Tag Archives: tango musicality

Music: sensing, feeling and action

“There are many elements involved, all concerned with the perception, decoding and synthesis of sound and time and thus there are many forms of amusia” (…) “A.L Benton distinguishes receptive from interpretive or performance and identifies more than a dozen varieties”
Musicophilia- Tales of Music and the Brain, pg. 106
(https://www.oliversacks.com/books-by-oliver-sacks/musicophilia/)

Based on Oliver Sacks the author of Musicophilia, there are quite a few different musicality trouble. For example, one might experience, rhythm deafness, tone deafness, cultural rhythm deafness, no sense of scale, melody or harmony, pitch discrimination, dystimbria and more…

And that is because music is not just beats per minute…

Starting from the music

Usually what happens is, we go to a class, we learn a bunch of sequences, either to no-music or on a specific song.
Then we go to the milongas but we are not able to perform these same sequences on the music, unless we are lucky enough and that one song that our teacher used in class, is played in the milonga.
That creates a feeling of emptiness, as if we didn’t really dance.

In order to address this issue, we will focus on the music itself first. So go ahead and choose any 4 songs you like, from different orchestras, and start with actively listening, trying to make sense of the music.

Making sense of the music, happens in many ways:

  • through hearing for its beat, tempo, rhythm etc
  • seeing it, usually the timbre of the music is expressed as colour
  • through taste, often times musicians when they talk about pitch they use taste-related words
  • through movement; you might catch yourself tapping your foot, or swinging the arms
  • or you might hum or sing etc

Try initially to just let all of these things happen, and make a note of them. Even if they are distasteful, don’t stop them from happening.
Be simply a witness and not a judge to the process

On a second level, we use movement to become aware of what the music feels like.
Personally, I did this like so:

Use simple, very basic movements that will not trouble you technically, to capture what the music feels like to you.

Initially, you will most likely become aware of your emotions, like feeling sad or happy, and attempt to express them through movement.

After that initial response though, try to look for the words behind those adjectives.
For example, the music might feel like a punch or a gentle touch. It might be like a total collapse or a light hop. Maybe it is epidermic or visceral.

The words will describe, how your body expresses your emotions, for example, sad could be bodily expressed through total collapse, while happy could be a light hop.

Finding the flow of the movement

The previous video will allow to notice your strengths and your weaknesses regarding perceiving and interpreting music.

Have in mind that “No one has all the talents, cognitively or emotionally. Tchaikovsky was keenly aware that his great fertility of melody was not matched by a comparable grasp of musical structure”
Musicophilia- Tales of Music and the Brain, pg. 98

This comes to say that overall we should acknowledge our weakness and bet on our strengths!
And since I am here writing an article on musicality aiming to help anyone who finds him/herself as weak in perceiving and/or interpreting music, I will suggest for this next video, that we focus on something that we all are a bit stronger in; movement; basic Tango movement.

Every move has an optimal rhythm. A rhythm that allows us to perform it efficiently and smoothly. That rhythm needs to match the rhythm of the music, for the movement to make sense, express what the music feels like and create a sense of calmness and confidence.

Taking action

You know when your teacher says: “Don’t think, just do it!”
There is a time to work with consciousness as shown in the videos above and a time when you need to act on things.

On the dance floor there is really no time to think things through, to put your conscious mind to work. On the dance floor it is the time to ACT! And hopefully you have practiced enough for that action to be successful

Sooooo after all this work, I think you deserve an extra night out, on the dance floors allowing yourself to respond, to act on the music!

But if you like more videos on musicality you can look at this page: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango-technique/musicality/

Enjoy,
Chrisa

P.S: The title is inspired by the wonderful book written by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen: https://store.burchfieldrose.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=SFABOOK


15 ways to do the basic step– A musicality practice

Musicality…  What do we define as musicality..?

Is it recognizing the beat and the rhythm and responding to it? Or is it our response to the melody? Is it connected to the style, the mood of the music? Can it have any relation to the steps we are choosing? Or does it have to do with our style and mood?
Maybe it is none or all of the above!
We will start with what we inherited
What we have inherited is a basic step. And that basic step is usually taught following a basic rhythm.
For example the followers do:
Side, back, back, cross, back, side, feet together
With the following rhythm:
Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, slow, slow
What will do is not a challenge… I know the title makes it sounds like one: “The 15 ways to do a basic step” haha
But it really isn’t a challenge… It is more the result of asking: “What if…?”
What if I went slower or faster
Or made my steps bigger or smaller
What if I went lower or higher
Or I just kept everything at an equal…
Basically the video is a definitive list but more of an invitation to explore the boundaries and limitations and create more options on the dance floor
Musicality–15 ways to do the basic step

Here are a few things to look out for while going through this drill:
  1.  if you are familiar with the classic rhythm of the basic step, you will be tempted to skip to the juicy stuff… DON’T! Haha
    Instead, go through it a couple of times, identifying the reason behind this basic tempo. It is not a matter of luck or coincidence that the basic step has THAT specific rhythm…
    This is your chance to make sense of it, figure out why!
  2. There are some options that due to technical difficulties..haha..might be unavailable to you. Most of the times when we attempt to go too fast or too slow, we get somehow stuck…
    If that happens don’t get frustrated.
    Instead, notice it and try to see why you are getting stuck; what is it that is getting you stuck
    After you have identified the problem then you can ask yourself: What if…? What if you did those fast steps in X way instead of Y, for example.
  3. Think outside the box. This is not a video with the top best ways to do the basic step. This is a video to explore the rhythm and the rhythmical options of the basic step and of Tango in general. So come up with your own stuff. Try things out. Explore different options.
    Are they all going to be good? Of course not…haha…
    But the fact that you asked the question, that you put your body through the process of figuring it out and that you reached to the conclusion that something didn’t work for the XYZ reason, is the most important part of this video.
So bottom line:
  1. explore history
  2. notice
  3. think further
Enjoy,
Chrisa
More on musicality..? Check this out: Being musical–So much more than doing steps on the beat

How to practice Tango even when you are busy

We are all busy, always in a rush. By the time we get home from work it is like 7pm already, and we are just drained, the last thing we think about is Tango practice

Part of us really wants us to practice our Tango. There is that little voice inside our head that says: “Come on, you have to…Plus it you will feel so much better afterwards”

We usually face 2 problems:

  1. Time. There are just so many things to work on and so little time left in the day
  2. Not knowing where to start from

I hope that I will be able to show how you can overcome these 2 problems, by sharing with you 3 videos of jam-packed practices touching on most of the fundamental elements of Tango.

When there is a will, there is a way…. Even for busy people!

Time is really not the problem here…. But how we relate to time, how we experience it.

The most common misconceptions with time and practice are directly related to how we perceive time and not with how much time we actually have.

Most people either believe they need hours on their Tango practice to get better and even if they find somes time the rest of their life takes over.

When I first started practicing Tango, I remember I had booked a studio for 1 hour and I was soooo excited, I couldn’t wait…!
The time came for me to hop in the studio…
10mins later, I look at my watch… and I was soooo disappointed…
Those 10mins had felt like 20 to me…haha

That first day I really had to push through, make myself focus and stop the frustration from taking over. The next time though I knew… I only needed the room for 20mins.
And I stayed at the same time-level for a long time until I naturally one day, felt the urge to stay longer.

So you don’t need hours. Instead start with 10mins of focused practice and build your way up from there.
As you build your practice, you are building your awareness as well, making sure you stop BEFORE your technique fails you.

And of course I have a story for the second time-trouble element…haha…simply because it naturally comes with adulthood

There are other things that are more important than Tango in life, like making lunch for the next day or doing laundry.
And no matter how much you try even those 10mins of Tango practice can easily get sidekicked by something more important.

This is what I did…. I put my practice in my calendar as another class. As another business thing I need to do. I scheduled it in as work.
Making it equally important as a class or a show.

Now you might say that IS part of your job… Which of course is true… BUT… taking care of yourself is YOUR job.
Nobody can do it for you and if Tango is something you are passionate about, practicing for it will bring a special feeling of accomplishment in your life plus it will give better posture and balance–important things for a comfortable life

The only time I wouldn’t do my practice is when I felt stressed about something that needed to get done or when I was too tired to focus… In cases such as these I really think the best thing to do is either go and deal with the stressor or rest

But what if you don’t know where to start from?

Well the answer to this one is rather simple…

Start from HERE…hahaha:

Enjoy,

Chrisa

10min Tango practice on leg strengthening, alignment and side steps

Okay! Now there is tip-heavy video coming up on leg strengthening and alignment so I don’t want to take time here to give more tips instead I would like to use this space to suggest a few Practice combos; a few other videos that could work extremely well with this newer video so you can grow your practice

First things first though… Your video for the week…

10min Tango practice on legs, alignment and side steps

Sometimes 10 minutes are more than enough.
Especially when you are starting to build your individual practice it is better to start small and expand steadily as the time goes by.
Why?
Simply, because you are still unsure of what you need to work on, what you should focus on, what your strengths are, what you should invest more time in and how…

You also need to consider this: if you START with a 1 hour practice where are going to go from there?
How will you grow beyond that, when your body and mind starts asking for more..?

When you are building your practice therefore you need to make sure that your short-term goals are not shadowing your long-term goals.

If though you are ready to invest a bit more time here are few directions you can take your practice towards…

1. Focusing on leg strengthening and balance

Add on the video we were working from 2 weeks ago if you want to work more on leg strengthening and establishing a stronger base:

10min Tango Practice on legs and balance

2. Focusing on biomechanics–how our body was built to work

Many of the tips in our video for this week have to do with how our legs move inside our hips and our hips move around our legs.
Understanding anatomy through movement not only will give you greater freedom when you dance/ move but it will also allow you to get to know your body and yourself better.

So if you want to take it into that direction, you can add this video along:

Followed by this video:

3. Making it a well-rounded practice

Depending how much time you have and how much time you can spend on your Tango during the week, you can schedule your practices in two ways:

  1. Every day you focus on something different, ex: one day on legs and balance and the other on ochos
  2. You only practice a couple times a week and so you need to work on all the fundamentals in one go, ex:
    A 20min Tango practice on posture, walks and ochos
4. Focusing on musicality

You can even take this into musicality. Technique and musicality are not at all separate. Aside from the obvious connection–aka the stronger your technique is the easier it will be to focus on the music–there is a more physical connection as well.

How you step, how you twist, how you hold your body and overall how you move will allow you to express yourself differently on the music.
Therefore after this week’s leg strengthening video can do this one:

And then this one:

It all started with leg strengthening…. But you have many choices

We started with a video on legs and alignment and look at where we are now..! haha

You have so many options, the above are only a few examples of the plethora of options that you have.
It all depends on what you want to focus on, what are your strengths and what are shortcomings.
No option is better from the other. All of them have something equally important and interesting to offer you. So it is really up to you where you want to take this!

And that is the beauty of Tango overall..!
You start with leg strengthening but from there you can grow in many many different directions all of which will make you a much better dancer and most importantly a better human.

If you decide it is worth investing your time in moving better on and off the dance floor, Tango is a great dance for that. It is heavy on technique and it throws in your face the question:

Do you want to Tango only for fun OR do you want the opportunity to move freely, get to know your body and yourself better and even become happier?

If you want the latter you should also check this out: Intelligent Tango

Let me know how your practice is going and don’t forget to have fun while you are it!

Chrisa

P.S: I read every email so don’t hesitate to shoot me an email with your questions. If I don’t answer you right away, please don’t get offended… instead give me about a week max..! 😉

 

 

Embellishments that go beyond spicing

We’ve talked about sequences, we’ve talked about technique, we’ve talked about the embrace… so how can we possibly leave embellishments out of the game?

Many dancers look down on embellishments. They see them as fluff; as something secondary and unimportant.
Today though I will attempt to change their mind by using an embellishment to practice on:

  1. Balance
  2. Posture
  3. Timing
  4. Effortless movement
  5. Listening and connecting to our partner
Embellishments that go beyond spicing

The video is heavy on technique tips, tips on how to make this beautiful embellishment fit your dance as seamlessly as possible and tips on how to transfer the details of this experience into the rest of your dance.
So I will grab the opportunity to elaborate more on the hidden message of the video… which is NOT Intelligent Tango…haha… but the relationship that can be created between partners because of this and many other embellishments

When the specific embellishment is successful and spicy, there is a feeling of a slight delay in the pivot. It is not really a delay but a change in rhythm.
Here is why…
The leader drives the pivot BUT it is the follower’s free leg the comes rapping around first and then the actual pivot happens.
So leaders… it feels like your follower is stuck… but THAT stickiness will create the momentum, the power that we want for the embellishment to come to light!

How do we mess this up…
The followers are either exaggerating, slowing the pivot down and/ or they are not using the embrace to let their partner know they want to do something fancy with their feet.

The leaders on the other hand having not received any cue that something different is happening push their partners around because they think they got stuck on the pivot… OR if the follower did communicate her wish to do an embellishment, it is very likely that the leader didn’t hear it…

Tango is a partner’s dance

I heard me say it the beginning of the video as well.
I was thinking of doing a practice on embellishments but I wasn’t really sure which one to choose and how to structure the practice so we get massive knowledge from it.
So when one of my students of Intelligent Tango told how delighted he was by the support built in the program, that was gave me the idea to structure around which I structured the video.

In Tango we are building up a conversation and yet I clearly remember taking women’s technique classes where the teacher would focus almost exclusively on how to keep the action on the feet; how we block what we do with our feet from getting transmitted to our partner.
Why..?
So we won’t disturb the leader…

You can imagine what happened afterwards right?
Frustraaaation! haha

Followers trying to do embellishments without giving any indication to the leader that they are attempting an extra movement.
And leaders complaining that they didn’t know where the follower was and that they felt disconnected because of the embellishments
But the followers came back at them with: “You don’t give any time to do an embellishment!”

Unfortunately the leaders are right on this one…
How do expect for someone to give time for an embellishments when they don’t know you want to do one…?
If you don’t communicate with your leaders, they can’t possibly know you even need more time..!

Tango is a partners dance and there is needs to more than I give you the lead and you do it.
There needs to be support and understanding from both ends.
And for that to happen we both need to use the embrace not only to share a message but also listen to what our partner is telling us and provide comfort.

How can we practice on that through this embellishment
  1. Start with doing simple forward ochos–NO embellishment and notice the rhythm
  2. Add the embellishment and notice the change in rhythm
  3. After figuring out the rhythm and the footwork, focus on what the rest of the body is doing
  4. Do it against the wall and notice how the pressure in your hands is changing
  5. Use your breath to relax any tension you might be holding
  6. Practice both plain ochos and ochos with an embellishment with your partner. If you are a follower make sure that you let your leader know you are going to do the embellishment and if you are leader listen for the cue
  7. Share feedback with your partner and try again

Tango like any dance is based on communication. We all dance to share something with someone. We need therefore to find ways to practice becoming better in listening and in sharing!

“Find your passion. Find your love!” Veronica Toumanova

When I asked Veronica Toumanova what would be one phrase that she would like to write on a billboard she said to me:

“Find your passion. Find your love!” 

And then added a phrase of the great Eric Franklin:
“In dance the most important technique is the love of dance”

What I loved about my chat with Veronica Toumanova

You know between Toronto and Paris there is a time difference of 6 hours–they are ahead…! We got this chat set up for Sunday morning 8:30am… What you might not know is that I am not a morning person and that it was Greek Easter on Saturday so I got to bed rather early… in the morning…hahaha

If you are now thinking:
Boohoohoo! Poor Chrisa she didn’t get her beauty sleep..!

You are ABSOLUTELY right!
Because this lady gave me so much energy, so much inspiration, so much power and will and love that I am now empowered for months!

That is what I loved about our chat: her passion and her sharing personality, which I am sure all of you who have taken classes with her have already experienced.

So even though this is a bit longer than all the other Tango chats, I want to encourage you to listen to it, it will make time stop!

If you are looking for inspiration, for answers on why you are suffering in the milongas and classes, for how we learn and why you feel like you are progressing too slow and most importantly how you can keep going when the frustrating moments come..? Then I believe you won’t be disappointed.

So, click on the video above and enjoy!

Chat notes:

How you can reach Veronica Toumanova: www.verotango.com
or through Facebook: Veronica Toumanova
or through Tango Mon Amour: http://www.tangomonamour.com

Read her book “Why Tango”: https://www.amazon.com/Why-Tango-learning-dancing-argentino/dp/1517189470

El Corte milonga/ classes/ workshops: http://www.elcorte.com

Eric Franklin: https://franklinmethod.com