Archives by: daniela

9 Suggestions for a Personally Improved Milonga Experience

An improved Milonga Experience you say? Ok, to be fair this blog will not be about my opinions on lighting or table seating arrangements, although I am sure I have opinions on that too, this is about YOU and how YOU can improve your own experience, or at least attempt to.

I hear so often (and have heard since I can remember) the diametrically opposed feelings of attending a milonga. I will addressPortland milonga the followers’ lament – the time spent dressing up, smelling good, really looking forward to the dance and the music. Then the apprehension from the mind chatter: will I get dances, will he like me, will I find “the one”, am I pretty enough? Am I good enough? Will I ever be like her? When? How many more classes?

And then comes the post-milonga chatter – why not me? Why her? Why not him? She’s so x? He’s so y? Maybe I’ll buy more shoes!

What if we could choose to change our milonga experience (obviously, if we were not having a good one)? Well, after a European tour of several hundred milongas with seas of women sitting down and then back in the US with the same dilemma, how are we going to change our experience? I suppose we could stop dancing – but I know for my soul and body, that’s not an option.

Can I really change my milonga experience?
I ventured more deeply into an understanding of energy and what I called, at the time, alternative thinkers, when I moved back to Arizona in 2003. With a strong link to Sedona, AZ where everyone is a mystic and seemingly blessed with endless happiness, my exposure came more intensely not only with a love interest but with a life coach.

If I am having a bad experience I am the common denominator, so how do I change it?Ladies sitting at milonga

So as I sat at another very large festival watching and wondering about the dynamics at play and being accosted occasionally by a negative rant from a female friend, then it came as no surprise that my reading of Dr. Wayne Dyer sparked these ideas.

  1. Before you even start to get dressed for the milonga, take a moment to assess your mood. How am I feeling right now? Happy? Apprehensive? Stressed? On a scale would it be a 10 = yepee I feel happy or close to a 6 or below. Don’t judge it or beat yourself up. Just assess it. Notice it.
  2. I vowed several years ago that I would not go dancing unless I was feeling really great. And I also vowed that when I felt content at a milonga and satisfied, I would give myself permission to leave. Whether it was after 1 tanda in 4 hours or 4 tandas in 2 hours, whatever it was, that when I was still happy and feeling satisfied I would leave and leave happy. But this still put the milonga in control of me, the milonga as the ruler of my mood and how I would feel for a few hours afterwards or days sometimes!!! So I worked on raising my mood anytime I felt a little down. We can change our mood by eating well, exercising, yoga, a little meditation, breathing, listening to music we love, dancing alone, affirmations. Whatever it takes. If you want to wear those cute shoes, dress, scarf, wear them if that makes you feel good. Recognize when there’s a shift in your mood to the negative and see if you can change it or at least release it.
  3. Intention – Have a clear intention. “I intend to feel great and to have great dances”. (And the clincher here is not to censor it afterwards with a buzz kill, ie: “I intend great dances unless that guy that smells badly who always asks me to dance asks me.”
  4. Take a sip of water! Sometimes hydrating helps to move energy and can change how you feel.
  5. Acceptance – Anytime a thought comes to you that judges another person, say to yourself, “I allow everyone their own experience”. And then be happy for them!
  6. And SMILE to your self! (breathe and relax!)
  7. And then smile more! And pay someone a compliment, “What a beautiful dress, what a nice tie, lovely earrings, I love your shoes”!  Last year in a European marathon I knew only a couple of people and I really was putting these ideas into action! There was a woman whose necklace I had noticed earlier in the evening and I found myself standing in front of her, and I told her I thought her necklace was lovely. She told me thank you and commented that women rarely compliment each other and how nice it was to receive a compliment. SO LADIES sincere compliments are nice!
  8. Practicality – On a practical note, get to know people, circulate in a room, figure out a way to meet people. Where are people congregating? Where are the exits and entrances to the dance floor? You have to do the work of meeting people or knowing people. Do the work pre-milonga, during the milonga and post milonga or take a class to meet people. This too will help your mood! I like to circulate, especially in a large room. Sometimes this is a hindrance, because a leader will say to me, “I saw you sitting over there and then I couldn’t find you!” BUT overall, taking a walk-about can let people see you, you get to see who is there, it allows me the time to assess the milonga as well.
  9. And finally (or maybe firstly) – don’t care what others think about you. It doesn’t matter because you can’t control that. What you think about you is all that matters. Wouldn’t you want to choose to be happy and want to stay that way? I would.

What do you do to have a great milonga experience?

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Engaging Tango Newbies Part 2 Interview

In part 1 of New Ways to Engage Tango Newbies I discussed how I thought Peer to Peer Learning really added an extra dimension to ASU Tango students’ learning. In this blog I interviewed colleague Mitra Martin, Co-Founder of Oxygen Tango, in Los Angeles for her ideas and explorations into peer to peer learning at Oxygen.Mitra Martin

What is peer to peer learning exactly?

Broadly speaking, peer-to-peer learning is when people learn from friends and peers instead of from formal teachers. It is a lot of fun and can lead to great friendships and a strong community, and create interesting new roles for those who are experts.

At Oxygen Tango, it started off  as a super simple buddy system where we paired up beginners with more experienced dancers while they were in the Tango Challenge (read about the Tango Challenge here). The buddies practiced with the beginners once a week, that was it.

 How do you see it working for a tango community?

I think learning from your peers has been part of tango forever! As I understand it, in the old times of tango, nobody went to “classes” and “workshops” — they learned tango informally, at home or at social clubs, from friends and family.
And today, everyone’s still kind of involved in “peer-to-peer learning” even though we don’t talk about it as such. Most of us have had the experience of learning a lot from someone who’s not “officially” a teacher. And, most teachers do all they can to ensure there are lots of more experienced dancers at classes and practicas to help out. What we’re trying to do is give those peer helpers just a tad bit more structure, so they know how best to help.

Tango’s a kinesthetic, interpersonal form and so the best way to learn it is directly from another body. That’s why beginners love learning directly from more experienced dancers – it’s so natural. And, intermediate dancers get a lot more confident and skillful when see that they can actually help others learn.

Your model really means changing students’ mind sets about how they are going to learn a dance. Most people looking for a dance class find a studio and expect a class with a teacher telling students what to do! Can you talk a little about this?

It’s definitely a paradigm shift! I’d say you have to see it to believe it, to really feel and experience it from the inside to understand the kind of value it creates.

I think lots of us have a love-hate relationship with group classes. On the one hand, it’s exciting to see and be close to an inspiring person, the expert teacher. There can be something fun about just being in their aura. On the other hand, practically speaking, they probably won’t be able to spend more than a minute or so working directly with you. Most of your learning is completely dependent on who you’re working with and how productive that is. I think by pairing people up intentionally, and giving them the right things to work on everyone wins.

What are the pluses and minuses as you see them?

Well, right now it’s still very new, very messy, very experimental. Students want to be confident that they’re learning the right things in the right way, and they might doubt what’s coming from a peer-helper vs a teacher. But what is gained in the form of stronger bonds between people who help one another and receive help, makes me inspired to keep forging ahead and working out the kinks.

What are the implications for those of use who are teachers or who teach tango as our professions?

I think we’re slowly going to see tango experts shift their focus from being rockstar teachers, to creating the rockstar curriculum that powers their community forward. I think they’ll also spend more time, bandwidth and creativity on training for peer-mentors. Training those up and coming dancers who really contribute a lot to building and growing the dancers in their community. I think it would be very rewarding for everyone and have amazing effects on a community if tango master teachers and experts shifted more focus to training these gems more regularly, in slightly more systematic and structured ways.

And, I think we’ll see more experts going deeper into crafting motivating milestones where community members can show and share their newfound skills and accomplishments and celebrate each other’s growth. Maybe there will be new kinds of talent shows, improv game competitions, creativity showcases, demo/feedback opportunities, fringe festivals, grad balls. I call these “Rigorous Scenarios” – a chance for a learner to and see/feel/experience how far they have come, with loving and supporting feedback/input from friends and experts. That would cultivate a whole new generation of energized and well-informed practica and learning lab hosts with a great foundation.

You can read more about Mitra’s Peer to Peer learning project and how to become involved at
http://www.mitramartin.com/peer-to-peer-learning-project/

Let us know your thoughts!

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New Ways to Engage Newbies in Tango Part I

Are there New(er) Ways to Engage Newbies in Tango? (This is a 2 part blog.)

As most of you know, who have been reading my blogs over the years, I had the privilege of teaching Argentine Tango at ASU for ASU Tango Club10 years. My students were beginners, first time dancers, first time tangueras/as. The setup was (a course for credit) twice per week for about 3 hours (after a few years the department made some changes and I lost 15 minutes!), and the class was a semester long course about 16 weeks.

In addition, I had experiences teaching beginners in community classes – bootcamps, weekend immersions, 4 week courses, 6 week courses etc. And I always found these experiences quite varied. Always, with the intention of building and growing the community searching for a perfect working formula.

I often thought the variable was time, that the length of time that I was able to spend with the ASU students made the difference in the learning of tango among these different setups but probably there was more to it.

The students also had a Club where they would enthusiastically host classes and events. There were no “adults” supervising, they were on their own and free to do what they wanted (as long as they were safe and didn’t deplete their budget!)

As time went on, and people would ask me about the success of the Club and the students at ASU I really wondered how it was so different. It was clear that not all students fell in love with tango but there was a core group of students who kept it alive year after year.

I began to conclude that tango had to be social first and foremost. (Obviously, right?) The students would hang out or do group activities and whether it included tango or not didn’t make any difference. They liked to hang out with each other. As a group they brightened any room, any milonga. This is why they became popular go-to kids for local festivals.

I know that communities have blamed the unfriendliness of the core dancers or the cliquish nature of tangueros for the diminishing size of certain communities. But if you think about it, that’s the point isn’t it? If you don’t like socializing why would you keep doing it? Some are more masochistic than others, some dancers have moved to other cities just for a nicer welcome.

BA tour Eating outIf we look at the roots of tango, I think it has always been social first. When you go to dance tango in Buenos Aires you go to a Social Club normally, not to a dance studio or a restaurant. People gather their friends together and sit together at a table with snacks and wine and laugh and share life stories for their typical Friday night out.

So maybe it is true that if dancers didn’t like the socializing that is what stopped them from sticking with tango. (click here to read Clay’s Tango Survey results or to take the survey Why I Quit Tango)

Reminds me of urban sociologist, Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place, where he discusses the importance of informal gathering places, not your home but that space where you meet up with friends, cafes, pubs, for example. Maybe dance halls qualifies.

EMPOWERING OTHERS BY SHARING

I think one of the reasons why the ASU tango program was successful in terms of students learning to dance tango and becoming the dancers that others sought after at festivals and local milongas was the mixture of the social aspect and the fact that they were empowered to help other dancers grow.

Is Tango experiencing a lull in its masses? is it more difficult to get waves of newbies interested? Possibly and I think part of the reason is the loss of its “sociability” but also because no one is empowered to bring along the “babies”. Traveling teachers come and go, local teachers either focus on those already who know how to dance and sometimes rarely focus on beginners, let alone on how to keep them. ASU About music class

I remember one summer I was invited to teach a Tango 101 course in DC (with Tango Mercurio) and at the end of the cycle of classes I invited them all to my home to eat, socialize and dance if they wanted. THEY LOVED THIS! Now whether they stayed dancing I am not sure but it was definitely spoken about as a great idea after I left.

Another underemphasized aspect of the ASU kids’ learning experience is not just the social aspect but their sharing of tango material. Tango 1 class was for the introduction – context, a bit of culture, they would learn about embrace, pivots, ochos, giros. They were also asked to attend Tango Club and 3 community milongas and write about their observations. In the Tango 2 course it was more like a laboratory – each semester with a different focus depending on what the students were interested in. I would create questions, projects, discussions for them to explore during class, also combining newer students with students who were more experienced. I strongly believe that a peer to peer learning environment encouraged in the classroom and in their Tango Club helped them to grow and to become curious and eager learners which they would eagerly explore and share in their Tango Club experiences.

Tango Club was an important factor in their growth and exploration as dancers. They were allowed to share whatever they wanted during that time. (For example; the more experienced dancers shared more complicated steps or patterns that they had seen on Youtube that they were enthusiastic about, or something they learned by attending a festival.) WITH ENTHUSIASM and EXCITEMENT!!!!

So is there a place for peer to peer learning outside of the academic setting?

How would it be designed? Shaped, marketed?

I reached out to Mitra Martin, Founder of Oxygen Tango LA for her ideas and explorations with peer to peer learning.
READ ABOUT IT in Part 2, next week.

In the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts! Please share them below.

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About Your Core and Tango

As you can imagine, I have a lot to say on this topic of the core almost as much as I have to say about your feet! I have to thank Anne from TangoSpace for her blog on The Tango Dancers Guide to Core Muscles for inspiring About your and Core and Tango!

It is true, as Anne says, that depending on who is speaking about the core there might be different definitions of what the core is or what a teacher might be referring to (I like that she includes the pelvic floor).

Anatomy of the abdominal wall

http://fit-screen.com/mlb-and-the-obliques/

1) Let’s Define the Core

For the sake of this post I will use the Restorative Exercise definition of THE CORE as everything the arms and legs are attached to. So this would include musculature in the pelvis, the back, the ribs, and the shoulders, too. That’s quite a lot of territory to cover! Therefore, the understanding of the core goes way beyond just those 4 abdominals muscles that are usually referred to from deep to superficial as:

  • TRANSVERSE
  • INTERNAL OBLIQUES
  • EXTERNAL OBLIQUES
  • RECTUS ABDOMINUS

2) More to your Core

Because the trunk is void of solid bony structure(s), which allows for mobility between the pelvis and the ribs, the core musculature attaches in layers to something called the aponeuroses which also connect to raphe. You have 3 beautiful raphe in your body – the linea alba, and the 2 linea semilunares. So in picturing the most gorgeous six pack you can, you will see a major line down the middle of that 6 pack and 2 on the sides – these are raphe. I bring up the raphe because these collagen structures provide strong attachment points for the abdominals. The linea alba, for example, is the raphe that runs vertically down the midline of the body, roughly from the sternum to the pelvis. It connects not only to these bony structures but to all the other abdominal musculature there as well. The whole abdominal structure is a woven basket of layers of muscles, tissues, connecting to the aponeurosis and raphe. In order to work or generate force, a muscle needs something strong to attach its ends to, in terms of your abdominals, this will include your raphe.

6 pack abdominals

http://theseanpritchard.blogspot.com/2016/01/shape-your-6-pack-with-these-varying.html

In the case of the abdomen it is the lineae that can have a bone-like function, providing a strong point of attachment and offering resistance to a working muscle— essential for producing force.
Bowman, Katy (2015-12-29). Diastasis Recti: The Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation (Kindle Locations 227-229). Propriometrics Press. Kindle Edition.

And why do I have this lovely woven basket of muscles in my midsection? Oversimplified, to support the contents of it – the spine and the organs (lungs, kidneys, heart, sex organs) and to allow for mobility (to squat, to reach, to climb, to turn, to bend, to rotate, to roll).

 3) So how is alignment going to affect abdominal strength?

You knew it had to come back to alignment right? The length of those raphe will affect your potential strength. If they have been lax all day they will not be effective because they are not being used or being called upon to be used.
You have heard me say in previous blogs that what you do with your ribs and your pelvis will influence your alignment. And the direction of your rib cage relative to the pelvis also dictates how tense/ taught those raphe are.

4) And those high heeled shoes

Maybe the blog should have started here! How are those shoes affecting your core musculature?

A heeled shoe forces a change in the geometry of your ankle joint, which in turn forces a change at the knees, which forces a change at the hips and to the tilt of your pelvis, which forces a change in the position of your ribcage, all of which alters the length and force-production capability of your core muscles.
Bowman, Katy (2015-12-29). Diastasis Recti: The Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation (Kindle Locations 767-769). Propriometrics Press. Kindle Edition.

So no wonder we have so much trouble in tango with our cores! We spend the bulk of our day sitting or slouching at a desk, maybe wearing heeled shoes the bulk of the day and then we go to our tango classes and expect our cores to work for us. How can we possibly manage?

5) Solutions

Well, I’m again not here to tell you to throw away your favorite CIFs or to get your buns to the gym but you can remember to notice your alignment throughout the day and make sure to do some Restorative Exercise calf stretches. We are big fans in Restorative Exercise to take alignment breaks throughout our day.

Take stock of how you stand and how you sit during your day. How often do your arms or legs do something other than what they have been doing the majority of your life? Ie: arms in front of you, sitting at a computer, then at the gym in front of you in the same position riding a bike. The arms in one position means that they are limited in their range of motion – which too affects your core musculature – (extend your arm over you head as if to reach for something on a high shelf – do you feel your ribs move and your mid section? hello abdominals!)

In conclusion, check out your pelvis and your ribs’ relationship and your feet throughout your day. And if you are trying to hold your stomach in hoping you are getting an abdominal workout, you are actually doing more damage to your internal organs and your spine, so remember to keep breathing. And as always, 

Call or SKYPE Me to discover how to integrate your body
 

And try this class with Katy Bowman
https://vimeo.com/194905510/134effd84a


*T
hanks again Katy for all the great books and info.

 

 

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Advice: Traveling for Tango

Traveling for Tango 

I recently received a message from a young colleague who was asking for some advice on becoming a traveling teacher and expectations on traveling for Tango.

I know some of you are experienced in traveling for tango and some are just starting out on the great adventure. Those of you who are my longtime students will come to understand all that goes into traveling for tango.

I have put together a list of things that I have learned that you might find helpful.Traveling Norway 2015

As most of you already know, Tango for me is about connecting with others, it is essentially about relationships, and when you decide to host someone or to ask to be hosted you are forging another level of relationship with someone and their community.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always as glamorous as it might seem. And again I can’t emphasize enough, that you want your experience to be win / win for all parties involved. It does not pay to burn bridges. And in this day of social media, word gets around FASTER than before!!!

So here’s how I go about it…and I know more experienced teachers might have things to add (so please feel free to comment).

1) THE INITIAL CONTACT  

It could be via email or Facebook, with an invitation to me or with me requesting to visit.
If I am making the initial contact I try not to put too much information in this message, and of course depending on whether I know them or not, I also include my website. If I have dates in mind I put those, if there is something special I want to do, I will include that. If a host contacts me first it might take several emails before I actually get all the information I need to make a decision. I use my experience from my Executive-to-the-CEO days for these introductions and requests, i.e: be polite, make it clear what I want, check my grammar, etc.

So

2) FROM CONTACT TO CONTRACT
Whether it be a formal contract or an informal email outlining my understanding and my expectations, this is a must.Train Station 2016

Things to consider

Obviously the goal is to teach, to work, to make money. For some it is also about networking and building relationships. Sometimes I have had to weigh the pros and cons. Will I make enough money or is it best that I go to build a new network. Is it more about networking or about working?

Your transportation – Plane, train, taxi, bus, car rental. Know what your transportation situation is and discuss these logistics with your hosts. This includes will you drive me around? Will I be taking the subway?
Your lodging – What kind of accommodations are you willing to have for the time you will be teaching. Do you need your own room? Are you happy with a couch? Again you don’t want any surprises about this.
Food – Is food included? A food stipend or not. Do you expect to get fed? And how often? When you are teaching? 3 meals or 1 meal ?? do you need access to a refrigerator or a kitchen?
Other important things – for another colleague of mine it is important for her to have her own bathroom, maybe you have allergies. I put it all in writing.
Space – Where am I teaching? I like to be clear about this expectation too. Is it in someone’s home? Does it have mirrors? Do I care? Is it a studio? I’ve taught in homes, studios, churches, cold places, warm places. All good to know. In most communities the studio rental is expensive but an obviously necessary overhead.
Price – such a sensitive subject for some cultures and not so much for others. (A whole other blog!)
I know several teachers that either work a 70/30 for a weekend of workshops after transportation and studio fees. OR others who request a flat fee. I have done both and again it always depends on the situation. However, I still try to have some very clear ideas and goals before I hit the ground running.
I found all this a challenge at first, not to sell myself short and yet wanting to break into a scene and the ultimate goal to be asked to return.
It is important to be clear on what you need – you can always negotiate. And also take into consideration the local climate and the exchange rates. I find it valuable to ask my host for price ranges on private lessons. This gives me an idea of the price ranges the community is used to. Some communities were all about private lessons and some communities, forget it. I was told by someone in one community that “our teachers here are so good that students just don’t pay for private lessons from any guest instructors no matter who they are!!”
And how do you want to get paid? Cash? Deposit to a bank? Do you need to make an invoice to the hosting organization?

3) COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE 

No one likes surprises! It is so important to communicate with your host/s, exchange phone numbers etc. When in doubt call or send a message.
For those who are hosts, remember that if a teacher is traveling a lot consider time zones and when they might be teaching. I don’t want to put a time on what appropriate response time is but depending on the urgency of the matter (and even that can be argued over!) let at least a day go by before assuming that the event is off or that they have cancelled on you.

4) GRATITUDE
You would be surprised at how many of these details are often overlooked by those who are hosting and therefore, I had to take charge of the conversation. And when I didn’t, and I didn’t get paid what I thought or didn’t even know what I was being paid, well, I couldn’t complain now could I? It is so important to protect ourselves as teachers, as artists, as servers to community.
And in turn it is so important for us, as artists, to be gracious. Because if you are not, you kill it for other artists.

During my stay in an unnamed european country, I was warned that if I stated that I was from one part of the world they would not be happy to receive me as they had had so many bad experiences with teachers from that particular region. I was shocked but then understood everyone’s hesitancy about hosting me.

There is a difference between being a diva and treating people well.

I recently heard a shockingly horrifying story from a colleague who was put up in a sparse apartment (including the visiting vermin, yes, rats!) with an empty refrigerator and was told to walk to the local convenient store at night alone for food. REALLY? I was so horrified by this story. I again ask that hosts take a look around and decide if they would want to be treated the way they are treating? And to the teachers on tour, make sure to bring your credit card along and be ready to use it if you need to. In this situation, the host was not willing to assist, or make things better, or move my colleague. My colleague took the matter into their hands and spent the night (awake) looking for a hotel and then moved.

So I leave you with my utmost amazing hostess experience…

My hostess did all my advertising for me, collected fees in advance from participants, communicated regularly with them via Facebook and I was able to see some of that communication and participate by adding my excitement to the event. She picked me up from the airport, took me grocery shopping, fed me as much food as I could possibly eat and then some. I had my own comfortable room and bathroom. She drove me to classes and to the milongas. I felt so comfortable there I slept amazingly! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! – you know who you are. Happy teacher Happy classes Happy community!

May all your travels be joyful and easy!!
If I forgot something I would love to hear from you….We can always help each other to make it easier and safe for all of us.

 

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