-sensing-feeling-and-action/ we were looking at rhythmical explorations. We used rebounds, walks and ochos and tried to figure out how these three elements, these basic Tango elements, can help us create something special on the dance floor.
These very elements though, we can find them in giros and naturally… this is what this post is about… Giro technique!
2 Rhythmical variations
If you have been in Tango for some time you’ve probably been taught the giro step following this basic rhythmic pattern: quick quick slow slow
And the truth is that this pattern even though we don’t HAVE to necessarily follow it, works quite smoothly; it has a nice flow to it and that is why we are not going to be changing that rhythm today. We’re only going to be exploring it further…
The transition between quick-quick and slow, slow…
I think an image here can help us a little bit with his exploration. Imagine a rainbow and on one end of the rainbow we have black and on the other end we have white and in between we have all the colours, every colour possible. Our transition is THAT rainbow! On one edge of the of the rainbow will be the “quick” part and on the other end will be the “slow” part. In variation #1 we will stay closer to the quick edge of the rainbow while in variation #2 we will move closer to the slow part. As we switch between the two, we will notice the colours in between and how our perception of them changes as we transition
If you are a beginner in Tango and you don’t know the giro step yet, then I would recommend that you watch the whole video from beginning to end and then just start practicing the step itself without worrying about the rhythm at all. Don’t worry about the quick- quick ,slow, slow, just do the footwork and once you feel more comfortable with the with a step itself then you can move on to exploring the variations If though you are familiar with the giro step I would encourage you to start from the END of the video from the very last exercise that focuses solely on the transition itself and then make your way through variations 1 and 2
Giro Technique: 8 anchoring points
Another vital transition for the giros, is the transition from standing on 2 feet to balancing over 1 foot and vice versa This transition hides a lot of habits, good and bad. And of course good habits are more than welcome…haha… the bad habits on the other hand we want to notice them and hopefully through our practices replace with more efficient ones
So here are some extra tips that can help you this video:
Listen for any trouble. Tension tends to be quite “vocal” through our bodies but we usually because we think it is normal for tension to manifest itself, we don’t pay attention to it. So distinguish between strength and unnecessary tension. Some of the most common places we find tension are: the hip joints, the lower back, the shoulders, the neck, the sternum, the face muscles So when you lift one leg up, make a quick check, take your mind through all of the above spots in your body and see if you can relax them
Standing with the weight split between the 2 feet. Notice how you reach for the connection with the floor tracing from the bottom up; from foot, to ankle, to knee, to hip, to ribcage, to arms, to neck and head.
You are special. Accept that your body is slightly different than your friend’s, your teacher’s or mine. Your focus should be to experience all the tips you hear in the video and not to bring the leg as high as I do, or to twist as much as I do. These movements exist in your body already; they live in your everyday walk, Tango is only an opportunity to expose them, become aware of them and possibly make them more efficient over time. So pay close close attention.
Hands to Ribs – A top-to-bottom practice
After talking about rhythm and after trying to understand and explore further the transition from 2 feet to a 1 foot balance, in this giro technique video, we are going to look into pivots and specifically we’re going to explore further the preparation phase for the pivots within the giros.
One of the most common mistakes we make in giros is skipping or pulling through the preparation phase; the phase where we are still transitioning from one foot to the other but we know there is a pivot coming and so we are preparing your body for the pivot; those very few seconds before the pivot happens.
What we will be doing in this video is acknowledging first of all that in-between stage, finding within our giro step.
And then we will be focusing on how the upper and lower body are working together during that phase, we will be looking at how much energy and power we need to create and use to make our way around the pivot and last but certainly not least we will be focusing on finding the right timing for the pivot to start.
Many a times we are running a little bit behind getting stuck in that in-between phase or as we mentioned before we really rush through it and we hop straight into the pivot so our goal here is to be able to avoid both of these troubling bad habits and to build a habit where we we are in control of the transition from a linear movement to a circular movement
Soooo that is all folks, at least for today. Giro technique right before the weekend milongas, perfect! And if you loved this and you want more, join the community of Bautanz! I share a video every Wednesday… 😉
Back in December, I reached out to the Bautanz subscribers and asked what they have been having trouble with.
Along with many other things, ganchos were causing some pain and so I decided to make a video for it.
Yes, you should work on ganchos even if you don’t use them that much in milongas..!
I find ganchos to be something that can teach us A LOT about posture, balance, effortless grounding, body awareness, timing and last but certainly not least connection.
That is why even though I know that compared to other things, ganchos are secondary, I am super excited to share this video with you today because all that you will learn you can apply it to your Tango technique overall.
What will you learn from this drill..?
What is the MOST important ingredient for successful ganchos
How do we respond to gravity and how we yield with one side to free the other
What are the most common mistakes dancers make and how you can avoid them
Successfully freeing up one leg so you can kick without losing your balance or tensing up
Understanding what is the body supposed to be doing to support the action
Finding how your frame should work to lead and follow ganchos without pushing and pulling on your partner and
We have been talking about heels and ochos and practicing…at all but coming back from this I am tanned, energized, and sooo ready to fly back! haha
I loved Cuba! I guess it is rather obvious when you check my recent Instagram posts…
What happens when we walk on a rather unstable surface, like a sandy beach?
Our feet adjust and almost reform to hug around the surface. On the sand specifically, if you don’t run or wear flip-flops of course, you will notice your whole foot attempts to hug the sand, from the outside edge to the baby toe and towards the big toe. The ball of the foot active but not straining and all toes spreading.
Walking on the sand therefore not only made my feet happy at that moment but it made me rethink my walk in general, as this is a more efficient way of walking.
I send my mind consciously to my feet, examining not only the shape of them on the sand but also the way my walk had adjusted.
Coming back to Toronto I just couldn’t wait to apply the details of that experience to my tango in heels…
And YES! Happy feet can be happy in heels too!
So next time you are on a sandy beach walk on it with a conscious mind, preferably before any mojito consumption, and you will start to notice that your feeling of relaxation is not coming only by the fact that you are in an amazing warm place or not having to go to work, but also from your feet being happy again.
How can all this be applied to prepare us for our Tango heels
Going up to a “releve” as ballet dancers call it, will not only strengthen your legs but it will also make you aware how the weight when transferred forward changes the form of your foot.
As you will in the video, there are two common mistakes that can really throw you off balance and cause strain in your body. Work against but at the same time, feel that every time you are lifting your heels off the floor, the ball of your foot in massaging the floor instead of pressing into it. Like you would do on a sandy beach.
If you have no sandy beach experience, cute kitten paws can do the job: