Tag Archives: teaching dance

Tango Misconceptions and how to dance through them

We have shared a lot of practical tips and drills on Tango and that this post can be a bit different and focus on misconceptions about Tango. We will get a chance in this way to exchange thoughts and ideas on things that we thought worked but actually didn’t or vice versa we thought they didn’t work and we realized they worked wonders.

If you have Tango misconception stories, share them with me, either by commenting on this post or by filling out this survey..!

Tango misconceptions and the “one-size-fits-all”

We usually start Tango or any type of dance really, to learn something new, to have fun, to have a social yet productive evening out, to share some time with a friend or partner etc. In general, it is for a social/ fun reason that we get into it. And so we don’t expect to feel stuck, frustrated, tired and like failures…haha…while we are at it..!

There are many reasons why this might have happened and may happen to us, but one of the many reasons, is actually the one size fits all approach that is followed some times in teaching dance in general and Tango in particular.

Now, let’s clarify one thing before we carry on, I am not saying that no rules apply and that everyone should find their own Tango. 
What I am saying is that the way one teaches those rules, whether they are related to a specific Tango style or not, needs to be adaptable to the group and the individuals in that group. 
Every one of us has a different body, different movement habits, a different background and therefore a different understanding of dance and movement. As such we can not be expected to all learn in the same way.

Therefore, when something is presented to us as “this is how it is”, and even worse when body mechanics are thrown into the mix to support purely stylistic rules, it is highly possible that many of us will not be able to work it out in our bodies; or if we do, it might still feel uncomfortable. 

So with all that in mind, lets take a look at our first video on Tango misconceptions where we explore what is actually a stylistic rule compared to body mechanics rule. 

A misconception is not a lie and doesn’t imply complete ignorance..!

Before we carry on, I wanted to add a note here for all of us that might be struggling with a specific element and may now be thinking that they have been let down by their teachers and/ or by themselves.

A misconception is not a lie nor does it imply complete ignorance. A misconception is a different understanding maybe even a misunderstanding. So if you are feeling a bit frustrated now, think that this how we learn, how we progress. We make assumptions, some of them will stand and some will need to be reassessed. This whole process is what brings us to knowledge. So you haven’t wasted your time! On the contrary you have been learning! And most importantly, you have been engaging in something that you are passionate about!

As you will see in our video below, we start with the misconception of ochos being a stand-alone Tango step; but we don’t stop there. We will then see a different perspective, where the ochos are simply “walks in different directions”. We are exploring a different perspective and we are acknowledging the shift from how we were approaching ochos before. This way we are 2 things:

  1. That ochos are really walks and not a special step and
  2. How to learn and progress. In the beginning we see and practice ochos as a stand alone step; that may be necessary to reduce frustration. After a while though we need to reassess and start connecting the dots between walking and ochos, for Tango as a whole to make sense.

Making the healthy choice

Before I let you go, I would like to share 2 insights with the group:

  • When you find that a movement is uncomfortable or even worse painful, take a moment to assess. I know this might sound obvious but it is not really obvious when we are in action. Usually we see other people following through and we think we should push through the discomfort. Take a moment to consider whether this movement is rewarding for you at the moment. The end result may be something you want to work towards; but if you experiencing discomfort, you still haven’t found the right path to get there.
    Misconceptions may be hiding in the end result or in the path or in both. If any part of the movement feels wrong to you, it probably is..!
  • Sometimes progress comes not from practicing Tango itself. It can some from a shift in our understanding of movement in small everyday type of movement habits. 
    Posture is great example! If you introduce in small dosages of mindfulness and awareness on how you carry your body through your everyday life, this will make your day more enjoyable and change your posture in Tango inevitably. It doesn’t apply to every Tango element but it captures a fair bit!

So what Tango misconceptions have you tackled..? Share your great stories with me I would love to hear them! And don’t forget to subscribe for more content such as this

Enjoy,

Chrisa Assis

P.S: Completely unrelated but it will brighten your day… Check out Pro Dancer Shoes, they have an amazing collection for all Tango shoe lovers. I got a pair of my own, I loved it and now I am proudly affiliated with them. Take a look! 😉

Keep dancing! Keep Moving!

Dancing… Most of us think of it just as a social activity of a recreational nature. Something we do to spend some good time with friends, to learn something new and to have fun while introducing some moderate (not always) movement in our schedule. Right..?!? Yes and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Now think about dance in this last year. Are you taking classes online? Did you go to under-the-radar milongas or social gatherings? Do you dance every hour to a random song you hear on the radio like I do..?
If not do you miss dancing? If so has your perspective of what dance is here for, change through this experience?

The social aspect of every dance stems from within

Personally, I haven’t missed dancing as an activity because I still dance. But I have missed sharing the moment and creating something in the moment with someone else. And also the process of getting there, trying to understand my partner, trying to be honest, sharing and empathetic at the same time. This is irreplaceable!

Attending classes online and also offering classes online though made me shift or better said deepen my understanding of where all of the above comes from… and that is, from within each and everyone of us.

Spending some time understanding the human body, your body, through movement, will allow you to better understand yourself and then the other person, the human community and the world as whole. Coming from a place of understanding you can be more empathetic and sharing.

Dancing in the time of the pandemic

Though dance can surely not make the problems magically go away, the fact that we can feel more in control of our movement and our body while reducing stress and tension, can surely make us feel a lot better.

And this is where the dancer in me reaches out to the dancer in you!
Keep moving! Keep exploring and learning about all the things that make you, YOU!
How you breathe and how you can breathe more freely
Or how you walk and how you can walk with more ease
Are you holding your head in a position that pushes your whole body out of balance? You know which one that is… zooming into the computer screen! haha
And how you move to mitigate the impact of that

Dancing can help us look within, and understand what makes us…us; in the most free, comforting and comfortable way possible. I am not sure if this is just me, but I really need this! And I hope to be sharing this with you tomorrow and every Wednesday at the Tango Movement Lab happening live through Facebook and Youtube at 12:15pm Toronto time. Nothing is required other than you willingness to dance!

Lets get exploring together!

Chrisa

Dancers are explorers

Yes yes, you did read that right..! Dancers are explorers!
It doesn’t matter in what type of dance you are in. If you are in any type of dance, in any type of movement practice you are potentially an explorer!

How do we start exploring?

We start our journeys as explorers from the moment we follow this urge to move, to learn about movement. The moment we listen to this inner wish to create and express ourselves through movement. And of course the moment when put ourselves in a vulnerable place and reach out to the other and connect.

This moment in time is probably different for everyone of us, but it is surely before we step in a dance studio. It might even be when we are watching someone else move… who knows!

Thinking back to when you took your first step. All the sensations, feelings and emotions that came up and how you responded to them. This active start of exploring the relationships between the different parts of the body, the music, the other people around us or with us; how all that makes us feel… And I would go as far as to say exploring who we are, as a person, as a human and as part of the world.

We start with a little choreography, then we learn about the music, the culture, the stories, the people, the gossip…
Next we practice and we start discovering other options, we reach out to people who we feel can help, we partner up and practice, exchange ideas, fight with another person… We learn about ourselves, about others, about humans, about history, about it all!

Everything becomes part of that journey

Living an explorer’s life, you must have felt that everything relates to your journey of discovery. Cliches such “Tango is like life” or “Life is a Tango” are cliches for a reason..!

Of course they are not reflective of reality, but they express possibly a common feeling, that of things that seem unrelated but unexpectedly come together to form a thread or network. Without therefore getting too romantically affected (though that is perfectly fine as well) by the cliches above, we can see opportunities for greater explorations

And a greater exploration, another link in the network, seems to be this research conducted by S. Elefante, M. V. Arenillas, S. Jovicic, M. Elefante, C. Black, of the University of Vienna.

It is an article looking at the common threads and the differences between the grand balls of Vienna and the milongas of Buenos Aires, at different time periods and locations, involving different social groups, musical genres, social etiquette, dress code and of course the closing of each event.

Balls and Milongas in Vienna and Buenos Aires: analysis and comparison

Borrowed from the official abstract sent to me by the team: “At the end of this historical journey, we can conclude that what undoubtedly unifies the balls of the past, those of today, and the milongas, is the the common desire of the guests to dance and enjoy. So, let us go back to the message from H. Ferrer and indirectly also from his aunt…‘Let us both dance’. What truly matters is to simply spend a pleasant evening and have fun dancing”

Isn’t it magical!
How our passion for a dance will not only drive us to learn more about a foreign culture but it will also push us to research for any common elements with our own culture. Making us in this way explorers of the world!

😉
Chrisa

P.S: From more become a member of our community and subscribe to Bautanz- Constructing Dance
P.P.S: For similar stories check also: Musicality_A Musical Journey to the past

What do you taste like when you dance?

What you taste like… when you dance..! Not as horrifying a question… push Hannibal Lector away (haha)… when you think of the taste, the impression, the sensation you get when you dance, when perform a move.

After last week’s Mid-week Tango practice I got a very interesting question on the Youtube chat, that went something like this:
What textures in the music fit well with doing cross in the dance?

As you will see in the link I attempted a quick answer, but now it is the time for an answer that goes more in depth.
So lets pick a song, for example “Comme il faut” by Carlos Di Sarli start with the basics, and gradually go deeper and probably more subjective

Basic “movement structures” suggested by the music

I am sure we have all heard of linear, and circular structures in Tango, and how they match the music. But I would like suggest one more structure the circular progressive. We have therefore 3 movement structures suggested by the music , linear, circular progressive and circular:

Step #1 therefore would be to identify these structures on the music

Try to go through the song identifying where the music suggests linear structures, circular progressive and circular. For example, the song starts linear till about 0:15 when things start to change to circular progressive until about 0:33 that we start going back to linear until 0:45 where circular comes in briefly etc.

After spending some time to identify these structural qualities in the music then you can start matching steps to it. At that point, the first thing one would think of doing, of course, is walking on the linear, ochos on circular progressive and giros on the circular. Great choice for a start..!

What happens in between..?

What happens in between though? This is one of my favourite themes, the transition..! The in between, when we are shifting the weight or pausing?

Those moments, need to match the music of course, but not only in terms of timing but also as a preparation for what is coming afterwards and also in terms of texture.

The cross step is a beautiful example because it is a shift of weight which includes a small twist to it. That makes it a beautiful opportunity to either transition from linear to circular or to create a linear step but with a little taste of circular from the cross and on top of those two options add a change of sensation.

Another example could be any pause during a dance. How you hold the embrace, the space between you and your partner has a quality, a texture, a taste. That of course depends on the music and your partner as well but primarily depends on you..!

Texture is subjective

I don’t like using the word musicality because there are so many things involved when using this word, so I have been carefully avoiding it. I have also been carefully avoiding to speak about the beat, the rhythm, the tone etc. and generally the technical aspects of music.

Though these are requirements, they are fundamentals, this post is not about that. And so I will similarly avoid talking about the cliche phrase “We all hear differently”… Well yes and no but let’s instead talk about how we all respond differently to what we hear. I would think we can all agree to that.

Going back to our song Comme il faut and after identifying those movement structures we can start exploring past that and try to find qualities of movement.

How would we go about to that?

This is what I usually do, but I am sure someone else might follow a different process. While listening to the song:

  • I write down words that come to mind that would characterize what I am hearing. Some examples, dynamic, playful, delicate, passionate, flowery, colourful, embellished
  • Then I write down sensations, for example it smells like Spring, has like a little breeze to it and tastes like a sweet spice
  • Lastly I dance to the words above. Aside from linear, circular progressive or circular how does the movement feel

It is highly likely you will come up with a different list of words. That depends on your personality, your previous experiences, your expectations, goals etc.

So this is a second layer that allows you to filter the music through your body, mind and soul and express yourself not through different movements but different textures.

Is there an easy way to practice this?

Practice I am not sure if it is ever easy but if you are struggling with finding the beat or the rhythm, it is likely that the dancing part of the above bullet point list might be a bit difficult and frustrating.

So I would like to suggest we take a step back and become creative in a slightly different way… Here you go, give it a try..!
(Spoiler, it is kids friendly and you can try this with multiple different colours too)

Enjoy,

Chrisa

For more practices check this link: Musicality games

“Movement can change your brain, too!”

For years and years we have a debate between body and brain. With different groups having strong opinions over ones power over the other; however more and more studies come to show an intimate connection between the two and bring movement to the stage!

Obvious findings through experience now backed up by science

We have all been in situation where we were feeling a bit blue, went out dancing and felt wonderful afterwards. Or where we have been feeling stressed and went to the gym to let some steam off.

Now there are numerous studies that show that movement, in different forms, aerobic exercise, resistance, flexibility, and balance exercises, Yoga, Qigong and Dance have an effect in the function of our brain. It “modulates stress reactivity and anxiety in humans.” , “increases endogenous opioid activity in the central and peripheral nervous system and may induce a euphoric state and reduce pain” , “boosts mood by increasing a brain protein called BDNF that helps nerve fibers grow.”

Specifically for movement practices where one is required to pay close attention to bodily sensations, position in space and feelings research has shown that such practices are useful adjunctive components to other treatment as they create the alleviation of depressive symptoms. See for example this interesting paper on Yoga practice and PTSD

Dance as a movement practice can have surprising benefits

The above links can surely give you an idea of what scientists mean when they say that change of posture, breathing and rhythm can have a positive change to your brain in various ways.

Dance, which is movement in synchrony with others can have further surprising benefits to “an individual’s self-esteem and their feelings of social connection with a partner.” The results of this study came to show that “individuals felt better about themselves following a period of synchronous compared to asynchronous movement, while they also perceived a greater self-other overlap with their partner.”

This for many of us might come as no surprise. I am sure we all have experienced the both ends of this spectrum of synchrony and asychnony. When in full synchrony with our partner we feel great. When fighting for synchrony for 12mins of a tanda we feel just terrible

In the same paper previous literature is referenced to have noted that “bouts of synchronous activity have been shown to increase cooperation , encourage compliance and conformist behaviour, boost trust, facilitate joint-action capabilities, enhance person memory, and promote compassion and altruism.(…) synchronous action can lead to perceptions of connectedness and the blurring of self-other boundaries between interaction partners. In general, experiencing interpersonal synchrony is seen to establish the common ground on which effective social interactions unfold.”

What I think we all might find interesting here is that communities around the world knew about this already; an experiential knowing that created folk dances, rituals and various other community activities that involve moving together.

Also, movers from various disciplines have described all of the above as firstly our movement informing our knowing. Secondly through discovering ourselves we discover more the other and the world and become more compassionate towards them, towards us.

Moving together is what I am missing

A friend asked me the other day: “Don’t you miss dancing?”
I was torn to tell you the truth… I couldn’t quite tell if I missed it or not.

On one hand I am now used to not having a milonga to go to…And I certainly don’t miss the action of dancing, of moving…

We have the Mid-week Tango practice and Online classes, plus my personal fitness schedule. So I am moving and dancing… What I do miss though is dancing with someone. Synchronizing my movement with other people.

Interestingly enough though all hope is not lost even in this crazy world we live in. In the experiment conducted as part of the research paper linked above, participants had to connect through a video link and perform arm-curls with their partner over the screen. Some were asked to synchronize their movement and some to avoid synchronization. The group of people who synchronized after the experiment reported a higher self-esteem and better connected to their partner.

People who live alone at this time isolation have suffered mentally much more than the rest of us. Can we virtually replace a hug? Surely not!
But maybe there are better ways to connect that we haven’t found yet, that we haven’t explored yet. Maybe there are ways to make these platforms and virtual environments more welcoming, more real…

Who knows..! I guess if we keep on moving and we will see what we can discover!

😉

Chrisa

Frey Faust- on movement

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.

If you inspired to learn from Frey Faust directly he has a great list of events taking place all around the world which you can find out under “events calendar” on his personal site; If you have the opportunity you should grab, it is truly rewarding!
You can find some really exciting events such as Traces: https://allmecen.com/main/contents/projects/339
or this one-week event taking place right here in Toronto: https://dianebruni.com/mri-with-frey-faust-2020/

I hope you will enjoy this chat as much as we did and if you wish to listen to more chats such as this one, visit: https://bautanz.com/tango-chatting-dancers-grab-coffee/

Enjoy,

Chrisa