Tango Argentino > Adventures with an IDTA syllabus... :)

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Dave Bailey, Jun 6, 2011.

  1. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    No, no, no! The dancing-by-numbers method of teaching tango using this syllabus calls for introducing the forward ocho first. So you take your existing 8CB, but stop at position 5: the cruzada. Now you can introduce the lead for the followers forward movement into her first step & pivot. Note that there is a hint in the charts (in the body turn column) of what might be required - but strangely the chart assumes that the cross, itself, happened automatically.

    Now, the syllabus, itself, sequences its own material wrongly. If we are building competence, we skip figure three (Back Eights) and move straight to figure four: Cross Basics. Odd name: there's only one of them, and of course, all it is is the 8CB with the leader moving to the side with the necessary weight change to come forward in cross system to lead the follower's cross. Once the leader can switch system reliably, go back to the Back Eights, and discover that steps 1-3 are common with the Cross Basic(s), and having adapted the follower's existing knowledge about the ocho action forward, she can dance it backward. The figure concludes with the remainder of the Cross Basic(s) (from step 4), exactly as previously learned, so this is the better way to sequence your teaching.

    But don't use Very Close Embrace, yet. The follower won't be able to execute the pivots 'properly', and will need to explore an alternate method of movement. Leave that for the 'next level'.

    Obviously, I'm not trying to tell DB how to run his class, but just making a general point about using such materials.

    You can make effective use of some of the content of this syllabus. In particular, you take note of the suggestion with the 8CB that omitting the leader's back step on step 1 is acceptable, and then omit it, using instead one of the alternatives.

    By-and-large, the figures chosen (certainly for that all-important Bronze Medal) are exactly the ones that you would expect to see. There are some dreadful errors in the charts, but a new edition could sort that out. If the syllabus-based teaching approach is ineffective, then the fault probably lies with the way in which the teacher takes the materials and uses them. If a typical Ballroom Teacher (I'm an atypical Ballroom Teacher ;)) took the syllabus off the shelf, and decided to launch a class based on its content, then I think the results would probably be laughable. But then the same could be said for crossing over to many Latin club dances, or even, Rock & Roll.

    Those of us who have put in the work to acquire teaching qualifications in dance (any style) come to understand that the experience and knowledge required is considerably wider than the narrow requirements of a printed syllabus. It may be possible to pass the exam with rather less, but not to gain high marks (the examiners are not fools, and can't be fooled), and a pass will not, really, set you up to take your training any further (and most of us continue our studies to attain higher degrees of membership in our respective societies). This syllabus is likely to get a pretty comprehensive overhaul within a year or two, and meanwhile, there are others. I do hope that the Society involves (or at least consults) the holders of its AT Diploma, when considering changes to the syllabus (and more particularly to its substantive content), as they could reasonably be assumed to have more than a passing interest in the dance.

    I don't expect many here to agree with me, but I think it would be a good thing if one of the major teaching societies became a credible source of expertise in such a popular dance style. Apart from anything else, it could do much to spread the popularity of the style. In the Golden age in BsAs, dancing tango was not the preserve of a relatively few people, coming largely from a very narrow cross-section of society, and behaving like a cell-based secret society. It has long-since ceased to be the dance of BsAs, and is a dance with international reach. I don't care if you want to dress up and behave like the members of an historical re-enactment society, speaking Spanglish (badly), and only playing music transcribed from '78s. I wouldn't want to stop you, but I don't want to join you. That's not tango: tango is for everyone.
  2. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    You mean "Forward Eights", yes? ;)

    Meh, I'm not really taking this too seriously (what gave it away?), but if I were, I'd say that a back ocho is more conducive to a pattern-based class than a forward ocho. Because of the way that the axes work, it's far better for the leader to take sidesteps whilst leading back ochos - which means a change from parallel to cross system, which lends itself to a sequence fairly well. (I'm not saying they should be taught like that, just that, of the two, back ochos make a bit more sense as patterns)

    To be fair, lots of dancers assume that anyway :rolleyes:

    Yeah, but all that presupposes I'm taking this seriously. :p

    I just want to play around with a few of the patterns for a few weeks. To be fair, the class I'm teaching this stuff in is a "taster" class for Ceroc, so they're used to patterns and routines.

    That's actually reasonable advice anyway - I'm only just working on the pivots in close embrace with my main class (the one I do take seriously :) ), and we spent a good hour last week just working on those.

    Hey, feel free. Like all of us, I'm simply making this stuff up as I go along - I'm very open to suggestions, and if I were doing this IDTA thing properly, that approach makes some sense.

    Actually, I'd hope that the Society would consult a little more widely, if only because the opinions of respected AT teachers would give the whole thing much more credibility. Get Jenny and Ricardo to sign-off on the syllabus, for example, and you'd get dancers flooding in.

    I agree with you :)
  3. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    for cerocers you could try this: translate 'first move' to a tango lead; ie leading the lady to do the steps she would normally, with a rock step turn to the man's right..which can be repeated ad infitum and varied with a rock step turn to the man's left. so you can tango in the slot so to speak.....

    other useful patterns are the Swedish six step; the 8CB without the back step and the last weight change in the salida..

    the six step box ( but has *shock horror* two back steps)
    side L
    forward outside
    forward return in
    side R
    back lead lady outside R
    back lead lady back in line.
  4. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    No, I mean "Front Eights"!

    Well neither am I, really, but I'm looking at this from the viewpoint of sequencing the introduction of these concepts to build competence, and taking the syllabus materials alone, the Cross Basic is the first introduction to cross system, which is a prerequisite for Back Eights (or ochos atras, if you prefer).

    Sort-of semi-seriously, the syllabus would be greatly improved if each key action was approached, not just in the setting of a 'figure' but also by walking in, and out again. The 8CB makes much more sense, as a teaching tool (if you're prepared to accept that it ever could) if your students can already walk into the cross, for example.

    As for wider consultation, it won't happen, at least not openly. The Society would never want to be seen to need any outside input - it might inadvertently find that it had been taking advice from members of other societies - and that would never do. ;)
  5. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    If tango teachers could agree on something syllabus-like (eg a syllabus), then it wouldn't be necessary to make it up. There would be a clear path to build a beginner's competence, and agreement about the minimal 'set' of skills required. After that, it would be a matter for each teacher to overlay their own personal styles of teaching, and to choose actions/figures/concepts (never mind the label) to suit their own preferences. The better ones would be much more interested in equipping their students to develop their own preferences and style, than to produce clones of themselves ("No, that's not tango, look at me, dance like me - that's tango"), and they would be good teachers.

    I doubt it will happen.

    I doubt it. Anyone who has heard of them, is 'in' already. I'm interested in everyone else.
  6. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    me too; I think weight sharing is a key part of teaching people to dance together, whether or not they eventually dance like that or not

    so much emphasis is put on maintaing one's own axis and balance that one or two good dancers that I know have become worse as followers!
  7. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    To quote Tom Cruise: "Relax. It's much worse than you think" :eek:

    Yeah, but from memory, the change of weight is not integral to that sequence - it's done at the wrong place (i.e. the man does it on the side step, step 3, right?). There's nothing clever about that; in fact, it's quite artificial.

    Now, interestingly, it could be a good way to get into it, if you used the cross step itself as the weight-change point. That is, if the man did not change weight when the woman crossed her feet - the man can then take a sidestep to the right without changing his own weight, leading the woman into a forward ocho. Actually, I might even try that one at some point.

    I prefer "back ochos", mainly as I can never remember which Spanish word is "forwards" and which is "backwards"...

    Absolutely. I try never to teach any step without incorporating it into a walk.

    A/ That is truly pathetic, the dance has 100+ years of expertise available, and not making use of that expertise through politics condemns the IDTA to a total lack of respect in the wider social dance scene.
    B/ Presumably they had to take outside advice initially from this Stefanos and Valentina couple?
  8. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    :applause: I dont mean to be sarcastic ( but I can't help it;))
    1. you can lead her into a forward ocho irrespective of whether you are on one foot or the other or both.
    2. The cross can be used as an entry or exit point for the cross system

    (3. or back eights/ back ochos)
  9. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Oddly enough, "they've" done it in Salsa .And the congresses do bring in "outsiders".. but.. for Syl.work ?.. not as a general rule .
  10. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Story of my life :)

    Yeah - it'd be better with a back ocho, which as I said I like more for sequences. But a back ocho doesn't feel right led from a cross.

    Well yes - but apparently it's not used that way in the syllabus.
  11. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member


    If one of the major societies could become a credible source, and spread things further, that would be awesome. Emphasis, however, on credible (as you pointed out). And on that score...I'll believe it when I see it. Or, ideally, when I dance with their students and they don't feel like BR students imitating AT without understanding the mechanics. If they can do that, I'll pay attention. Otherwise, I think AT would be much better off without them. Period. (IMO, YMMV.)

    But absolutely, completely, 1 million percent agree wrt tango being for everyone...a dance, not a reenactment. (Good call on that, btw.)
  12. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    There was an architectural teacher and authour called K.W.Smithies, who described the design process as converging spirals; there were five or six elements each with its own segment in the spiral, and this serves as a possiblity for a syllabus and the segments of our spiral could be; walking, technique, figures, musicality, improvisation and the embrace.
    I know I'm beginning to sound like Humphrey Littleton introducing One Song to The Tune Of Another, but basically one is aiming to move toward the centre of the spiral by a process of refinement on all fronts at the same time

    and talking of re-enactments here is the Batley Women's Guild on Pearl Harbour
  13. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    perhaps they dont know; Someone should tell them...
  14. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    Perhaps since this syllabus is originated from a ballroom society, the use of those terms is meant to indicate something to people who are trained in ballroom, where an "open" hold is one or less contact point (usually man's left hand, lady's right).

    "Very close" would be the equivalent of the standard ballroom closed position, i.e. man holding lady's left hand, right hand on her back, body contact. "Close" would be the same, sans body contact. This is roughly equivalent to a latin ballroom closed hold, but since there is no context (ballroom vs. latin) to tell a person which of the two closed holds are intended, they've differentiated them via syntax.
  15. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Yes, those are probably good explanations for why the terms are wrong.

    But the terms are still wrong. And if you can't even define the embrace correctly...
  16. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    Shrug. To-may-to, to-mah-to, po-tay-to, po-tah-to, let's call the whole thing off.
  17. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    The point is, the embrace is pretty much the entire base of the dance. It defines the dance in a very real sense.

    Stefano of Tango in Action came out with a great phrase at a workshop I attended a couple of weeks ago - something like: "You use the embrace to dance Tango with the woman"

    If you start off with wrong definitions, you can't teach anything vaguely resembling Argentine Tango.
  18. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    either you are wrong or its such a sweeping sweeping statement that it could apply equally to many other dances

    "You use the embrace to dance waltz/foxtrot/etc with the woman"
    Rachel Greenberg said recently The embrace can be closed or open or any place in between.

    if it was just the embrace that defined the dance it would be easy..but it isnt; its about improvisation as a couple.....and given the variety of variations of the embrace and how flexible it should be or not.....how do you say anything meaningful about it in a syllabus?

    when i first started I learned tango in open and milonga in close embrace. and there were two groups of uk tango dancers (another sweeping generalistion) the 8CB close embrace dancers based in london who couldnt follow and lead, just did sequences. I know because I went to london and couldnt understand why they were constantly going into a cross and the others who were learning to lead and follow and improvise, in open embrace.

    I get infuriated with this "on your own axis" teaching because I think its teaching people how not to connect ( sorry I'm going off on one here, because I dont think you adhere to what you are saying.)
  19. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Well I'm not really able to speak for the Society, but on a) you would have to realise that the teaching societies (all of them) are also trade associations, aiming to advance (and protect) the commercial interests of their members. Going to the opposition is not really on, and they quite possibly haven't actually noticed that there is anyone else ...

    and on b), no, Stefanos & Valentina are IDTA members of long-standing. He is principal of the "Quick Step Dance School" in Athens, and according to the IDTA Dance Centres & Studios database (online) the styles offered are Tap, Modern Jazz, Gymnastic Dance, Ballroom, Latin, Freestyle, Rock'n'Roll, Cheerleading, Salsa, Argentine Tango (and in that order - which probably has no significance.) According to their website, they do Zumba too ...
  20. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Of course the original salsa syllabus got rather a mixed reception, and has been heavily modified. On its own terms (and its scope is very limited, I think) it is now OK. We (those of us in the Society) must hope for similar consideration being given to the AT syllabus, and will just have to be patient.

    The attempt was well meant, but not very successful.

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