In our last practice we focused quite a bit on the embrace or better said our frame. We also worked on understanding how leading and following works. And so today, I wanted to take the opportunity and expand a bit on all those other elements that turn a frame into an embrace; that make a frame feel like a hug, and a dance like a journey allowing us to connect and express ourselves.
“Embrace” yourselves, for a “hugsy” list..!
Fun Fact: Are you getting enough hugs? Are you getting enough hugs? Virginia Satir, a world-renowned family therapist, is famous for saying “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Now, I can’t vouch for the scientific research backing the need for hugs, but hey, it’s always a good thing to have Tango in our lives, right? We can replenish our hug reservoir anytime. It’s a bit funny though, I stumbled upon this article talking about ways to get more hugs, and guess what? Tango wasn’t even mentioned! How could they miss such a fantastic option?
Hugging can be a social “no-no” Our cultural background and upbringing play a significant role in determining our comfort level when it comes to giving and receiving hugs, particularly when embracing strangers. Many of our students, prior to Tango, were not accustomed to hugging in such situations. While they didn’t necessarily have a strong aversion to hugging, they hadn’t realized how much societal “taboos” were hindering their progress in Tango. Feeling uneasy in an embrace can greatly impact your entire dance experience, from communication with your partner to your posture on the dance floor. The sooner you address this and work on embracing and being embraced, the quicker you’ll discover new possibilities in your Tango journey. So, how can you achieve that? Well, a few ideas include understanding the proper framing and using it to communicate effectively with your partner—an aspect you can practice on your own. Additionally, regularly dancing with different partners in various types of embrace also helps. For more tips and additional drills, take a look at the embrace section in the book “It Takes You to Tango” alongside the suggestions provided below. Happy dancing!
Exploring the embrace while having fun You’ll discover numerous videos on my channel that delve into the topic of embrace. However, I’ve chosen to share this particular video with you because it incorporates the element of “play” into the practice. Embracing a playful mindset during your learning journey can profoundly impact your progress and overall well-being. Instead of treating practice as another obligatory task to complete before enjoying your hobby, integrate it seamlessly into your passion. Let your practice become an enjoyable part of your hobby, enhancing your overall experience.
“Sometimes a silent hug is the only thing to say“ By Robert Brault.
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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.
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!
It is common and at some times good strategy to separate the above during different classes/ practices on music exploration, in order to dedicate the necessary time to each of them. Sometimes they may come together in a musicality class where choreography is used to explore music textures and qualities or to work on the skill of building a choreography.
What I would like to suggest to you is that you see all these elements as ways to explore the music, as ways to make a map of the song so that you can move and express yourself through it with more ease.
Rhythm is all!
Who said that? Yup! that was indeed MJ
Rhythm is a basically a set of relationships based on three criteria:
the goal – aka where we are going
how far that is and
how fast we are going
And the above are affected by the mass that is moving; for example an arm versus the whole body. Also, the surface on which the item is moving, if there is traction or not and more.
As you can see in the video above there are many different ways to explore these relationships, we can count, clap, sing, dance or we can simply spend some time just listening.
And listening starts from within. There is one vital element that most of us, especially when dancing with someone else, tend to forget. And that is our breathing. There is rhythm in our breathing and that rhythm is unique to us, and very much dependent on what we are doing from one moment to the next. Therefore, every music exploration should start internally before we reach outward, as we are doing in the video above.
Lastly, before we go the beat, notice that though in the video we are playing mostly with the arms the feet are participating only they are not main focus. They can of course be the route through which we explore all of these relationships, so I invite you to give it try… it is truly a lot of fun!
And the beat goes on
I learned this exercise a few years ago from the wonderful Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes. And it has been an exercise that I have been going back to over and over again because it is not only very helpful, fun and challenging but also as an idea, as a music exploration strategy, it is something that you can apply to any and all sequences.
So what happens in this particular video, is that we take a routine that is very well known and broadly used in Tango, in this case the ocho cortado and we start changing the relationship of the steps with the beat. This is the idea behind the exercise and so now you can understand that you can do the same thing, with the Tango basic/ box step, with the giro step and with any other sequence really.
How does this help us though map out the music?
OK! I want to share a strategy with you here, that again applies to all the things we practice on, but we will stick with the specifics of this exercise to have some solid reference. Suggested practice steps:
Practice each variation separately, one by one with and without the music.
Make little groups of 2 variations to practice on the music. How you choose? Well, there two ways that I usually follow:
Group the variation you are the most comfortable with every other, making groups of 2
Or group very different variations, for example from our video, the very slow/ mellow version with the syncopated version
Second last step, decide on how many times you would like to do each variation lets say 4 times each. You put the music on and you do each variation 4 times, one after the other until the song is over.
Very last step..! Let all the practice go and dance! What does that mean? You put the music back on and you let the music guide you as to which variation is more appropriate for that moment. As you can understand this is a step that may last for some time.
It is advised that you stick with the same song as you go through the steps above and that you see this as a flexible structure, and not a linear process. Meaning that you can go back and forth between steps, stick with one step for your whole practice one day and the next day you carry on etc. Basically, notice what your needs are as you go through the structure and give permission to yourself to adjust the strategy to your needs.
Embellishments – A music exploration power tool!
In this last video, we are playing with embellishments. Of course what you see in the video are only 3 of the many embellishments you can do on ochos but they have been specifically chosen. They will help us broaden our vocabulary and our understanding of the timing of the ochos, they are great tools for us to express ourselves better and have a bit of fun trying things out on the music but also and most importantly they can help us map out the textures of the music.
Embellishments in particular, because of their nature, they are add ons they are not required, they are one of the greatest tools to capture the textures of the music. Often times the same embellishment can be aggressive and powerful or spicy and playful depending on how you perform it.
So following the same strategy as described above try to see what textures you can capture and express with the 3 embellishments of our video during your music exploration session.
Music is much more than steps on the beat
Closing this short blog post, I hope that you have been inspired to look deeper into what the rhythm and the beat are and how you can explore them but also to look beyond them when you are trying to understand and relate to the music.
Think of the beat as the basic grid for each song. Over that grid we then have multiple layers. Some are consistently in the spotlight and some are making brief appearances with solos or by bridging musical phrases.
It is essential to get a clear understanding of the structure of the song, of the grid and then of the different layers that come over it in order to then be able to fully listen and express the music through your dance. And of course, the fact that we may be able to hear all the different layers doesn’t mean that we will dance to them; it is important though that we are able to hear them while we are dancing.
We have spent a couple of our Tango Movement Labs working on these elements so you can certainly visit the latest videos on that list and of course join us on Wednesday for a live practice. Tango Movement Lab runs every Wednesday 12:15pm EST through Facebook and Youtube
And of course if you don’t want to miss any of the extra goodies that I weekly put out, subscribe to the community of Bautanz
Dancing… Most of us think of it just as a social activity of a recreational nature. Something we do to spend some good time with friends, to learn something new and to have fun while introducing some moderate (not always) movement in our schedule. Right..?!? Yes and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!
Now think about dance in this last year. Are you taking classes online? Did you go to under-the-radar milongas or social gatherings? Do you dance every hour to a random song you hear on the radio like I do..? If not do you miss dancing? If so has your perspective of what dance is here for, change through this experience?
The social aspect of every dance stems from within
Personally, I haven’t missed dancing as an activity because I still dance. But I have missed sharing the moment and creating something in the moment with someone else. And also the process of getting there, trying to understand my partner, trying to be honest, sharing and empathetic at the same time. This is irreplaceable!
Attending classes online and also offering classes online though made me shift or better said deepen my understanding of where all of the above comes from… and that is, from within each and everyone of us.
Spending some time understanding the human body, your body, through movement, will allow you to better understand yourself and then the other person, the human community and the world as whole. Coming from a place of understanding you can be more empathetic and sharing.
Dancing in the time of the pandemic
Though dance can surely not make the problems magically go away, the fact that we can feel more in control of our movement and our body while reducing stress and tension, can surely make us feel a lot better.
And this is where the dancer in me reaches out to the dancer in you! Keep moving! Keep exploring and learning about all the things that make you, YOU! How you breathe and how you can breathe more freely Or how you walk and how you can walk with more ease Are you holding your head in a position that pushes your whole body out of balance? You know which one that is… zooming into the computer screen! haha And how you move to mitigate the impact of that
Dancing can help us look within, and understand what makes us…us; in the most free, comforting and comfortable way possible. I am not sure if this is just me, but I really need this! And I hope to be sharing this with you tomorrow and every Wednesday at the Tango Movement Lab happening live through Facebook and Youtube at 12:15pm Toronto time. Nothing is required other than you willingness to dance!
Following this theme that we have been exploring, for some time now, mindfulness, we shift our focus towards posture; posture and mindfulness
We have talked and explored posture in many different ways however this time, our focus is not on the shape(s) that the body creates that we can characterize as efficient posture.
Our focus is more on becoming aware of our spine, our breath, our back and front body and the space there is between them. Our goal would be to achieve the desired alignment without though creating unnecessary tension, by pulling on the muscle to achieve a specific position.
So how do we do it?
As you will see in the video above we are starting with breathing. Muscles of the back are also called breathing muscles and not by chance. You can do a simple test yourselves; inhale and exhale and notice how your body moves.
By deepening our inhales and exhales, we make all those movements associated with the breath and posture bigger. And so this way we come into a posture without inhibiting our breath and without using more muscle than what is necessary for us to get there.
One thing that I would like to take the opportunity to stress out here, is allowing yourselves to start where YOU are. This is a very important part of the process. We spend so much time trying to look like someone else, that we forget to acknowledge our starting point. However, that is something that will have a major impact on how we get to our goal and how long it will take.
So physically we are all of the same make but we are also different, maybe you have a more extended or arched back, maybe your breathing pattern is shallower, maybe you are stressed… a thousand maybes! So take some time to notice where you are without any judgement, just being a witness to your own experience and allow yourselves to start from there.
Being respectful and loving to your body will not only have physiological benefits but it will also be the first step towards mindfulness.
The benefits of a mindful posture
Talking about benefits, lets see a couple of more…
So continuing the conversation, acknowledgment without judgement doesn’t mean acceptance, but more realizing, identifying where you are and how that feels. So you go through a body scan, noticing where things are and how things are feeling. The labels of good and bad should be dropped for this one, as there is no good and bad, it just is what it is.
Once you have informed your knowing, then you can start the exploration of your other options of alignment
Other options will then offer a series of benefits, such as:
efficiency of movement, so you are not using more energy than what you need
following the above, you have better use of muscle
better balance of forces within the joints so there are no shear forces going through your joints, pulling them off center
following the above you can avoid overuse of ligaments and muscle impingement
you will have a comfortable breath while standing and moving
your diaphragms can work properly, at the appropriate pace with the necessary movement pattern
and generally your organs will be aligned and able to maintain their tone and relationships to one another
going to the Tango side of things, you can have more freedom in movement as you won’t need to hold as much
movements will feel more connected in your bodies
you will be able to dance for longer as you won’t be wasting energy and
last but not least we will be able to enjoy our dances more
We had to close this list at some point but in reality once you start with such explorations the benefits are more and more and some more..! (haha)
What if I don’t know where to start, with posture and mindfulness
I think our video above can be an excellent start and also our video from last week. They make a good match and can help slowly deepen your understanding of how the different parts of our upper body interact.
Now if you need more guidance we have our regular classes and workshops starting next week and we will be spending some time on such themes. It would be a great pleasure to have you in one of our groups. Help you and me learn and grow together