Practical Mommy’s Impractical Art Project

Step 11: Breathe

“Tango music” is traditionally played by an orquesta típica, including two violins, a piano, a doublebass, and two bandoneóns. The bandoneón is like an accordion that has bellows and buttons. It breathes. And because it is the bandoneóns that keeps the beat, the dance breathes too.

I took a workshop with Fernanda Ghi and Guillermo Merlo recently. At one point, Guillermo observed that the whole room was moving as one, with the breath of the music. It was so lovely!

Mimi also pointed this out to us in class once, to remind us to respect the space in between. Unlike the hard and definitive sound of a snare drum, the bandoneón gives you a moment of suspension. That moment is the one that allows a sacada to occur within a molineta. That moment is the one that allows the Follow to respond to a Lead’s intention. Inhale. Exhale.

I experience it similar to Vinyasa Yoga, in which you string together a series of poses in a flowing sequence, allowing your breath to set the pace. My experience of tango has a similar flow, a richness and fullness. But I’ve noticed that people have a tendency to speed up when they are apprehensive or uncertain, as if going faster will reduce the chances of them messing up. Or perhaps it’s like crossing a rickety bridge. They just want to get to the other side.

Perhaps it mirrors their breathing. Isn’t it true that when you are nervous or tense, your breathing speeds up too? [Read more…]

Practical Mommy’s Impractical Art Project

So for-EVER, I’ve been struggling with boleos. Boleo is often translated as “whip” because of the whip-like effect of the Argentine bola (the equivalent of the American lasso). It’s “I’m going this way! Wait! No, I’m not.” And the result is exactly that action-delayed-reaction of a whip. It’s spontaneous fun. It’s letting go at the top of the roller coaster. It’s allowing your body to do what bodies do.

But to execute a boleo requires what many dancers describe as “controlled looseness.” I’m a master at the control part. And can summon looseness at times. But for me, achieving both simultaneously in dance was like waiting for pigs to take flight. My Type A control freakishness meant I was “cheating” my dance partners out of this super cool move. I was too tight, holding myself too close and guarded in my belly. Technically, a lead should be able to indicate a boleo with just the slightest push of energy at the right time. Like a flick of the wrist is all it takes to crack a whip. But with me, it was like having to move one of those piggies that are still waiting to sprout wings.

[Read more…]

Practical Mommy’s Impractical Art Project

Step 7: NOW

So my friend Scott the Writer says that all thoughts are connected — because the brain is one giant self-organizing system. Perhaps my self-organizing brain picked out Coyote Blue at the bookstore last week for a reason unapparent to me. I am fully aware, however that I underlined this passage on page 97 because of my preoccupation with balance!

And then it came to him. This was just a different kind of coyote blue — trying to look into the future too far was ruining his balance. He had to focus on right now and eventually he would learn what he needed to know when the future got to him.

And this is why I love the mindfulness that is Argentine tango. Just like Zen Master Thich Naht Hanh teaches (and apparently “Zen Master” Christopher Moore), there is only now.

If I anticipate the next step, I mess up the one I’m trying to do. If I obsess about the last one, I’ll also miss the lead for the current one. There is only now. [Read more…]

Practical Mommy’s Impractical Art Project

Step 6: … in heels!

Mimi says, “Balance is especially important for the follows because you’re wearing those super tall heels!”

I’ve always had feet problems. When I was 22, I actually had foot surgery and was laid up for 4 weeks. Navigating the “El” train in Chicago every day on crutches was a lesson in composure. My friend Jeremy actually made me a mix tape (yes, that would be cassette), titled Feets Problems. I gave up rollerblading because my feet couldn’t take it.

So now I tango. In heels. 5-8 hours a week. Ha! Ironically, my tootsies are loving it!

Well, perhaps “love” is an exaggeration. What I’ve found is that my feet and legs, even my stomach muscles are much stronger. My balance is much better. [Read more…]

Practical Mommy’s Impractical Art Project

Step 5: But, I’m going backwards!?!

Talk about a prescription for my control issues. In order to do this tango thing, I had to do it blind! Or at least, be okay with not knowing where I was going. Perfect. f$%#!

Melissa Pierce is one of my sources of inspiration. She is a stay-at-home mom turned documentary filmmaker/speaker and the question she poses in her project, Life In Perpetual Beta is this: “Is the unplanned life still worth living?” [Read more…]

How to Get Creative!

It’s March and unbelievably enough, time to start planning for summer! We are quite fortunate to have a ton of great summer camp options in our town. My friend, Shawna is the Director of Art Education at the Center for Creative Arts. What I love about their programs is that they have made a conscious effort to engage kids on many levels.

Maybe you have a child who doesn’t think they like the “artsy” stuff. How do you get them to engage in activities that are truly enriching and educational?

If you’re looking for a summer camp program, visit the COCA website for their full schedule.

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon, co-creator of the Yogi Parenting course. If you are ready for parenting to be easier, more fun and less stressful, sign up for a free Yogi Parenting lesson.

Practical Mommy’s Impractical Art Project

Step 2: But Why Tango?

At this point, I began living my life by the signs. Sometimes, I didn’t exactly know what they meant but at least I was paying attention. This was a new thing for me since up until then, I was a take charge kinda girl. I was convinced that the only way to get anywhere in life or get anything done, meant I had to do it myself. Period.

My DIY Method is what had allowed me to transplant myself at age 13 to halfway around the world. This philosophy is how I graduated at the top of my class, how I landed one of two prized positions at a prestigious ad agency, how I created a stellar career as a designer, how I got to be 36 years old, 2.5 kids, in the top 5% of household incomes in the world, and feeling… profoundly empty. [Read more…]

Practical Mommy’s Impractical Art Project

Step 1: In the beginning, there was The Dance.

It started with a book at my local library. The book was displayed prominently at the end of an aisle. It was orange. If you were watching “My Life, the Movie” this would have been the dramatic moment when everything except this book faded into the background. It was called The Dance.

Here’s the poem that was the inspiration for the book: [Read more…]

Practical Mommy’s Impractical Art Project

Art is a generous action. It’s when a human connects with another human and makes a change. ~ Seth Godin

On January 16, 2009 I was officially divorced.

On January 29, I took my first tango class. I know, it’s a total cliché. I felt the need to do something I’d never done before. Argentine Tango seemed a lot less self-destructive than jumping off a bridge.

Some post-divorced women go to find themselves on 4-month sojourns in exotic countries. Seeing as I had two young children, that just wasn’t very convenient for me. So I went to find myself at COCA every Tuesday night for 13 weeks.

Considering the extent of my previous dance instruction was Intro to Ballet in the church cafeteria at the age of seven, I’m not exactly sure what compelled me to go. But I was most definitely compelled. [Read more…]

How to Tap Into Source

There’s a watercolor that hangs in my mom’s dining room. Flowers. Really beautiful. I first spotted it on a trip home and was immediately drawn to it. I had just graduated from an art program in Chicago. I had studied with James Yood, the art critic. So I was intrigued by this little painting’s technical execution and something else — it’s spirit. So as I stood staring at it, my mom walks up and says, “I love that painting you did. I think you were eight or nine.”

Wha?!

Have you ever started a creative project, lost time in it, and looked down later to see something has blossomed as if all on it’s own? While you were off daydreaming, this perfectly formed image or blog post dripped from your fingertips. Then you, like me, have experienced the magic of pure creation. Reflecting back on that painting, I vaguely remember the feeling of being there and observing my hands as they dipped brush into gooey pots of paint. It was exactly the same in art school. It was as if I woke up one morning in the spring of my senior year with a stack of lithographs that emerged from last night’s dream. Each one, a souvenir of something magical that had transpired. And so it was as a designer… after days of ruminating over a client’s “problem,” filling pages with sketches, moving typographic elements and images on my screen… after my problem-solving brain surrendered in frustration, then the creative dance truly began.

That’s when Spirit flowed… sometimes late into the night when although tired, I would beg my body to stay up for just one more layout because I, more than anyone else, wanted the thrill of surprise — of seeing what would reveal itself! I was the Witness.

And so it is as I write for My Mommy Manual. Or create presentations or workshop material. Or as I listen to moms, coaching them through a dilemma or helping them through a decision. Just as an image flows from my brush, so the words flow from my soul to theirs. Wow! It’s so magical and yet so natural — this thing, this connection between women. And every time, I am so humbled to be the Witness as Spirit moves.

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon, co-creator of the Yoga Parenting course. Are you ready for parenting to be easier, more fun and less stressful?