Tag Archives: Tango

Do You Trust Me?

I was debating whether we needed another post or if we could go straight to our Tango Movement Lab. I decided to throw this post in because I think trust is important to learning process. If you don’t trust your teacher you are not going to learn from them or your learning will be restricted to common knowledge aka something anyone can teach you, even simply Google.

Trust..?

Maybe you are thinking how is that related to decoding the cliche “If you know how to walk, you know how to Tango”?
Well, it will help us decode every cliche actually.
When we get in a class, we are trusting that the person we have as our teacher at the very least knows what they are talking about and from there, our trust hopefully will grow.

That is actually why trials and offers exist; to remove some risk; 50% off on your first month; one class for free; Groupon coupons etc.

When they throw in a phrase that is confusing or a cue that is frustrating, a bit of this trust starts shake. 
“Do they really know what they are talking about? Do they really teach the one and only true Argentine Tango?” hahaha

Of course we don’t walk out the moment we hear a cliche but I think cliches and how they are handled are key to building trust.

Building trust

  1. When your teacher uses a cliche and you ask them for clarification like we had talked about when starting this series; how do they respond?
  2. Do they walk the talk? For example, if you ask them “What do you mean by “if you know how to walk, you know how to Tango!”. And they say: “Oh! I mean that you already know a bit of Tango, because Tango is based on walking” but then they turn around and start teaching you how to walk. That is a bit of problem!
  3. There is actually a system in their teaching. There is a structure that gets you somewhere by the end of the class. Maybe you don’t know exactly what the structure is or maybe you can’t even articulate what you got from the class, but you felt the difference.
  4. If they progress in their dancing, their teaching and their social skills.
  5. Do they diversify their learning?
  6. And last but not least, do they support the community by being honest and open. For example, when someone comes to me for private classes. I tell them what I am good at and clarify that if they want sequences I am not the right person for them. Then I recommend a colleague in my community. I don’t do it because I don’t like teaching people. I do it because I know what my strengths and what my colleagues strengths are.

So as you can see pointers 1-4 have to do with how teachers conduct the class and how they deal with cliches.

Trust is earned!

For teachers, even for your steady groups, trust should never be taken for granted.
I constantly think how we as teachers should respond to the above; and I have come up with a list. Hopefully some of the pointers will be helpful to you though some might not apply.

  1. Try to get more and more specific and clear in how you express yourself through words. I hope that you have noticed some progress in my writing through the years of following Bautanz. If not please let me know! 
  2. Give your students a high-level picture of what you will work on, at the beginning of the class. Then in intervals offer detailed information on the subject. I have found that this gives people the opportunity to see the underlying structure without tiring them out.
  3. Distinguish between personal preference/ habit/ structural inheritance and facts. For example, I have quite lax joints, and my knees hyperextend. I try not to let them but sometimes they will. I usually say Do not copy the teacher. This is my structural condition and most likely wouldn’t apply to you”.
    Compared to making it into a fact. For example: “To hold our balance when we step, we push away from the floor, engage the leg, pull the knee cap up”. This implies that this is how we walk generally. Well, we don’t, not in general.
  4. Diversify your learning journey. I take all sorts of classes, trying not isolate myself in Tango and fitness. Stay curious even though it can be tough to put it in your schedule.
  5. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to share. Sharing will allow you to also receive from other professionals, may that be in students or in knowledge.

All of this to say that next week we will have another Tango Movement Lab and I hope that you will show some trust in me and join me!

I will send out the details soon but until then keep on dancing!

Chrisa.

P.S: If you need some practice routines to play around with. Or maybe you are struggling with a mental iceberg, check out “It Takes You Tango” our ultimate practice guide for leaders and followers.

You know how to walk! Now it is time to play!

Lastly week, I think we established that we all know how to walk; which is great..! haha
So I am going to go ahead and say it, for the teachers or aspiring teachers in the Bautanz family, I think that we should not try to teach people how to walk.

There! I said it! ha!
It feels so good!  
Now I will tell you why.

We are all the same but different

Now after last week’s post, I got a couple of messages mainly from teachers saying that they are facing two key challenges;

  1. It is very difficult to teach how to walk and they spend a great amount of time on technique for that.
  2. Everyone in the group walks differently and so it is not easy to change their habits and to get them in sync in order to dance.

And this is the first reason why you shouldn’t teach someone how to walk.

Most of us are of the same “blueprint”; we have the same general “manual”. But for each of us is the manual is applied differently.
These difference can be structural, for example most of us have two legs but my femur bone might be longer than yours, or the arch of my foot might smaller than yours etc. 
The differences can be kinetic, for example, I might have greater range of motion; of course these difference might be related to the above.
But they can also be difference of perception, for example I might be afraid of getting hurt, ergo I am afraid of falling, and so my movement vocabulary is restricted to avoid anything that may result in me falling.

And these differences you might be born with or you may acquire through life.
For example, a ballet dancer like myself has a different structure and movement options compared to a professional horseback rider. Horseback riders develop a very strong interior thigh fascia which then makes them stand and walk in a slightly wider stance. Ballet dancers, have been taught to collect everything in and direct their intention upward.

So as you can gather dance groups are very diverse even when they don’t seem so!

Walking is a complex and complicated movement

On top of that walking is a complex and complicated movement.  
It involves the whole body, in triaxial multiplanar movement and it is based on multiple developmental patterns.
If for any reason, and they are many, any of these developmental patterns is inefficient our walk will be inefficient.

It might be because of the way we were handled at birth, or maybe as toddlers we were forced to stand before we were ready, or as adults we had an injury from which scar tissue has been created and it is inhibiting our movement.

What I am getting at is, that you can’t really teach people how to walk. Even if the issue at hand is glaring at you. You are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

This is therefore the second reason why you shouldn’t teach people how to walk.

Are you really teaching people how to walk?

But lets pause here for a moment and ask ourselves as teachers, do you think we are actually teaching people how to walk?

No!
What we are teaching, is a version of walking with someone that works best for us as teachers and matches our preferred Tango style. And with all the habits, preconceptions, preferences, struggles etc that we have.

Can you see now how frustrating this can be? 
I am hoping that you can relate at a better level with your students here, beyond than “yeah we all go through that”.

If we don’t teach “The Walk”, what do we do?

My suggestion is as follows;

  1. You identify as a Tango teacher not as a kinesiologist or movement professional, unless you have the training to do so. 
  2. Secondly,  instead of trying to teach some form of walk to your students, follow the cliche above and accept their walk is good enough.
  3. Thirdly, give them the opportunity to play. Start with anyone can Tango. Or you can walk and you can pivot ergo you can dance Tango, you can create the comfort zone your students need to be creative, to explore, to play. You can give them options to coordinate that play between them and have potentially a goal, but not in a restrictive way. This way you can actually inform the body through a Tango class and potentially achieve some repatterining of some old habits. Tango, has elements that can stimulate the lower level brain cells, that we talked about last week, responsible for automatic movements such as walking; for example, touch, vibration, the music, spatial coordination, moments of being off balance, sharing an axis, etc. This way it can be a fun but powerful tool for people to expand their movement diet and movement vocabulary.
  4. Lastly, technique classes, if you do any, should not be Tango technique, but movement technique applied to Tango. Again with a series of exercises that allow people to explore key movement concepts, such as balance, posture, alignment, yielding and more. Ending potentially with connecting thread back to Tango.
    Here you might need to educate yourselves prior to teaching someone else. This journey starts with us identifying what we need to work on first. Me for example, due to my ballet training and potentially genetics I am quite flexible, I had to work therefore in not letting my knees hyperextend.   

What should students do?

I know we talked a lot about teachers here. But here are my suggestions for those of us here who are students of Tango.

  1. Don’t think your teacher knows it all. We are all learning all the time. We are all teaching all the time. Similar to leaders follow and followers lead. Teachers learn and students teach.
  2. As we had said when starting this discussion over decoding cliches when things don’t make sense… ask! Politely of course..!
  3. As a by product of the above, do NOT copy the teacher. Teachers are or should be in their own processes, managing their movement options and choices based on their past and current bodily/ mental state. And the same goes for you. So explore the concept/ the movement/ the principle but don’t copy the teacher.
  4. Allow yourself to play! Playing is part of learning. A lot of the routines we have today were discovered by people playing, exploring, messing up and trying again. It can open up great channels of creativity and it is a lot more fun.

And that is it!
OMG! If this isn’t the longest email!

Ok! Get up from your seat and move around.
And stay tuned for our Tango Movement Lab get together coming up. I just need to fix the date for that.

See you soon,
Chrisa.

P.S: If you want to get warmed up for our Tango Movement Lab, you can take a look at “It Takes You to Tango”.

More Emotion = I want to see You

Last Sunday we had a Tango Movement Lab (online workshop) on how to respond to the cue “More Emotion”. You can actually see and follow-along the full workshop below.

What could that possibly mean?

Each one of us I am sure can come up with a different response to this question. And so that makes it very difficult to actually decode it; so instead we played with it.

As you will see in the video, we started with a perspective over “emotions”, borrowed by Dr.Alan Watkins, that is very refreshing. So Dr. Watkins, says, in his Tedx Talk  “Why you feel what you feel”, that emotions are energy in motion. They are composite biological signals; stereotypical energy patterns. Feelings on the other hand are the awareness in our minds of that energy. We are the “creators” of emotions. We may be responding to someone or something but we are creating them.

Playing with the music

With that in mind we started playing, playing with music. Now as you will see in the video, this is not a musicality class, it was never indented to be. It is a class were we respond to music and we express that response.
Playing with the music, implies what? Implies that we are not doing sequences, we are really not doing any specific dance; we are simply moving around. Just like we did when we were kids and we heard a song on the radio that we really liked and started moving to it. 

Playing as adults makes us feel safe. It also wakes up that part of the brain responsible for imagination and creativity. So when we start the workshop with “moving around” it is to open that window to imagination.
Then we took the universal dance step, step touch, and really took it to the playground..! haha

Do you remember when you used to go to the playground and go to the slides? The first couple of times were normal and then you would try to slide side-ways, or backwards, or walk up the slide or hang from its sides..! 
That is what we did with the step-touch. Do a step-touch in as many different ways you can think of. 

Being Seen

And lastly we added the “being seen” strategy.
As you will hear me say in the workshop, I think “more emotion” means ” I want to see you”
One of the reasons we don’t have options in how we express ourselves through dance, is that we don’t have a strategy towards “being seen”.
That thought ends today, because I actually have a strategy for you. A 3 step strategy that can transform your dance; and not just Tango but any kind of dance.

“More Emotion” means “I want to see YOU”
For someone though to see you, it is required that YOU would want to be seen. So looping back to the beginning of this email. It all starts with you. You respond. You create. And maybe sometimes you may want to be seen!

Here is the recording again. Try it out and let me know how it went!
Keep on dancing! 🕺💃

Chrisa 

P.S: This is a Pay from the Heart Workshop.
We didn’t have a set ticket so anyone can join for free and anyone can watch the recording for free. If though you can contribute a monetary amount, we kindly ask for your support. You can do so either through an email transfer at: chrisa.assis@bautanz.com or through PayPal.

Lost in translation: Tango Cue #1 “More Emotion!”

“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)

“More Emotion”

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 form it 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! 🕺💃

Chrisa

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.

Buoyancy in Movement

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.

Observing Buoyancy

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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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

  1. 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!
  2. 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.

Enjoy,

Chrisa

4 Key Focus Points for Your Practice

In our last practice, we covered a lot of content and introduced several exciting concepts during the session. To help you make the most of the recording, I wanted to share four key focus points with you. This way, if you want to dive deeper into a specific concept, you can easily find the relevant parts of the video. Happy learning!

So let’s go right into it

Upper and Lower Body Coordination – The Key to Happy Dances.

First the recording itself; this is the video of the whole practice for you to watch and follow along.
This practice will guide you in understanding how your body plays a vital role in executing Tango’s rules, all while ensuring your safety and preventing any discomfort or frustration on the dance floor. 

4 Key Elements of Focus:

  1. Rebuilding the Embrace (12:09 – 35:26)
    We are leading and following through the arms. Now be careful, not “with the arms” but through the arms. We need to pay attention to how we position our arms, so that the forces between us and our partner flow through our bodies and connect with our legs. TIt’s also important to consider how our body adjusts when our partner applies pressure or pulls us. The goal is to make our entire body an active part of the leading and following process, rather than just relying on our frame.
  2. Connecting the dots (42:48 – 49:06)
    Our body is a remarkable interconnected system. In today’s session, we’re focusing on the back fascial line, as highlighted by Tom Myers in, Anatomy Trains. But why does this matter? By recognizing the interdependence of various body parts, we can reduce the effort required to control them during movement. We’re creating a seamless system where one movement naturally flows into the next, allowing us to fully embrace and enjoy our dances.
  3. Buoyancy in your movement (49:12 – 54:06)
    Imagine your body is wrapped in a comfortable and flexible hammock. There every movement you make applies a gentle force that ripples through its fabric. As you exert force on one side, the other sides adapt and mold to accommodate. And when you release the force the whole body floats back to its initial position, with buoyancy and comfort instead of you pushing and pulling things together. 
  4. A Tango Drill (56:00 – 1:03)
    This drill sets the focus on our walks. It is intended to put these concepts we worked on above in a Tango perspective. If you are looking for a quick practice drill, you can just do this and be sure you are building on some good habits.