Invitations, Proposals, Esperar y Seguir

Invitations, Proposals, Esperar y Seguir

As I am here in Berlin also waiting for invitations and making proposals, I thought of leading. Invitations, Proposals, Esperar y Seguir are they all the makings of a great leader? I thought about how the role of the leader has had so many explanations on how it is supposed to be or how it is supposed to happen. (I apologize in advance for using the terms he and she or her and him only to make my writing easy and fluid, not to discredit any leading and following done by the other gender.)

And ironically I was at milonga in Wuppertal recently (prior to coming to Berlin) and they were showing a BBC 4 documentary, La Confiteria Ideal: The Tango Salon (of which I am unable to view on youtube here in Germany – but you might be able to see it in the US, not sure. You can let me know!)

But anyway the point is that Javier Rodriguez (famous tango dancer) says in the video something to the effect – that he really has 2 options as a leader: esperar y seguir. “To wait and to follow”. However, I’d like to comment on the verb esperar, which yes, means to wait, but can also mean to hope and to expect. So this waiting implies an activity as opposed to a waiting in passivity. I think of this in body posturing as well. I see sometimes in my students that when I say, “wait for her”, their body posture changes from forwardly present and seemingly active in appearance (I see this posture as being forward) to passive and checked out energetically, sometimes seen as the posture shifted towards the heels. I try to make this distinction by saying that it’s an active moment of waiting, not a “check out, have a cocktail and a cigarette, moment”. (ok, not the most appropriate image for certain audiences, but I hope you get my point.)

A possibly more useful word would be to say that the lead is listening to his follow and waiting for her and by doing this the follower can often inspire the leader to lead something different or unexpected. Very exciting! And of course the leader needs to be ready for this, which goes back to the embrace. Through the embrace the possibilities will always be dictated: where the waiting with anticipation is, the listening, the following.

I know that Fernanda y Guillermo who now have a school in Boston enjoy using the terms “propose and dispose”, which I interpreted as meaning exactly what we are discussing: an opportunity is given and the opportunity is interpreted!

I have found however, that sometimes the leader has learned a pattern without understanding this concept fully and so the follower might be left in the unknown, guessing or not moving at all. I experience this often at a parada or a stop. The leader has stopped me and expects me to read his mind because he has blocked all other options through his embrace. Where is the invitation? l get the waiting, usually, but then what? The waiting Javier is talking about is usually preceded with an idea for the follower, the lead, the marca, the invitation. So the leader has to be clear in all aspects of his embrace, lead, and intention as to what he might want from his follower. And then he accompanies her, follows through with her, dancing with her!

If I open the door for you the path for you to enter is clear. The same in tango. Is your door half open? did you step in front of the path or abandon the path once you created it?

PS Just to clarify – my context for the use of the word proposal: put forward (an idea or plan) for consideration or discussion by others.

PS2 – sorry no pictures this time.

 

 

 

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Reflecting on Competition

It’s that time of year again and I couldn’t resist peaking on Facebook to see how the US Tango Competition went this year. And to see how some students of mine had faired. It is an interesting place to be after participating four years in a row, to be a voyeur so far away!

Also interesting to have discussions here in Germany with my friend, Stefan, who can speak about competition from the perspective of the ballroom world. He says that even though there is a European Tango Salon Championship and several subsidiaries throughout Europe, that Tango competition has just not caught on in Germany (although I did meet the champions from last year, last year!) It was only about four years ago that he had heard of Tango Salon competitions. He says that the teachers do not promote this here. Our conversation continued with him expressing his thoughts that competition is a good thing. He reflected on his own experiences in competition where the process, the rehearsals, the journey, were the best parts, not the actual competition. The actual competition happens so fast. It is so quick that sometimes that really isn’t what you remember most! Competition is a good thing for people and it helps them grow. The common sentiment has been – tango is for passion and for socializing not for competition. And I understand this, having had this same sentiment.

It appears that Shaun Rosenberg in his Blog, 10 Reasons Why Competition Is A Good Thing agrees with Stefan (and Rommel Oramas, former partner for Salon Championships). He presents some good arguments for competition, beginning with how it promotes growth, creativity, helps to advance civilization, how it teaches us by making us want to win the next time, it promotes taking chances, makes us goal oriented. I know that these are all the reasons why Rommel chose to compete and why he competition 2014continues to pursuit this passion. “Everyone needs to have some passion to live and some passion to win”, says Rosenberg. Competition is good in business, we see it all the time, why do you think there are more products and sometimes better than before products – think Apple!

I don’t think it’s for everyone, but I do think it helps to improve the level and quality of one’s own dancing and the level of dancing overall. Everyone needs someone to admire. It helps to promote Tango to new audiences, and can help to excite those who might feel like giving themselves a goal in their dancing. For me, I still cannot stress enough how much my understanding of the dance has expanded. I feel like I had a narrow vision of the dance and struggled to convey certain aspects of it to my students. I know my training has made me a better teacher. And what I love to do is contextualize the understanding of the dance and now I can. Congrats to those who braved the competition and DID it this year!

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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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A Great Technique Class

On Sunday I conducted a technique class that was nicely attended by ladies from the Austin community. I am really enjoying my time in the Austin tango scene – Austinites are very friendly and this carries into the tango world as well.

Sharing technique and body mechanics to receptive and eager dancers is such a pleasure. I am seeing that there is a desire to understand the dance at a more profound level so having a forum for that is very rewarding for me as a teacher.

I remember when I first started dancing tango some female dancers in a class asked a adornos 1male visiting teacher whether ladies should practice anything alone to improve their dancing. His response was very clear, he believed no, that the dance is a couples dance and should focus there. I remember agreeing with him at the time because I think he was trying to stress the obvious importance of the couple, their connection, and the mechanics of how to make Tango work: how to lead, how to follow. After all it does take two as we know! My how times change and how 10+years can change my mind!

Now I find great value in studying my own body mechanics for tango, knowing that I need to understand something about my own body first, before I share it with someone else. I see this in my students as well. I like taking time in all my classes to have dancers find their own bodies before spending time connecting with partners.

In Sunday’s class, during the hour of drills, I spoke about the followers’ pivotability or pivotness. I speak of this both in The Tango Workbook and in my classes. The follower has to know that she has the ability to create a pivot, yes, generated from the lead but manifested in her standing leg. The pivots are also easier when the knee of that pivoting leg is soft or a bit bent. She controls her standing / working leg. It was great to take the time with the dancers to dissect the movements.

Remember, a coach can always help remind you of how the body can work more efficiently and that you can continue to work on the technique both alone and inside your tango embraces. Tango Coaching – love it!

Thanks Austin for a great class! We’ll do a similar repeat class on March 15th!

 

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