The flow of movement between partners can appear magical.
Every week in TangoLab, we start class with some exercise to create awareness of our partners through the embrace. Our goal is to encourage dancers to create and sense movement in response to one another. Beginners, even those that come from other dance backgrounds, are always amazed at how this internal flow of movement works to create a conversation between partners. When done very subtly, it can be difficult to see any flow of movement, yet we are speaking volumes, and responding to one another. It might seem like magic.
The way we think and what we think can either enable us, or hinder us, in our goals to create beautiful dynamic movement.
Explaining what needs to happen to internalize the flow of movement is difficult, however, which is why it is so important to choose our words and imagery carefully. There are many phrases and words that are commonly and casually used when teaching or learning Argentine tango. In our teaching, we have discarded many of them because they are vague or have multiple meanings. It is a careful practice to put these things away, not use them, and find a thorough and meaningful replacement when needed.
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.
We believe, instead, that everyone has to learn the same things, regardless of role.
In the last post I talked about the common expectations and perspectives that new students of tango have or are commonly exposed to, a perspective that focuses on steps and isolating “followers” and “leaders” technique, claiming that they have different learning curves. This approach can often leave students frustrated and does not give them the opportunity in the beginning to feel the beautiful connection and expression that keeps us all coming back to the dance.
The questionable argument is that, in the beginning, leaders have a steeper learning curve than followers.
In the process of my own learning, and now, again as we are helping new beginners to learn tango, I am questioning the way many of us have been taught and the perspectives that new dancers have, or are taught to have, shortly after they begin learning Argentine tango.
To teach well is to question thoroughly
Yesterday, a lovely and inspiring woman, Sasha Cagen, from the San Francisco area wrote us, inquiring about our ways of teaching tango movement after having attended TangoBreath when she visited Asheville this summer. Eric and I were perplexed at first about how to respond. Explaining how to teach is a giant step from actually teaching. There are so many subtle ways in which our teaching, and learning, has evolved in TangoBreath, from a word we might use to a way in which we physically adjust people. And there is so much, still, for us to learn.