Back in December we started a donation based series of workshops that were around mindful movement. Our classes and explorations carried from breathing and posture to walking,music and rhythm. This time we will turn our focus to qualities of movement.
Our goals will be to connect to the world of emotions and feelings and express ourselves through movement. We will also, focus on qualities in the music and how those can be expressed through movement.
Quality hides in the transition
I am not sure if you have ever felt but I definitely have… this feeling of uncertainty, of something missing even though you have performed a movement “correctly”…? You would start off correctly, or with what would appear as correct, and end at the right spot but somehow feel like you had missed something in between. A feeling that something is not quite right, or that something was missing
So that is the feeling we will be trying to better understand… Where is it coming from and why? What are we really missing?
Becoming aware of the transition from point A to point B can be a way to discover more options, opportunities and qualities in our movement and I hope that you will join me in this journey on Saturday March 27th at 12pm (EST)
Pay from the Heart
This is a donation based workshop because we feel it is important to open up opportunities for people to move even if they are not Tango fans, even if they haven’t really for the last year and especially if they feel that it takes a lot of effort, physical or psychological, to move.
Surprise! Don’t you miss it? I know I am speaking only for myself here, but here is the thing, I feel that even if we went to the same milongas every week, there was always the element of surprise. We didn’t know who was going to be there, what music would be playing, which song we will be invited to dance to, how our partner is going to dance to the tanda… And as you can see I left out not knowing who your partner will be because that is something you actually have a choice on. There are so many things in a milonga that are complete mysteries!
Surprise… how do you respond to it?
Now, in contradiction, days have become quite predictable, in our everyday life. I don’t know about you but, I am in an area where there is a lockdown, so my day is predetermined most days of the week.
So there is not much of a surprise, but mostly stressors, like a nasty email, or bad news on TV. Depending on your environment the stressors might actually be part of the day. So somehow all days mesh together… where did 2020 go?
I really miss those social surprises… Going out and having a____(fascinating, unexpected, fun, strange, interesting, boring… you fill in the blank) dance wondering what the next one will be like..! And honestly, I don’t think I can keep it a secret anymore, I don’t want to practice anymore! haha Not though because practicing is pointless, but because there is something else missing and it is not skill.
Hey! I know there is always skill to be acquired, but there will be time to practice on that later… Surprise though and how we/ I respond to it, has been missing for a long time now. What will urge us/ me to get off the chair/ couch/ bed whatever you spend most of your day sitting on.
So I thought we could work on this theme last week during our Mid-Week Tango Practice
Finding New Patterns
The great thing though about “indulging” in surprise is that you can capture feedback, on how you respond to a surprise. How does your body react to an unknown piece of music? Do you tense up or do you go with flow? Are you moving slower or faster? Is it frustrating and why? If it is frustrating how do you get past the frustration? Were there any reactions that surprised you?
All of these and more questions can lead us to so many more options for movement. And as we are about to jump head first into discovering something new….our habits hit the breaks! And so another series of questions starts… What habits do you recognize? For how many of those do you have a recollection of how they were established? Do you need them all? Are they all helpful? Would you consider leaving some of them for a bit to explore more movement options?
All these questions and more can lead us to deeper and more surprising explorations! And you know how it goes… more surprises, more questions, more explorations, more options aaaand loop around again.
So I have put a video together suggesting a path to recognizing habits and building new ones, which I hope you will give try to and enjoy
Surprise yourselves! See what comes out of it! The opportunity for you to express your unique strengths might be just around the corner
P.S: We have a workshop full of surprises coming up on Feb.6th check it out here
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
Following our Tango and Mindfulness workshop right at the end of this challenging year, I put an exercise together titled “Exercise of the Week- the mindful embrace”. With the Holidays and all you might not have had the chance to try it out so here it is:
The mindful embrace
Through this video we are creating, we are becoming, the embrace. We are creating that shape and we become aware of what an integral part we are in shaping the embrace. Creating a mindful embrace is a space where we can share support, feelings, sensations, thoughts with our partners.
The idea therefore here is to create opportunities to really connect better and at a deeper level. Once we wake up the skin, the muscles, the fascia, the bones, the organs, the fluids, our whole body becomes part of the shape, part of a mindful embrace.
What we usually learn and practice in Tango is the position, the frame of the embrace; which of course are very valuable and important. We are also taught how to efficiently create the frame and how to lead and follow our partner. However, the awareness of ourselves in that shape, as well as that shape surrounding us is very important. This way we won’t feel disconnected from that sharing, the actual dance, happening in that space.
In our video above we are exploring our breath, the ribs, the arms and the relationships between them. We are also exploring the shape and space and so we become co-creators of the embrace.
Tango and mindfulness
Tango as we were discussing in a previous article allows us to explore mindfulness at different layers and so it can be an excellent option as a movement practice for mindfulness. This does not mean that other practices cannot be good options. I actually think any movement practice should be done mindfully. However, sometimes we need to start with something that can be a little bit slower, like Tango. We might need the option to explore being still and moving. And there is the need to explore ourselves in space and the space surrounding us. Add to that the possibility of doing all of that with other people and we have our sweet Tango.
And this exactly isour intention for our upcoming Pay from the Heart workshops. We will explore all Tango fundamentals and at the same time they will explore mindfulness on many different stages. So we will work on posture, walking, rhythm and expressivity and qualities of movement; we will therefore become aware of our feelings/ sensations during stillness and movement.
I’m not quite sure if this falls under the category of mindfulness, to be honest with you (haha). I am pretty sure though that it can elevate our spirits, energy and give us an extra boost for 2021. The schedule of our Pay from the Heart workshops:
Workshop #1: Posture and Mindfulness; We will explore the movement of the spine and specifically the movement centres along the spine. Movement centres are areas where we have the most options for movement as well as the greatest range of movement
Workshop #2: Walking and Mindfulness; Many of the movements of the spine are involved in walking. The action of walking will enhance our focus and awareness but it is also a good progression from workshop #1
Workshop #3: Music and Rhythm; Our body has its own rhythm; which becomes apparent through breathing, pulse, walking etc. Explorations such as this will help us get in touch with our inner music and relate better to the music and rhythm of our environment
Workshop #4: Expressivity and music; Naturally, after sensing and feeling it is time to take action! This is not a musicality class so we won’t be learning musical patterns on the rhythm. This has more to do with helping us express our personality, feelings and thoughts on the music
Workshop #5: Qualities of movement; And we will close with a workshop exploring the qualities of movement that occur during Workshop #4. The same movement can and should feel different on different songs and with different partners.
I really hope to see you all there! And then and if you looking for more classes you can check our our Online Class schedule
P.S: if you went through the “Exercise of the Week- the mindful embrace” and you want some more information you can also visit this Body Mind Centering exploration about the relationship of the ribs and the arms
I see movement as an ocean where we can’t see the end in length, in width or in depth. We choose one or more movement practices and we start exploring, be it dance, fitness, yoga, martial arts, you decide.
Tango is my chosen way of exploring movement and in understanding my body. Fitness for me comes next and by adding the perspective of strengthening is a strong component in this system of body awareness. I know many people who feel this way for Yoga and Tango, or Tai -Chi and Tango for example with different added perspectives of course.
Movement the connecting thread
The connecting thread between all movement practices is movement itself, movement technique, movement understanding and then body, self and human understanding. With the latter being for me the greatest achievement… but we will get back to that a bit later..!
So movement technique, not Tango technique. Tango is a dance style and as all dance styles has multiple styles itself with some common elements but many different characteristics. To teach therefore all the characteristics that make Tango…Tango… I dive into biomechanics to see how our body is built to move and create these characteristics. To this very thing Fitness comes in to help.
Let’s see posture for example; but lets look at posture not as a pose but as a movement. I bet you can see the common thread with Tango in the pictures below..? 😉
I would like to share with you, the latest Live Tango practice as well as the latest Exercise of the Week as examples of Fitness and Tango!
As you will see it is not some crazy hybrid of the two…haha… on the contrary the two practices keep their grounds and are clearly distinct but the common thread is revealed as well! 😉
And I am sure that if there are any two movement practices you follow, you can find, with some exploration and some digging, the common ground. Then you will feel great power, a force revealing so much more to you about your movement, about your body and human nature and therefore about the other.
This is something I had felt myself but recently one of the members of the Bautanz community shared with me as well as their experience. After a certain time of digging wider and deeper comes a deeper understanding about our partners and other people we share the dance floor with. We listen and observe more but also show more compassion for the other. Through understanding ourselves we understand our partner, we understand our fellow dancers, we understand the world.
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!
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