Learning Tango

2 New Tango Intensives

Reminder about the upcoming New Saturday Tango intensives in September.

First, if you or someone you know is interested in learning to Argentine tango send them to the:

NEW 4 week Beginner Tango Blast SEPTEMBER

4 two-hour sessions on the following Saturdays: SEPTEMBER 6, 13, 20, 27
4pm – 6pm
SNAP (Scottsdale Neighborhood Arts Place) 4425 N. Granite Reef Rd. Scottsdale, AZ
Fee $100
includes 8 hours of Argentine Tango instruction and free pass to 4 tango practicas on Tuesday nights.
Send Email if interested.

or if you have completed a Beginner Blast or other Beginner course and are interested in the next level:

NEW 4 week “Taking your Tango to the Next Level” – SEPTEMBER 6, 13, 20, 27

6:00pm – 7:30pm
SNAP  (Scottsdale Neighborhood Arts Place) 4425 N. Granite Reef Rd. Scottsdale, AZ
Fee: $75
Send Email if interested.

What students have said about THE BLAST!

I am very thrilled to be a student of yours.

Thanks for your great instruction. I am learning so much!

I am looking forward to “Taking my Dance to the Next Level” ! Sign me up!

I look forward to seeing you next week!

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Surrender vs. Submission

What do you think? As a follower in this dance of Argentine Tango do you think of yourself as submitting or as surrendering? Leaders, do you think of your follower as being submissive or surrendering?

These 2 words came up recently in a tango discussion in relation to the follower’s role in tango. And of course, I thought how much language gets in the way of our actual dance experience but nonetheless I wanted to tackle the ideas for a blog. So I went to Merriam (Webster) first and was not really pleased with what I found for both of these words and, not so surprisingly, they were similar.

Surrender
: to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc., because you know that you will not win
: to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another

Submission
: the condition of being submissive, humble, or compliant
: an act of submitting to the authority or control of another
: the state of being obedient : the act of accepting the authority or control of someone else

Having been brought up as an independent woman, I cringe at the thought of these definitions in relation to my dancing (or to my life!). I don’t think of myself as being or doing either when I dance.

I began to look further, as the person I was conversing with was suggesting that he perceived many dancers as submissive and not as surrendering in the dance. This might be interpreted as the idea of “I am dancing  you” vs “I am dancing with you”. And so I searched further and found myself back in the realm of metaphysics and modern day mystics.

One person who immediately came to mind was author, David Deida, who I know some people find thoroughly amazing and life changing. I found this quote:

The word “surrender” is often interpreted as giving up, as weakness, as admitting defeat. Although this is one way to use the word, we will use it in a different way. Surrendering means letting go of your resistance to the total openness of who you are. It means giving up the tension of the little vortex you believe yourself to be and realizing the deep power of the ocean you truly are. It means to open with no boundaries, emotional or physical, so you ease wide beyond any limiting sense of self you might have.
David Deida

Of course when people think of or refer to Deida they are often talking about sex and funny how that is the case in tango too!

Hannah Marcotti on her website offers us another variation on the theme of surrender:

There is an ease when we learn how to embrace surrender. Feeling without fight. Fear and struggle are met with truth and grace. Releasing and allowing feel spectacular with the flow from stuck into surrender. Surrender is an entry point for joy. Surrender can guide you into stillness, moving, creating, acting and flowing.

And flowing is what we want in our dances. As I have said in another blog, even the English words that we use, Lead and Follow, don’t really do justice to the magnificence of what we do in our roles in this dance.

Think about it and consider your very important role next time you dance.

For more inspiring quotes including Deida’s:
http://www.abundance-and-happiness.com/surrender-quotes.html

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Your Cultural Translator

Don’t look at me as just a teacher but as your personal cultural translator.

During my recent stay in Boston I took a workshop with a music anthropologist at ARTANGO in Brighton, MA, hosted by Fernanda Ghi y Guillermo Merlo (highly respected dancers and teachers, who are now based here). 60 students were in attendance and it was a mixture of lecture and movement workshop. I wanted to share some of my take-aways from the evening.

The style of tango dance will conform to the music. Or as I have interpreted it, that the dance is dictated by the music (like in other dance forms). I had heard this before and it was such an “a-ha”moment for me and my understanding of the dance that I was glad to hear it again. The idea is that these orchestras of the Golden Age, the 1940’s, each had their sound. So why would you dance the same way to each of them? You probably would have had your favorite orchestra (and maybe you do already) and you would have been expected to dance a certain way to that orchestra. For example, if the orchestra was more melodically driven or if it was more rhythmic (think Carlos Di Sarli vs Juan D’Arienzo) you would dance differently to them.  So as teachers teach what they know this is usually heavily influenced by the sound they prefer. I love Carlos Di Sarli and enjoy accentuating long steps. Someone who enjoys a Juan D’Arienzo will be more rhythmic and possibly more sharp in their steps. You will often hear me speak of the “flavor”of the sound, ie: is the sound like smooth vanilla ice cream or does it have chunky chips and nuts in it?

So the lecture I attended, focused on discussing several aspects of music but most specifically the melody. The idea that the melody and the singers in the orchestras will incite circular and round movement. This idea of circular movements, in general, slows the pace down versus linear movements that are on the main pulse or what we dancers refer to as the strong down beats or bass line. This strong metric pulse is what propels the body and is what teachers and beginner students tend to stress and dance to (usually).

However, “fluid motions can be destroyed by these strong accents” as these regular beats propel the dancers (to move at a predictable pace), the melodies allow dancers to go “deep inside the soul”and “incite reflection and nostalgia”.

In reflecting upon these ideas it was brought up that in order to be able to really allow for the music to enrapture you, we have to be vulnerable. And Argentine Tango is about vulnerability. And culturally, in the US, we avoid this. As we avoid eye contact and touching (for the most part) we do not like to be vulnerable, let alone with a stranger. And yet I am sure an aspect of this is what captivates so many of us to choose this dance.

And with this disconnect culturally, there is a need for “Cultural Ambassadors”or “Cultural Translators”. Someone who recognizes and understands the differences and can explain and build a bridge to create understanding.

Lots of food for thought, don’t you think?

Thanks to Dr. Alfred Minetti, and Fernanda y Guillermo for a great lecture.

 

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Un-EmBodied: Do you feel like you’re not of your body?

One of my students mentioned this concept to me recently. She was having a hard time making connections in her body in relation to what she wanted it to do. Maybe call it uncoordinated but I think it’s different than that as I see it in students learning new movement.

The brain is trying to rewire and make sense of movement ideas. It is trying to walk and create a lead, for example or maybe another challenge would be to remember where the right foot goes in relation to the partner’s right foot. Whatever the challenge, learning is opening yourself up to a new piece of information and acquiring it presumably for future use. In Argentine Tango the lead and follow roles each have their tasks set out for them. Neither one is easier than the other (although this could be argued!) but I think it’s about 1) figuring out your learning style 2) drill the new idea – this is a good one – repeat it many times by putting it into practice. Some tasks can be dealt with by yourself and some concepts need the lead and follow together. I think the more we understand our own bodies the more we make room for that new information, that new figure, that new connection, or whatever you’re piecing together.

In the case of my student, she wanted to try to lead a few tango figures/steps. She is definitely a kinesthetic learner so having me help to manipulate her body (if you will) assisted her in her new neuro-physical programming. It was not only about manipulating her body but she found that she had to do some mental work. For her she was remembering the relationship of the 2 bodies and their movements in the overall spatial configuration as well.

I find visualization helps too. If you see what you want your body to do, or to look like, the brain helps create that. One of my favorite Neuroscientists – author, Dr. Joe Dispenza speaks about this in his article The Brain:  A Record of the Past or the Map to the Future?

“…with the advent of the latest technologies in functional imagery it is apparent that it is very possible to make the brain work differently. In fact, the research out of the University of Wisconsin has proven something as simple as attention or focused concentration is a skill just like golf or tennis. In other words, the more you practice being  conscious or mindful the better you get at it.”  He goes on to say, “if you would mentally rehearse daily what it would be like to experience any event…, there would be internal changes taking place as if you were already beginning to experience your dream.”

So when you are having those moments that feel like your body isn’t doing what you want or that you feel unembodied get a little clarity of the function or the goal you want to accomplish and then see yourself and feel yourself doing it. Let me know how it goes!

 

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Females Leading

I was at a tango festival recently watching several women leading. What struck me most was – can you guess? – Of course, their posture and the lack of clear attention to their intention and to being grounded.

The power in the lead comes from the legs and their connection to the ground, not from trying to thrust our chest into our partners’. (No side comments please!) This is all about physics, which I will leave to those who can speak that language. However, the strength in our stride comes from the connection of our legs to the ground, think about your hamstrings reaching all the way down the back of the leg to the heel. (Just for the record, they do not reach the floor but stop below the knee.) The understanding of how to use this power, from our natural centers and how it relates to your axis and that of your partners’ is the key. If you are thrusting your chest then you are falling forward into your partner and thus, forcing a counter activity from your partners’ axis. It is so frustrating for me to see such misuse of body mechanics.Leading Ladies

I have been enjoying very much my Leading Ladies workshops in Phoenix, watching ladies of all ages engage in taking the lead. Some come because they are interested in learning to lead but I would say they come out of curiosity and with that curiosity comes amazing insight. Again, understanding the technique of how to move the body with another person through the connection of the embrace is essential. And they soon discover that following doesn’t work either when these things aren’t!

I can hear some of the critics including my tango partner who says, “ladies need to learn to lead from a man who leads”. I hear that, I understand that argument, but I find that a lovely gaggle of ladies together is not only fun but helpful to each other. So many times in classes (almost all the time that I have experienced) the attention is given to the leader. In the classroom setting it is a challenge to try to address leaders and followers equally and for all parties to feel that they too have equal voice. (And this is another topic for another blog!) Gathering the ladies to introduce them to leading skills improves their following and, I am going to guess, that it could have farther reaches into improving the community overall.

I have found that the types of questions that are posed in my leading ladies workshops are similar to the line of inquiry that I get from my college students. It is SO exciting!

If you are interested in coming to the next Leading Ladies – it will be Saturday February 8th at 12:00pm – 1:30pm at the Solana Tango Room. RSVP please and I’ll pass on the address if you don’t already have it.

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