Reflections on Tango

RES Certified with an Offer for You

I have been recuperating from an intense week of certification to become a RES-CPT (Restorative Exercise Specialist TM – CertifieRestorative Exercised Personal Trainer).

For those who have taken class with me, know that I am very interested in how the body works, interested in health and movement, and moving safely. (As safely as we can in 4″ heels!)

My love for movement started when I was a toddler, jumping off my tricycle and hanging upside down. After ice skating, gymnastics, track, swimming, ballet, I found my first modern dance class. Just after college I took a course called Anatomy for Dancers with Sarah White, who worked at the Massage School in Boston, MA. This was the first of many courses in Anatomy and Kinesiology that I would take.

I was fortunate to have a modern dance teacher in Cambridge, MA, Marcus Schulkind, who was very concerned with alignment. I was encouraged to drop my ribs, and put my head on my spine, and our measurement of being aligned was if we could balance in releve. (1 leg up and the standing leg on the ball of the foot). I spent some time traveling to NYC to study with Susan Klein, and her objective was to get our hamstrings as long as possible by hanging over our legs for very long periods of time. Along with the hanging we were learning to find and utilize a very strong and long muscle called the psoas. In graduate school at ASU I took Anatomy and Kinesiology and several other courses from Pam Matt, who I will begin to work with again in the fall. So no wonder my path has found me at Katy Bowman’s virtual doorstep.

Katy’s Restorative Institute teaches alignment for health. She is a biomechanist and the focus of alignment is for health and wellness. You can read more about aligning your body on her blog KatySays.com.

The RES Program includes the understanding of how the body works at a cellular level, muscular and skeletal level. We know being alive is about regenerating tissues, generating cells. We know that oxygen is food for all of our cells and if you’re not moving then that area is vulnerable to disease. In the RES program great all over body movement is walking and moving as much of your body throughout the day. Think about a little head hanging or a hand stretch. We want our body to work optimally for as long as possible. So we want to load those bones properly, we want our muscles at their correct length and we need to move.

The program starts with the 1A protocol: the basic foundation for the rest of the 50+ exercises!!!  The 1A protocol introduces the language and some of the alignment markers that are the foundation for the rest of the program. I know that my father has been doing the protocol for a few months and has already seen some measurable results. The 1A protocol has an emphasis on lengthening our posterior leg, think  lengthening our hamstrings. We need this posterior strength to be able to hold our bodies up and to be able to walk properly, without falling.

My week consisted of 6 private sessions with Master Teacher Trainers, sessions with Katy and Master Teacher Trainers, a written test, and a one-hour practicum on 2 different volunteers. Phew! I lengthened my hamstrings, dropped my ribs, expanded my scapula, and lengthened my psoas. It was a tremendous week.

For the rest of the month of June I am offering 40 minute 1A protocol semi-private sessions at my home studio in Tempe. I am offering them on the following Monday and Wednesday evenings the 17th, 19th, 24th, 26th. You must reserve your spot in advance. Limited to 4 people. Bring yoga mat and a towel (or I will provide). Wear comfortable clothes. $10 per person.
Available times are
6pm – 6:40pm
7pm – 7:40pm
8pm – 8:40pm.
First come first served.
Call me at 480-442-9550 or send me an email. I will call you to confirm your spot.

Come join My Alignment Practice…

Next blog – how alignment and tango (or any dance) work together…

 

 

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Leading Ladies Workshop

I am so excited! FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY!

Enough ladies have expressed an interest in learning how to lead – so here we go! This workshop is for ladies who want to learn to lead. This workshop will introduce leading skills and dispel any myths around leading. It will also give insight and improve your skills as a follower.
It will be a great time and if we want to continue to pursue this topic I have some great ideas!!!

JUNE 15
12:00pm – 2:00pm
Rhythmic Expressions 617 S. McClintock Dr. Ste 3, Tempe, AZ (Just north of University on the East side of McClintock. Look for McClintock Center)
$15
Bring flat shoes and a towel.

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Part 2 – Finals

I have reflected on the experience as a whole and have received a lot of mail and commentary over the week. It has been fantastic to have the opportunity to share and voice my experience with friends and tango family worldwide. Thank you for that! And the following reflection is many layered as is tango!

I have come to the conclusion that the finals of the US Tango competition reflect the status of Argentine tango dancers in the US: confused.

We see this in our milongas: confused dancers. And why are they? Because of all the mixed ideas that are heard from teachers, these might be classified as styles. Teachers who tell you to share your axis, or to be on your own axis, to pivot, to not pivot, to lead with the chest, no with the legs! It’s amazing that we can even dance together in cities all over the world. So when dancers dance at milongas with all the varied understandings they have, how can it be expected that this idea of dancing in a salon or a Tango Salon competition be clear. I don’t think anyone in the US has ever really defined it for us.

There are many beautiful dancers in the US. Dancers who are musical, understand connection, have a clear walk, and good technique. There are dancers in the US who go yearly to Buenos Aires to train with other Tango Salon champions and more importantly with their teachers. Yet the US representation at the Mundial (the World Cup of Tango Salon in August in Buenos Aires) is small relative to the size and population of dancers in our country and the participation in the US is just as small. Why don’t the really good dancers compete?

The idea of a competition and the misunderstanding of the label tango salon has been a hindrance for the US. And I admit, I was skeptical, as those who have read my blog over the years know. But the truth is that the idea of Tango Salon as something separate from dancing socially is just not true and definitely misconstrued. Salon dancers do train by dancing socially at milongas. The idea is to dance to the music, in a comfortable embrace, socially. It is not about dancing off axis as a leader or a follower. It is about dancing in close proximity on your axis, showing an elegant walk, expressing the music through turns and dynamic changes of directions. It is about dancing! And when you begin to really focus on your dancing you just get better.

Through the competition, there is a fantastic opportunity sanctioned by the Ministry of Culture of Buenos Aires, to be acknowledged within the tango community at large as knowing and understanding Argentine Tango. It is amazing to me to learn that Argentines still don’t think that Americans can dance tango, that we can’t possibly understand it, because we are not Argentine! This reminds me of my Argentine, former soccer player father talking about how the Argentines / Latins feel the game of soccer and the team harmony and that the Americans focus on individual skills. In Buenos Aires you will find droves of dancers from Italy, Turkey, Colombia, Russia, Japan, China and Korea spending time, energy, and money training and dancing in Buenos Aires, participating every year in their own country competition as well as the Mundial in Buenos Aires demonstrating their understanding of the dance. Argentine Tango is being recognized not just as a dance for Argentines but a dance for many. Only 31 couples came to compete in SF this year. As I said, competition in the US is not widely accepted and it appears that there are few teachers making a case for it even if what they are teaching is just that, tango for salon.

The most unfortunate part of the US Argentine Tango Salon competition this year is that it resets a false understanding of what dancing in a salon is. If you have never judged a tango salon competition before or never participated in one, how can you judge objectively? The judges are a key factor for any progress, for the US to be seen as understanding the dance. The judges are responsible for giving a true representation of what kind of dancers are in the US. The goal should also be to have the chosen couple actually prepared for their participation in the Mundial (this is the prize for the first place Salon competitors from this competition, they are sent to Buenos Aires to compete in August). The level of dancing at the competition is so high not only from Argentines but from all those aforementioned countries. As an aside, the judging at the Mundial has been under fire for many years, so much so that many older milongueros told us that they choose not to be judges.

So what are those judges looking for? This is still a bit of a mystery to me but we are given the following rules: (the words in bold are not my own they were sent to us this way.)

  • Once formed, the couple must not separate while the music is playing. This means that they will not break the embrace, which is considered the basic dance position in tango.
  • For the position to be considered correct, the body of one of the members of the couple must be contained all the time by the arm of the other. It is understood that in certain figures, this may be flexible, but not throughout the duration of the dance. All movements must be made within the space allowed by the couple’s embrace.
  • As is typical in a dancehall, couples must constantly move counterclockwise and may not stay in the same part of the choreographic space, as this would obstruct the circulation on the dance floor.
  • Neither member of the couple may lift his or her legs above the knees.
  • The jury will take into account the couple’s musicality and walking style as fundamental to the score.
  • Within these parameters, the couple may perform any commonly used figures, including barridas (sweeps), sacadas al piso (drawn to the floor), enrosques (twists), etc.
  • All other figures typical of Stage Tango such as ganchos (hooks), saltos (jumps) and trepadas (climbs) are completely forbidden.

Seems like there is lots of leeway and room for interpretation. It doesn’t say you must perform commonly used figures, just that you may. But it seems that there is an understanding among those who seriously train for the Salon Competitions that there are certain figures danced as an expression of the music. And not to mention that how you execute them will be different for an early Di Sarli versus a late Pugliese Orquesta, for example.

So it seems that we are left with a disconnect, a fissure, of sorts. The confusion lies within the dancers’ bodies and their understanding of US Argentine Tango Salon Championships Finalistshow tango should be danced in the competition, the confusion lies with a lack of communication from the judges to the dancers as to what they are expecting to see, and finally, a lack of clarity from the organizers of the US Tango Salon competition, as to what their objective is in hosting this event? Is it to promote tango only? To improve the level of dancing in the US? Is it to Americanize tango salon?

On a final note, I saw beautiful dancing in the competition this weekend. It was a pleasure to share rondas with these dancers. Congratulations to the winners and we keep dancing!

 

 

 

 

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Finals – day 4 – The End (part 1)

Ok – so we didn’t get first place and that’s disappointing but what is even more disappointing is that we didn’t even place in the top 3. What an upset and a total shock and surprise. And I am not speaking out of turn – there were so many people rooting for us.
We were dancing! We were told that we were first all the way up to the the finals. WHAT HAPPENED?
Rommel and I felt that we danced our best this night. We went to each judge and asked for feedback. Did someone mention that the majority of the judges live in California. Maybe it should be renamed a state championship as opposed to a national championship. Oh, except there was a couple from Miami who came in 3rd.
This goes back to that same question: what are the judges looking for? The walk, elegance, embrace, musicality. We spoke to one judge who said that we needed to walk more. Another judge said that they were told not to take away points for crowding couples on the dance floor. That’s news – when were they going to tell us this? After all we were crowded in all weekend by the couples in front and behind us. We danced as we would in a milonga, in a salon.
I am told that we will receive our points in a forthcoming email.

I don’t mean to write an entire blog bitching about this nonsense but if the US wants a National Argentine Tango Salon Championship then they need to have judges who know and understand Argentine Tango for the Salon.

Will we compete again? This has yet to be determined.

Here’s the final round – why don’t you decide?

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The Most Exciting, Sexy, Hottest Moment in Argentine Tango!

About a year ago I found myself at a festival, being introduced to another dancer from somewhere down south (and to protect his identity we’ll keep it like that!). And this introduction had the implication that we would dance at some point that evening. The pressure was on then… This always makes me a little uneasy. He was introduced to me, he didn’t choose me and I didn’t choose him either! What if he really didn’t want to dance with me at all? I didn’t get to see him dance. Dancing with someone new is part of what tango is all about but an introduction can sometimes backfire as there is a feeling of pressure on both parts.

Little did I know that this person would set a precedence for tango dances to come.

So the time came for us to dance. I don’t remember whether in the end it was a cabeceo or we were just at the right place at the right time at the same time but however it went, we headed to the dance floor. I stood in front of this partner, and as we waited for the music to beginanother embrace there was little of the usual chit chat. The music began, he placed both of his hands gently and firmly on my ribs, and he waited, listening intently to the music or maybe to my heart that began racing in anticipation. His slow approach into the embrace transported me to memories of watching a black and white movie and scoffing at the idea that women actually swooned. I think I could have swooned in that moment from the anticipation and the excitement of this preclude. From his hands on my ribs his right arm continued its journey along my back and his left arm found my right arm hanging by my side as he gradually passed his hand along my forearm until he found my hand in his. Next thing I knew we were embracing and moving together in this passionate dance that was reignited for me in that moment.

Phew! just thinking about it makes me long for that focus-filled attentive embrace again.

How do you embrace? Are you anxious to jump into someone’s arms? Do you miss out on the WHOLE experience? And incidentally he is one of my most favorite dancers and a delicious embrace like that helps his rankings!

 

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