Posts Tagged: Pam Matt

Reflections on Confidence

Hello everyone from rainy, wet, windy Wuppertal!
I’m here to report that my stay in Austin has come to an end and I am now in Germany.
I am so grateful for the time I had in Austin. I met some wonderful people, visited with others who have been a part of my tango life, taught some great people and was able to spend much cherished time with my parents. I encourage students to keep on keeping on! You hear lots of seemingly mixed or contradictory ideas but the goal really is to continue to enjoy tango for yourself and find a teacher who you like and invest in that relationship.
I was reminded over the last few months how important confidence is for a student’s self-perception in the dance. I am lucky that my profession provides me the opportunity to educate students about their bodies, their personal biomechanics and then linking that to their tango. From this phello from wuppertallace they can make wise choices about how dancing works for them. I am beginning to think the body and a student’s understanding of it, helps with confidence. Practice does too!!!
All of this jogged a memory of a class I had with Dr. Pam Matt (who I have mentioned before) where the idea was presented about how from a young age, we naturally have a curiosity about our bodies but this curiosity is soon suppressed and from then on we have misconceptions of our bodies: Where things are located, what they are called, how they work, etc. and then comes cultural and environmental impositions of shame or whatnot. And we aren’t really taught much about our bodies thereafter. As we get older usually pain becomes the trigger to learn more about our bodies, which then might reduce our confidence to move in certain ways. Our ability to do it, whatever it is, is curbed by the pain, which of course, naturally, decreases the confidence. Pain can be a natural teacher, making us more aware and guiding us to seek knowledge for prevention and healing.
I think if we have some information about how our bodies function we can use them more efficiently and of course in something like dance, this helps. So back to having confidence. The more we know the more we can move with confidence. It’s about the journey. And that’s where I am now, on a journey… I will learn new things about myself, my body, my strengths etc. This will all influence my dancing and my teaching as well. 

What steps do you take or have you taken on your tango journey to educate yourself about your bodies and its functions?

 

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Eyes Open vs Eyes Shut

Does the title give it away? Do you know what I’m talking about? When are yours eyes open in tango and when are they shut?

Has your tango teacher told you, as a follower, to close your eyes? Close your eyes so you can feel more? so you can be more receptive? If so, I’m commenting on this.

I, too, have told my followers, my friskier follower babies, to shut their eyes. I might recommend this if the follower is particularly frisky or anxious or running away from the lead. At a milonga I have been known to close my eyes in order to pay more attention to my lead, as I DO get distracted! And I think sometimes at a milonga depending on my leader I am inclined to close my eyes.

HOWEVER, as followers grow up (in tango yearsI ask that they open their eyes for many exercises. I hadn’t thought too much about this until, during my training with Graciela Gonzalez, she spent almost an hour yelling at me to open my eyes. We have to not only be receptive with our bodies but also our eyes. The eyes can help us to become more present in our dancing.

Skull with lines from eye socketThis brought me back to my work with Dr. Pam Matt and what is referred to as The Thinking Body, (after the book by the same title by Mabel Todd, founder of the somatic form Ideokinesis). The idea behind the work is that the body’s posture and movement can change with mental focus on imagined actions, like visualization. The images used are creative, active and endless, and the body reacts to what the mind’s eye sees.

So I bring the idea to you for deciding to dance with your eyes open vs shut!

Imagine your eyes resting in your eye sockets and allow information to come into the eyes. I think our eyes spend so much time actively seeking information as opposed to passively absorbing what comes before them.

In the drawing of the skull I have added 2 lines, that ideally would make a cone shape with the circle where the eye would be at the far left position. If you imagine that the eye is supported by its bony structure of the skull, the eye socket, and then the muscular supports for the eye move diagonally back into the head (which they do). So if you could visualize the eyeballs resting in a relaxed state with the images that come before you moving into your skull where your brain and information processing lies! The eyes then become passive but your body still is receptive in well, almost the same way. Try this next time you are working hard on your technique and you have chosen to close your eyes, try opening them for a time and see what happens to your dancing. The real goal of the follower is not to “check out” while dancing, see if your passive vision can support you. And as a side note, check out what it does to your posture.

Thanks to Flickr photos for the skull drawing.
M
ore on Ideokinesis at http://www.ideokinesis.com/

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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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Ladies! Please stand up!

Why is your butt sticking out so far behind you? Have we decided to embrace the caricature of tango? Your lumbar spine is so curved that I have lower back pain for you. Are you being taught this way?

I have a really hard time believing that other female followers are teaching followers to stick their butts out, compromising their lumbar spines and thus the affect is that their bellies now hang over their own toes. If there is a loss of integrity in the core muscles, this posture compromises the spine and the knees and the ankles and ultimately, I believe, the connection.

So I am not asking that followers keep their stomach muscles tightened for an entire milonga! But I am asking that we take some time to remember that there are 2 of you in this beautiful dance and the only one responsible for you is you. Before you jump on me about lead and follow and what the roles in tango are, let us get back to this dynamic posture question.

Posture in tango is a dynamic entity. It is made up of the embrace, the followers’ commitment to a standing leg and a free leg, and her commitment to her partner and to moving/dancing. Within this dynamic posture, even before the 1st step, many things are happening. For example: Do I know my partner? Have we danced before? Is he distracting because he is handsome, smells good, looks like a good dancer and finally asked me? Is he smelly? Am I unsure about my decision to dance with him?

I think as a social dancer we must wipe the slate and focus on the task at hand – dancing and making a connection. And I realize that there isn’t always 1 way to problem solve if things aren’t feeling comfortable. BUT I do believe it is my responsibility (as it is the male or leader) to be the best follower I know how.

Here’s my personal checklist from all my years of dancing (not just tango). The checklist is a partial inventory of images I use to focus myself when dancing. It is heavily influenced by my training with Mindful Movement Master, Pam Matt and Tango Maestra, Graciela Gonzalez, who I am always grateful to for having helped me change my dancing and keep me growing in the dance. A word about the images – let the images do you! That’s all they are – images – so let your imagination enjoy them, your body will do the rest.

1. Zip up!
I picture zipping up an imaginary zipper from my pubic bone to sternum. Graciela speaks of 2 centers – 1 below the belly button and the other around the sternum and keeping them equidistant from each other.

2. Up the front and down the back!
Just following the zipper image in the front there is an equal image in the back. Allow the tailbone to lengthen to the floor, as if there was a little weight attached to it. This image has been effective for followers who complain about lower back pain. This image is not about tucking the pelvis; it is about working with your proper body to attain proper length in the muscles.

3. Bigger than you are!
Imagine yourself as being taller and wider than you are. Command your presence through your width and your height.

4. Fountaining!
I often invent new words when I am teaching; fountaining is 1 of them! Imagine that you have a fountain sprouting out of the top or crown of the head and it shoots over your partner’s head. If this image doesn’t work think about dropping your chin and elongating the back of your neck.

5. Encircle the embrace.
Imagine that you are a encircling your partner with the embrace. After all tango is circular!

I have seen much success with these images and I believe they need a class to further explain them and embrace the questions that arise from working with them. I hope that Followers in this dance feel supported and STAND UP for themselves in a graceful and elegant way.

For more information or advice on being a Follower contact me: daniela@accesstango.com
 

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