Tango Argentino > How Useful is the DVIDA Syllabus?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Br0nze, Mar 29, 2010.

  1. Br0nze

    Br0nze Active Member

    Hey Guys

    I am just wondering how useful the DVIDA DVDs are in regard to learning Argentine Tango....

    I get instruction one on one, but it's only once a week and it's not enough for me. I know DVIDA has a Syllabus put out and has DVDs, but I've always heard the best way to learn AT is to do it through experience, and not watching... although one can learn a lot by watching, too.
  2. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    I have no experience with the DVIDA program personally, so take this with a large grain of salt...

    I would guess that, as a syllabus--which is to say, a logical program of learning a dance--it could probably be OK provided that you have a knowledgeable teacher to help guide you through it and provide instruction regarding the correct technique. There's nothing wrong, IMO, in having a logical progression of how to learn a dance worked out--either independently by a teacher, or in combination with an outside source. After all, no one learns things willy-nilly. Or shouldn't, at any rate.

    The potential problem I see with it, and I see this doubly since you have a background in ballroom, is in transferring too much of your ballroom technique over. This isn't to say that there aren't universal concepts of good dancing which would be applicable to both; I don't know diddly about ballroom, so I can't begin to comment on that. But it is a truly different dance, and in order to really learn and appreciate that it's my opinion that you need a good teacher to help you learn the correct AT technique and separate it from your ballroom technique.


    Others will disagree with me, I'm sure. Like I said, grains of salt.
  3. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Yep, P.

    I think there may be an enlightening thread or two, in the archives,as well. IIRC, one of the former DF mods went through DVIDA certification while he was active on DF. There may already be some useful conversations here.
  4. Br0nze

    Br0nze Active Member

    Thanks for that, pygmalion. I'll take a look for it.

    Thank you, as well, Peaches. All and any comments are appreciated. :cool:
  5. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    You'd probably get a lot of mileage going to a practica, or possibly even a milonga. Milongas would probably be more useful once you get more experience under your belt, but dropping in to watch for a while could be eye-opening in terms of truly seeing how it's done.

    Are you a leader or a follower?
  6. Br0nze

    Br0nze Active Member

    More often than not, I am a leader, but since I am also a dance teacher, I have to know the follower's patterns as well.

    And I've been making plans to go to a Milonga ever since I started learning the dance a few months back. I have yet to find the time or a Milonga... :/
  7. bastet

    bastet Active Member

    Why do you think you need to know followers patterns? Or patterns? Do you intend to teach?

    While I think you should understand what you are asking the follower to do, understand her responses and her movement, I don't think you need to memorize patterns. If you can lead a pivot, a step to the side front or back without using your hands disconnected from your torso movement, you have the foundations for leading basic social movement to a follower.

    My suggestion would be to approach the dance for what it is, and with the mind of a beginner, since you are a beginner to this dance, rather than with the eyes of a dance teacher from another genre.

    I do think there is basic social vocabulary and concept that people should learn in some fashion, whether it gets taught in syllabus format or not, but if you are attempting to learn the dance through patterns, I think you'll get tired of it at some point, because that isn't the point of AT and anyone I've ever known who tried it that way doesn't dance it anymore.

    I would also strongly suggest taking Peaches advice and go to some milongas or practicas. You appear to be on the east coast- I'm sure there's plenty to be had that direction.
  8. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    I think you might be doing yourself a disservice starting out with DVIDA. The purpose of using a pattern in AT is to teach you something about the individual steps so you know you chain them together different ways. My impression of DVIDA is it is pure pattern memorization, without getting into how you take apart and improvise from the steps. Also, according to DB's review of the system, it doesn't go into how to lead the steps. Which makes them pretty useless, unless you're dancing with a follower who also learned from the DVIDA system.

    I'd be worried that you might end up developing bad habits then having to unlearn them later, which is always more painful.
  9. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    Honestly, and with all due respect... The only people I have found to benefit from the DVIDA DVD's are ballroom instructors who diversify and want to teach Argentine Tango to their students.

    I have danced with many people who have "learned" Argentine tango from the DVIDA DVD's/curriculum and it has always been... Challenging. I can feel the followers/leaders struggling to figure out what (pattern) is being led. Sadly this body of work does not teach leading nor following. It teaches steps and patterns.

    If you truly want to learn AT, I would agree with Peaches. Test what you learn in a Practica. That's what its there for.
  10. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

  11. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Yes, I did a critique of it a while back.

    I don't really think my opinions have changed much in the past 6 months, so that's pretty much still how I feel about it.

    Although I do believe structured teaching is an effective way to learning dance, and I don't think a syllabus per se is A Bad Idea, this one doesn't do much for me - as said, it's basically a ripoff of the Ballroom equivalents.

    And, for that matter, I'm not at all convinced that it works in Ballroom, except in the sense that the overall ballroom dancing scene seems to be more about structure and not so much about, you know, dancing.
  12. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Dave, found it interesting reading your review. What you point out about meticulous documentation of the steps with no explanation of how is very much in keeping with the ballroom technique manual tradition. Which is a tradition we may actually have arrived at accidentally when what was basically an examination manual for teachers got repurposed as a stand in for a non-existent instruction manual.

    Essentially, in this tradition of documentation, the text does not tell you what to do, it more observes a set of waypoints that will be passed through by a couple doing the subject chunk of dancing. It is left to the reader/teacher to "read between the lines" and deduce which techniques from the common bag of tricks must be applied to transition the couple from one of the listed waypoints to the next. Good ballroom teachers end up putting more instructional time into this than the kind of bare outline found in the text, but as I'm sure you can imagine there are many others who do not.

    Personally, I ultimately believe that a ballroom syllabus eventually should be treated as a collection of "case studies" in dancing, ie, some ideas that work well for two bodies with details given of a version that works. Hopefully this can then be an inspiration and similar-situation-reference for developing ideas beyond. For that kind of use, your review seems to say about what I'd say about most ballroom syllabi - ie, there are some decent ideas, some things that seem introduced too early, and some things that really aren't all that good of an idea period...
  13. Br0nze

    Br0nze Active Member

    @bastet: I need to know the follower's patterns because the studio I work for wants me to know them so that I can teach them to whomever walks in the door and shows interest in Argentine Tango.

    Please understand the following: I am a Ballroom Dancer first, foremost, and for all intents and purposes, probably final. That being said, dancing to me represents something much bigger, much better and much deeper than what one will be told about when going to a social studio to learn whatever it is one wants to learn. I was hooked upon the idea of dancing as an art, as a form of self expression and connection and communication with another person; that is, as a philosophy in and of itself. I am aware that Argentine Tango is not only a dance; that it very much is a way of life and a philosophy that must be studied in great depth and detail (and this is true for Ballroom Dance as well, but that's another matter). Trying to convince ordinary people of the depth of dance is, and I am sure some here would agree, rather challenging and often useless, since they already have their own ideas and beliefs, and those are difficult to change.

    For the business aspect of the dance world, Argentine Tango is another way for studios to reel in the students. For dancers, it is a beautiful dance that has no syllabus and flows from the soul and the experience of two people coming together. From the business aspect, I need to learn it or be faced with making less money. From the dancer in me, AT seems to be exactly what I've been searching for -- there are no mistakes, anything can be led, and a deep understanding of movement and its principles are required.

    A slight aside; it's a shame that DVIDA has monopolized the syllabus world. And I agree wholeheartedly -- they don't even begin to tell you how something is done, and to me, that is one of the most fundamental and important questions, right along with the 'What' and the 'Why.' ( I shiver watching these DVDs because in reality I am not learning anything I couldn't have figured out on my own.) I am of the opinion that the Syllabi are a there as a reminder for where the feet go, not for how to do something. The books and manuals (and DVDs) should be treated with a grain of salt, and in no way be utilized as a substitute for actual instruction.

    My purpose is to become familiar with the dance first and be prepared for all the possible "patterns" that "can" be led (again, from the business aspect) and to find the best system that will allow me to do this. DVIDA has its hooks in everything else... but since I dislike it, I figured it was best to ask before investing money (I don't have) into it.
  14. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    [Carry On Cleo]"Oh puer, Oh puer, Oh puer".[/Carry On Cleo]

    I could be wrong, but it doesn't seem that you need to learn a syllabus to be commercially-successful as an AT teacher.

    But then, you know your own market best. If they insist on a syllabus, then you have to provide a syllabus.

    If it helps, here's my class notes - they may give you some ideas.

    Well, from a purist point of view, AT doesn't really have any patterns. So that's a problem.

    From a practical point of view, it sounds like the Dinzel System may be appropriate for that type of learning / teaching; apparently they take a "lots of patterns" approach.
  15. Captain Jep

    Captain Jep New Member

    Obviously the best way to learn AT is with a specialist AT teacher. But that's if you want to spend time at tango-only dances.

    From a ballroom perspective AT is "just another dance". One of a dozen or so. It will usually get danced in a studio environment where it's slotted in among all the other dances.

    In this context I would guess that dancers are more comfortable learning a few patterns. In the same way that they learn all their other dances.

    So - I would agree with the OP - give them what they want...
  16. Captain Jep

    Captain Jep New Member

    As an aside, I read recently a chick lit book called The Dance Lesson.

    In it the dance teacher was a ballroom dancer. She had been dancing since she was a young girl, had been to Blackpool, had won all the awards. Her only regret was losing touch with her former dance partner.

    In the book the lady teaches all the ballroom dances. But she doesnt teach Argentine Tango. This to her is her "private dance". The one that she would dance with her former partner for pleasure rather than for money.

    At the end of the book the couple are reunited at a dance hall. They start to dance together. I dont think the book specifies that they are dancing the tango, but I like to think that they did :)
  17. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I would suggest checking out a milonga or a practica first and use that as a baseline for what you are interested on working on - googling suggests that there is a practica or milonga in philadelphia every day except monday.


  18. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Here's a crazy idea.
    A while back someone suggested that DF have a wiki site.
    If we had one, anyone interested would be able to participate in creating a DF syllabus for AT.
    (it would probably create work for mods, too, since the wiki would have guidelines and rules)
    Anyone game before I check in with the adims about a wiki?
  19. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Sounds like a good idea - I've got a lot of experience with Wikis; if someone can do the techie installation bit, I can lend a hand in configuring it, setting it up, structuring it and so on. Depressingly, creating Wiki-based content is a lot of what I do for a living at the moment.
  20. Me

    Me New Member

    As a beginning student, the DVIDA syllabus materials are useless to you. To give DVIDA an "out", understand that these materials are really for instructors, not students. I do not believe an "Anyone Can Dance Argentine" video exists.

    I know that as a beginner, the AT materials from DVIDA would never have helped me. Ever. You have to understand the elements first. You cannot take the syllabus and then learn the dance. But, in the defense of a syllabus, the intent of a syllabus is not to teach non-dancers how to dance.

    I own the DVIDA AT materials. (The videos and the syllabus.) I did this mainly because I wanted to know just exactly what these ballroom studios were doing to the students. The students didn't like AT after taking these classes, and said it was confusing and difficult. I obtained all of the materials from DVIDA. What I did was I watched the videos, looked at the syllabus patterns, and I wrote, as elements, what each pattern was based on, element-wise. When you do that, the syllabus, even though gold, is quite simple. However, the patterns can be a terrible headache. Many of the "steps" are based off of the same walking motions, so it is incredibly easy for a beginner to feel completely lost. If they have no knowledge of the elements, of even how to walk or move the body through the space, AT becomes a guessing game of which pattern to dance next. Since the instructors at the dancesport studio knew nothing about AT at all, all they were doing was showing their students similar patterns to regurgitate on the dance floor. That is the heart of the problem, not necessarily DVIDA.

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