Frey Faust has been a teacher and mentor to me and many others around the world. When you visit his personal website https://www.freyfaust.org you will see his bio titled as “dancer, choreographer, teacher, writer, artisan… etc.” so the first time we attempted this chat I had to ask the question what would the most appropriate title… And he said to me: “I am a person… human… animal. All these titles are things I do, not who I am. I am working towards my potential as a person, trying to have a quality existence and also make the world a better place for me and however many people I can. Everything I do has these underlying motivations.“
I got to know Frey through his work, the “Axis Syllabus” for which you can find more about here http://www.axissyllabus.org. I was at a frustrating curve in my Tango practice when I took a class with Pablo Veron; the greatest thing I was reminded of in that class was that I need to look past Tango to look at movement holistically… And so here we are!
What is this chat about?
This chat is not specifically about Tango; it is not even about dance. It is more about movement, how to learn, how to practice, how to explore and how to inspire others to explore along with you. If you are teacher you will have the opportunity to hear some strong advise on how to approach a class, how to observe and how to listen And if you are a student you will get some starting points on practice, acquiring knowledge and building awareness of your body.
Giro technique…it can be tough but we will smoothly get through it… 😉 In our previous post https://bautanz.com/2019/03/20/music-sensing-feeling-and-action/ we were looking at rhythmical explorations. We used rebounds, walks and ochos and tried to figure out how these three elements, these basic Tango elements, can help us create something special on the dance floor.
These very elements though, we can find them in giros and naturally… this is what this post is about… Giro technique!
2 Rhythmical variations
If you have been in Tango for some time you’ve probably been taught the giro step following this basic rhythmic pattern: quick quick slow slow
And the truth is that this pattern even though we don’t HAVE to necessarily follow it, works quite smoothly; it has a nice flow to it and that is why we are not going to be changing that rhythm today. We’re only going to be exploring it further…
The transition between quick-quick and slow, slow…
I think an image here can help us a little bit with his exploration. Imagine a rainbow and on one end of the rainbow we have black and on the other end we have white and in between we have all the colours, every colour possible. Our transition is THAT rainbow! On one edge of the of the rainbow will be the “quick” part and on the other end will be the “slow” part. In variation #1 we will stay closer to the quick edge of the rainbow while in variation #2 we will move closer to the slow part. As we switch between the two, we will notice the colours in between and how our perception of them changes as we transition
If you are a beginner in Tango and you don’t know the giro step yet, then I would recommend that you watch the whole video from beginning to end and then just start practicing the step itself without worrying about the rhythm at all. Don’t worry about the quick- quick ,slow, slow, just do the footwork and once you feel more comfortable with the with a step itself then you can move on to exploring the variations If though you are familiar with the giro step I would encourage you to start from the END of the video from the very last exercise that focuses solely on the transition itself and then make your way through variations 1 and 2
Giro Technique: 8 anchoring points
Another vital transition for the giros, is the transition from standing on 2 feet to balancing over 1 foot and vice versa This transition hides a lot of habits, good and bad. And of course good habits are more than welcome…haha… the bad habits on the other hand we want to notice them and hopefully through our practices replace with more efficient ones
So here are some extra tips that can help you this video:
Listen for any trouble. Tension tends to be quite “vocal” through our bodies but we usually because we think it is normal for tension to manifest itself, we don’t pay attention to it. So distinguish between strength and unnecessary tension. Some of the most common places we find tension are: the hip joints, the lower back, the shoulders, the neck, the sternum, the face muscles So when you lift one leg up, make a quick check, take your mind through all of the above spots in your body and see if you can relax them
Standing with the weight split between the 2 feet. Notice how you reach for the connection with the floor tracing from the bottom up; from foot, to ankle, to knee, to hip, to ribcage, to arms, to neck and head.
You are special. Accept that your body is slightly different than your friend’s, your teacher’s or mine. Your focus should be to experience all the tips you hear in the video and not to bring the leg as high as I do, or to twist as much as I do. These movements exist in your body already; they live in your everyday walk, Tango is only an opportunity to expose them, become aware of them and possibly make them more efficient over time. So pay close close attention.
Hands to Ribs – A top-to-bottom practice
After talking about rhythm and after trying to understand and explore further the transition from 2 feet to a 1 foot balance, in this giro technique video, we are going to look into pivots and specifically we’re going to explore further the preparation phase for the pivots within the giros.
One of the most common mistakes we make in giros is skipping or pulling through the preparation phase; the phase where we are still transitioning from one foot to the other but we know there is a pivot coming and so we are preparing your body for the pivot; those very few seconds before the pivot happens.
What we will be doing in this video is acknowledging first of all that in-between stage, finding within our giro step.
And then we will be focusing on how the upper and lower body are working together during that phase, we will be looking at how much energy and power we need to create and use to make our way around the pivot and last but certainly not least we will be focusing on finding the right timing for the pivot to start.
Many a times we are running a little bit behind getting stuck in that in-between phase or as we mentioned before we really rush through it and we hop straight into the pivot so our goal here is to be able to avoid both of these troubling bad habits and to build a habit where we we are in control of the transition from a linear movement to a circular movement
Soooo that is all folks, at least for today. Giro technique right before the weekend milongas, perfect! And if you loved this and you want more, join the community of Bautanz! I share a video every Wednesday… 😉
“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.
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!
It all started from this short video on Improper Alignment:
As Ido Portal says in the video, “improper alignment is a certainty not a possibility.” Practising therefore for those moments of improper alignment is crucial for our progress but also for our understanding of our body.
Managing the weight transfer
As you can tell from the video when I first introduced this exercise, it was the first step towards better alignment.
Here though I want to invite you to change your focus…instead of looking for the perfect communication path between the different parts of the body, focus on feeling every little tiny bit of your foot; even to the expense of that communication.
For example, see how far out you can take your heels out before you drop to the floor. Notice how that improper alignment makes you feel. Or the reverse how far in you can bring your heels…and again notice how that makes you feel.
Don’t try to fix it! Only exaggerate as much as possible without, of course, causing harm to yourselves, and notice, make mental notes of the experience.
A yummy practice for our feet
In this video, we are exploring the limits of our base of our feet. We are creating and playing with improper alignment.
Because if you don’t know where the edge is, what improper alignment feels like. How will you find the centre, a safe place where you can just be without any tension or uncertainty?
And as Ido Portal says there is no proper alignment, but proper preparation… for misalignment. We can get off balance any second of the day… lets prepare for THAT!
Feet: Alignment and Misalignment
This third video explores transitioning; changing our level, shifting our weight, and moving in space. Personally, I don’t believe that standing on one leg or doing calf raises endlessly will make your steps steadier, smoother or more powerful and secure. Becoming aware of the how your feet manage the transition from the right to the left and the front to the back, definitely will though.
Does that mean, that you don’t need to ever to do balance drills again..? NOPE! haha It means that you will have to include them in a more holistic practice, one that focuses on the transition and not solely on the drill itself. One that focuses on improper alignment as a certainty. One that explores the edges and the limits as much as the centre
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:
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!
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.
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.
If you do a quick search around the internet, you can find all these success stories, of how people despite the difficulties they made it, they believed in their dreams, they dared to dream big, they sacrificed themselves but it paid off…
KILL ME NOW PLEASE!
This is not a success story
I don’t have a success story for you, as I see my story under the light of, work-in-progress, instead of reaching success.
I bought into those stories though. When I was starting, I wanted to make one of those stories. As I was trying though, I realized it is all BS–pardon my french…but that is what it really is.
Quickly , I realized that:
Yes you have a passion and you have to make tough decisions, make sacrifices and dedicate time to make it a reality. But why on earth to you believe that this is anything special that ONLY very few enlightened people do?
I know my mom made great sacrifices so I can have a good life while being great at her job. I bet yours did too, and your neighbors mom as well, and the lady in the grocery store working 18hours a day does too.
So hard work, dedication and sacrifices is what is a life’s requirement, not what you do when chasing your “dream”
So it is not one of those stories but it is a story about consistency. About gaining experience from everything that you do, about asking and working for more. Plus about making a point of “STARTING NOW”.
I thought I was approaching success, but I was still in the beginning
You don’t even have to watch the video, just look at the title… I don’t even have my name there…haha
Let alone my movement, so petite, so fragile, so….Blaaaah…or even worse for a dancer…so CUTE!
The truth is I was shy, I still am actually.
But I am guessing that I was always looking for alternative ways to connect and that is why I was always into dance from a very young age.
And you know a shy child is cute, a shy adult is ridiculous… haha And not because others think so but because I actually felt ridiculous when though I wanted to go out dancing and I ended up staying home because none of my friends could make it out and I wouldn’t dare going out my own.
So even though I should have started earlier with defeating shyness, I started at some point… better late than never…and I took acting lessons!
ALL or NOTHING…hahaha
And being on stage was super fun. Sharing stories was exciting. Improvising with people was like dancing with words.
Singing though, was HELL!
Because I was so shy to sing I couldn’t even HUM.
I am not joking.
I would sit by the piano, sweating and feeling dizzy–panic attack most likely–and every time I would open my mouth to sing no sound came out.
So after getting on my knees and hiding behind the chair, the piano teacher suggest that I hum…
Nope! I couldn’t hum either! Actually by that time I just wanted to die! hahaha
And now that same person, who couldn’t even hum in front of people, is making videos and going uncensored on facebook live. If you had told me, when I was doing that video at the top there, that I would be on youtube and facebook doing videos, I would have laughed in your face!
Because to be the dancer of your dreams, there are only 2 things YOU need to do…
Believe that you CAN. If I can do live videos you can dance the way you dream like dancing. Give yourselves the time and the opportunity because you deserve it
Get started! Don’t leave it for later, like I did… I was a shy kid and I managed to hide that in dance, don’t make the same mistake. There is no better time than NOW. START NOW! Choose any of these exercises under the Tango technique tab: https://bautanz.com/argentine-tango… And START NOW. START SMALL and SCALE
Enjoy the benefits on and off the dance floor
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