Tag Archives: tango fundamentals

Music Exploration – Rhythm, Beat & Embellishments

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:

  1. Practice each variation separately, one by one with and without the music.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Take care and keep of moving

Chrisa

P.S: For another music posts, click here

Online dancing in the Covid era

Online dance classes, have filled the web the last couple of months. Great content is shared out there on different platforms and different forms. I couldn’t though resist asking what is the point of this all..? Now, don’t get annoyed, I agree with you..! There a great lot of point in online dancing, in online art sharing, but what is that point exactly?

Remember those good old days when you were just starting Tango and you wanted to know it all? The endless hours spent watching amazing dancers on Youtube. Going to this and that seminar. Getting together with friends to practice and come up with new stuff!

And then finally getting there, at least where you thought there was. Soon after realizing you had missed so many things in the process and had to go back to the beginning.
That then was a tough decision to make! A decision most people make I think…but still that doesn’t make it easy. And I was thinking what was it then that made us all want to start over? Maybe not from zero but still…

Learning is much more fun with friends

All the people I have asked they said it was the community. Not in general the Tango community in their city or town but their community of friends, that kept them going, starting over and doing the trip again. Some communities gave birth to new teachers, new organizers, new performers.

People also noted that once they started losing those connections, they started losing interest in Tango in that intense way. So inevitably the question rises to what will happen now?

This question includes the very important practical issues of dance schools not being able to survive and therefore closing their doors. But also the social issues of loss of a community, of yet another bond.

And so what is the point of learning, of taking online classes when you can’t really share the class with someone in the flesh. When you can’t share what you have learned on a dance floor at least not with an ease of mind…

If being with someone is the thing that makes it all special, then what is the point of learning more when you can’t share?

There is a beautiful point to it all

To be honest I had to stop writing and let this thought sit with me. I wasn’t sure how to articulate the fire that I was feeling. Knowing that just writing “of course there is a point!” wouldn’t be helpful at all.

And as it usually happens, something thankfully came my way, when I took a step back. As I was listening to the radio–yes yes the radio–there was a presentation of a book in Greek titled: “Πανδημία: Τέχνη και Κοινωνία” which translates to: Pandemic: Art and Society. (It is linked here if you speak Greek and would like to read it)

The presenter magically put all those things I had in my mind into some beautiful words!

Art is here, especially in crisis, to enhance the social safety net. There is a collective sentiment of us all being in something together without solely being united around fear.
There is therefore the aspect of listening to the news of any country, in any language and knowing exactly what they are saying aka Covid-second-wave-time-to-hide-again. And there is the aspect of how can we manage our collective fear, which is where Art comes in.

So we are sharing! At this moment we sharing very similar moments, very similar days with every human being of planet earth. The question is do we want to only share the fear or will we share music, dance, photography, film, books, paintings, Art?

Your experience is as important as the information you receive

Art, in any form and in every way that is shared is a necessity, and it is not me saying that, it is actually neuroscientists saying it; “The inestimable quality [of great art] is the opportunity that the brain is offered to give several interpretations, all of them valid (1999, 22f).” Zeki

I use this one quote of the many that one can find in the linked article, because I have experienced this myself. In most of our online classes, during our discussions every student shares a completely different experience. I am not referring to feedback, or comments technical in nature, but observations coming from an informed through experience knowing.

As such our experience is as important, valuable and valid as the information we receive from our teacher, from the artist, from anyone of “authority”.

Especially for music and dance, without any intention to make a distinction of value, consider that, before we are even born we are moving on rhythm.

Aiming to close with that thought; Aside from the findings on benefits of the art to our physical and mental health, especially dance and music are arts deeply related to our becoming.

In that sense therefore it can be soothing, comforting, enlightening, hopeful to dance even if you are connecting online; to listen to music even if it is not a live concert, to paint even if it the outcome sucks…haha. The experience of getting in touch with what is human is what matters. Releasing the mind from the stress and the fear. And most importantly adding a thread to our society’s invisible net that can be there to hold us all

An invitation to dance because it matters

Join me on Wednesday at 12:30pm (Toronto time) on Facebook or Youtube for a mid-week Tango practice. No registration or special invite needed, just hop in… I will make sure we dance as much as possible..!
Wave on the web. Leave a note or comment. Say hello and most importantly move along with me. From whichever part of the world you are joining in

You have probably experienced this common note: “Tango allows me to go anywhere and be amongst people with a common passion!”
We still have that! We are Tangueros and Tangueras! I might not know you and you might not know me… We still have that common passion, Tango so lets dance!

And hey even if you are not dancing Tango, still join us! Move with us, enjoy creating something with your very own hands, feet, heart and mind. If you hate, not a problem try another dance on Thursday! 😉

Chrisa

P.S: Can’t join us? Try a following a recording: Online Tango Practice

Practicing alone-together!

So when I starting practicing alone aka without a partner it was because I could feel that something was missing, that I could be a more active and expressive dancer but I didn’t quite know how to do that.

After some time things settle and I found my ways and Bautanz was born but this is not an article about Bautanz but about one great question I got from a member of our community, Mandy: “Do you have any suggestions for incorporating these ideas [on balance, alignment etc] into a partnership?

Is individual practice the problem?

Mandy explained that though while practicing without her partner everything is great but once they come together to dance things start falling apart.

One of the things, amongst others of course, that causes these off-balance moments is that each partner is working on figuring things out in his/her body and fails to pay attention to what the other person is doing. It is not on purpose that we are ignoring our partner but there are so many other things we need to focus on from one step to the next, that we fail to pay enough attention to our partner.

Many people say point exactly to that in fact to prove that one shouldn’t be practicing alone. That argument however can be defeated when we see soccer players, tennis players, ballerinas you name it training on their own.

Individual practice is not what causes the problem in connection, it is what reveals it! Once you start exploring further a creative process of change starts to happen and that is when start to realize trouble with moving with another person.

Also, as with any change, change in movement habits takes time! For us to realize what we are doing wrong, to explore the suggested other options, to understand how each suits our bodies and then to replace what we don’t need anymore with a new habit; This is a lengthy process, very creative but also lengthy! So it will take some time for things to settle, for new habits to get established so we can then focus more on our connection and how our movement affects our partner.

That is in fact why I created Bautanz and an online course called Intelligent Tango PROGRAMS & COURSES–INTELLIGENT TANGO, to speed the process of creating new habits through an individual practice.

Practicing on how to listen

You are probably wondering if I am actually suggesting that you just keep at it and hope for the best..! haha
Thankfully not, as there is a way to get more connected to your partner and explore movement at the same time and that is through touch, observation and feedback. And that could happen in two ways

Let’s use the above video as an example, if you are not practicing with a partner, during your individual practices you can get feedback from surfaces you can possibly lie down on or lean against. Once on the ground as in the video above you can get bodily feedback on how your head, back, hips and feet are moving on the floor.

You start gathering information on how these body parts move when you move your arms. But also there is the opportunity to observe how your movement changes as you release more weight, or as you turning, if you adjust your head etc.

In this video, all of the above apply of course, but I want to use as an example when you practice with your partner. Aside from the feedback you can gather from meeting the floor you can also ask your partner to place a hand on your shoulders, back, your head or hips, and just observe how you move without affecting your movement, only observing almost like passively following. Touch will reveal to both of you how that specific spot of the body moves and how part affects the other. It will give both you more information about movement that you can then take it with you when you are leading and following. Then of course you change roles, you will be touching and observing 

Time to give feedback…

Last but not least in the process is the exchange of feedback. This is an important part of the process and a rather difficult one. It is very easy to fall into the trap of not expressing how the movement felt. So again using the video above as an example you want to go deeper and describe what your hands felt, for example: “as you were settling in the tabletop position, your shoulder blades felt like they were sliding and turning, as the spine was reorienting. You back muscles felt like they were expanding as your sides and core were condensing.”

Avoid staying on the surface with feedback such as it felt good, or strong or smooth. Try to go a deeper and describe the movement. Make sense out of what your hands felt. Then you try the exercise again focusing on each of the elements your partner noticed and guiding each other through touch. 

Could I do this with Tango drills..?

Absolutely! This process can happen with any movement, only you would probably need to move a bit slower than usual if you are doing walks or ochos. But surely your partner can place their hands on your shoulders, back, chest, stomach, head etc and go through the same process as above.

It will heighten your awareness of your own body and movement but also of your partner’s. Touch is though an excellent way to practice “listening” through touch. Tango is based on touch and the feedback we receive through it. If we are not able to listen through touch and respond then it becomes difficult and the movement has a very mechanical almost robotic quality.

Every practice session needs to be rewarded

Extra bonus… a Dance! I would to encourage you to dance one song after your practice or at a random time without the intention to practice but with the intention to dance and enjoy moving with or without a partner.

It is not however an easy task. You will be putting yourself to the test trying to put all the things “you should be working on” to the side and letting the experience of moving inform your knowing.

I wasn’t doing that for a long time. Instead every chance I got I practiced trying to get things right, trying to get better faster. It was very frustrating, and made my dances really hard to enjoy. So though being in the unknown, without an outline of what needs to be taken care of, of what you need to focus on, can be discomforting, it can also help you understand your body, your movement and your partner at a deeper level.
Plus it is a great reward to allow yourself to dance after spending time practicing!

Touch, observe, listen and don’t fear the unknown!

😉

Chrisa

P.S 3rd week of September we will be starting session of live online classes. If you are interested check it out here: Online Tango Classes- Live

Are we going back to Tango?

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! 🙂

Chrisa

P.S: Looking at working on the embrace but you doing have a partner?
Try this practice:

And for our Live practices you can check this link out Online Tango Practice

P.P.S: Join the Bautanz community by subscribing for more Tango inspiration, motivation and news on our online program