The Yin and the Yang of Tai Chi Tango
The primary benefits of Taiji (tai chi) training are postural control and balance, flexibility, coordination, agility, strength and power, sensitivity and awareness, reaction time, and confidence. Not coincidentally, these essential foundational skills are very similar to the skills needed for Tango. I recently posted about Tango and Meditation, and again, the connections are obvious, as sitting and standing meditation are common foundation practices of Tai Chi.
We are lucky to have Bendrew Jong, a dedicated student of Tai Chi and an experienced Tanguero offering a Barefoot Tai Chi Tango Workshop on Saturday, June 16, 2012 at the Sawtooth Building in Berkeley.
Bendrew Jong has been a dedicated student of northern style shaolin kung fu and tai chi chuan for over 40 years and is still learning! He is also a long standing member of the Taiji Club of Berkeley. More recently, in the past 10 years he has been an avid Tango dancer, and has studied with a wide range of instructors in the Bay Area and Argentina. He has a unique dance style that combines his love of music, tango and taiji. He is a well-loved tango lead in the SF-Bay area community, sharing enjoyable tango moments with both beginner and advanced follows.
Discussion of Tai Chi Tango from Bendrew Jong:
“When I teach tango to beginners, they don’t know it, but I’m teaching them tai chi and ch’i gong… the moving of ch’i energy. The most famous of all ch’i gong exercises is “standing meditation”. You may have seen those people in what appears to be complete stillness, with arms outstretched into a circle as if they were hugging an invisible tree. Externally, they appear to be still, but for the five, ten, twenty minutes, their body swirls internally with energy, rises and falls, expands and contracts, all within stillness. We capture the rhythm of the universe in our souls. We discover our own inner rhythm and soon we marry that rhythm to every thing around us. Lao Tzu said that wu-wei was the mother of heaven and earth. This essence of nothingness, of wu-wei, is the foundation of taoism.
So it is with Tango… stripped down to its essence. We dance tango first by understanding how our bodies are merely instruments of the rhythm of the universe. Our inner music joins with the the music we hear and feel at a dance, and this music begins to work in harmony with our own rhythm. We then begin to merge our rhythms and energy with the partner we embrace, and together we merge our joint energies with the other dancers around us. Constantly expanding and contracting in circular spheres, our energies grow from our core, expanding out to the universe, and then just as suddenly it contracts back as this energy returns to our core. People will tell you they cannot explain “ch’i” energy, but you know it when you experience it.
I think any advanced tango dancer understands that energy. And like the tai chi master doing standing meditation, any of those dancers will tell you that some of the most enlightening times, those special “tango” moments, are when you and your partner are apparently doing “nothing”, caught in a eternal second of quiet bliss when the two of you seem to be absolutely still.
At those tango competitions and championships….we can judge the manifestations of this mystery, but we can’t put a number on the mystery. That’s just a secret between you, your partner, and…well…heaven and earth! ”
What else can you expect from the class?
Tai chi is so much about grounding, feeling the earth beneath your feet, and in our tai chi walk we caress the earth with all of our feet. It’s no different with the tango of Argentina. There’s a phrase the old-timers in Argentina use that in tango, no one should be able to see your heel when you dance. That’s because in tango we caress the floor with all of our feet. With the leaders it’s more obvious, where we keep our heels down on our supporting rear foot as long as possible before we pick up our heels, and the front foot with no weight caresses the floor level. Less obvious but equally true with the follower, where, even in high heels, the ball of the foot and the heel remain as level to the floor as possible in the leg extending back, allowing for that beautiful extended line we see in the best dancers, and before the toes pick up on the forward foot. The walk of the tangueros is the walk of tai chi, sometimes more linear in the line of dance, but the mechanics and especially the use of using “ch’i” energy is exactly the same! We’ll discuss this in class!
Workshop: Barefoot Tai Chi Tango with Bendrew Jong
Two hour workshop exploring the connection between tango and tai chi (also sometime spelled taiji). This all levels class is for anyone with an interest in learning either tango or tai chi or both. All students will be able to explore the roles of lead and follow in tango from the perspective of tai chi. This is class is for the enjoyment of movement and anyone who wants to attend is encouraged to do so! No partner required. Afterwards we’ll walk over to Cafe Trieste for tea or coffee and talk about the class.
When: Saturday, June 16, 2012, 1:00pm until 3:00pm
Cost: Pay what you can or take the class for free! Suggested donation: $1-15
Location: Spring/Fall Studio in Sawtooth Building, 2525 Eighth Street at Dwight Way, Berkeley, CA Map
What to wear: come as you are but bring a nice pair of socks or clean feet. We are dancing barefoot.