Asking ourselves about our roles in learning and teaching Argentine tango.
Eric and I have been busy writing articles for this website and are enthusiastic about sharing our thoughts and explorations. We thought that now would be a good time to reflect on why we approach our learning and teaching in the way that we do and our goals in writing what we do.
We have been so grateful for the positive feedback from around the world and would like to thank everyone for having open hearts and open minds when reading our notes, since they are sometimes a bit unconventional. We are constantly seeking to find innovative ways of coming to a noble dance, while honoring its foundation and canon.
We also understand that some people who read our articles, but have never attended our classes or who do not know us personally, might be skeptical. We often contradict very common modes of tango instruction. Our goal in writing these articles is not to say that there is a right or wrong way of learning and teaching tango. Indeed, it is quite the opposite. We feel that being exposed to a variety of teaching approaches is crucial in becoming a well-rounded dancer. It is very likely that the synthesis of several different instructors teaching the same thing, each in different ways, finally creates the connections that a student needs to learn a concept.
“Collection” was eliminated from our tango vocabulary for many reasons.
I’ve written about collection in other articles, “Moving with your line of gravity” and “How we think affects the way we move”, so it is no secret that I don’t like what thinking about collection does to our dance. When we started developing our TangoBreath vinyasa, “collection” was one the first things we eliminated in our teaching and in our descriptions of Argentine tango movement.
We wanted to avoid “collection” for many reasons. One of them is that it is completely unnecessary. We never mention it in our TangoBreath vinyasa class, yet everyone, complete beginners and advanced dancers alike, all do what “collection” is intended to instruct. Their feet pass each other nicely in every movement. Another reason to discard “collection” is that it is mostly harmful to our development as dancers. We do mention it as something that happens as a result of well executed movement, but collection is not something to which it is necessary to give any thought. A beginning tango dancer has enough to think about already. Later on, it will be essential to think about what it means to have pretty foot movement. But that is a topic far beyond collecting.
Bad posture is a common problem.
I recently gave a weekly challenge to create awareness of our posture, “Scrunch your shoulders, fix your posture!”. The exercise is specifically targeted at slouched shoulders and a forward head posture. After posting it, I received a few emails from tango dancers and non-dancers, all thanking me for the reminder. Many said that this particular exercise is something they’ve been told to do. As I was writing this article, it came time for another body awareness challenge, so I posted “Balance your head!”, which generated even more feedback. Clearly, bad posture is a problem that many of us are struggling with.
Moving the line of gravity literally covers more ground
In the last post I described how the relationship between the center of movement and the line of gravity created internal dynamic tension which is a part of what creates presence or intention within the embrace. Moving the line of gravity literally covers more ground, but is easier to explain than the micro movements that create dynamic tension.
Any movement starts by moving our center away from our line of gravity to create dynamic tension. Our center of movement can be imagined as being a spot at the top of our sacrum in the center of our body. Standing still, the center of movement is intersected by our line of gravity.
Dynamic Tension, done well, it is what one friend calls “Jedi Tango”
There are several terms that are regularly used when teaching or learning Argentine tango that are very ambiguous and at the same time very important. “Grounding” and “Intention” are two of the hardest to comprehend or do, without some specific idea of what to do in your own body and without experiencing how they should and should not feel in a partner.