“More Emotion”…! Now that is a phrase that can make you go…”huh?!?!”
Last week through our blog, we talked about cliches and confusing phrases used in Tango classes and practicas. Many of you shared your personal stories about moments in class that made you go “huh?” Thank you too much for sharing and please keep them coming as we will be translating those in the weeks to come!
Before we dive in, all of our post are true stories, coming from the community. Some of these phrases actually come from well-known teachers..! No! we will not share their names..! (hahaha)
We will start with one of my favourites, “more emotion”! Now, what could that mean? Well, it was during a workshop and a dance sequence was being taught. And right when you expect some real crisp cues, the teacher said, “more emotion.”
So, what does “more emotion” really mean? It could mean a few things, such as, making your movements clearer, or more articulated, moving with confidence or getting more into the dance, engaging more with your partner.
But the tricky part is, everyone might have a different idea of what “more emotion” really means. And you can’t really ask the teacher during class because it would take too much time to come up with something that everyone agrees to.
So my suggestion is to think about what “more emotion” means to you and execute it. Maybe it is dancing more energetically or being more lyrical in how you move. Whatever it is, go for it! The teacher will see what you’re doing and give you more helpful feedback. The more clear you are at delivering your version of “more emotion” the more clear the feedback will be.
When I hear “more emotion” I’m thinking: “do not do the sequence mechanically, simply executing the steps but engage more in the process. Play with it, trying to see how you can shape and formit so that it has some power and character to it. It might mean slowing specific parts and speeding up others, or creating pauses; stretching the steps, embracing tighter or opening the embrace, adding an embellishment etc.”
Let’s see an example with the ocho cortado
If for example the step is the ocho cortado, you can make it slower, faster, add syncopation to it, stretch it, add pauses, add embellishments or even change the 1st step in the ocho cortado sequence. Check out how we do all that, in this video: Ocho Cortado Rhythmical Variations.
The stretch gives it elasticity, expansion, boldness while the syncopation makes it more playful and crisp.
So, for me “more emotion” sounds like an invitation to make the dance your own, to have fun with it, and to express yourself. It means more boldness, more playfulness, more calmness, or more tenderness or anything you can come up with as you explore different options and possibilities.
Stay tuned for more cliches and confusing phrases being reinterpreted! And don’t forget to share your own stories of confusing dance cues.
Keep on dancing! 🕺💃
P.S: If you are looking for guidance through your practice, take a look at our training guide “It Takes You to Tango” available on Amazon.
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!
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! 🙂
P.S: Looking at working on the embrace but you doing have a partner? Try this practice:
How can one-size-fits-all apply in a social dance setting when we all unique in terms of body type, age, fitness, cultural background etc?
A great question!
After our mid-week Tango practice on Wednesday I a question via Youtube that I felt it is an excellent question for us to discuss how different body types can or cannot fit in certain Tango rules; and overall how the one-size-fits-all doesn’t quite work in social dancing.
Following is the video, from our practice and the question right after that, lets see:
“Chrisa, something that no one ever talks about, and I can’t get non fat dancers to understand, are the techniques needed by the fat dancer. Now, I do not use fat as a bad word, I reclaim it, and refuse to make it synonymous with wrong. And also, I need to accommodate my roundness. It is soawkward to be in class, and have an instructor remind me not to swing a hip, not to arch my back, when the real reason I do these things is because of my large belly. When you have substantial thighs, it changes your stance, collection, even the ability to flick a swift secada. I realize this is off topic from your video, but do you have any insights for the fat dancer? Tricks to maintain tango posture when you have extra curves to work around? Thank you <3″ F.L
The truth of the Style Vs The truth of the Dancer
I want to thank again our commenter for this question and dissect the matter in two parts:
Diversity of styles
Biomechanics Vs Tango Style
Diversity of Styles
There is an unavoidable conflict between the truth carried through by the rules for each style and the truth stemming from the dancer’s experience. Of course there are many ways to train dancers to perform and look a certain way, many types of dance achieve that, with ballet being one excellent example. However there are certain expectations to be met by all ballerinas in terms of looks, body structure and analogies. This is why there are certain restrictions apply in terms of age, body type, body shape, fitness etc. That is also why the choice to follow a career as a professional ballet dancer happens very early in one’s life when the body and character are very adaptable to change. That is also why ballet dancers retire at a very early age.
Social Tango is not like that though. Quite the contrary it is dance that is danced by 90 year olds with very different body analogies, with loss in muscle etc etc. So would we say for example that Oscar and Nina are bad dancers?!?! I highly doubt it! See them in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQotX3sFahI
So as I perceive it, a style is a place to start learning but then we have to take into account the the experience of our body. And those two things are equally important and equally true. Everyone of us is unique in some way, and that uniqueness needs space, a lot of space in a social dance.
Biomechanics Vs Tango Style
We can’t judge a style, a style is based mostly on aesthetics. It is a design. A beautiful design but still a design that one person or a group of people came up with based on their personal goals, experiences, expectations and so on. So it wouldn’t be possible nor fair. But we can judge movement based on anatomy and biomechanics. Then each of us can make an informed decision whether you want to pursuit a specific tango style despite the possible strain or risk due to inconguence with anatomy and biomechanics.
So firstly, based on anatomy and specifically the structure of the human skeleton in order to balance the forces going through the joints and to have an effective distribution of weight when standing on two feet, the placement of the feet should be such to support the hips. Having the feet together 100% doesn’t meet that requirement since the pelvis flairs outward. Similarly, the flair of the feet, meaning the turn out, depends on the structure of your hips, how wide or narrow the hips are. So overall some people will have their feet closer together, not though fully connected, than others and also for some people the turn out will be bigger than others.
Walking and biomechanics
Now when we walk our hips are not supposed to be square, they are supposed to swing, it’s scientifically what we call: locomotion. And it is not the only movement happening in our hips when we walk. In fact walking involves the whole body and the more chaotic it feels the more efficient it most likely is. There is the “C” shape movement we talked about in our practice session and there is also a wave in the spine. You can see all of this here:
Can you stop all this from happening ? Sure you can! But why would you? If you actually look a little closer and dig a little deeper, these movements actually help you connect with your partner in much more efficient way..! You can see it in our previous practices here: https://bautanz.com/online-tango-practice/
And of course along with all that goes posture and centre of gravity. Your posture changes depending on what action you wish to perform. As you can see in the video above maintaining a specific upper body position works against your intention to walk forward or backward and would therefore require more muscle work to make it all happen. Lastly our center of gravity, will be different depending on the shapes we create or have in our bodies. It is not a fixed spot and how could it be? By physics that would be impossible.
My suggestion to you
If you have learned Tango now spend some time learning your body through movement. Understand how one thing relates to the other, what kind of relationships they have and what kind of movements they create due to those relationships and structure
Start learning about your body to better dance with/in/through it. Understanding how our body was built to move for me is the number one step to take when you really want to free up your social dance but also when you want to structure your dance training knowing, acknowledging and weighing in the risks you take compared to the choices you have
Why are you dancing..?
Let me guess… Mmmmm… For an opportunity to be yourself, to express yourself?
And it is indeed a beautiful opportunity, a safe and colorful way of meeting oneself!But this is exactly where the trouble begins…haha…
If we just wanted to go out and spend time with friends, or be in the milongas just to practice our moves, things would have been pretty straight forward and a lot less stressful and painful.
The fact though that we are looking for ways to “dance like nobody’s watching”, if I may be allowed the cliche… 😉 means that our nights at the milonga mean a lot more
What stops us though from meeting and expressing ourselves, from just dancing?
Simple answer… The RULES!
For most people Tango is a difficult because it has so many rules that make them “(…) get so anxious on the dance floor trying to remember all of them”
So how can we make rules part of our dance so we don’t have to think about them anymore? How can we EMBODY the rules?
Embody…mmmm…such a fancy word..haha… How about we try to make a bit more sense of the word by writing down at least 10 things that come to mind when you think of “embodying”. Ready? GO!
Here is my list:
In the Moment
Ok? So if you have come up with your list which would probably be different than mine, lets see how it works in dancing.
At this point I want to call in an expert on the matter, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen with excerpt from her book “Sensing, feeling and Action”
“ The process of embodiment is a being, not a doing process, not a thinking process. It is an awareness process in which the guide and witness dissolve into cellular consciousness. (…) Embodiment is automatic presence, clarity and knowing without having to search for it or pay attention. As they say in Zen, “When you eat, eat. When you sleep, sleep” (…)”
There are 3 steps in the process of embodiment: VIsualization, Somatization and Embodiment.
“Visualization is the process by which the brain imagines aspects of the body and, in doing so, informs the body that it (the body) exists. (…) Somatization is the process by which the kinesthetic (movement), proprioceptive (position), and tactile (touch) sensory systems inform the body that it (the body) exists. (…) Embodiment is the cells’ awareness of themselves. You let go of your conscious mapping. It is a direct experience, there are no intermediary steps or translation. There is no guide, no witness. There is the fully known consciousness of the experienced moment initiated from the cells themselves. In this instance, the brain is the last to know. There is complete knowing. There is peaceful comprehension. Out of this embodiment process emerges feeling, thinking, witnessing, understanding. The source of this process is love”
So based on this excerpt does it sounds like you need more Tango classes, more milongas or hours and hours of practice?
Not really, right? Bonnie’s description feels like more natural, more personal, and one that depends more on us and getting close with ourselves and less on others.
So lets do exactly THAT instead:
Look for the images that can fuel visualization. Go to milongas not for the dances, but for the images. Observe, try to find the Tango rules in other peoples bodies.
Before you start to practice on anything, from posture to embellishments, take one moment to visualize what you want your body to do.
Movement, Position and Touch
You would have to go through the movements noticing not what makes them right, but what makes them feel good.
Attempt to find that same comfort in different positions. Compare for example the comfort of your posture when simply standing to when you are walking or doing ochos.
Then go deeper than that and find the “rules” of posture in other positions in your everyday life, in your other activities–like walking to the supermarket.
Somatic dance is the holistic approach to moving and by becoming 1% better in your everyday life activities, you will become better in your Tango too.
Lastly touch is extremely important to understand who you are, who the other is and what you are together through movement. So practice on that awareness either with a real partner and with an artificial one–the floor or the wall…
Explore with Love
Explore your movement for the chance to find yourself no matter how cheesy this may sound to you.
Embodiment as Bonnie says is experiencing movement initiated from within. Not just doing the proper steps, but allowing for “feeling, thinking, witnessing, understanding” to emerge.
Creating a practice based on exploring the rules instead of imposing the rules, not only feels more natural and more enjoyable but also it allows to be yourself in practice
Avoid practicing for hours
It is absolutely pointless!
As you can gather from the above, locking yourselves up in a room aimlessly going from drill to drill, without any focus or goal, is absolutely pointless and it will actually get you to quit sooner than later.
Instead build on your ability to stop BEFORE your technique fails you
TRACK all this down
A quick note, a little video, something to help you when you decide to revisit that day’s practice
Avoid tracking your progress based on other people’s reactions or feedback alone, and tap into your emotional, mental and psychological state before and after your class/practice or milonga.
Are you feeling better, stronger, calmer, more focused or more aware? Your body knows better sometimes..!
You can use metrics as well, like how many of my ochos felt good today? Or how many milongas felt great this month?
Give yourself a BREAK
When you are dancing, dance! You can’t correct anything on the dance floor
Allow yourself to make mistakes. Laugh at your mistakes. Enjoy your dances with all their flaws. Dance for the sake of feeling alive, for that very opportunity to be yourself and not for hitting every point on your checklist.
This will be your only true motivation on practicing again the next day!
Grab the opportunity to BE yourself, you deserve it!