Yoga warmup for tango

A guest post by Veronika Kruta, verokrutayoga.com

Warm up before dancing with this 10-minute full-body yoga routine.

How strange that tango dancers rarely warm up their bodies before dancing! You would for other types of challenging dance.

The “warming up” I’ve seen might be dancing a low-intensity tanda (maybe a Calo or Canaro) with someone you have danced with before and know well, so as not to ruin your chances of impressing someone if they ask you to dance before you have warmed up.

Several years ago I began a practice of tuning in with myself and my body before going out to a milonga. I put on my heels at home and danced by myself for 10 minutes. I didn’t want the state of my body and mind to betray me when I got on the dance floor for that first tanda.

Often what I discovered in those 10 minutes would surprise me. Some days it seemed I had no balance whatsoever. My shoes didn’t feel right. My mind felt distracted. The clothing I was wearing was all wrong. I was being self-critical. Or the opposite would happen. I was pleased by the stability I felt, or by how expressive or creative my solo dancing seemed. How light and free I felt in my movement or how focused I was. These states of being change and can catch us unawares until we get into our bodies.

The same thing happens when I get on my yoga mat. This is often the first time of the day when I allow myself to tune in to what’s going on inside, the sensations I feel in my body, where my thoughts are, and what emotions I’m feeling. Many times I discover something I was not expecting.

Later, I started adding on to this practice of tuning in before dancing by spending a few minutes watching a video or two of some dancers who inspire me and then filling up on the excitement I felt from watching them. My dance seemed to transform. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever watched a performance at a milonga and felt like your own dance came alive after the performance, your inspiration and creative juices flowing through you and giving your dance a completely different, more raw and soulful expression.

There are many ways to get present in your body before you dance, and what a gift this is to your partner.

If you want to learn more about how presence can change your embrace, check out my blog post How Attention to Breath Can Enhance Your Tango.

Today I want to share with you a 10-minute, full body yoga warm-up you can do before dancing. You can even do this in your tango clothes. I recommend doing it barefoot or in street shoes, unless you want the added challenge of being in your dance shoes. When you don’t have time to do a full yoga practice before dancing, this is a great way to spend a few minutes to stretch, strengthen, energize, and become present in your body.

Warm up with yoga before dancing tango.

This brief sequence begins by getting grounded and warming up the joints. Then it moves into opening up the feet, spreading the toes and bringing awareness to how you distribute the weight across the whole foot.

Next, a few poses to warm up the front and back body, opening shoulders, stretching the side-body, and warming up the major muscle groups. (Similar to the purpose of Sun Salutations A and B in a Vinyasa practice.)

Then we open the hip flexors to promote a nice tango stride, and activate your twist to help torsion. Finally, we go into a deeper twist and hamstring stretch—also facilitating your stride, and finish with a little core warm-up to assist with balance, get the blood flowing, and energize the body in general.

Wrapping up, we take a few moments to bring the attention inward, focus on the breath, and tune in to our thoughts, emotions and state of being before heading out onto the dance floor.

I encourage you to use this sequence as a guideline and add or omit poses that you feel your body needs or does not need to warm up before dancing. If you are doing this sequence at home, in comfortable clothing, you may also add some floor poses, which I have not included here so that the routine can be done in your tango clothes in any space you find yourself.

For more information on how to compliment your tango dancing with a yoga practice or to try out some free yoga classes designed specifically for tango dancers please visit my website verokrutayoga.com or feel free to get in touch. I am always open to questions and feedback of any kind!

Happy Dancing!

Trust in tango

Trust in Argentine tango. The garden-variety trust that everyone wants to expect has our partners respect our needs for safety, comfort, respect, and mutuality.
Tango as a moving Trust Fall
We trust that they, too, want to commit to making a meaningful dance together. Trust that they won’t take advantage of an intimate embrace for unexpected, unwanted physical contact. Trust that they will practice safety awareness in giving weight and energy to another body, plus safety moving around other dancers and objects.

Another and different type of trust excites me when dancing.

It’s a trust particularly hard to find in novices who aren’t yet aware of what is possible, what can become resolved safely and comfortably if they but commit themselves to the movement their body feels.

It’s a trust that in more advanced dancers means dancing on the edge. It subsumes the previous elements while adding the element of matching: energy, intention, style. Like the novice, maybe we commit to a movement we haven’t seen or danced before and don’t quite understand, or maybe we haven’t danced with this kind of energy or style.

But as a more advanced partner, we can take that moment of trust and add to it our ability to move in a highly effective manner. Feet well connected to the floor in pushing and in receiving it. Legs tracking with hip direction and swinging under and through our center of balance (axis) with each step. Body well structured, coordinated, and alive! with energy matching our partner and the needs of each moment. Body well-grounded, with each step placement intentional, looking out not only for our own but also for our partner’s stability. Giving our partner signals before movements, in suspensions or minute contra-preparations, for an instant to notice, prepare, and respond.

There exists so much personal value that we can give one another: Love, gratitude, understanding, time, empathy, respect, attention, and more.

For me, trust must rank among the highest values in what we can give to another. While typically a thing that a person earns (or loses) over time, it’s something that we dancers do in a few moments of taking up an embrace and moving a few steps with a stranger. It’s something we give, even knowing that we can be hurt if our trust is misplaced, misused.

We willingly suspend our fears, feeling that when we place our trust in the right person, in the right moment, then we shall share mutual rewards.

Feelings & Technique

Dear significant dance partner,

I may have come to an important realization.

You asked whether I thought I would go to another encuentro after my first experience where I felt that I had not experienced what I considered a sufficient number of sufficiently satisfying tandas.

As I was doing my garbage cart walk from the house to the street this morning I flashed on the realization that, while my desire is to have amazing, even when rarely “perfect” dance experiences; my two goals are to look nice (as a point of personal pride, accomplishment, and for recognition) and for my partners–whether leader or follower–to feel that they have amazing dance experiences with me.

Goals and projects for their attainment

While I have good intentions for my various improvement goals:
If I compete (a current project) it
o Helps provide structure, context, and motivation for my practice and learning;
o Gives me a yardstick for measuring progress; and
o Gives me arms-length, high level feedback;
I had (have) a selfish, even if worthwhile motive. The “valid, up to a point” thought is that the more I improve my dance the more others will see it, and that will get me more dances with equally accomplished dancers.

Without denying the importance of my technical performance goal, what if I raised the importance of my dance partner connection goal? What if I even used that as a key component of my technical work?

Connection: value and development

When I watch a dance performance of any kind (social, YouTube, stage), while the flash and technical quality first catch my eye, what makes a deeper, longer lasting impression is my sense of the connection of the partners to each other and to the music.

And for getting more partners, what’s likely to give the bigger payoff, onlookers maybe seeing how fancy you dance on a floor packed with other dancers, or having dance partners tell their friends how they feel when dancing (and socializing!) with you? I think we all know, word of mouth beats advertising.

Plus, that intention to give a partner an amazing dance experience works equally well in all cases, whether leader or follower, beginner to pro.

What goes into an amazing dance experience? Certainly the technical aspects play a big part in that: the ability to control one’s axis/balance in all situations, as well as to be aware of and protect our partner’s axis/balance; the ability to accurately, clearly, and comfortably give and respond to movement intentions; the ability to navigate a floor safely, protecting our partner and others (and even eyes-closed followers can help this with their sense of space, safe movements, and accurately responding to a partner’s intention).

Beyond the technical attainments, what goes into a great experience of connection to a partner (and to the music)? Experience, of course. We’ve got to have lots of experience with a variety of partners (and music) where we come to feel deeply and consider our response to each other.

I reject the macho advice I so often received from mostly my early teachers who told me that to make my best, fastest progress I should seek to dance only with already good partners; that beginner or weak partners would bring me down. While I recognize the element of truth in that–particularly at that stage of my development, I also see it as one of those “training wheels” that need to come off. (J, reviewing this for me, adds that dancing with beginners and improvers is our way to give back to the community that has meant and done so much for us.)

Resolution

So I shall seek to embrace and make better use of all kinds of dance opportunities, including the encuentro, where one can find a lovely variety of dancers all with the intentions to create deep and satisfying dance connections with others.

Now here I am burdening your schedule with a welter of words, taking up time with my self-analysis session. I hope you will grant me leeway and not plot some retribution for me. 🙂

Thank you for helping me become a better dancer through our practice and your feedback and ideas. And a better person.

Un gran abrazo con meneo,
–David

Connections

In the Teacher Training Program at the 2018 International Tango Summit in Los Angeles, teachers Christy Coté and George Garcia expressed their mantra for good Argentine tango as:

  • Quality
  • Connection
  • Musicality

I agree with the importance of those points. Yet for me, Argentine tango feels all about Connnections:

  • Myself – How am I feeling now? How do I want to feel?
  • Music – Does this music speak to me? What is the story? Can I express it?
  • My Partner – A clear, comfortable, and consistent Lead and Follow. How and when can I move to give my partner their greatest freedom of expression?
  • La Ronda – Am I respecting the space for my partner couples fore and aft? The safety for all around us?
  • The Venue – How can I express my appreciation for the hosts and the DJ? How can I add to the spirit of community?

A simple rule for a great connection

Match energy. If you can think-feel just one thing in your dancing, I recommend you make that Energy. (By the way, do you agree with me about how it often serves us to focus on a single thing?)

Okay, there it is, the whole “secret” right in the first two words of this article. You’re welcome! I, too, value highly concise, wonderfully helpful advice.

A girl on the left and a boy on the right play tug of war with a rope.
How to Play Tug of War by WikiHow, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

What’s that? You’re not sure what match energy means, and even if you have an idea what it means you’re not sure you agree? Well my guess is that even if you were to guess at some interpretation of match energy and seek to apply it in your dancing, you would find benefits of mindfulness, calm, clear intention, and connection with your partner.

Despite what computers would tell us, we don’t live in a binary, 1s and 0s, yes/no, right/wrong world. We live in a panoply of possibilities, each with a continuum, a range of choices (and non-choices!). Consider, tension in the body (and tension in the mind!), pressures with our partner’s body parts, timing of movement with (or not) the music, size of steps, elevation, etc. How can we begin to comprehend, to be aware of and respond well to such a complex system of interrelated possibilities? We can begin (and sustain) by adhering to a simple rule that feels intuitive to our mind-body: Match energy.

What to do if there is a mismatch — Matching and leading

But, David, what if I can’t exert that much pressure or don’t like it? What if they don’t know how to use their body to step with the same sustained energy I like for this kind of music? What if we each prefer a different degree of closeness or style of embrace?

Do you Lead or Follow? Does it matter? I reject the traditional and widespread notion that the dance is el hombre’s dance, because “he” has so many more responsibilities, then the follower must adapt to the leader. In my dance world,

  1 + 1 + 1 > 3
  The energy of the Music & Me & Thee makes wonderful dance.

Calibration. How can I know if it is me or my partner causing a mismatch? Consider the ballet barre. It makes for a perfect partner in that it pushes (or pulls) against you with exactly the same force as you use on it! (The ballet barre has a bit of give to it, much like a well organized, energy matching body.) That can give you a feeling for matching, and then how can you know if you are matching when you dance? Check that you and your partner’s body parts stay in a well organized, rather fixed relationship to each other (that will vary as dance geometry dictates). If the hand side of the embrace is drifting toward one of the partners, or up or down, then extra force is coming from somewhere.

I’ll start out in my body’s preferred placement and organization of parts. If my partner’s parts placement seems to be asking for or giving something different, then if it’s within my acceptable comfort and operational parameters, I’ll accept and adapt to it. If my partner is hurting me I will say something, perhaps non-verbally at first, with a shake or a shrug of that part, then verbally if I must.

I will seek to match my partner’s energy indications in as many respects and to as great a degree as possible. I will even seek to match intangible qualities, such as style and expressiveness (or not) of dance. Notice! I must remain alert to the possibility that I misread them, or perhaps unawares I gave them some early signal that led them to dance in something other than their naturally preferred manner.

In any case, once we feel we have done a good job matching our partner, we may then begin leading (whether we are leading or following) our partner to our preferred, most resourceful, natural, and powerful place of dance. We do this by shifting our energy at a rate that they can adjust to.

May I reiterate more simply? Match energy to the extent possible and non-injurious. By the way, you do realize that match energy applies to more than just your partner, right? We seek as a couple to match the energy of the music, and even to la ronda–the other couples dancing along with us. And if not match, to at least be aware of these energies so that we can make intentional choices.

All the energy that we can put into sensing what is happening in the music, in the room around us, in our partner, and in ourselves — will give our partner more to work with and against, and help us create a more wonderful dance.

Absolutism corrosive in teaching a skill … and life

“My way or the highway.” “Love it or leave it.” “This is how you dance tango.”

A recent blog post [1] seemed to test the notion that, “There is no such thing as bad publicity, so long as they spell your name right.” People piled on [2][3] to say in adamant, sometimes vehement terms that the notions described there were wrong, wrong, wrong.

I don’t wish to defend or decry the particulars of any of those postings, but rather to urge against the many forms of absolutism — “This is the one and only right way to do things.” — in teaching Argentine tango (or any skill), and in life at large.

The examples in political life are all too depressingly familiar to anyone the least bit socially aware. And you probably don’t have to think hard or long to recall acquaintances who are automatic mismatchers. Whatever you say they take the opposite view, or an extreme view.

In teaching any skill, not only tango, the My Way approach often seems to serve for market differentiation before it becomes dogma. (Proviso: It does seem acceptable for a teacher to say, “If you like my particular style, these are the specific things I think I do to achieve it.”)

Let’s say we acknowledge the problem. What’s your positive intent?

I view Argentine tango as a particularly naturalistic dance. The fundamental movements are actions we take all the time in our daily lives. The language of our dance is an outgrowth of the way individuals naturally interact. (Even la cruzada can be understood as a natural outcome of geometry and the presupposition of the partners confronting[4] one another.)

Viewed this way, Argentine tango is fully accessible to an exceedingly wide range of individuals: long and short legs, thin and thick bodies, erect and slouching postures, old and young, fit and not so, body aware and not so, experienced and not so, fast and slow, high and low energies, and on and on.

With the vast range of possibilities, how can we dictate, “This is the only way you can achieve comfortable, clear, creative dances with others”?

The key, really, is matching a partner’s energy.

What if a partner doesn’t meet your preferences in some or many respects. Do you have a course of action beyond saying “Thank you,” and leaving the tanda?

I never felt comfortable with advice I received from many quarters saying that the dance is the dance of el hombre, the man, the leader. That followers should expect to adapt themselves always and wholly to the leader’s preferences.

The Macho, Sexist, Role-ist view of Argentine tango offends my sense of equality, I won’t impose myself or my views on others. Furthermore, I want to enjoy as wide a range of dances with as many people as I can. I don’t wish to narrow but to expand my enjoyable dance possibilities

In NLP, Neurolinguistic Programming we have a technique called Pacing and Leading. We can begin with our preferred pressure and style of dance, but if we find our partner not responding well to that, then we can begin matching what we sense from them. From there, we may be able to subtly shift to lead them (whether we are leader or follower) more to our preferences.

Among the most magical tandas I have enjoyed were ones that seemed to start off poorly, where there was some mismatch keeping our dance from nicely coming into sync, but that somehow I was able to sense what they wanted to make them comfortable in their dance — a change of embrace, pressure, style of dance, energy of dance.

This, too, is a functional embrace.

Okay, so even enlightened I can’t resist weighing in on the, “this is ‘real’ close embrace” issue that started this whole thing. My answer: it’s not an absolute, it’s a preference!

There exists a continuum of pressure levels that a dancer might prefer, both for selecting partners and over the course of a dance involving a variety of movements. In a neutral state, at rest or just walking, nothing special going on, the continuum can possibly, rationally, and acceptably range among, Space between the bodies, Quite close but no actual body contact, Barely perceptible touch, Skin deep touch, Muscle deep touch, Bone deep touch (maybe only appropriate for stage performance). Our job as teachers is to give students awareness of possibilities, ways of safely exploring them, and guidance as to the ranges that seems more useful for particular circumstances.

The degree of pressure is the key! Some prefer none, others light, still others heavy, plus, some range (narrow for some, broad for others) of variations.

Mostly we are independent, yet well connected through a subtle pressure between our torsos. Sometimes I stabilize my partner, sometimes they stabilize me. “Oh, horrors, you just don’t do that! Each dancer must be perfectly independently stable at all times.” Perhaps in lessons and practice, where we seek to develop and enhance our capabilities, we can apply such stringency. In social dancing I am seeking the success and enjoyment of the partnership, even it if requires occasional compromises.

The preferred pressure won’t be a single point, but will vary with experience, training, practice, and the kinds of movements in the moment.

Here’s an idea, give exercises and games that let a person experience a range of possibilities. Indeed, we switch partners during lessons and practice as a way to learn to accommodate a wider range of responses. Whether as teachers or practice partners, rather than tell our partner what we think they should be doing (or more often, telling them how we think they are wrong!), how about saying, “I would like more of (or less of) X“? In this way you are expressing your personal preference, not dictating.

Can’t we all just get along?

Felices caminando!
–David

[1] Ivica Anteski

[2] Miles Tangos

[3] Melina Sedó

[4] Confront (from French, from Latin: with + face)
I like this word as a way to describe one aspect of the tango connection. For me it seems to capture the highly active (not antagonistic) way of partners seeking to face and be with their partner. I learned the term from Luciano Brigante and Alejandra Orozco.

If at first you don’t succeed …

If at first you don’t succeed, calm down, slow down, take a breath, assess yourself, assess your partner.

I wear hearing aids. When I don’t understand a person’s speech, two things help most. Paradoxically, turning down the volume helps me hear more of the nuances and frequencies that can become overridden and blurred by too much soundscape volume. Second, and it works the same way, when a person speaks slowly to me it helps my brain hear more and gives it more time to sort out everything that is perceives.

Galloping by Dóra Klenovszki
If your partner didn’t respond in the way you expected, do you get louder, bigger with your movements? Do you try doing something different to see if they understand that? STOP!

What is your default setting for evaluating your partner when things don’t go as expected?

  • They are being resistant.
  • They aren’t sensitive enough.
  • They didn’t hear, feel me the first time.
  • They don’t understand, but if I can make them do it, then . . .
  • They are slow, mentally or physically.

Let’s acknowledge that any of those things could actually be a factor. Now ask yourself, are any of those things helped by becoming, louder, more forceful, bigger, trying it a different way?

Well, actually, that last one, “try it a different way,” does actually help, if the difference is:

  • Become more quiet and still.
  • Listen to yourself.
  • Listen to your partner.
  • Have a crystal clear intention for The One Next Thing.
  • Express that one next thing with crystal clarity and simplicity in your own body.
  • Allow your partner to move with your body.

Here is a specific exercise and challenge for you. The next time you feel frustration with a situation, first catalog how your body goes about telling you to feel frustrated.

  • A tightness somewhere in your body — gut, shoulders, jaw?
  • A contortion in your body — raised shoulders or elbows, twisted or tilted head?
  • A change in temperature — flushed chest or face?
  • A voice in your head?
  • Something else?

Now anchor that feeling for future reference, so that you can recognize it sooner the next time, to start the changes that keep it from coming or reduce it.

Take a breath, calm down, assess. Does the frustration feeling diminish?

Make a choice.

  • Do something different now.
  • Do what you’ve always done.
  • Do nothing.

Celebrate that you do have choices. Then, we can surely hope, that you can go on to celebrate that by doing something different (or even nothing) that you receive more useful responses from your partner, which allow you both to go on building in connection and abilities from there.

Randy, Rowdy, and Uncouth

No, those aren’t the guys in The Original South Austin Jug Band. Randy, rowdy, and uncouth was what I thought of the writing in The Luv Doc columns of The Austin Chronicle those few shocking times I chanced to dip into it in the past.

But then something happened, I read an entire column, and wound up saying to myself, “Hmm, behind all that sound and fury there’s some really sound advice. I started reading it regularly and found that they all have a core of wisdom. The Luv Doc is now my second favorite advice columnist, after Carolyn Hax of the Washington Post, with smut added for salacious comic effect.

But to be serious for a moment and get to the point. that column boiled down to one sentence, “I would further guess that if you were to match his affections with those of your own, you might ease some of the insecurity that fuels his behavior,” that expresses a universal truth. Whether it’s dancing Argentine tango, negotiating a deal, having a conversation, or showing a partner affection, when we match each other we have greater chances of enjoying success.

Ad: A great way to learn about or reinforce and refine your understanding of matching intention in the hidden language of Argentine tango is the Melina & Detlef workshop coming to Tango Tribe February 23-25 in Austin, Texas. Limited to 12 couples, and registration is open now.

Anticipa-a-tion

Record album cover for ANTICIPATION with Carly Simon standing, legs astride, arms out wide holding onto large gate leaves.

Summary — After presenting the problem we give two exercises to help both leaders and followers discover how to wait in quiet anticipation.

“Anticipation” by Carly Simon could serve as an anthem for Argentine tango dancers. Check out the lyrics at that link. See her perform it here. We’ll wait . . .

A common refrain from leaders and followers has them complaining or wondering, “Why can’t they/I wait for the lead/follow?” Three factors figure into this failure to wait in readiness:

  1. We’re just so darn eager to please. They’ve agreed to dance with us! Now we want to show them that they made a good choice. Leaders rush on to the next great move before their partner has fully finished the last thing. Followers don’t want to keep their partner waiting, so they rush on to what they expect comes next. But, hey, like Carly says, we can never know what comes next. In a fully improvised dance even the leader experiences it moment to moment. The anticipation, wondering what will happen next, can create as much magic as the actual doing.
  2. We fall into habitual, patterned movement. This can particularly arise in classes or practice where a couple drills a movement repeatedly, then when the leader moves on to something else without warning, the follower wonders what happened. Even in our social dance both leader and follower create expectations in their partner from habitual responses. In a class or práctica an alert can come as a verbal, “Okay, how about now we try combining this with the other class material?” At the milonga we can give a non-verbal “warning” by becoming particularly intentional and grounded on the step before the transition. That is, as leader we want to be thinking about doing something different before the last step of the pattern we’ve created. That’s two moments before the actual transition!
  3. We fail to fully seize our axis. A common example arises in the back cross, such as in the molinete. Whether due to lead or follow or both, the step may move away from your partner. If no one makes an adjustment, it leaves possibly both dancers in an unbalanced position, where they will likely “fall” into an open step. Do you remember that Voguing dance from the 1980s? Think of tango like that, where every step is a pose, complete and fully realized in itself, with feet and body set just so, with any and all future possibilities available to flow from there. Note: We don’t want to limit creative possibilities by insisting that our axis must be over one foot with the other foot collected. Our weight could be split between two feet, together or apart; or over one foot with the other leg away; or even outside of our footprint. The key consideration comes from both leader and follower knowing where we intend to place the axis, and what can flow from there.

Exercises

1. Follower waits on leader.

In a randomness of fundamental movements — movement (step or pivot), not patterns — before making any movement the leader (and follower, of course) takes a moment, that can range from an instant to quite long. Then they invite each movement with varying direction, size, and dynamics. The leader can increase the intensity by moving themselves into “non-standard” orientations with their partner before marking the next movement. Leaders can see this as a challenge to shake up their habitual way of moving. Followers can see this as a challenge to become comfortable with, even coming to enjoy the not knowing; to be quietly listening with their body, and prepared to move anywhere, without feeling the least anxiety or care for where or how or when that might be.

2. Leader waits on follower.

As in exercise #1, the partners move in a randomness of fundamental movements, but this time the follower dictates the duration of the stillness and where their next step goes. The challenge for the leader is to follow their follower, to become comfortable with both giving the follower the time they need or want, and with moving to accommodate whatever happens in the dance. From this exercise the follower discovers a world of possibilities for their movement, where they can control the direction, size, and dynamics of their movement. They can know the power of a follower’s intentional movement, and how such movements can make the dance easier or harder or more interesting for their partner.

Note: Take moments of stillness, not to become inert lumps, but as times for mind and body to continue dancing in that stillness. Energy expanding or contracting, size growing or compressing, gaze intensifying or shrinking.

Two situations might suggest that you use these exercises in your practice time. One, you feel that you are dancing in a habitual or perfunctory way. Use the exercises to shake up your awareness of all the possibilities for movement. Two, you feel that you or your partner aren’t fully connected with each other. Someone’s not listening, or someone’s just going through the motions without considering the power that each pose can bring into the dance.

Final note: Can you bring these exercises to the milonga? I sure hope you realize that yes you can, as either leader or follower, without verbally expressing it, you can bring the exercise intentions into your social dancing when you recognize that you want more from yourself.

Tango Tribe signature block

Experience games for Presence

This is a companion piece to the Bandoneon imagery article. As useful as good imagery can be – some people click into the right image like magic – many of us will find even more useful the playing of games that gives us a direct experience of the quality sought. Experiences allow us to begin calibrating our range of responses, making awareness and neuro-muscular connections about our most resourceful states.

Ten hands forming a heart shape.
Hands and Heart

A well designed experiment let’s us test and make useful discoveries. For dance I like to design (or learn and discover from others) games or exercises that produce useful experiences. Games serve discovery and interplay; then exercises provide practice drills to refine and strengthen our capabilities.

Here are some games. For now, just a collection of titles and maybe a few words. Use these to spark your imagination, and play with your creativity to make useful games. Let us know when you find something interesting.

Frequently switch off with your partner who starts movement. Sometimes work in silence, maybe even with eyes closed, to enhance sensing. Always share with your partner what you are learning. All of these are palm-to-palm. They can be done in an embrace and not. Keep the presence of the palm connection midway between the coronal planes (front-back) of the partners, or slightly closer to the side of the initiator of movements. Experiment with single hand connections and crossed-hand connections.

Lean together, hang apart.

Calibrate those. A useful scale might be (hang) -5 to +5 (lean), where 0 is just barely touching, and -/+5 is ‘all’ your weight.

Do it in extremes of dancer body and partner configuration.

Palm-to-palm moving the hand, and following it.

Palm-to-palm moving the hand by way of the spine, and following it.

Play with extremes. How light can your touch be and still follow the moving hand, even at extremes of speed and distance? How heavy can your touch be and your partner still feels comfortable and unrestricted?

Remote control. Putting our partner on one foot or the other by way of the hand, now cause the partner to pivot forward/backward, with no apparent motion of the hands. Change feet. The hand presence acts like an on-off switch. When it is ‘On’ there is motion.

Do remote control fast/slow, big/small. Experiment with the speed and/or the power with which the presence turns on.

Here’s one image that might be useful fun. Think of your arm-hand like those long skinny balloons for balloon animals. What inflates this? How fast-slow can you inflate-deflate this? How fast do you need to inflate-deflate it? If your arm is a balloon, what are your hand and fingers? What qualities would you use to describe your partner’s hand? Can you feel your partner’s arm as separate from their hand? Their joints? Their body? What qualities do you guess your partner would give to the feel of you?! (Some ideas to expand the possibilities: Hard, weak, rigid, squishy, board-like, floppy, clammy, insistent, caring, gentle, calm, confused, . . . )

Remember when dealing with a partner (which can be your own internal self), to be truthful and kind, knowing that it’s not what you are but what you are doing that counts with others. Enjoy!