Tag Archives: tango rules

Different Body-Different Style

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 so awkward 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:

  1. Diversity of styles
  2. 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

A great place to start is this video by Frey Faust: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy6tJZOQ0Ws&t=102s
And also the Youtube page of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen of Body mind centering: https://www.youtube.com/user/BodyMindCentering

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

Enjoy and thank you again,

Chrisa

Want to Tango for an opportunity to BE yourself? Then..dance the rules

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!

  1. Be yourself..maybe?
  2. ….

Here is my list:

Freedom

Safety

Awareness

Present

In the Moment

Past

Knowledge

Truth

Expression

Unison

Logic

Realization

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:

  1. OBSERVE

    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.

  2. 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…

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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?

  6. 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!

Chrisa