Tag Archives: tango community

Lost in Translation: Decoding Tango Class Clichés and Confusing Phrases

Have you ever heard people give cues/ advice in a tango class that made you go, “Huh?”.
Like when they say, “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango.” Or maybe someone told you to “walk backwards like you want to walk forwards.” That sounds a bit tricky!

Can you think of any other confusing or cliche things people say in tango class? Share them in the comments! Later, we’ll figure out how to understand and dance to these tricky cues, starting with the cliches!

Tango Class Clichés and how to respond to them

Some phrases are cliches, which means lots of people use them, but they can be a bit confusing. Like when someone says, “Lead with emotion” or “Dance like nobody is watching” or “Don’t think, just dance.” These are like puzzles because they don’t always give a clear message.

Even though these phrases are cliches, they’ve been around for a long time because they can be important. But, to really understand them, it’s like being a detective and asking questions. For example, if your instructor says “Lead with emotion!”, ask for clarification as “what do mean when you say “lead with emotion”? Do you mean with more clarity in direction, with more conviction or with more intention?”

Asking questions is like having a superpower, especially when you’re learning something new. And interestingly enough very few students ask. So at the first couple of classes I usually ask for them, like “Do you know what I mean when I say X?” or “Does this make sense?”

One last example before we leave the cliche section, is one of my personal favourites “Don’t think, just dance”. Which if you ask me, sometimes there’s a little secret frustration behind it, like the teacher might be thinking, “I don’t have more instructions for you, just figure it out!” (haha)

And there is some level of truth to that, meaning that if you need to explore movement on your too in order to get it. As a teacher though, it’s important to explain what you mean by “just dance.” For example, I might say, “Now, let’s try this in a dance. Forget about the exercise and see how it shows up in your dance. If you feel something different, great! If not, that’s okay too. Keep exploring and playing with it!”.

Phrases that make you go, “Huh?”

Now there are some cues that simply are a bad choice of words. For example “bring your energy higher” or “don’t try to make it better, you’ll make it worse” or “dance your own dance”…. What??? haha

From a teacher’s point of view I avoid such phrases, because they are not really that helpful. But as a student I see them as an invitation for a short-term exploration.

Think about it. Say you are in a practica, working on a couple of things and the cue is “dance your own dance”. This advice comes with no restrictions really..! There is no goal or expectations and there is no clear cue for you to follow. Which can be frustrating unless
Which can be frustrating unless you see it as a green light to trying different variations, exploring different options until you find what works for you.

The same goes for something that sounds more technical like “bring your energy higher”. What does that mean really? It can mean anything; that the level of the energy you perform the movement with is low, your intention is unclear, or maybe your upper body is a bit passive, or something entirely different.

Reading though through this paragraph you already have 3 different options to work with and collaborate on with your partner and your teacher; you can make it more dynamic, more crisp or more powerful or even a combination of all 3.

Translating movement to words

Now, why did we treat cliches and confusing advice differently?

Cliches have hidden but valuable messages; unpacking them helps you learn a lot.
After all, they are cliches for a reason..!
On the other hand, confusing phrases are often language misuse. Imagine movement as one language and speech as another. Your teacher during a class tries to translate their actions into words. Sometimes the translation is successful and sometimes not. Responding to them with movement therefore can be a more successful strategy than talking it out.

This was our first attempt at blending words and movement to improve your classes; aiming to share strategies for better understanding and responding to confusing cues. Stay tuned for more detailed posts on successful “translation” and if dance-related confusing phrases come to mind, share them in a note or comment.

Chrisa

P.S: If you are looking for guidance through your practice, take a look at our training guide “It Takes You to Tango” available on Amazon.

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.

Dance to share our humanity

Dance, is probably not one of those things your financial advisor would list as something necessary. And generally Art does not appear high in the charts of things we need to survive. And yet history, but also experience, teaches us otherwise. Art brings us close together, allows us to form communities and to identify all as one, strong human nation. And that is very powerful, once we find the courage and grab the opportunity to share our humanity.

Dance to share

All types of dances and all types of art forms have this power, to bring people together. This is why, for example, juntas in the past would burn books, prevent songs from getting produced, ban theatre productions, even stop people from simply getting together for a celebration.

Especially though the forms of art that relate to folk traditions, and Tango is a great example of that, seem to be even stronger because they are created by more people, they are accessible to more people and generally involve more people. And dance itself being a language that involves the body, gives us the opportunity to communicate and relate to one another in a much more direct way, if of course we don’t get lost in translation.

The question though is what exactly do we share? And this, has been a question that I have asked myself many times, because I think it has a lot of layers to it and the answer changes as I grow, in age and in dance.

So at first I was thinking like a special snowflake, that my dance should be showing MY perspective, MY view of Tango, of dance, of the world. (nothing wrong with that by the way)
As time went by though, I noticed that the above grow smaller, along with the need to prove myself. And I was more interested in sharing the moment.
Sharing the moment, though, means coming in to listen and to respond; building a conversation. This conversation will be painted in the colours me and my partner bring in with us. Colours of experience, of memory and of the senses. Colours that we may not even be aware of. And we trust each other, to receive those colours with care. And this is how art grows.

When presenting to an audience, either in performance or in a class, I share my colours with the audience or the students, along with colours I have managed to absorb from predecessors of the art I am representing and the art I am bringing with me. And then that group of people will need to match me with their colours. As I trust them, they need to trust me and their partners. And this is how art grows.

What does it mean to share?

So what does it mean to share? It means to trust and to be vulnerable. Inevitably if you wish for a dance form not to feel foreign to you, you need to be ready to trust and therefore create this fine balance between being vulnerable and setting expectations for your audience, your students, your teachers, your partners. Because if you don’t have expectations from them what are you trusting them with?

And the level of expectation is built along with the trust and grows along with the sharing. “Sharing means caring” as they say. It is a cliche but you know what, cliches are cliches for a reason. Any dance, any art form received with care can become universal, can move the whole world. And it all happens through us, through me and you.

How we get to share?

Well, the first obvious choice, for those of us in dance, is of course to dance. And in more general terms, to participate in the reproduction or the spreading of the art form we are involved in.

But there is also another element. The element known, in the circles of Somatic Dance and Body Mind Centering, as holding the space for our partners. In Tango this happens in the classes when you hold the space for your teacher or your partner to keep exploring certain elements with you.

But also it happens in the milonga. And maybe you have heard many teachers say this, that Tango is not just the steps or the specific patterns; Tango is the music, the history, the community, everything. Tango grows and flourishes in milongas only if the people present, hold the space for it to grow.

Only if the people present are not there, just to do intricate steps on the music, but to be with the music, in their community, being there for their partners on and off the dance floor. When we are not dancing, we are not wasting time, for Tango to grow in our communities we need to hold the space.

The importance of dance and art in general in our lives

Can we live without art? Sure I guess we can. But it would be dreadful and lonely life.

Some people who have been to Buenos Aires, have experienced this holding of the space in some milongas. They come back and are trying to explain how it was magical but they just can’t find the right words. And the truth is, it is not easy to explain the feeling. But if I had to, I would say, it feels secure, grand, and full of possibilities. Possibilities though, that don’t feel out of reach. No, on the contrary they feel so close to you because you have the whole community backing you up. Magical!

So, I have changed my mind… no! we can’t live without art. It would mean forgetting we are human.

What do you think?

Chrisa

Dance like a child..!

I always struggled with phrases such as “just dance”, they feel a bit ambiguous. I know what they mean obviously, but they can mean a lot and nothing at the same time. And so I am afraid that creates a wall for people new to the dance community, instead of liberating them. So I thought maybe we can use a different phrase, for example “dance like a child”.

“Just dance”, what does it mean?

To me, the way I understand it and the way I have used it in the past ( with no success), it means without thinking about the rules. Allowing yourself to enjoy the moment of dancing without having to think of what you have to do. Without having any expectations or trying to meet any standards. Maybe I missing something here but I am sure that I am close.

Now the problem is, this is not obvious to someone still learning to dance.
Why? Well I think for a couple of reasons.

If this phrase is used to describe the “warm-up dance” (we will get to this one is a bit), aka if this phrase is used at the beginning of a class or practice; well it is contradicting the reason people are there. People have walked in a class or practice to learn and advance their skill. They are in a completely different mindset compared to “just dance”. Inescapably the instinctual reaction is “I can’t just dance, that is why I am here”.

Secondly, if we are using this phrase in a social setting, such as a milonga, let’s consider the following problem. The amount of time the average person, wishing to adverse their skill, spends in a class/ practise environment far overshadows their dance time. So they are better at think-and-do than just do.

Thirdly, and naturally coming from the other two points, “just dance” is a skill itself. Dancing is a skill but just-dancing is just a little bit of a different skill. Which means it also requires training.

So bottom line, the average person receiving the cue, may understand all the words in “just dance”, may guess the meaning of the phrase but has no idea of how to actually begin to do that. Not to mention that they might not understand the phrase in the same way as it is told. Because you may have a different understanding of “just dance” than me. And as such, I think, we need a better phrase and system to help people build on this skill.

Dance like a child

Dance like a child or move like child, depending on the setting and the type of dance one teaches, can get us out of this little word trap.

Ask anyone, and they will be able to tell you what dance/ move like a child means. They will probably use words like, “freely”, “without limitations”, “carefree”, “not caring about the rules”, “having fun”, “moving around”, “doing whatever they want”, “living the moment”, “expressive” etc. I am sure you can come up with some more of your own. All though easily and securely leading to … enjoying the moment without thinking about the rules or someone watching..!

Which is EXACTLY what we want!

So I would like to invite you to start every practice and if possible every class with such a dance. A dance where you actually dance like a child.
Some teachers already start their class with a dance. And here I have another wording issue… haha
That dance is usually called a “warm up dance”.

Now to some level it is a warm up; your body is getting warm which is necessary for most activities. But I don’t really like the term in this context. Warm up is so fitness oriented, it kind of creates the wrong idea. Maybe we can say a prep dance instead of a warm up dance.

Prep dance, as in preparation dance. We are preparing ourselves, body, mind and spirit, for our class or practice. Which I think, even mentally can create the possibility for us to leave what we already know behind and open a window for new knowledge.

To fun prep dances everyone! Dance like a child!

Chrisa,

P.S: For more tips that go beyond technique check out our Guide: “It Takes You to Tango”

Tango a way to tell our story..!

Though this is mainly a Tango and movement practice focused website, today I want to share with you a short personal story.
So after my practice the other day, I was preparing this video for Pro Dancer shoes. At the time I didn’t think much of it. It in the beginning just yet another video only focused on the feet. But things were not as straight forward as I had initially thought.
Let me tell you… It took me 20mins to finish! And it involved a lot of starting and stoping and a bit of frustration of course.

Tango can be frustrating some times..!

Some time had to go by, for me to realize the reason I was getting frustrated. I was focusing so so much on the shoes than on the dance itself.

Let me just show the 1st attempt that I think it is acceptable and so I can actually share it with you. It is not the 1st attempt of that day, it is the 1st acceptable attempt.

The intent was to show case the shoes. The problem is that focusing on that thought I wasn’t really paying attention to anything else. The result is having a feeling of disconnect to the music and my feelings of the dance.

As you can understand, even in this acceptable version frustration is still there and for good reason!

So what did I do?

Well the obvious..! I thought: “ok, forget about the shoes and JUST dance!” 
There was a moment that I actually thought, I am making no progress so there is not much point to this. I should instead simply dance and if something worth sharing comes out of it, then all the better!

Of course, things started getting better, and I actually really enjoyed myself plus the video is pretty good I think. At least it does the job and most importantly I was happier doing it.

Of course this is Tango related but not because it is about a Tango video

So why am I telling you this?

Let’s take shoes out of the story and pick something else. What do you feel uncomfortable with in your dance? The beat, the sequences, the posture, if your partner is going to get bored…? Whatever it is, think about how that issue affects your time in the milonga. Think how it grabs all your focus, and doesn’t let you see anything else. It actually spoils your night!

The thing is, that whatever the issue is, it can’t be solved in the milonga and the more you focus on that you are missing out on everything else!

Especially, for milongas, focus on having a good time! Allow yourself to enjoy your dances, to embrace your partners and get lost in the music! I am sure you have missed that as much as I have.
There is no point missing out for something you can’t possibly do anything about at that moment plus in many cases if you go with flow things get actually a lot better!

Tango a way to tell your story

So to transition to our drills and tips, even these very tips and drills, remember they are here to help and not to become trapping elements for you to stress over when you are dancing in milonga.
Practice, devote time in your practice but also enjoy the fruits of this practice!

Lastly, after sharing all this wisdom.. (haha) only keep the advise if it helps you and if not put it to the side and find what works for you! 😉

Let me know your thoughts in the comments or better yet subscribe to our community and continue the conversation there!

Enjoy,

Chrisa

An Amateur “of” Tango

Amateur, the lover, the friend. The word goes back to 1784, from the French amateur “one who loves, lover” (16c., restored from Old French ameour), which of course comes from the Latin word amatorem (nominative amator) “lover, friend,” with the agent noun from amatus, past participle of amare “to love” 

Amateur, one who loves…

Isn’t it beautiful? To be able to say I am an amateur Tango dancer and know the love you are expressing!
Lovers of Tango, of Dance and Movement, that is what we are! We are explorers and friends of research and discovery. Not only because we want to be better or feel better while we are dancing but simply because we love to dance, we love Tango!

I am not sure about you but sometimes while we are trying to fix all of the things pointed out to us by our teachers, we get lost. We might lose our target, and think that adjusting successfully to cues meets the goal. Then after a while we realize that such a goal is unattainable, it always shifts since it is actually set by another person. Plus it doesn’t quite speak to the heart… have you noticed that?

Maybe we start and we are excited to see and feel some change but after a while, if we focus solely on fixing and on what needs to be fixed, we start losing interest..! It is actually kinda funny… we recognize we are doing better but that is not enough to keep us going..!

Focus on the love

My invitation to you therefore is to focus on the love itself. Here are some examples of refocusing…
Practice? Reframe to love discovering through motion
Learning new steps? Love creating together

Put your heart to it, feel your whole self is being part of this process not just a mind instructing legs and arms. Love how your arms are holding, how toes are articulating, how your blood is flowing warming your whole body up. Be an Amateur! Enjoy every moment of the process! 🙂

If you are feeling ready, how about we start here: https://youtu.be/h89Muu_GgtM

Enjoy and join us for more by subscribing to our Bautanz community

Chrisa