We often say, I need to work on “balance” or “I can’t keep my balance”. And when we actually go ahead to practice we start with standing on 1 foot, maybe doing embellishments with the free leg or coming up on our toes and holding.
Therefore when we say balance, we mean being able to hold ourselves still in a specific position for a long period of time.
Balance Vs Stillness
Creating a hold or simply being still, is that the same as being balanced? Well… not necessarily! Because we might able to be still but the main volumes of our body may still not be balanced. For example, we might be hunched over, with our hips tilted back and our chin protruding forward. Try it… it is a very common pose! haha
This comes to show that still does not necessarily mean balanced. So what is balance? Or better yet what are trying to balance?
We are trying to balance the forces running through our body, so that our movement can be efficient and safe. In this context if we actually would like to hold, balancing the 3 main volumes of our body, head, torso and hips, can lead to a comfortable efficient hold instead of a trembling/ troubling structure.
What are the cues that we are in balance, aside from we don’t feel in any key joint such as the hip joint?
We feel relaxed but at the same time
Ready to move and we also
Notice that our breathing is not inhibited and therefore has a comfortable flow.
And what would be the benefit of such an approach? Aside from creating safer and more efficient movement, it will allow us to be more aware and also it will allow us to focus on balance while moving and not while holding. Holding can helpful and such an approach can help you in creating efficient holding too; however if you are practicing dance it is necessary to practice balance while moving.
This is exactly what we are working on in our latest workshop. Try the recording, and let us know how it went!
“Don’t forget to breathe!” I love the absurdity of this phrase..! Honestly, how did this become a cue I wonder..? haha Have you tried to hold your breath through a pose during yoga for example..? Unless you are a very good diver, holding your breath could only last a few torturous seconds and you would definitely know!
Can we forget to breathe?
You can’t really forget to breathe. Because you don’t need to remember to breathe, you simply, automatically do. If you are holding your breath you also know, it is very clear, intentional and obvious. So what do they mean by that cue?
My take on this is, when we are holding a position or when we are overthinking something our breathing may be inhibited, meaning it might not be as efficient as it could be. As such every action feels effortful, straining and draining. For example, if you pull your bellybutton in then your ribcage can not expand and move upward with every inhale and so your breathing will be inhibited, your inhales will be shallow and you will feel as if you are holding your breath.
It is not really therefore that we forget to breathe, but other movement choices may be coming in the way of efficient and effortless breathing thus creating that feeling of a hold of breath.
What can we do to change that?
With this explanation in mind, we can start looking at the movement patterns of breathing and allow for those movement patterns to inform our posture and our movement as a whole. This way our breathing will flow and we will feel supported by the renewed energy of every breath.
To support this approach our cues will also have to change. The cue “don’t forget to breathe” though it might come handy some times, reminding to pause and breathe fully, it is addressing the issue causing the inhibition. It needs therefore to be replaced by a cue addressing posture and movement options. The quality of our breathing can actually be a new cue in it of itself. As you are practicing notice your breathing; are you feeling that your breathing flows effortlessly uninhibited? If not try to find the right adjustment in your posture and movement to free the breath.
P.S: Interested in a breathing and posture workshop, check out this video
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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!
We have shared a lot of practical tips and drills on Tango and that this post can be a bit different and focus on misconceptions about Tango. We will get a chance in this way to exchange thoughts and ideas on things that we thought worked but actually didn’t or vice versa we thought they didn’t work and we realized they worked wonders.
If you have Tango misconception stories, share them with me, either by commenting on this post or by filling out this survey..!
Tango misconceptions and the “one-size-fits-all”
We usually start Tango or any type of dance really, to learn something new, to have fun, to have a social yet productive evening out, to share some time with a friend or partner etc. In general, it is for a social/ fun reason that we get into it. And so we don’t expect to feel stuck, frustrated, tired and like failures…haha…while we are at it..!
There are many reasons why this might have happened and may happen to us, but one of the many reasons, is actually the one size fits all approach that is followed some times in teaching dance in general and Tango in particular.
Now, let’s clarify one thing before we carry on, I am not saying that no rules apply and that everyone should find their own Tango. What I am saying is that the way one teaches those rules, whether they are related to a specific Tango style or not, needs to be adaptable to the group and the individuals in that group. Every one of us has a different body, different movement habits, a different background and therefore a different understanding of dance and movement. As such we can not be expected to all learn in the same way.
Therefore, when something is presented to us as “this is how it is”, and even worse when body mechanics are thrown into the mix to support purely stylistic rules, it is highly possible that many of us will not be able to work it out in our bodies; or if we do, it might still feel uncomfortable.
So with all that in mind, lets take a look at our first video on Tango misconceptions where we explore what is actually a stylistic rule compared to body mechanics rule.
A misconception is not a lie and doesn’t imply complete ignorance..!
Before we carry on, I wanted to add a note here for all of us that might be struggling with a specific element and may now be thinking that they have been let down by their teachers and/ or by themselves.
A misconception is not a lie nor does it imply complete ignorance. A misconception is a different understanding maybe even a misunderstanding. So if you are feeling a bit frustrated now, think that this how we learn, how we progress. We make assumptions, some of them will stand and some will need to be reassessed. This whole process is what brings us to knowledge. So you haven’t wasted your time! On the contrary you have been learning! And most importantly, you have been engaging in something that you are passionate about!
As you will see in our video below, we start with the misconception of ochos being a stand-alone Tango step; but we don’t stop there. We will then see a different perspective, where the ochos are simply “walks in different directions”. We are exploring a different perspective and we are acknowledging the shift from how we were approaching ochos before. This way we are 2 things:
That ochos are really walks and not a special step and
How to learn and progress. In the beginning we see and practice ochos as a stand alone step; that may be necessary to reduce frustration. After a while though we need to reassess and start connecting the dots between walking and ochos, for Tango as a whole to make sense.
Making the healthy choice
Before I let you go, I would like to share 2 insights with the group:
When you find that a movement is uncomfortable or even worse painful, take a moment to assess. I know this might sound obvious but it is not really obvious when we are in action. Usually we see other people following through and we think we should push through the discomfort. Take a moment to consider whether this movement is rewarding for you at the moment. The end result may be something you want to work towards; but if you experiencing discomfort, you still haven’t found the right path to get there. Misconceptions may be hiding in the end result or in the path or in both. If any part of the movement feels wrong to you, it probably is..!
Sometimes progress comes not from practicing Tango itself. It can some from a shift in our understanding of movement in small everyday type of movement habits. Posture is great example! If you introduce in small dosages of mindfulness and awareness on how you carry your body through your everyday life, this will make your day more enjoyable and change your posture in Tango inevitably. It doesn’t apply to every Tango element but it captures a fair bit!
So what Tango misconceptions have you tackled..? Share your great stories with me I would love to hear them! And don’t forget to subscribe for more content such as this
P.S: Completely unrelated but it will brighten your day… Check out Pro Dancer Shoes, they have an amazing collection for all Tango shoe lovers. I got a pair of my own, I loved it and now I am proudly affiliated with them. Take a look! 😉
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! 🙂
Last week we were taking about posture and whether one can/ should maintain a specific body position throughout the dance. Inevitably therefore the conversation turned to ochos and whether we should cross the legs.
Crossing the legs in Tango
Let’s first take a look at what that means exactly in the Tango world. You might already be familiar with the specific movement option, but in case you are not, we are talking about bringing one leg right in line with the other while stepping forward or backwards. We are usually cued to do that to isolate the movement of the torso from that of the hips.
Why do choose to cross the legs?
When we cross the legs we lock the hips and lower spine in position. That creates the impression of the hips being square and parallel to the floor. Also, the upper body appears to have a clean rotation over the lower body with a more sharp disassociation.
What limitations does that movement option have?
This option however has some limitations. First, it limits the side tilt range of the spine. Side tilt, as we will see in the video below is coupled with torsion due to the anatomy of the spine, meaning the two movements always happen together.
Second, due to the side tilt limitation, the angle of the pivot is also limited. You see the bigger the pivot the more necessary the side tilt is. With the hips in a lock the side tilt may happen further up in the spine where it may affect the embrace, create tension in our neck, arms and between the shoulder blades and throw us off balance.
What does that mean physically for us?
From an anatomy perspective there are two important issues with this option. One is the side tilt limitation we talked about above. The second is that we will have sheer of forces running outward to the right and left of each hip joint.
Starting from the latter, when we place one foot in front of the other, then our movement options are at the end of range, for example we are at the end of range for adduction. That creates a feeling of tension or pressure through key joint surfaces, such as the hips and knees.
That is though related to the upper body as well. It limits the options our spine has at diaphragm height in terms of torsion and side tilt. Why is that? Well the reasons are more than one, but it really boils down to the shape and orientation of the joints, the muscles and connective tissue of the human body.
So would we say this is a movement option that we want to maintain in our vocabulary?
In terms of Tango it can be a stylistic option that creates a very powerful and dynamic impression. However if we are to use it we would need to be aware of the physical limitations and risks which we spoke about above.
From an anatomical point of view it certainly is not the most efficient and healthy option for us. It locks certain parts of the body and that requires a lot more muscle work to pull through an ocho. If we don’t care so much for the Tango style it is better to choose a movement option that allows the whole body to participate in a more efficient way.
Let me know what you think and send me your questions on this matter or any other to do with posture or ochos..!