About the Body

Scapula Affecting Posture and Embrace

Are your scapula affecting your posture and your embrace?

I am convinced that the form of our bodies, our auto-body-graphy, really shapes how we dance and also how we teach dance. If I am tall or short or wide or whatever will greatly impact how I move. It will also have an affect on how I embrace. We know that there could be other factors influencing embrace but what I want to talk about today is a phenomenon that I see and experience in Tango, which is a posture with scapula close together.

Where / what are your scapula?

They are the lovely triangular shaped bones on your back that are your “wings”! They connect your upper arm (humerus) to your clavicle.

The shoulder girdle is very dynamic and complex. Just take a moment to imagine all the different things you can do with this part of your body. Attaching to the arms and sliding along the ribcage (at your back) they assist in so many different actions: pushing, pulling, lifting, throwing, carrying, holding. Yes, those actions are done with your arms but try them and see if you can feel your scapula moving too. They move when you shrug, possibly deeply sigh, if you’re cold and your shoulders move to your ears … you get the picture!

Shoulders Back

So for the sake of “good posture” people have lifted their chest – thrusting their ribs forward and forcing the shoulders back, pinching the scapulae. There are about 17 different muscles that attach to the scapula allowing for the movement in your shoulder girdle: allowing you to “stand up straight”, “stop slouching”, “pull your shoulders back”. Yes, culture helps to shape us too! So how does this affect our dancing? Happy you asked!

What I have been feeling with some leaders and followers is that with the scapula pinching or moving towards each other, the arms pull me into them or the arms are not being used at all, which leaves me trying to find my place in this embrace that is not a circle and leaves me being pushed. I guess one way to counteract would be to assume the same position and push back into my leader but this would, as I say in the video below, would put me in a position to greatly damage my spine and other muscles as well as put extra pressure into my other joints, as in my knees. Not to mention being off axis.

Again, the most efficient use of the body is one that doesn’t stress it and uses it dynamically. I’m not advocating dancing one way but if the one way is 1) causing you pain or your partner pain 2) is not allowing you to execute figures dynamically and efficiently, well, maybe there’s a better way!

Here’s my video blog. Let me know your thoughts! Leave me your comments and discoveries!

Read more

What are those legs doing? Are they social or not?

Are those legs being social or not on the dance floor?

I’m talking about those frog shaped legs at the milonga. After a long slash along the entire length of my calf from a heel at a milonga I have been compelled to write about this. And leave you a short video.

After the slash, I sat and observed this particular woman as I wondered how she could have managed such a feat. She was clearly having a great time dancing with the same guy, giggling and enjoying their unskilled tanda. AND I am not here to criticize her enjoyment of being completely manipulated by her leader. But no wonder she was off balance at one point committing some version of a front boleo with a wide gap between her legs that resembled a #4 stretch with the heel in question facing straight out towards other unassuming victims.

LADIES, those legs are meant to come together for a reason. EVERYTHING in tango comes from your understanding of walking, which translates to your understanding of the relationship between your 2 legs, which will translate to your pivots and to your boleos and all decorations.

Your weighted leg, your standing leg is YOUR responsibility and through your connection to your partner you are given information on what the other, the moving leg, is to be doing.

In general throughout my teaching in the US and Europe, I have found a general misunderstanding about this 2 legged relationship. I find those who are extremely fixated on KLT Keeping the Legs Together and those whose LEA Legs are Extra Appendages that they have seemingly no control over!  With the KLT group this fixation renders them remarkably tight to the point they can hardly move their legs. I am not denying that the adductors (a group of muscles of the thigh that bring legs together) are at play here but what IS missing is the understanding that your legs still have to move, and they move because, just like in walking, the thigh bone, the amazing femur, is a ball and socket joint. Those thigh bones are meant to roll in their places, in their sockets, in your pelvis. If you are so tight in your musculature here, you can’t move easily – which hinders many things, including balance. And the same is true with the LEA group. Meaning, they lose their balance too because the appendages are so far away from their home.

There is a way to manage both of these groups to have beautiful functioning dance legs without risk of injuring those around you or yourself!

So I leave you with a little video!

Read more

Tango: What the Dr. Orders

I love it when the Dr. orders tango. I know she is not the only one but here is a video from Dr. Christiane Northrup about how to keep your memory healthy and how you’re not losing your mind after 40!

I was first turned on to this leading pioneer in women’s health in the US while living in Boston more than 20 years ago. I met her briefly in NYC at a large conference on health as she was the reason I went! She was one of the first medical doctors to openly talk about the connection between the mind and body and your health. The author of many books, Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom was first published in 1994 and I remember gifting it to as many of my girlfriends as possible.

Of course, in this video, she talks about nutrition but the number one thing she recommends for people as they age is partner dancing and she, I know, loves to tango!

“76% reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s comes from doing partner dancing”!

and if you want to jump ahead in the video – go directly to 8:31 to hear Dr. Northrup talk about it!

ENJOY! And DANCE MORE and with a partner even better!!!

Read more

The X Exercise

One of my favorite exercises of all times is the X Exercise. Not an official name but this is what I have always called it. I learned it during my modern dance days and always incorporated it into my contemporary classes. Once I started tango all I thought about was how I could get everyone on the floor to learn this! Well, I tried it at ASU a few times and after too many oohs and aaahs and ughs about being on a dirty floor I bailed on it. But some of the students really loved it!


How to do the X Exercise?

As the video instructs – you want to start with your body on the floor in an X position and allow the weight of your body to fall into the floor. You want to imagine that you would leave an imprint of your body on the floor if you were able to levitate!
As you let your body relax into this X bring your awareness to your fingertips or your toes and begin to draw that extremity across your body to the other corner extremity. In other words, right fingertips drawing across the body towards the left fingertips, and as your upper body peels off the floor in this beautiful spiral you want the lower half to come along for the ride. Breathing is also a good thing.
Aways return to your X shape after every turn.

Why do I love this one?
Because it helps to integrate your body. If your ribs are sticking out you can’t roll properly, if you are too tight in your hips you will crash on the floor, if you hold your breath you can’t roll, or you find your X shifting in the room!… just to name a few! The big clue is to allow your body to relax into the X position on the floor and as you bring your awareness to your fingertips or toes that will be moving across the body that they really really actively reach to meet their destination corner.

And why is this important?
I find our bodies so disconnected. Teachers tell students to move a shoulder, move a leg, embrace, relax, don’t use your arm, don’t push with your hand…. etc. No wonder we are all in pieces. Our tango seems to have become bodies moving in parts and not as a whole. So in all my classes I am on a quest to bring more integration into our bodies and into our dance.

Any questions? Let me know if you get on the floor – and yes, best to wear pants and not a skirt!

Read more

Body as Autobiography – Back in Europe

I have been back in Europe for about 3 weeks now. This has included a trip to Berlin to assist Graciela Gonzalez with her classes.

Grande Place Mons

Grande Place Mons

This time around I am staying in a sleepy town outside of Brussels called Mons. This will be my base for the next several months.

The visit with Graciela was again, one of great reminders:  1) how much force, effort does one really need to dance tango? and 2) the embrace and how do we embrace? bringing us back to the essence of tango.

It is so funny to me how much language gets in the way of the body. I have said this all through my teaching career and probably during my modern dance career too. How we each interpret information, as that information makes its’ way through our autobiography into the body, completely fascinates me. How someone says something, when someone says anything, we are interpreting all of it through a filter, our own autobiographical filters.

In Boston, before arriving to Europe, I had the joy of taking class again with some of my modern dancer friends with our teacher. Mons(Mind you, I can’t remember the last time I set foot in that studio, so it was a lot of things and most of all, wonderfully familiar.) As I spoke to him (dear teacher Marcus Schulkind) briefly after class about an aspect of the body and the leg’s movement backwards, he said something to the effect of “just take their leg and move it backwards, the physical movement will get them to understand.” YES!

There is a dance form in Bali where the passing on of the tradition is done through manipulation of the dancer’s body. The transmitter of the dance actually manipulates the dancer’s arms and legs for her to remember the “choreography”. This makes me also reflect on the origins of tango, there were no schools, it was just manipulation of bodies to transmit the information corporally.

After my weekend with Graciela, which is never only about me translating her classes but it is Graciela and Daniela in Berlinalways an intense revisit of the material of tango in my own body. And because I know that the body is also a “telling tool”, it reveals to me where I have been and where I am. That tension? That stuck place? That block? They are all revealing where I am in my current journey and it’s also affecting my dance. And so I learn, again!

I am excited to report that I will be teaching around! Next stop Portugal!
Please check my calendar for where I will be next and remember that the times on the calendar are stuck in USA Arizona time.

 

Read more
Next Page »