Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The bloody heel

Ten days ago one of my followers was involved in an incident where her leg was peeled by another follower's heel. There was definitely some blood and still after ten days she is not able to carry out her life long daily routine. She can dance but not swim according to medical advise!

What happened? 

It took place during one of our weekly milongas. According to those involved and a few around the couple behind my friends was dancing vigorously. The back boleo of this younger follower was not performed with a relaxed leg only but it was powered by her back muscles in the way the some dancers do. So instead of a bruise my partner got her calf peeled off! Afterwards the leaders tried to help to take care for the injuries but the follower wasn't there.

After an accident you are usually quite shaken and more careful with your steps. Not this couple.

There seems to be two different responsibility systems around the pista of today. The older system loads all the responsibility for the couples actions on the leader. What ever path the follower heel takes it is the leader's responsibility.

The other system is more based on individual responsibility. The leader is supposed to adapt his dance to the crowd but here the follower should also take a look around and consider if there is space for high boleos. If she finds the pista too crowded she would resist a high boleo lead and transform it to a low one! She is an independent dancer!

My partners leg 10 days after the incident!

I wonder what are you willing to give up to be able to share the same pista with different styles, ages and skill levels?

Who is responsible for heels on your home pista?  Leaders only?

Your opinion on what should an organizer do to prevent these incidents?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The importance of following and leading

Is the leading more important than following has been the subject for several postings lately.
This is my view: I consider the leading and following to be the core functions in our dance. The leader and the follower are equally important at all levels and more similar in effort when both partners have developed their adaptation skills and later on the intuitive dance. However at the beginning the leaders workload is larger.

I agree with the writers about the step learning. I also think that both groups learn their own steps with equal easiness. Some individuals learn more easily then others but within the groups of leaders and followers it may be about the same.

Another area to learn is how to produce the lead/leading signals and follow/receive the signals. Think about a basic ocho as an example. Both groups need to learn the signals for different parts of it and during the hours on the pista leaders and followers do develop all the variations needed for different partners.

And here is the end of the list for follower responsibilities as i see it. On other hand the follower has the advantage to reach the level of true enjoyment or intuitive dancing much earlier than a leader. (a leader can experience the followers special level of relaxation and dream about joining her there some day. . . )

The list of the leader responsibilities is longer. At a later development level the conscious mental efforts and physical demands become similar for the persons forming the couple. During the journey from start to that level the leader is responsible and expected to cover for the shortcomings by learning more than a follower.

To begin with I need to know the follower steps - if not, how could I create the signals for an appropriate lead. It doubles my step learning efforts and even today it is mentally exhausting to remember her/my steps simultaneously when I am learning a new sequence.

Then we have the navigation which is much more than walking forward to an empty space on the pista. It is a complicated skill and last mastered. But when mastered the couple can intuitively adapt their steps to the space available while smoothly advancing on the dance line together with others. We can also, as couples, react to the music with different steps but simultaneously with others so the fully developed pista is pulsating to music. You can see this happen on some videos from Buenos Aires milongas.

The most demanding of the extras is the responsibility for content. The steps must be interesting enough and the connection to music needs to be satisfying. Different followers want different content. The leader must know what to suggest.

In the table below the rows present the areas of responsibilities for both groups.
The columns show how much mental/conscious effort is needed for dancing. It stretches from totally conscious steps --> totally intuitive dancing. A variation of the Four stages of competence process!

For me the different stages/periods are these: During the Lead/Follow period the dancing is mostly a conscious process, demanding all my mental capacity. When partnering we both know the steps by heart and can easily adapt to each others; at the best moments intuitively. To reach to the absolute dance the couples on pista must have the skill to intuitively adapt to the other couples as well as to each others within the couple.

Finally and once more - I consider the leading and following to be the core functions in our dance. They are equally important at all levels and more similar in effort when both partners have developed their skills and later on the intuitive dance.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Bandoneon Caminata

This is an old idea and the video footage is from 2009 and 2010; with other words please forgive the low quality of the visuals!

My goal for the caminata was for a long time a simultaneous walk. I wanted our feet to move in same speed so the distance between my toes and her toes was the same all the time. I was sure this was the ultimate goal for an heavenly correct walk. This walk was filmed on our Saturday training and I remember how pleased I was with the regular pattern our feet created! 

They started at the same time and we brushed by the standing leg simultaneously and the distance was kept stable. There was other problem but the feet were great!

Time went by and I became a little bit reluctant. I started to wonder if our walk with its regular pattern was a liiiiiittle bit boring?  Those thoughts guided me to this Javer caminata.

The distance between the feet is changing, it is moving like bandoneon between a short distance at landing to its maximum when moving forward. The foot behind you is moving more slowly compared to the speed when the foot is in front of your body. When she is moving fast Javier's foot is slower and the opposite!

This creates a fantastic vivid walk!

Javier Rodriguez and Stella Misse

they land simultaneously

when they have shifted the weight to a new standing leg
his foot is still behind him (slow) but her has passed (fast)

to prepare the new landing
his foot passed the standing leg and continues forward (fast)
her foot has a shorter distance to cover and can take it easy (slow)

they land simustaneously

It is stil in use and here an US based couple use the same walk!

Ney Melo & Jennifer Bratt

If you want to clearly to see the steps use the possibility to slow down Youtube player. 
It works on steps 50% or 25%

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Actors advice to a tango dancer

An actors advice

In an earlier posting I presented the idea about the similarities between the acting and dancing processes. With other words the actors have the script, their lines and all their skill is needed to blow life to those lines in the way the director points out. In dance we have the choreography, the steps and the dancers skill will get those steps to come alive while the choreographer is showing the direction! These two are quite similar processes, aren't they? 

Even when we do not cooperate with a choreographer on the social dance floor the actors advice can still be useful for us. I think we can agree about the actors strive for true and meaningful emotions, gestures and movements to express the character and his life and the same seems to be valid for the dancers too; they are also searching a true expression, a true dance where the movements are meaningful. Below you have three suggestions on acting aspects which I think could be valuable for the dancers too!

1. Investing in the moment

There is an old tango saying: Dance as if there is no one watching! In other words it is about focusing on music, partner and dancing in a way so you are not aware of the onlookers. 

Robert Carnes video is about how the actors can train themselves so they can identify the most essential aspects, the issues which are critical for the performance. The training makes them capable to change their focus when needed and you can as a dancer to do the same! You can broaden your capacity and choose to focus on an essential aspect, to an internal aspect of dancing or the aspects and emotions you want your dance to express. In that way you develop your dance and it can be better for you and your partner. 

2. The range of emotions in your service

To be able to express the emotions presented in a song the dancer needs to have access to the whole range of emotions within her/himself. This need can push us to search the keys to the locked areas within us and make us to grow as human beings. In his video Robert Carne gives the growing actors training advice how to increase their emotional registry. He uses the films but a tango dancer could pick different songs and explore the emotions these songs are carrying to the listener!

The following questions could help you to find a way to a more open inner landscape: What does he mean by the emotional muscles? How could you train the fibres? or find the keys?


3. You are not listening!

This listening feels now to be the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of connection!

A Finnish milonguero, Kristian Salikoski, has written his thesis about tango. (available in Finnish) In this context he points out how essential a touch is for the tango; a touch to understand the other person. It is a listening touch between the partners and this ongoing listening is part of the unique connection between the tango dancers. You reach to the other person and when you touch your partner you do it deeply focused and your senses are fully active.

This quality of listening is also part of the acting process!

In the video below you get the story how an actor is fine tuning is listening. When he understood what the deep listening means he could start to train the skill but still it took him several years to complete! To understand what the goal was gave him the direction to work for and I am sure kept him motivated during the years!


The Best Acting Lesson in the World sounds to be the best Dancing lesson too!

Personal experiences

It can be hard to recognize the processes taking place within oneself; what is happening and what is the content of an experience. Here I describe a few situations which I think are related to the connection: How well I am/we are connected to the music? or How alive is the connection between us, between me and my partner?

Meaningful steps

The feeling of meaning when taking a step was an early experience for me and since then it has been the guide for my musicality. Actually the first experience was the opposite: every now and then I felt how ridiculous it was to march alone at home to a tango. Little by little I understood that these feelings were created by the changing relation my steps had to the music. This became an important tool to monitor how well my steps were related to the music: the good steps generated a positive feeling, a low key satisfaction, meaningfulness but the unsuccessful steps were connected with feelings of ridiculousness or discomfort. I was lucky to get this tool which creates a joyful relation to musicality without anxiety.

Feeling the flow

During the 15+ years I have been dancing a few moments have been deeply different. The main features during these tandas have been a feeling of flow and a strong unfocused concentration. The feeling we/partner and I shared seems to have been visible even to others because for most of the cases someone came afterward and spontaneously told us how great it looked. The words they used made a match with the feeling I / we had during the dance.
An other way to say it is: When we are connected - there is a flow and it is visible.

To choose a state of mind

It seems that I can switch between mental states during a tanda, roughly between two states. Sometimes when the dance is not going on easily, when I am tired or not engaged in the music there is a possibility to gear it up by deciding to dance better. If I do an effort I can feel the change and my partner has comment on that too.

Develop your emotions

I share Robert Carne's opinion that the actors need to have access to a large range of emotions and when it is so it enables them to express those emotions in their work. This is the way I understand the dancing too and therefore I have tried to train myself in emotions carried to me by the songs. Instead of watching the films I listen to tangos and let my body express the emotions which the song is releasing within me. It is a mild or wild solo experience and the outcome will be later modified to a form suitable for a pista.

More than once a follower has told me that an uninteresting song got emotional content by the relation I had to it. She could recognize my positive attitude, emotions and she got a better experience herself.

Kristian Salikoskis theseis - I am sorry but the content is so far available only in Finnish. He has later on continued to to explore the touch aspect in dance but I think the basic idea of touch is valuable to us all.