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

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

  1. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    There are lots of ways that you could approach a syllabus, and that might be a good one. My overriding requirement would be that any content (other than a few issues of straight fact) would be illustrative, rather than prescriptive.

    And I hadn't seen that Python clip for ages, so thanks for that.
  2. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Could I ask, what exactly do we think a syllabus is? What is it supposed to do?

    When I was a folk dancer a syllabus was the instructions for how to do a certain dance.
  3. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    A syllabus could be all sorts of things, but the traditional model adopted by the teaching societies is that a syllabus identifies a body of knowledge/skills at, usually, several differentiated levels, which are capable of being tested or examined to determine a certain level of competence or skill in dancing.

    The IDTA AT Teachers Diploma syllabus is set out on page 12 of 'the book', and it covers:
    • the requirement to demonstrate AT, with a partner, to a professional standard (with the majority of the figures being used taken from the syllabus figures), to dance solo an amalgamation of three of those figures as leader or follower, chosen by the examiner,
    • theoretical knowledge of the construction of the syllabus figures (accompanied by the solo demonstration of those figures) together with compulsory questions regarding the walking step and preparing to move, and
    • the ability of the candidate to teach.
    The syllabus sets out the scope of the test/exam, but not the substantive content of the knowledge required - for that we have the 'technique' associated with each dance style. The IDTA's AT Technique is also to be found within the covers of the same slim volume, but is really separate from the syllabus. It has several pages defining terms and general principles, followed by summary descriptions of the manner of execution of groups of figures in a tabular format (usually known as charts) which describe timing, foot track, footwork, type of action, body turn and the count. Each chart is accompanied by notes, particularly relating to what may precede and what may follow the figure in question.

    The figures are grouped into three levels: Bronze, Silver & Gold, to match the amateur medal tests available to students in this style. The Teacher's Diploma syllabus specifies all of the Bronze figures, together with three of the Silver ones.

    The whole 'feel' and style of the Technique matches the equivalent publications for the Ballroom & Latin American branches. This is almost certainly for the sake of the examination format (the examiners are not tango specialists), and doesn't really suit the unstructured form of the dance we know. But that's how it is.

    So this doesn't really answer your question, but just describes the IDTA offering, but I might restate the question in a slightly different way:
    • Given an acceptance of the principle that a syllabus and associated technique could be of value, what should the syllabus contain (and should that be different, depending upon whether you are training a teacher or a student of the dance style)?
    • What form should the associated technique take. Are charts/tables useful, and if not, what else might convey the necessary information, and what general definintions and background material is required, and to what extent should the attempt be made to incorporate something of the variety of current styles of tango dancing in an even-handed way?
    Could a group of tango dancers/teachers get together and form their own 'society' to undertake the work (and perhaps perform other useful functions too), or would it just be easier to master the herding of cats? At the very least, it would presuppose that some sort, any sort of concensus could emerge ...
  4. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Well, there's the rub. As you've seen, we can only find consensus on the most general level.

    What some of us have been saying is that lack of consensual definition IS an important characteristic of AT.
  5. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    That doesn't mean that the attempt shouldn't be made, or that the results would be without value, though.
  6. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    It just seems to me like striking a match to see the dark better.
  7. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    I think one of the problems with defining the core concepts of tango is that there aren't just differences in technique and style, there are massive differences in approach to lead and follow. Some teachers are of the school that each movement is a collaboration. Some say that every step is a consequence of a natural action. Some say that each movement is a matter of the leader removing all possibilities except the one he wants. And some people use all of these ideas, or some of them, or mix and match. These are different ways of presenting improvisation. And I'm sure there are others as well. So which philosophy do you write your syllabus with? Or do you try to remove the philosophy part completely... in which case we're back to a list of moves.
  8. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I would think to be complete, it would need to address each of the common philosophies. Of course to do that, we'd need to name things. The problem with that is, the "it's all tango" camp gets upset if you name things (or complain because they don't like the name that was used).
  9. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    It's true, the very act of naming things can be upsetting. ;)

    Ok. So here's a very crazy idea.

    Tango Milonguero

    Tango Salon (Dynamic, VU, etc)

    Tango Nuevo

    Each level is a completely different way of looking at the dance, and this gives the people who stop at Bronze a solid social dancing background. Yes, I know that no one can even agree on these terms, but there are dancers who label themselves as such, so at least there are examples.
  10. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member


    Start all over again. You left out Stage Tango.

  11. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    Hehe! Darn, knew I forgot something. Oh wait, stage tango is Silver and up, because once you leave close embrace you lose the ability to dance socially. ;)

    But seriously... with this method, Fantasia is taught as choreography, in Open, or for student Showcases. As it should be.
  12. ant

    ant Member

    Before the question of AT content is considered I feel a more fundamental question is what the syllabus is going to be used for.

    If it is designed as a checklist to ensure levels of knowledge/skills are reached at various checkpoints then the dance itself will be at its core and subject to some fundamental agreements, mainly around the embrace and the music, it would not be to difficult to implement as the dance itself will be at its core.

    If it is to be used as a basis to examine students at the various checkpoints then you will end up in exactly the same position we are now in.

    Unless of course it is the teachers/studios being reviewed at each checkpoint for competence.
  13. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Maybe those levels should be: Rock, Paper, Scissors.
  14. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    But competent at what, and judged by whom?
  15. ant

    ant Member

    Competent at teaching AT by those competent to do so.
  16. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    How are we measuring competence, here, and who is doing the measuring?
  17. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    The Tango Elephant Strikes Again!
  18. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member


    I always assumed a "syllabus" = "a list / description of the topics to be studied in a course of learning". That's the standard dictionary definition of the term... Possibly this is where the confusion arises.

    If dance teaching societies are defining the term in the way you outline, that might explain why some people are hostile to that concept - frankly, I don't see the word that way.

    My definition of a syllabus is more like "having a decent structured plan for teaching", rather than "setting a set of standards to test against".

    The examiners are not tango specialists? :confused:

    I am actually shocked. It's a novel sensation for me.

    It depends on the motivation, the benefits, and the teachers. Let's face it, the only reason for any non-BR person to do the IDTA exam in AT is because some organisations (e.g. schools) require IDTA certification; it's a hoop to jump through.
  19. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    then you have to look at the various Tango sects: the hippy mango touchy feely chakra karmic zen school;
    the taliban fundamentalist its-not-tango-if-its; not golden age music; you must never smile; the embrace opens more than 7.5mm; and have added at least 12 new codigos that the Argentines never thought of.
    the dabbalistic school of my first dance is jive/salsa/ballroom and I'd really enjoy tango if it wasnt for the people and the atmosphere or the lack of it.
    the nuevos who will only dance tango if its cool,
    I dare say there are other sects too....
  20. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    Well the teaching societies are trade associations (who want to be recognised as professional bodies, as well) and their real business (they are commercial too, in all but name) is to act as examination boards. The ISTD makes that claim as the very first thing it says about itself on its Home Page:
    It's inevitable, therefore, that their whole approach is based on assessment. And the more levels available, the greater the opportunities for assessment. Vals Gold Medal, anyone?

    I sort-of agree. Every teacher should bring structure to what they teach, and to have planned is very valuable. You could invert the definition and say that what is then delivered to the students is the syllabus of that teacher for that course of instruction, but arguably a syllabus for the dance genre is a rather wider thing, but one which must inform the teacher's own planning method, whatever form that may take.

    No, they're not. Individually, they might be, but in that role they would be self-appointed. They are, however, very experienced teachers themselves, and hold the highest levels of membership of their respective societies (holding multiple Fellowship qualifications in several branches) and they have trained for and are experienced in the methodology of their society's examination system.

    The only AT teaching qualification on offer with the IDTA is the Diploma, whereas the 'mainstream' branches: Ballroom, Latin, Freestyle etc., have several levels: Associate, Licentiate & Fellowship - all of which may be considered to be higher level qualifications than any of the 'one-dance' Diplomas (AT, Salsa, Rock & Roll etc.). In the eyes of my Society, I am as well-qualified to teach AT as it is possible to be.

    IDTA Examiners who wish to include the AT Diploma in their portfolio have to attend a short course (I think it is just a single day, but I'm not 100% sure). Again, I'm unsure of the scope of that course, but I would anticipate that it a familiarisation exercise with the scope and content of the syllabus.

    My examiner came from a dance school where AT is taught, but as Mr Spock would have said "Not tango as we know it, Jim", and I'm sure you will know the sort of thing I mean. It's easy to knock that sort of dancing, but it suits lots of people who just want to dabble a bit, and perhaps be able to get up at a mixed social dance and 'have a go' when the 2-3 tango songs are played over the course of the evening. They have to be able to remember their routine, of course, and you and I would not actually recognise that they were dancing tango at all, but let's face it, you won't be there, and they've paid their money (which is as good as yours and mine) and they are having a good time.

    My examiner had never examined the Diploma before - but everyone has to do everything for the first time, sometime. I wasn't immediately struck by the examiner's obvious depth of knowledge, but then I also felt that the exam had been a fair test of my own competence, given the scope of the syllabus, and the method by which the Diploma was examined. It wasn't my view that the syllabus itself was a fair test, but that's another issue.

    Well I can't think why anyone would seek the IDTA qualification unless they were already IDTA members, or wanted to gain membership for the sort of reason you outline. But that is not to make a case against there being a separate membership-based organisation that had promoting tango as its sole purpose, despite all of the obvious difficulties and challenges that might ensue.

    A trade association type organisation might serve some useful purpose to its members, but I think that an organisation should equally be outward looking, and exist to promote the dance and encourage people to take an interest in it, and to build the tango dance community.

    Not very likely, I know, but it's a nice idea...

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