Tango Argentino > Teachers who have been to Buenos Aires

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Lois Donnay, Sep 15, 2015.

  1. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I'm with Lilly on this one... Even if going to BA requires a shift of style or method, it shouldn't ruin the teacher's dancing any more than learning Mambo would ruin someone's Salsa. Make you think about it a little harder because of the similarities vs the differences, yes. But RUIN the first dance? No.

    The only benefit-of-the-doubt I can offer is if the person meant dancing in BA would "ruin" them for their local scene... as in.. "it's going to be so good there, it will ruin me for coming back to my limited local scene and dancing with the chuckleheads here".

    Not that a teacher should have that attitude about their local scene either, but it's the only connotation of being "ruined" by BA that makes ANY sense to me!
  2. Lois Donnay

    Lois Donnay Member

    Certanily being from BA does not make you a great tango teacher, or a great tango dancer. But if you don't go, I am afraid your dance will be a bit of a hollow pantomime of the dance. That's not necessarily bad, if you are talented enough, but understanding the history and culture is, I feel. essential to teach the dance effectively. I feel that tango is not just a dance, but a conversation about the music, a way to be with another person, a profound connection. Many can mimic the moves and style, and put on a great performance, but to go deeper, you need to spend some time in the birthplace, being open to not just dancing there, but understanding why tango is what tango is. If you pick your teachers because they look good on the floor, you are (in my humble opinion) missing the point of tango.
  3. Lois Donnay

    Lois Donnay Member

    I actually recommend picking teachers from your own culture, but who also understand the Argentine, and tango, culture. A person from your own culture knows how you learn, and can explain things to you in a way that you understand. Argentines learn differently, so it can take years to be able to learn from them. Of course, some have spent time understanding our culture, and the way we learn, so are extremely effective. But if you go to BA to learn tango, you may find the way they conduct classes is difficult. The best learning in Buenos Aires is in the Buenos Aires milongas. Dancing there, being there, is a form of immersion that is profoundly beneficial.
    Mladenac likes this.
  4. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Believe it or not, this is not so true for me. Most Argentine teachers (at least the ones I've encountered), use much less ambiguous terminology / instructions than many American teachers I've encountered. I appreciate detailed, specific instructions on what the teacher wants me to do. Then it's simply a matter of whether I can do it or not (and if not, then I can ask some intelligent questions about where I'm going wrong).

    One of the worst privates I ever had (years back) was from an truly outstanding (American) dancer, who kept talking about my movement not being "natural". I finally had to tell him that I really didn't understand (or care) about his definition of "natural", and just asked if he could simply tell me what he wanted me to do with my body etc. to execute the steps & lead correctly.
    Mladenac likes this.
  5. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    OK, I understand your basic premise although I might
    not agree with all of it. For instance understanding the history
    and culture really isn't any that necessary, in fact it may be
    more helpful to understand the differences between the dance
    in the northern hemisphere compared to the southern and
    the way it is rather mechanically taught and learned in the north
    compared to the way it used to be passed on in south. And that
    it was a dance of the young and fit and now it is a dance more often
    of the older generations and the often unfit.

    Yes, immersion is indeed beneficial, although it is no guarantee,
    largely because the best dancers don't dance step sequences which
    we seem intent on learning. Sequences/steps are like taking steroids
    to fight cholesterol rather than changing diet and lifestyle which you can
    liken to the learning and the practice of how to move together as one.

    And taking lessons in Buenos Aires is no guarantee. Teachers there,
    often choreographed professionals trying to earn a living, have long
    realised what will keep tourists happy - steps and typical tango
    movements which they have seen portrayed on stage and screen.
    Social dancers in the main don't teach, they dance - frequently.

    And I'm afraid this epitomises what I'm writing about:
    Most Argentines abroad are more skilled in teaching foreigners
    what they want to hear. Steps are easier to teach than how
    to dance, even more so when foot placements and the moves
    are taught to both men and women.
    Many of them are show dancers teaching a pastiche dance that
    they don't dance in milongas because often they never were
    milonga goers at home. They teach an image not the actuality.

    And this:
    No, you should have challenged him to tell what was unnatural
    and how you could move naturally. There should have been an amazing
    amount of useful content there and many things to work on and practise
    if you really did move "unnaturally". Steps are not the answer for tango,
    dancing with the whole body is.
  6. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks for the advice, but steps, pivoting, and leading do interest me very much. To be honest, I don't know where you got the idea that someone can step without using the whole body. Maybe you can do that, but I don't.

    In any case, I prefer teachers who can explain (in detail) what they want me to do with my body, (which at the time, that teacher couldn't really do). It's actually pretty easy to do. You show the student, this is what you just did, and then show him what you want them to do, so they can see the difference. All the BS about what's natural, simply wastes time for me.

    I learned a lot about what not to do from some of my past experiences, (for when I teach people now). A key thing (when people ask questions), is to try to answer them directly (first), and then elaborate afterwards, if you feel it's really needed. Another way to approach this is, don't use ambiguous terminology (like grounded), and instead explain what they need to do with their body, that they're not doing.
  7. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Out of curiosity, do you claim to have actually met "most Argentines abroad"? Do you also claim to know which ones go to milongas, and which ones do not, (and for the ones who do, which milongas they go to, and what style of dancing is done at those specific milongas)?

    FWIW, I'm skeptical that you have met most teachers who travel or live abroad, thus I don't find your stereotypes to be very persuasive.
  8. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    No, of course I don't make such a claim, nor do I need to.
    You can read their publicising biographies and watch their videos,
    and recognise the background on which their knowledge of their
    dance is based. I could give many examples of such teachers
    and even tell some unfortunate experiences.

    As for attendance at milongas, the word attendance says much.
    Yes they may attend but many do not participate. They dance
    a performance with a floor to themselves, they dance usually
    only with their own partner and often only at milongas in the
    small hours or sometimes at the end of an evening milonga
    when most dancers have left. I do think that we have very
    different ideas of what the dance is or could be.

    There are always exceptions and I could name specific ones.
    But if you went to BsAs you would also see the phenomenon
    of certain tango teachers touring the milongas, putting in an
    appearance for an hour or so, dancing occasionally with their partner
    and then moving on to another "appearance".
    This isn't social tango, this is professionals trawling for business.

    However I'm not here to persuade the unpersuadable but my opinion
    is based on my experience and is at least just as valid as yours.
    Lois Donnay likes this.
  9. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    You made a claim about MOST Argentine teachers abroad. I'm trying to find out what qualifies you to make such a statement, (or if it was just hyperbole and stereotypes). If you had simply said the handful that you've met (or read about, or whatever), there would be nothing to talk about. However you said most.
  10. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Crikey, this shouldn't be so contentious at all.
    It's a matter of record that the tango revival abroad
    was not based on the social dance but on performance,
    initially the the show Tango Argentino some of whose
    dancing cast were asked to teach at places on the tour.

    As for my claim, go look at the background of many
    teachers from Argentina, even those in Buenos Aires
    itself. I'm not naming names obviously but tango is
    a relatively small world and they are mostly publicised
    on the interweb anyway. The information is easily found
    even if you won't be easily persuaded.

    The days of the social dancers like Ricardo Vidort being
    asked to teach abroad are long gone, only partly because
    many of them are no longer with us. Instead we have the
    winners of the Mundial competition teaching around the
    World and these are nearly always professional dancers
    who have adopted tango to ride the wave of the interest
    in tango.

    I really don't think there is any point of continuing this.
    It's my opinion, there is evidence to support it if you look.
    Lois Donnay likes this.
  11. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Nice try, but you made the claim, not me. Either you have some evidence to support it, or you don't.

    BTW, I don't claim to know what (or how well) most Argentine teachers abroad teach. I can only comment on the ones I've encountered, and most of them have been good.
  12. tangomaniac

    tangomaniac Active Member

    This conversation reminds me of Tango L - - and why many people left it.
  13. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Maybe so.
    I'm not continuing, it's a shame this persistent battle of
    whose opinion matters most is coming from a moderator.
    They are, in the end, only opinions and subjective ones at that.
    Lois Donnay likes this.
  14. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    In quality of staff, you should sticky a post where you would explain how to bring evidence without naming names.
  15. Lois Donnay

    Lois Donnay Member

    In my experience, any slight criticism of our heros (in this case our teachers), is met with a bit of an outsized indignation. When I started tango 20 years ago, all we had were stage dancers-we just didn't know it. Men and women stood on opposite sides of the room and learned our patterns. We worshipped these dancers - then I went to a party with the cast of Forever Tango. These incredible icons! None of them joined in the dancing - we assumed they were too tired from their performance. I struck up a conversation with one of the cast. I was surprised to learn she was American (with a foreign sounding name), and had joined the cast after auditioning in LA. She was a professional dancer. She knew nothing about tango until she had been cast 3 months before. I started to look at teachers, performers and dancers with a little more jaunticed eye after that. I would never have made it as a Broadway dancer - but I can dance tango. Teachers who are Broadway-caliber dancers sometimes don't understand how mere mortals learn to dance. No teacher is all right or all wrong - I take what I need, keep my mind open, and - the hardest thing - I'm willing to admit if I was doing it wrong. Even if it was for the first 3 years.
  16. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    (from Dchester): "what he wanted me to do with my body etc. to execute the steps & lead correctly."

    I'm not sure how that is different from what Dchester DID ask. He says he asked the teacher how to move his body and lead correctly. I think in reading, you might have gotten stuck on the part where he says "to execute the steps". If the teacher was correcting his "unnatural" movement, then presumably it was while taking steps, not just the connection in the embrace even while not moving.

    Taking steps doesn't have to mean step patterns or movement inappropriate for social dancing. For all we know, he could have been executing simple walking forward "unnaturally". I can't imagine anyone would think that working on basic walking is bad teaching. If you can't walk well with a partner, you can't do much else either, no matter how perfect your connection is while standing still.

    I once had a teacher tell me that I needed to just "walk naturally" while going backward. There is nothing "natural" about walking backward. The construction of our joints in the hip, knee, ankle, and feet are specifically designed for forward (or sideways) movement. He really couldn't elaborate on how that meant I should use my body/legs, but just that I wasn't doing it. When I tried to mimic what he was doing (to demonstrate) it felt considerably LESS natural to me based on my body and joints.

    There are too many teachers giving esoteric instruction when many adult social dancers with no background in dance are far better off with something less abstract. Like the example DC gives on being "more grounded". It's not a useful correction. Being grounded is a result of how you use your body, not an action of the body itself. I've heard all manner of explanations of how to be grounded, very few of which were concrete physical changes rather than "feelings" ("Imagine sand shifting around your feet on the beach" .. uh... ok)
  17. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    I think maybe you are interpolating things he didn't say but as you rightly say
    he concentrated on "executing steps.
    You're right, we don't know but he doesn't seem to have actually asked
    or been told what it was that was unnatural and/or how to correct it
    which is usually not the work of five minutes.
    I agree as far as I can tell but it isn't relevant here.
    Yes, and how about "using the energy of the floor"!
    There is nothing in partner dancing less esoteric than actually teaching
    and encouraging people to move together in an embrace to music.
    Everything follows from that.
  18. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    In reading your post, it dawned on me that one of my prior posts likely caused some confusion. It's a long story, which is why I paraphrased some things (too much). I'll add a little more detail.

    At one point in my private, the teacher said he wanted to see my "natural" walk (not when dancing tango). After I walked normally (for me), that's what he said was unnatural, and tried to explain to me why. I quickly lost interest in talking about how I walk down the street, and wanted to stick to my movements in tango. For me, (which may not be true for others), my tango walk has little to do with my "natural" walk.

    I still work on improving/enhancing my walk (and various forms of cadencia) to this day (along with figures, leading, and everything else).
  19. koinzell

    koinzell Active Member

    That teacher sounds interesting. Long ago I started walking down the street to practice my tango walk (Javier Rodriguez style of heel first) and it has become my "natural" walk, haha!
  20. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Well, I quoted him, so... ;)

    Also, I meant that you got hung up on the part the quote that used the terms "executing the step". I didn't mean that DC was hung up on that.

    He asked what he was supposed to do with his body to step properly and lead better. The teacher then had the chance to tell/show him what to do. No matter how DC phrased his question ("What isn't natural about it?" vs "How should I be using my body?") the teacher's answer should address whatever the teacher thought the issue was. It's still an answer that follows the premise of "Don't do X; do Y".

    I don't think the teacher was prevented from addressing what he thought was unnatural based on the way DC asked his question. Part of the role of a teacher is to focus the student on what they need to work on rather than what they might want to work on. That means looking beyond the choice of words a student uses when asking for direction and concentrating on giving them the answer they need, in whatever way makes the information most accessible to them.

    My point was that teachers say the darndest things, and also that what is "natural" for one person may not be at all natural for another.

    (Eyeroll).. yep.. I've heard that one too. Perhaps if the floor had current flowing from it, I could feel it's energy better. ;)
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2015

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