Every Tango class starts with… “The Walk” and/ or “The Weight Transfer”. The latter is actually, still the walk but we just have to use different wording at some point..! haha It is in every class, no matter what the level is. We have also made it into this special Tango thing; coming up with cliches such as “if know how to walk, you know how to Tango” or “advanced dancers take beginner’s classes” etc.
You know what though, there is a very good reason why it is very difficult and frustrating to correct how you walk and it has nothing to do with Tango. It actually has to do with evolution. Humans have figured out how to walk while in the process of becoming… you guessed it… humans! So how we walk is a characteristic of humans…. Hey! No, inappropriate jokes..! haha
Do I know how to walk?
Now are you walking as efficiently as nature has built you for? Most likely not. And that is due to all sorts of habits we pick up as we grow. Can that change though? Absolutely! Not with Tango though. But with movement technique. In movement technique we looks the very chaotic structure of the weight transfer and we dissect it. Then we create multiple, different exercises that appear to be focusing on completely unrelated things. They are however, aiming at the weight transfer and how to help you walk better.
Is walking in Tango the same as walking in real life? Well that depends… Firstly, it depends on whether you want to have a specific Tango style. And secondly, it is slightly affected by one very obvious thing..! That you are walking while in a hug with someone else. Have you tried doing that, down the street?!?! Not easy, yet achievable!
Why learn about the weight transfer?
Now the last question to consider before the video. What is the point of teaching walking in a Tango class? No idea..! I think it is actually frustrating for most people. But let’s change the narrative. What if we agree to do a movement technique class. Now, be careful… not a tango technique class, a movement technique class, where we will focus on how you walk. That kind of class will inevitably “fix” your dancing and it is a whole different narrative. Students will not be expecting to be taught how to dance Tango. They will be expecting to learn different tools in order to make their movement as a whole more efficient and enjoyable. And more fun Tango dances are extra bonus..!
So if you agree, I will invite you to do the latter as you follow along through our first Tango Movement Lab of Fall. And of course I would love to read your thoughts and questions on the above and on the exercises in the video, so please write me an email at email@example.com
Describing buoyancy is not a straightforward task. It’s something that can be felt or observed in the quality of movement, but putting it into words is challenging. However, if I were to attempt it, I would say it involves a sense of support, fullness, smoothness and confidence.
Last week we were talking about alignment and balance. This week I wanted to share some drills that will allow you to explore buoyancy and observe how it manifests in the person’s body on screen.
I first wanted to share with two videos that will not only give you some good exercises to work on but also the professionals performing them are inspiring movers that make buoyancy evident, even through video.
Basic Spinal Wave Presenting a fantastic video featuring Ido Portal, where he explores movements on the sagittal plane. In this short yet impactful video, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to the spinal wave, followed by a demonstration by Ido himself. This drill can be immensely helpful in rebuilding your posture. Consider also, watching the end first to witness the magical smoothness of his spinal wave, and then follow it up with the step-by-step section. Enjoy the journey!
Building Vitality, Strength, Flexibility, Flow, and Ease through Embodying Our Muscles This is a full online class from one of the most charismatic and influential movement professionals, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. In this class she explores muscles with us. There is so much more to muscles than resistive exercises and stretching! Muscles have their own inner world and interrelationships that, when explored, open up another way of knowing and experiencing movement. Embodied movement at this level gives us a path to directly connect with the ‘mind’ of our muscles and provides a dynamic foundation for brain-oriented, consciously-directed movement.
Tango focused exercises for you to practice
Back Ochos–ONE powerful drill In this video, we’ll be honing in on one essential aspect in our ochos—the spine. Sure, movement can be complicated and intricate, but it’s precisely this intricacy that gives it that deceptively simple appearance. By taking it one step at a time, we’ll begin to unravel the complexities, gradually making sense of how all the pieces come together harmoniously. So, let’s focus on the spine and unlock its potential!
Musicality, Breathing and Posture This is live online workshop from August of 2022 where we focused on musicality, breathing, and posture. Our mission here is twofold: first, we aim to explore and establish the fundamental relationship between these three themes, and secondly, we want to equip you with the tools to create practice routines that seamlessly combine these different elements. When we’re just starting out, it can be challenging to craft a practice session that incorporates multiple themes and also fits into our busy schedules. That’s where this video comes in handy, as it’ll provide you with some valuable insights on how to achieve that balance.
As a side note, all the exercises we used in the last video above were borrowed from the book: “It Takes You to Tango – The Ultimate Guide to Tango Training for Leaders and Followers.” In this book, you’ll discover a wide array of videos supporting two chapters of Tango drills. But that’s not all! You’ll also find helpful tips on defining your level and goals, setting up a schedule, overcoming any barriers that might be hindering your progress, and even learning social skills and milonga etiquette.
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!
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! 🙂
See that title..? haha From feet to Tango, to injuries and all the way to weather… Things that might appear unrelated, sometimes interestingly enough they do connect in this vast network we call the human body.
Our body responds to everything, in some way… it might be an obvious response or it might be a very subtle one. Leading and following in Tango is actually based on responding…not only from the follower but also from the leader.
Injuries and how to prevent them
After sharing the video above, that was on feet as the foundation of our walk, I received a set of interesting questions/ thoughts. They were around ankle stability and injury and how we can prevent them or be able to live with and dance through them.
To prevent them we need to increase our knowledge and awareness of the human body, so we can make healthier movement choices. Tango allows us to explore that because it is based on walking. Discovering how we were built to walk will help our Tango but will also give us the tools we need to prevent injury, to the extent possible of course.
Accidents do happen though… so what do we do then..?
How can we get to a point where we feel safe and secure in our bodies after being injured? Injury may actually be a second chance to learn more about our body. If you need a brace for example learn what it does, and which part of your ankle is it supporting/ replacing. Then explore that area with tenderness and care. You will see that slowly your mind will start creating a map of that joint area. The injury tore the map to pieces and now carefully with massage and subtle movement you can put the pieces of the map together. Will that bring the joint back to its initial state? Well, that depends on the injury of course, it may or it may not. But what it will certainly do is give you the awareness you need to move on that foot; for example give you a clear picture of the range of motion around all axes or of the necessary alignment. You can then make better choices as you are moving/ dancing.
Again, Tango at its bare bones is such a caring dance! You can take it really slow if you like and notice where and when you need to make adjustments as you take a step. And if you have a good partner along with you, you can have immediate feedback on how any of the choices affect your posture, or even your energy/ tension/ connection.
Social Tango or maybe we can say Tango Salon, is not really a dance with special requirements, like for example ballet, unless of course we go into specific Tango styles that focus on creating a specific image. That makes Tango ideal for all ages to enjoy and for everyone of us to become a bit wiser on body mechanics.
Now you probably wonder how is the weather related to feet, injury or Tango..!
Noticing how the weather affects you, is the first step to awareness. Every day can not be the same, so why are so shocked when we actually notice that. If you are feeling stiff because it is cold, then give yourself a bit of time to warm up before you start going about your day. Or if you wake up and you are low in energy and your tone is low, then give yourself some time to bring that tone up. In both examples by the way gentle shaking helps..!
The idea overall is, spend time becoming more aware of YOU..! And to get started you don’t need to do anything else but to notice how your body feels when you wake up every day. Then as your awareness increases you will be able to capture more and more feedback, as you move and as you dance.
Maybe this video on feet and weight transfer trajectory can be the second step…
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P.S: If you are wearing heels when you are dancing, check this article out
It is common and at some times good strategy to separate the above during different classes/ practices on music exploration, in order to dedicate the necessary time to each of them. Sometimes they may come together in a musicality class where choreography is used to explore music textures and qualities or to work on the skill of building a choreography.
What I would like to suggest to you is that you see all these elements as ways to explore the music, as ways to make a map of the song so that you can move and express yourself through it with more ease.
Rhythm is all!
Who said that? Yup! that was indeed MJ
Rhythm is a basically a set of relationships based on three criteria:
the goal – aka where we are going
how far that is and
how fast we are going
And the above are affected by the mass that is moving; for example an arm versus the whole body. Also, the surface on which the item is moving, if there is traction or not and more.
As you can see in the video above there are many different ways to explore these relationships, we can count, clap, sing, dance or we can simply spend some time just listening.
And listening starts from within. There is one vital element that most of us, especially when dancing with someone else, tend to forget. And that is our breathing. There is rhythm in our breathing and that rhythm is unique to us, and very much dependent on what we are doing from one moment to the next. Therefore, every music exploration should start internally before we reach outward, as we are doing in the video above.
Lastly, before we go the beat, notice that though in the video we are playing mostly with the arms the feet are participating only they are not main focus. They can of course be the route through which we explore all of these relationships, so I invite you to give it try… it is truly a lot of fun!
And the beat goes on
I learned this exercise a few years ago from the wonderful Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes. And it has been an exercise that I have been going back to over and over again because it is not only very helpful, fun and challenging but also as an idea, as a music exploration strategy, it is something that you can apply to any and all sequences.
So what happens in this particular video, is that we take a routine that is very well known and broadly used in Tango, in this case the ocho cortado and we start changing the relationship of the steps with the beat. This is the idea behind the exercise and so now you can understand that you can do the same thing, with the Tango basic/ box step, with the giro step and with any other sequence really.
How does this help us though map out the music?
OK! I want to share a strategy with you here, that again applies to all the things we practice on, but we will stick with the specifics of this exercise to have some solid reference. Suggested practice steps:
Practice each variation separately, one by one with and without the music.
Make little groups of 2 variations to practice on the music. How you choose? Well, there two ways that I usually follow:
Group the variation you are the most comfortable with every other, making groups of 2
Or group very different variations, for example from our video, the very slow/ mellow version with the syncopated version
Second last step, decide on how many times you would like to do each variation lets say 4 times each. You put the music on and you do each variation 4 times, one after the other until the song is over.
Very last step..! Let all the practice go and dance! What does that mean? You put the music back on and you let the music guide you as to which variation is more appropriate for that moment. As you can understand this is a step that may last for some time.
It is advised that you stick with the same song as you go through the steps above and that you see this as a flexible structure, and not a linear process. Meaning that you can go back and forth between steps, stick with one step for your whole practice one day and the next day you carry on etc. Basically, notice what your needs are as you go through the structure and give permission to yourself to adjust the strategy to your needs.
Embellishments – A music exploration power tool!
In this last video, we are playing with embellishments. Of course what you see in the video are only 3 of the many embellishments you can do on ochos but they have been specifically chosen. They will help us broaden our vocabulary and our understanding of the timing of the ochos, they are great tools for us to express ourselves better and have a bit of fun trying things out on the music but also and most importantly they can help us map out the textures of the music.
Embellishments in particular, because of their nature, they are add ons they are not required, they are one of the greatest tools to capture the textures of the music. Often times the same embellishment can be aggressive and powerful or spicy and playful depending on how you perform it.
So following the same strategy as described above try to see what textures you can capture and express with the 3 embellishments of our video during your music exploration session.
Music is much more than steps on the beat
Closing this short blog post, I hope that you have been inspired to look deeper into what the rhythm and the beat are and how you can explore them but also to look beyond them when you are trying to understand and relate to the music.
Think of the beat as the basic grid for each song. Over that grid we then have multiple layers. Some are consistently in the spotlight and some are making brief appearances with solos or by bridging musical phrases.
It is essential to get a clear understanding of the structure of the song, of the grid and then of the different layers that come over it in order to then be able to fully listen and express the music through your dance. And of course, the fact that we may be able to hear all the different layers doesn’t mean that we will dance to them; it is important though that we are able to hear them while we are dancing.
We have spent a couple of our Tango Movement Labs working on these elements so you can certainly visit the latest videos on that list and of course join us on Wednesday for a live practice. Tango Movement Lab runs every Wednesday 12:15pm EST through Facebook and Youtube
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