Tag Archives: social tango

Alone in a Tango Festival – is that really possible?

Let me give you some context here. Nice big Tango festival was taking place here in Toronto end of October; started on Wednesday, ended on Sunday. Perfect opportunity to run a social experiment. 

As you know Friday and Saturday are usually the busiest nights, double milongas, lots of people from out of town and of course shows. So the friend that I usually attend milongas with was unable to join me on Friday and I hesitated for a bit but decided to go and see what happens if I show up alone and follow my own advice, and see what happens.

Tango Festival survival advice..!

Key Advice 1: Commit to yourself, not the event 
Before attending the milonga, doubts often creep in. You may wonder if it’s worth it, whether you’ll dance much, how to pass the time between dances, and where to sit if everyone’s in groups. At this stage, three things are essential:

  1. Make a deal with yourself to prioritize your enjoyment. If you start feeling uncomfortable, bored, or not having fun, give yourself permission to leave.
  2. Arrive 1.5 hours max. before the show(s) to strike a balance between comfort and catching the performance.
  3. Identify your comfort spots in the venue, such as the bar… more on that below..!

Key Advice 2: Go where the fish are (figuratively speaking… of course.. haha)
In a bustling festival, you’re never truly alone. Seek out places of comfort with these qualities:

  1. Relaxation potential.
  2. Visibility.
  3. Populated by others.

The bar is an ideal choice, as it’s a natural gathering spot for festivalgoers. You can get dances, rest, socialize, and be seen by fellow dancers. Some times, depending on the setting the buffet can be another good option, as well as the area where vendors present their Tango shoes or outfits. I would prioritize the bar though, because everyone will pass by the bar, there are stools where you can sit and rest and usually people see you and you can see them.

Key Advice 3: Be proactive
Don’t wait for others to initiate conversations; take the lead. Being at the bar and just waiting for someone else to start a chat is not a very helpful strategy. Similarly, for a dance, embrace the cabeceo, as it’s much more comfortable than risking rejection by directly approaching someone. In a crowded environment, the cabeceo is your ally, opening doors to new dance partners.

Make it about YOU!

Notice that the 3 pointers have a common “vanishing point” or a common perspective if you like. And that is YOU!
Think about it. This is your night out and it is supposed to be fun, it is supposed to be enjoyable and fulfilling. Despite an expected initial nervousness, if you make the necessary negotiations (key advice #1), strategically plan your night (key advice #2) and bring in some social attitude (key advice #3) you can have a splendid Tango festival experience.

If you have similar experiences for lessons learned that you would like to share, please send me an email at chrisa.assis@bautanz.com. I’d love to hear all about them!

Chrisa

P.S: If you need go deeper into mental or psychological boundaries and limitation, read through “It Takes You to Tango” I am sure you will find the advice extremely helpful and most importantly actionable.

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

A beginner in Tango in the times of Covid

Well, you know how at the beginning of this craziness everyone was saying this lockdown is an opportunity?
Now you can learn anything you like but never had the time…you can take better care of yourself…listen to you..etc.etc…So I am wondering if any beginner in Tango or in anything really, kept at it?

I had a few people reach out to asking whether through the class I have online (https://bautanz.com/intelligent-tango-programs-and-courses/online-tango-classes-live/) they can learn Tango…
What was I supposed to say…? The obvious answer at least for my class is no! And that is what I would say in the beginning…
But then I gave it some thought, and said well there so many benefits in one learning how the body is built to move through a dance… so why not…and so I then said… No but you can learn how to move and believe me you will be ahead of the game when things get back to normal..! Oh my goodness..! haha

Would this have really worked?

Honestly, I don’t think so! And not only for a technique class but for any online class.

Let me explain why, and feel free send me your thoughts on the matter.

In a normal situation, even if we were following classes/ videos/ practices online we had the opportunity to go to a class with other people, to go to a milonga or practica. To embrace, to touch, to feel, to move together. This all was part of the process! So our online learning was in addition to that, not subsidizing that.

Now what do we have..?
In some places with a partial lockdown still in place we don’t have access to any group activity. While in place where measures have been lifted we have very small groups of people, with masks, staying with the same partner and overall being overwhelmed by worry if not fear.
In both cases we are not in a place where we can learn… Either because there is no really human contact or because we are still unsure whether we can trust the human being next to us.

And that is for any beginner in any dance, not only Tango.

See something is missing…

You see dance at least for me is supposed to liberate you. To help you open up to another human being, to share the moment with them. In Tango we do in an embrace, in ballet you are standing next to each other, but we are still there together, breathing the same air, sweating on the same floor and briefly or not so briefly touching.
Can we do all that while constantly thinking: “Stay 2m away”?

No I don’t think so…And please don’t tell me to wear a mask in class, because guess what breathing your own CO2 for 2hrs while dancing is equally unhealthy..!

I have been thinking about this for a long time. It was actually the reason why I didn’t start doing online classes right away.

You see bautanz is an online community for practicing and enhancing and developing your Tango and your movement. But it was always meant to move in parallel with in person class. The reason for this is that we, as in people, are social animals. We learn from being touched by others, touched is used here literally and figuratively of course. That is what I felt was missing from doing all this online.

So as a beginner or not what do we do?

One of my teachers Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, from Body mind Centering (https://www.bodymindcentering.com) says: “The mind of the room has changed” when the group shifts their perspective on something. There is this communal thinking, this communal understanding that builds from each individual’s thinking but also informs each individual thinking.
That is what is missing..!

So if we can get a glimpse of that through the web, we would have won something that could teach us all, being a beginner or a teacher.
Will we magically become Tango champions in one night? Will we go the next milonga–whenever that happens–and just hop on the dancefloor no problem..?
No of course not…but this is what I think we will have… A sense of the other! A sense of gathering, a sense of touch without touching, a sense of a network that moves together.
Currently alone-together, but soon simply together

I believe this experience as whole is only achievable by in-person classes, but a little drop of it, might be possible. And that possibility is my hope… I hope we will get past this worry and fear. That we will trust each other again. And that by being a beginner not in Tango but in socializing we can get even closer together.

I am thinking therefore of a new format for a class, where we take moments to listen and share. Share not only in words, but also by acknowledging the time we are spending with all these other people from around the world. I hope that by the end of this class session, I will have something to report form this little experiment!

If you are already able to do in-person classes, what ways are you finding to hold the space for each other?

Send me your thoughts,

Chrisa

“Nobody dances with me… I am too old!”– Tango and the age- issue

“Nobody dances with me… I am too old! All the leaders prefer to dance with the younger, sexier dancers even though they are not good dancers” Many followers, who feel their age is their biggest burden

I have heard this phrase so many times and it always made me feel sad and even guilty.
During every attempt though I made to help  would get a you-are-too-young type of response

And so for years I avoided writing about the matter until today…

The follower’s view on the age- issue

Most followers have a sad story to share, where they have felt left out, ignored and unwanted.
And there are not stories only from the milongas but also from practicas and even classes…

Follower’s will tell you things like:

“Leaders avoid me. They won’t even look at me” OR
“Dancers that I have known for years, even friends of mine… dance only with the young, sexy dancers who can’t even dance properly, and completely ignore me” OR
“I have been taking classes for years only to go to milongas and get to dance 2 tandas maximum during which I would be dancing with the worst dancers, who don’t even smell good..!”

They go on to blame their age, their not so-revealing outfits and… of course… Mother Nature…
Yes leaders…
Followers believe it is in your nature to go after the first young, sexy thing you see in the room

But is this the truth..?

A leader’s view on the age- issue

I am not a man and therefore I can’t say if this is true or not…

Most men though will tell you that this is not the case at all… at least not in Tango.

** DISCLAIMER: Here we are talking about decent men who are not using Tango as the last resort to get close to a woman..! **

Hahaha
(Not a joke… though)

What they do say though is things like:
“The attractivity of a dancer is made up of several ingredients. First and foremost the dance skills. But what makes here a pleasure to dance with is more than that. Sympathy is important, that young sparkle in her eyes, an empathic connection aside from tango. A tasteful dress and a personal attitude that matches her age doesn’t do harm, either. These are the same things that make a women attractive in general. I am not talking about romantic thoughts, I mean character and identity. It’s the very same for men, by the way, although they admittedly have the minority advantage in tango.” ( a thoughtful comment found under this article: In search of Tango: The age prejudice in Tango)

Or from the same article:
“Men get avoided and turned down for dances because of their age, grey hair, appearance, height, skill, clique membership, position in the hierarchy, etc. We don’t know why we’re refused; it’s uncomfortable for everybody if we ask why, so we don’t ask. Sometimes our invitations to dance are turned down, and then we see our invitee on the dance floor with somebody else thirty seconds later. This is very unpleasant. We too endure tandas with followers that are not very enjoyable.”  Or

“Its not so much age as the lack of beauty and isn’t this just the story of life? We all seek beauty in various forms and tango is no exception.”

I am not too old… I don’t get asked by the best dancers… And I DON’T care!

As I said I am not attracted to women and therefore I can’t tell you if the guys are using the above and more as excuses for not dancing with you… But I truly don’t think that this is the case….

Personally, and I hope you will believe me, I am not one of those followers who won’t stop dancing all night, and not because I am picky…

I will dance with everyone except from people who rude and/ or hurtful.
This is my standard and I won’t take one step back from it simply because dancing with someone hurtful or rude makes me feel worse than sitting, enjoying the music and chatting with a friend.

Having standards is important as it will save you from physical and psychological pain PLUS it shows good dancers and most importantly good people that they are in your niche instead of some rude bum looking do all the crazy moves he has picked from the web…

How do you ensure you choose correctly..?
This is what I do…
When I am not dancing, I am looking at the people… how they approach their partners, how they reach in the embrace, what they do between the dances, how the finish the tanda and get off the dance floor…. Overall, how they treat their partners…

MEN..! Be nice!
It goes a long way…

And because I know you are probably thinking…” I AM nice!”
Here are a few extra tips…

  1. Practice on things that matter on the dance floor
    For example, posture, proper clear leading, good listening, embrace and musicality over fancy moves
  2. Be respectful but not too serious
    For example, allowing people to chat and excusing yourself when you interrupt them is not old school, it is good manners.
    Properly asking someone for a dance and not creeping up on a follower, again good manners
  3. Be presentable.
    It always wins over being young… That is why women still like George Clooney. He has style and he doesn’t pretend he is still 20
    So if you are 50 dress like a 50 year old living in 2018..!
  4. A fresh scent
    Now I am not saying you smell bad, but that doesn’t mean you smell good..! Sooo, try to smell good without overdoing it
Now back to you followers…

Practicing will give your better technique and therefore confidence… but you don’t only need confidence you also need to stick to your standards even if it means that for a little while you will be dancing less…

But you know what because I know you are probably already thinking things like:
“You are still young and good looking” or
“Everyone wants to dance with you, you are a teacher…” or
some combo of the two comments above…

So since I can’t win, and I don’t want to make you feel sadder and myself guiltier I will let a man do the work for me… haha

Now, don’t start with, “I am looking to get more dances not more dates”
Of course Tango is Tango and life is life… but hear Matthew Hussey out first..!

Can you… or better said… can WE become:

  1. Practice on things that matter on the dance floor
    Meaning technique, listening, posture, embrace, musicality
  2. Be more social
    A smile, between dances goes a long way. And a friendly chat or even a joke goes even longer.
    But even when you are sitting out, chat with the people next to you, relax back in your chair and enjoy the music, look at the dance floor being genuinely interested
  3. Be presentable
    Your outfit must say that you care about that night.
    That you put some effort to find something nice to wear. And not for others but also for you, choose things that make YOU feel good and then you can project that outward
  4. A fresh scent
    Something light, soft and elegant such work. It doesn’t even have to be perfume, it can be body lotion..! 😉

So can we become, as Matthew saying that video, playful, sexy, nurturing and independent..?

I think so and if you think so too just hit subscribe.
We can do together..!

Chrisa

Cabeceo– Old school OR a handy Social Skill?

You think cabeceo is uncomfortable? Then you better stay away from this style of speed dating… Shhhh Dating!

Shhh Dating–Bizarre new way of love

No small talk, no jokes to break the ice, not even asking the other person’s name…Silence!

haha
I only recently found out about this but it looks like it hit New York hard back in 2008…

Are you thinking: Why on earth would anyone voluntarily put themselves in such a tough spot?
Well, this what founder, Adam Taffler says in the article: “When you can’t small talk to someone, you connect with them on a much deeper level. It’s very intimate

Does that remind you of something?!?!
The cabeceo of course!

Cabeceo– Old School or a TRUE Tango tradition?

The cabeceo is indeed a Tango tradition… It is also though a red flag for many dancers all around the Tango world.

Haters roll their eyes saying: “Seriously..? This is 2017” while
Lovers, roll their eyes wondering: “Why do I have to go through the very unpleasant process of saying NO when I am not even looking for a dance?”

Hhhmmm… Now both sides do have a strong point..!

Haters are you ready for the path of SHAME?

Haters of cabeceo strongly push forward the fact that we are fast approaching 2018 and therefore we don’t need to ask for permission to get a dance.

You are absolutely right! 2017 is indeed almost over, and that naturally makes you wonder if we still need such an old school approach to our social interaction?

The REAL question though is: Are you ready to hear NO and walk the PATH OF SHAME back to your seat?

I am asking because interestingly enough in this very same group you find people who along with cabeceo they hate small talk, they can’t handle rejection… AND they are wondering: “Can’t we just dance?”

via GIPHY

If you are in this last category, please, prepare an honesty bath, for Christmas!

Cabeceo is not the problem, and you have to admit to yourselves what the real problem is here!

I get it, I was shy too! But shyness, social anxiety, low self- esteem or low confidence will not just go away on their own.
They are social skills and like any other skill if you practice on them, you can get better, and enjoy your milongas way more.

Plus the milonga environment is much safer than a business environment and therefore perfect for working on social skills and confidence

Cabeceo can actually help you, if you want to avoid unwanted interactions or if you want to approach someone if you can’t handle rejection, if you can’t make small talk, and if you feel uncomfortable making the first move.
And eye contact is a skill you use in your everyday life, in your romantic and business relationships

Start your training here, now with me:

For those of you who have really no problems chatting with people or hearing NO, then go ahead, take the cabeceo out, just be civil.
Meaning you might think it is stupid but for other people it is psychological cushion, and you need to allow them that comfort.

Lovers, are you sure you are doing the cabeceo..?

It is funny because one of the most common chat, in the followers’ circles, is on:
“None of the good dancers are asking me to dance, I am always dancing with beginners…” or “I am dancing with the same people all the time”

Can you see what the root of the problem is here?
1 word and 1 phrase are causing the problem: ALWAYS and ALL THE TIME!

haha
I am not joking here, I am dead serious!

If you are spending the biggest part of your night on the dance floor with people you DON’T want to be dancing with, when on earth are you going to make a connection with the people you DO want to be dancing with?

 Cabeceo strategies #1: Stop mindlessly looking around.

That only attracts your friends and others with whom you usually dance OR people who don’t use the cabeceo so they don’t even care whether you are looking around or not

What to do instead:

Laser focus on the people you want to dance with.
If you can’t do that from where are sitting… Change spots!

Find a spot that you can easily make eye contact with the people you want to dance with. Try in every way to be closer to the people you actually want to be dancing with, no matter what your role is in the dance

Cabeceo Strategies #2: Don’t just dance with anybody. Use your time in the milonga to connect and dance with the people you want!

You need to switch your mindset about the milonga if you want richer dance experiences.

More dances DON’T make up for the entrance fee.
BETTER dances, good chats and music appreciation-time on the other hand DO!

Think about it this way, if you paid 15$ as an entrance fee, and you danced all night BUT you HATED half of those dances… Then I am sorry but that is crappy night.
If on the other hand, you paid 15$ and you danced 5 GREAT tandas, you chatted with friends, you met 1 new person, and you relaxed to the beautiful rhythms of Tango… THAT is what you call an awesome night.

Preparation and strategic planning won’t spoil spontaneity

As Phil Cousineau has pointed out in The Art of Pilgrimage: “preparation no more spoils the chance for spontaneity and serendipity than discipline ruins the opportunity for genuine self-expression in sports, acting or the tea ceremony”

You need to find the balance between setting up your options and being optimistically ignorant!

The goal here is not to plan everything to a T, trying to avoid all uncertainty and every surprise, quite the opposite..!
Become aware of your options of milongas in your community and of your options in those milongas–in terms of seating, partners etc. And then let the dance itself take over!

Plan for gaining the confidence that no matter what you will have a good time!

So for example: check out the milonga space–if you haven’t been there before.
Notice the people you want to dance with… where are they sitting, who are they dancing with, are they using the cabeceo–remember there are quite a few haters out there– etc.

Based on all that choose strategically where to sit, who to cabeceo, if/ when you need to go to the bar to chat with a potential partner and then OFF YOU GO!

Every milonga, every tanda, every dance is something special….no 2 are alike!
Use the comfort of a plan to be able to walk in the milonga and go with the flow

Join our community here at Bautanz, get that confidence back!