Tango Argentino > Help! Newby lost in tango

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by jeng7400, Jan 9, 2008.

  1. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    Many classes tend to be about "patterns", "patterns" and yet more "patterns" and leader-based. Maybe worth investing in a short programme designed for followers technique only or even better, a class where a couple are teaching in which they tend to separate the class with "men over there and women over here" (but NOT travelling teachers, however, as their focus too tend to be leader-based). Also (as I advised a recent beginning follower at the weekend) ask your teacher for a dance come the milonga and also target a (good) female lead if you happen to spot one. What I do is lead a follower who has been sitting for too long mainly to show her off to the guys that have been ignoring her. That way they get to see her dance and eventually ask her (several cases in point at a milonga last Sunday).
  2. The Bear

    The Bear New Member

    There are some interesting insights into similarities between AT and Salsa in this thread. I thought I might add some of my own; pelase bear in mind though that whilst I'm reasonably accomplished where salsa is concerned, I'm still a newbie in the exciting and dramatic world of AT.

    Both AT and Salsa are "Led" dances. Other than styling and embellishment, everything the follower does should be indicated by the leader.
    However, it seems to me that whilst in salsa we lead a "move" over a musically pre-defined set of 8 (or sometimes 4) beats, in AT every individual step or turn (or pivot) is led individually and the timing for each step could in beat time, or double beat time, or half or quarter beat time, or triplets or whatever the heck the leader decides. For example in salsa we'd lead a cross body turn, perhaps with a prep, then some direction then rotation, but the timing and execution once led is the responsibility of the follower (unless interrupted). Yet even to lead a basic ocho in AT, we lead a pivot, then a step, then a pivot then another step, and at any time the leader could stop the pivot halfway, or change the step to a check or rockstep, and either resume or change into something entirely different, and the timing of the ocho, even if the steps are "orthodox" can change at any time too, slowing to half time or accelerating to double time, or stopping and waiting for a spell...

    Whilst both dances are led, the nature of the lead itself is different too. In salsa, the leading (and following) hands move in relation to the dancers' bodies, yet in Tango, whether in close or open embrace, we lead more through the "frame" and our hands generally move far less.

    Whilst both dances pay homage to the music, in salsa we have a definite rhythm of movement (or stepping) that synchronises consistently in time (123,567), whereas in AT there is no "basic step" and no "basic rhythm" to which we adhere.

    And I only feel I've touched the surface...
  3. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    All excellent suggestions, Heather. But difficult for me to do.
    There are no local classes in which they separate the leaders and followers, nor are there any local ones in follower's technique. The only such classes are the ones given by traveling teachers, and I've already enrolled for an upcoming one. There was another follower's workshop that was scheduled in my area to be given by Mariela Franganillo. I was looking forward to that, but it got cancelled; I'm hoping it will be rescheduled.

    As for my teachers, my one former teacher doesn't do a lot of social dancing. When he does, he does dance with me, but he just doesn't get out very often. My other teacher only attends the more cliquey milongas, the ones that I tend to avoid. I guess I could ask him to dance, but I feel weird about it, because he's one of the teachers who got annoyed with me because I didn't know certain following skills. (I should note that he and his wife don't teach beginner-level classes. I attended their practicas, which I was told was suited for beginners, but found out it was intermediate level.)
  4. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    JID, if it hasn't been said here on D-F before, I'm going to say it here and now.

    Find.a.different.teacher. Take.private.lesssons.

    Even if it's just a couple. Think of how much $$$ you've spent on group classes, and it seems like you haven't been taught some incredibly important fundamentals. That same money, even for just a few privates with a good teacher, will get you so much further.

    You might want to pm jhpark, I belive he's in your neck of the woods.
  5. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Yes, I've already said that I am continuing to look for another teacher who will be more helpful. Once I find that person, then of course, I can consider some privates. I hope you don't mind my discussing some beginner concerns on this forum in the meantime. You guys have been super helpful, and of course I do not consider your advice as a total substitute for a good teacher, but rather as a supplement. Thanks. :)

    p.s.: I don't know what the issue is with learning good tango in my area. For other dances such as West Coast Swing, salsa, hustle and ballroom, I have found some absolutely excellent local teachers and have had no trouble learning to dance properly.
  6. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Nah, ask away!

    I didn't mean it to be discouraging. I hadn't realized that you were still looking for someone different. I saw "former" and thought you'd already switched, and were reluctant to switch again...and was concerned b/c there still seems to be things missing.
  7. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Just so you know, I have already tried four different teachers at three different studios. That all happened prior to my asking the questions on this thread. I am certainly not reluctant to keep looking for teacher number five. At least I'm persistent. :)
  8. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Oy! Good grief. Well, kudos for keeping up the search, that's for sure! Major credit for persistence.
  9. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    My advice. Don't underchallenge yourself. Do the intermediate level classes. You will cock-up at times - but therein lies the teaching, the learning etc. and any teacher (esp. teacher) or student that critises then, therein lies their insecurity masked by their inflated egos. As Peaches (I think) said, invest in a few privates. Also, if you can afford (a once in a while treat as it can be expensive) whenever you do any classes by travelling teachers, after the class ask the female if she could work with you in a one-off private session on technique. And of course, you get to follow with somebody who knows what they're talking about/doing (even better if the man is present too). But I can't stress enough the importance of practice-practice-practice on one's own time. Even if it's just ochos (back, forward, slow, v. slow, fast etc) up against the sink. And visualisation. I did a lot of that when I first started out. The whole picture would unfold then I'd jump out of bed and test it out. Wishing you well on your journey
  10. Heather2007

    Heather2007 New Member

    My advice. Don't underchallenge yourself. Do the intermediate level classes. You will cock-up at times - but therein lies the teaching, the learning etc. and any teacher (esp. teacher) or student that critises then, therein lies their insecurity masked by their inflated egos. As Peaches (I think) said, invest in a few privates. Also, if you can afford (a once in a while treat as it can be expensive) whenever you do any classes by travelling teachers, after the class ask the female if she could work with you in a one-off private session on technique. And of course, you get to follow with somebody who knows what they're talking about/doing (even better if the man is present too). But I can't stress enough the importance of practice-practice-practice on one's own time. Even if it's just ochos (back, forward, slow, v. slow, fast etc) up against the sink. And visualisation. I did a lot of that when I first started out. The whole picture would unfold then I'd jump out of bed and test it out. Wishing you well on your journey
  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Argentine Tango is the most difficult partner dance that I have learned. If there's one that's more difficult, I'd like someone to tell me what it is.
    I think most dances are learned, and taught, as "here are the steps and here are the patterns. The man does this, and the woman does that."
    AT has a goal of being improvisational, rather than pattern based.
    Also, the other dances you mention have been around for decades here in the States. AT didn't really come to anyones attention in its current forms until the 80s.
    It's "easy" to learn to do things together when dancing AT style steps and patterns. The man does this. The woman does that. And the woman follows because she has learned the same stuff as the man.
    But this kind of learning gets you only so far.
    And, as I've written before, teachers can't teach what they don't know.
    On top of this you have the fact that there are (maybe) equally valid ways of approaching what we call Argentine Tango, which encompasses a number of different styles. From what I read, and what I hear from people who have been there, even in Buenos Aires there is no monolithic, this is the one true way it way is done approach or philosophy.
    Most people, too, I have come to believe, will say they want to learn and get really good at AT, but what they really want is to dance well enough to be part of the community. And that's a much lower standard.
    Mix in the fact that, in order to stay in business, teachers have to teach what people are willing to pay for, and you get the situation you are in.

    I think that because of your background in dance, you are probably more aware of your teacher's shortcomings. Knowledge, like so many other things, can be a mixed blessing.

    I'm trying to find the "things followers can practice on their own" stuff we've done before, because that might help. And in the meantime, maybe it would help to know that even with some people who I think highly of as AT teachers, it was a long (well, lessons for an entire year before I started really feeling comfortable leading is long, don't you think? And that after 10 years of doing other dances...) time before the frustration of not being able to really get it went away. (Only to be replaced by the frustration of women telling me I wasn't doing something right, wasn't leading, was leading something I wasn't, ...etc etc)

    When you love the dance...
  12. jhpark

    jhpark Member

    You may have already tried them out, but they have a list of classes that appears suitable... Check them out if you haven't already


    There's even 'tango fundamentals' and 'followers technique' classes. don't know if they're suitable for beginners (though i suspect you've been at this long enough to not be considered a total beginner, at least), but i'd try them out

    also, the tango lessons (wednesday nights) at the atrium in pennsauken, nj include technique drills for both leaders and followers, stuff you could also practice on your own. but that's a bit of a hike for you

    the studio's web site seems to be broken right now, but it's http://www.atriumdance.com . look for the argentine tango pages. ps, the studio teaches a bunch of dances, including lots of ballroom, but the tango teacher is an actual tango teacher, not involved with the other dances. ie, no worries about packages or any of that stuff.
  13. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Thanks jhpark, I appreciate your help.

    I have seen those sites before. Basically I have not attended those particular classes because (as you noticed) the locations (Center City Phila. & South Jersey) are very far from my job and my home, which are in the north and west PA suburbs. For a weekday class, I would be sitting in heavy rush hour traffic for an hour and a half to get there - and I don't get out of work early enough to allow that much time anyway. Weekend classes in those locations would still be more than an hour trip. I don't mind traveling to a certain degree, but gas is expensive. I have one more nearby teacher that I plan to try. If that doesn't work out, then I will definitely consider your suggestions. :)
  14. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I think it's kind funny that you say this. I've always thought AT was the easiest, most intuitive dance I've "learned." ("Learned" being an EXTREMELY relative term, here.) I think WCS is much, much, much...unbelievably much...more difficult. For me, at least, I put WCS in the "damn near impossible" category. So it's kind of funny to me, because don't you also dance a lot of WCS, Steve?

    Of course, a good portion of this could be the difference in perspective as a follower v. a leader.
  15. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Hmmm...I do both AT & WCS. I'm better at WCS and think it's way easier than AT. I find neither dance intuitive at all, however. I don't see anything intuitive about doing an AT ocho or a WCS sugar push. They are learned movements that do not occur naturally. I wonder what you find difficult about WCS compared to AT, Peaches? IMO AT requires far more advanced lead/follow skills and better technical dancing i.e. balance, precision and line. As I have mentioned before, my ballet background has been helpful so that is one good indication to me that AT is not easy to learn.

    From a follower's perspective, there is very little similarity between the two dances. My WCS proficiency has not helped me learn tango at all.

    For leaders, however, there is definitely an overlap where if you know the concepts of one, it will help you with the other. A friend of mine (excellent AT leader) is learning WCS and he picked up one of the hardest beginner moves (the whip) immediately because of understanding how to make use of the follower's weight changes and momentum. He said it was very similar to a tango move. I don't know which one. Most WCS newbie leaders (without AT background) have to spend weeks or months perfecting the whip.
  16. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Jenny is on to something there. Learning about axis, momentum, etc in AT made me rethink how I approach WCS, and most all of my other partner dances. It's all about feeling how and where your partner is and where she is going, rather than simply learning a pattern.

    I think I was a lot less serious about my dancing when I was learning WCS. Most of my early lessons were in a lounge at a truck stop (Mr Bs in Troutdale, OR). How serious a dancer are you when you are going to a truck stop to dance? Nevertheless, the teachers there taught a series of classes over two months.
    Later on I took a series of classes through the community education department here in Vancouver (several times).

    Getting involved with someone (as friends) who had been a professional dancer probably helped me realize that I could be a lot better at this if I really worked at it. There's nothing like being in front of a crowd of people in a performance situation, and realizing afterwards that you could have done better if you had just worked a bit harder....

    So, by the time I decided that AT would be my next challenge (after jazz dance, hip hop, and salsa - no claims at proficiency for any of those, but I did take numerous classes) my standard was set quite high.
    I was going to learn how to do this thing, and I was going to learn to do it to the best of my ability. (I know that I had been blown away by the dancing in "The Tango Lesson" when it had first come out. And my former pro dance partner was, too, when we coped a few things for a performance - Pablo Veron, Fabian Salas, Gustavo Naveira)

    When I learned WCS no one really talked much about the technical things that would make it possible to lead things when you had no idea where you were going to end up. In other words, to improvise. And, I could use my arms and hands just like I had in two step, waltz, etc. Now I was being told, "Don't lead with your arms. Lead with your body". It was d*mn hard. Step here, and turn your body there. Know where your partner's feet are so you don't step on them. And be in time with the music, too.
    And with all of those other dances you can just fall back on a basic step while you plan your next move. No basic in AT.

    One big down side to learning about the technical stuff is that I can tell pretty readily what some people could to to radically improve their dancing. And what is almost hysterical about it is that Arthur Murray wrote about the same basics in the 1940s and 50s. But, almost always, we can't go there, except at my own peril.

    I am really glad that I was as serious about learning as I was. When I get with someone who is on the same page as I am, we just go. And it's a HECK of a lot of fun. It's just that there are downsides, too.
  17. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    Very, very true. I was fortunate enough to have a truly excellent WCS teacher whose approach was, I guess you could say, very tango-like. He spent a great deal of time in class on that concept of the leader knowing where his partner's weight is, etc. So when my tango leader friend said he wanted to learn WCS, I was easily able to point out the similarities in the concept and he was able to learn basic WCS moves really quickly.

    Like I said, though, although the leading side of the two dances share similarities, the following doesn't really. I wasn't able to transfer my following skills from WCS to tango very much; I'm not sure why.
  18. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    "Girls learn the tango by dancing it, but we guys have to take classes to learn it, there is no other way." Heard from Tete Rusconi after a workshop.

    "In the old days in Bs-As guys would train between themselves for seven years before they're ready for the milonga. And girls would go and see a neighbour or an aunt for one afternoon to be shown the dance and then they're ready for the milonga." Heard from a local teacher after a workshop.

    Same planet, different worlds.
  19. jennyisdancing

    jennyisdancing Active Member

    And those attitudes are exactly what has caused problems for me as a follower trying to learn tango. It is completely wrong of teachers to think that the dance is really that easy for followers and doesn't require lessons. Just plain not true. Clearly, if it were that easy, I wouldn't be getting so frustrated with my lessons and milonga experiences, and spending so much time on this board asking questions.

    Can you pick up some things by "just following?" Sure, that's true for any partner dance. But when I watch others dance at a milonga, it is extremely obvious to me which followers have taken a lot of lessons with good teachers, and which ones just learned by following. Look at any of the top tango ladies in the world; to my knowledge they all have extensive dance training.

    The trained followers dance with strength and confidence, they have better balance, their steps are clean and precise, they have beautiful body lines and foot positions, and they are capable of good improvisation, musicality and nice embellishments. The leaders look the most happy dancing with them. The untrained followers are able to have a successful dance as far as being able to keep up with their leader, but even the good ones have a little bit of a clumsy, sloppy look to their movements.

    Yes, the learning curve is much slower for leaders. No doubt about that. But it steams me to hear the "followers don't need lessons" attitude from the people mentioned above. :mad:
  20. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Answer: All of them to some degree. Read on to discover what I mean.

    And, herein is the problem! And the explanation to the above. All dances should be approached as improvisational. When learning all dances, we should be focused on the movement that makes the dance what it is rather than the prescribed steps/patterns - he does/she does approaches.

    I can't say that it is entirely the fault of the teacher/s. If a teacher only knows 'steps/patterns - he does/she does', then that is what he/she teaches. However, if the student knows that there is more to dance than this (as we all accept in AT, but are willing to 'forget' when referring to other dances), then it is up to the student to demand to be taught in this way. If the teacher is inadequate (doesn't know how, or knows how but can not teach it), then the student's continued direction is predetermined.

    Peaches is correct in her post...AT is one of the easiest and most natural dances on the planet...if for no other reason than it is taught as natural movements without the complication of mandatory, prelearned steps/patterns, flowing rise/lower (like BR), and other sorts of BR techniques.
    The complexity...difficulty of AT is in the infinity of options that this natural approach provides, and the ability to initiate/respond, interpret/embellish accordingly. All which is very, very difficult, and IMO what Steve and others are really referring to.

    AT's beginning popularity was not that it was so incredibly difficult, but that it was based soley on natural walking...something that everyone could eventually achieve. Let's face it, an entire nation of Argentines do it everyday.

    Everything that requires that one be on one's center; walks, balances, ochos, voleos (social not fantasia), etc.

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