The Blog

How to Hug a Giant in the Living Room Session 2

Daniela and SarahI can’t tell you how much I am loving these Living Room Sessions! The last one we embraced (!) was all about the abrazo but from a biomechanical and energetic perspective. How do we hug a giant? As with all the Living Room Sessions, my goal is not to tell you how to do “it” but to give you the tools and body knowledge to increase your own tool box to improve what you want to intelligently.

We moved along a voluminous framework that included exercises in expansion through breath; we took a brief look at the anatomy of the shoulder girdle, all those moving parts, and into some exercises to open up and increase attention to this area; I shared concepts from my wise Maestra Graciela about putting awareness into our hands; and finally embracing with our new found tools. When we increase our breadth of knowledge and realize how expansive and profoundly we can embrace it builds our confidence and changes our dancing too.

I think there is a bit of fear in our embraces. We don’t want to be too hard, too soft, too heavy, too light, too one sided, too grabby, too not enough… Sometimes we see an embrace we like and we try to copy it, hoping that it will give us the desired results. In a small setting like these Living Room Sessions, there is time to hear thoughts and to share experiences as well as to explore ideas of what might work better or feel better. And then with tools based more in your anatomy you can take them into “the field” and try them out dancing.Susanne and Veronica hug

Thank you to all the ladies who came to share this experience. Thank you for being open and for sharing this time with me. Thanks Susanne! We are planning the next session.

In the meantime:
7-9 October 2016 Tangueras: leading following dancing
Join Daniela Feilcke-Wolff and me for a fun intensive 12 hour all women’s dancing weekend + Women’s milonga in Berlin.

Read more

Performances with Daniela Feilcke-Wolff

Here is a performance playlist to 3 songs that Daniela Feilcke-Wolff and I performed to at Milonga Popular Berlin.
We started the performance with the milonga, “La Vida es Una Milonga”, followed by the tango “Remembranza” and then into a short performance to “Oblivion”  – as a shout to my contemporary dance days.

The crowd on Monday nights is a pretty open, young crowd. We were received warmly and enthusiastically. It was lovely to perform with Daniela to make my Berlin debut!!! And it was a nice promotion for upcoming weekend workshops for Women leading and learning to lead.

There is still a lot of discussion around the topic of same sex dancing, about exchanging the roles in the dance while dancing, aesthetics and even simpler questions, why? And there are quite a variety of answers from 1) there are too many women dancers for the amount of men dancers, 2) it’s fun, 3) it improves my dancing, 3) why not, 4) a stand on identity and self-expression, to just name a few.

Those who know me, know that I entered tango from the perspective of a trained dancer, so the form and structure of the dance captivated me first. (Versus coming to tango as a stress reliever, to meet people, for the love of the music, or because I saw a Tango show, which are often how my students have found tango.) Learning both roles seemed natural and normal to me and then served me well when I was asked to teach. Learning new steps was never a problem and so learning to lead was like learning another dance at the time I started. As we know, the tango journey is that, a journey, and I weaved my journey between leading and following, sometimes leaving one role behind for many many months only to pick it up rejuvenated. I have found Daniela Feilcke-Wolff inspiring as a leader to dance with. She has some great insight into leading as a woman. I think we make a nice team! Enjoy!
And spread the word of our Tangueras weekend and come join us!

Read more

The First Living Room Sessions

The goal of The Living Room Sessions is to share information on many tango topics to a small intimate group of interested dancers. The first Living Room Sessions topic was about our Feet. Susanne made us gifts of sage salt scrubs for our feet (lovely!) and we snacked on apples and helva! The objective, as I explained to everyone, was to help dancers become better informed about their feet and this included information about the (negative) effects of wearing high-heeled shoes.

Daniela talks about feetI started the session with some basic anatomical information and pictures of our feet. We did some exercises and aligned our feet looking at each of our feet and legs individually. We also stretched and massaged our feet giving them some much needed attention. It was nice that everyone was open to sharing their “Foot autobiography”. I enjoyed looking at everyone’s shoes and having them explain how they felt about their tango shoes. Clearly, sometimes loving the cute painful pair but end up wearing the one or two pairs that are most comfortable.

Some take-aways from the evening:
1) the arch is a muscular construct and therefore, will be affected by muscular contraction
2) there are as many nerves in the sole of the foot as in your face: 1/4 of all motor nerves (of the whole body) are dedicated to your feet
3) from barefoot to 5cm heeled shoe the pressure increases on the forefoot about 65% and then adding another 2.5 cm to that heel (so 7.5cm) you increase the pressure on the forefoot ANOTHER 30%. And why is this bad? because there are 26 bones in your feet and the biggest bone of the foot is the heel, where the bulk of your weight is meant to reside. So if Daniela About the Feetyou’re increasing the pressure in your forefoot, all those little bones are getting the bulk of that weight. Ouch!

So when you are not in your heels what will you do for your feet to honor them?  Stretch, massage, go barefoot, go for a walk (not in your heels!), grab a tennis ball, a golf ball, and a dozen other recommended ideas that we shared!

Thank you everyone for joining me!

The next one 30, September: How to hug the giant (no matter what size they are).  In this Session we will look at the shoulder girdle and the arms, the ribs too,  anatomically and biomechanically. We will do exercises and of course, hug. As always, I am not necessarily here to change your mind, I just want you to be a more informed dancer! Open to both roles. Remember to RSVP.

Read more

Are you Dumping?

Are you dumping?

Are you dumping your pelvis? You have probably heard me say this in class. What am I talking about? Why your pelvic tip, of course!

One of 2 things happens with the pelvis when you come to tango class – you are either tipping it or tucking it!

Rommel Sitting

The Pelvic Tuck

If you are like most of the population who has been sitting at a desk all day, you are probably tucking your pelvis, so then your posture for tango is a little confused. As a leader you might be hitting your partner’s knees or as a follow you might feel that you are not getting your legs out of the way fast enough or that you are dropping the weight into your heels when you are moving backwards.

Tucking is the opposite of tipping for me. So then a teacher who might not know much about biomechanics comes along and says, stick your butt out, for both the lead and follow, get your crotches / genitalia out of the way of your partner! (I actually heard this in a class once!) The teacher is asking you to stick the butt out to create more room for the legs.

I most recently read an article written by a newer Argentine student studying in Argentina who began to focus on walking and the embrace and he described his proper body position as having “el pubis levemente mirando al piso”, which literally translates as having your pubic bone staring slightly at the floor.

And those who know me can imagine my reaction!! So let’s look at this.

If your pubic bone, as a lead or follow, is looking for the floor, it means that you are tilting /tipping/dumping the pelvis. Imagine, that your pelvis is like a bowl and you are now attempting to dump the contents onto the floor in front of you or as he said, place your pelvis so that the pubic bone is looking for the floor.

Ashlee dumping

A pelvis dumping and ribs thrusting

I know the idea is to give the illusion of creating more space for the legs. Unfortunately, what it does is create damaging effects to the vertebrae of the spine and to the integrity of the torso. It also limits the capability of the extension of the legs. What I mean by the integrity of the torso is that now, the abdominal muscles are lax and lengthened, with no real supporting structure for you and in turn the organs in the trunk are adjusting to this new position. And what does that mean? Well, imagine now that your organs are now displaced and putting pressure where they probably shouldn’t. I propose that this affects digestion and elimination at this level. And with all this weight out in front of you it pulls on the discs / vertebrae of the back, mostly the lower back causing shearing. Shearing is when vertebrae are not stacked on top of each other but more sliding across each other. Ouch! And with all this weight out in front of you, your knees, feet, and neck will probably hurt after a time, if not other body parts!

But sometimes dumping has nothing to do with you actively tipping your pelvis but actually, actively sticking out your ribs!

So are you dumping?

I think you can dance like this for a long time or a short time depending on your body type and the partners you have been dancing with. But eventually, I promise that something will give.

ahslee and eric no dump

Same Happy Couple

I view the pelvis as a body stabilizer. It is a bridge between the legs and the torso. It connects your heart and your intension of this dance to your movement, your legs.

If you look at some of the really strong, lovely followers, look at the stability in their pelvis. It is often harder to see the male pelvis in action due to their clothes, so I suggest Corina Herrera and Ariadna Naveira as 2 examples of amazing female followers who also are amazing leaders. They are so stable and solid in their pelvis – all their power comes from here. And I think you can see it.

My point, it’s unhealthy. Regardless of style, this exaggeration of the pelvis will offer you some health issues in the long run. Just hoping to raise some awareness – happy body, happy mind, happy dancer!

*pictures thanks to my students at ASU and taken from and for The Tango Workbook

Read more

Creating Community or Disintegrating Community

Crowded MilongaThe ins and outs of the milonga community is a subject for much discussion. As I have ventured in and out of many communities throughout this year of travel, I still ponder the question on how to create community or how we contribute to disintegrating community.

Interestingly enough, just last week, Buenos Aires milonga organizers and dancers joined a large outdoor demonstration, that consequently turned into a milonga. They were protesting the closure of milongas due to the rising costs of the building owners’ overhead: electricity, gas, general maintenance costs. The AOM – Associacion de Organizadores de Milongas  got together to create a legislation that would help owners of the buildings and organizers to work together so that the milongas would not have to close – after all, these establishments are hosting an intangible world heritage event. On this day it didn’t matter which milonga you normally attended or didn’t attend, everyone was joined by a common cause: keeping the milongas alive and kicking in Buenos Aires. All the milongas, organizers and dancers alike, found themselves joined together for this purpose.

I bring this up maybe as a contrast to what happens in so many cities: milongas compete with other milongas and there sprouts hard feelings, etc. Or even within a milonga people are competing for attention and feeling inclusive or exclusive (invited or uninvited, friendly or unfriendly).

Possibly a positive way to look at this, is that it is normal and healthy for communities to be varied. There will always be cliques (after all you have known your friends for years!), there will always be the loners (and some people like to be loners), there will be people ok sitting with new people, and some ok sitting alone. And it is all ok.

As I continued to reflect upon all of this by comparing my great experiences with my not so great experiences, I thought there might be a “less painful” transition to entering communities.

The Steps

I recall a British TV series I watched several years ago, Teachers. In one particular episode the lead character, a high school teacher, is questioning how a new teacher is entering their after school drinking social group, he is a little miffed that she didn’t actually follow the proper steps.

He outlines them as thus:

Initiation
Apprenticeship
Acceptance
Inclusion

I think each of these words are understandable without needing too much of an explanation (a person initiates into a group usually through another person or through common activity, they are taken under that initiators wing, the group accepts them, and they are now included) so let’s look at how the model might apply to the tango community.

Initiation

How you are initiated into a community and into the milonga might be the key to feeling successful and to the reason for staying or for leaving the tango community. If a teacher brings students to the milonga and invites them to sit at a table together, this helps the initiated to feel less awkward and more welcome.

I think we forget, as those who have experienced or learned Argentine Tango outside of the culture, that Tango is first and foremost social. It is about the community. Tango is (although not exclusively) a Friday night with friends in Buenos Aires. So I think it is difficult to extract Tango from its culture even when we bring along all the codes! I suggest if you are going to a new community alone, email the organizers ahead of time, find someone in that new community to introduce yourself to, then meet them at the milonga, and get invited to sit with them. And then smile and have a good time. Facebook is great for this, as so many communities have their own Tango pages now.

Apprenticeship

It is a bit hard to imagine that there is an apprenticeship phase in entering a community regardless of your years of dancing but maybe look at it like this, if you have some “new tango friends” at a milonga they help you during this phase. You see who they dance with and who they don’t. You get to decide who you might like to dance with or not, and, without a doubt, they will let you know some of the ins and outs of that community (call it gossip or not!). And hopefully, they will also introduce you to some of their friends and favorite dancers. Thus your apprenticeship, until you get on your own feet!

Acceptance and Inclusion

I have combined these two phases. It is hard to say if there is a predetermined time frame for when one is accepted or feels accepted. I also know communities where dancers never feel accepted, and they therefore stop attending milongas and often stop attending classes too. Therefore, clearly, they do not feel included.

The acceptance phase is quite personal and community – based. You might feel accepted by some but not by others. If you have the luxury of choosing among different milongas, then you can find yourself accepted and feeling included at one and maybe not at another milonga. I have found that sometimes even the same dancers who might dance with me in one milonga, might not, in another milonga (ie: Wednesday night in one location versus Friday night in another location). So I feel accepted and included in one milonga and variable in the other! And my desire to go dancing on Friday night is incredibly lower unless, I know people who say to me, “come, we will be there!”

I had an experience, where I had already been in Berlin for 6 months, and one of the leaders, who I saw everywhere (we clearly liked the same milongas), finally asked me to dance. His first words were, “you’re still here!!” AHH – he discovered I was going to be part of the bigger community, not just here for the weekend!!! And then subsequently, his small group of friends, all took me for a tanda afterwards. And now a year later, he rarely asks me to dance although we still pretty much attend all the same milongas. One of his friends asks me to dance sometimes and there you have it! BUT I do feel accepted and included in the milongas that I enjoy attending regularly. Otherwise, I wouldn’t go, right?

So maybe not a perfect model. And in the TV show, the young teacher who was missing the steps, found herself included anyway!

And you?

What about you? Were you initiated into your community? Have you initiated another into your community?? If so you will probably not have an inclusive/exclusive issues! Do you find yourself feeling accepted and included?

Would be interested in hearing your thoughts. And I know many of you have a lot to say on this topic too!!!!

Read more
« Previous PageNext Page »