Tango Argentino > Teaching at a practica

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Lois Donnay, Sep 20, 2016.

  1. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    I think the highlighted part above is the heart of the answer to the entire thread. Also, as I've said before, just dancing at a practica to dance better is ok; just dancing at a practica to use it as a mini-milonga is not (understanding that communal habits vary).
  2. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I recently spent an entire practica focusing on keeping my shoulders back and down, and I focused on that with every partner I danced with over the course of the evening. I was actually grateful for the "just walking" partners, because it was so much easier to focus on my shoulders when I was doing simple steps. (Of course, the test is keeping them down when things get wild)

    My point is that you never know what someone may be working on, and you can't always tell just by watching that they are working on anything specific at all.

    I try to keep this in mind when I feel the urge to give unsolicited feedback. For all I know, the person may be using all their energy on the thing they decided to focus on that night. It may even be something they have been "assigned" by their teacher to focus on. Unless they ASK for my feedback or they are hurting me, I use my energy to work on MY dancing, not my partner's.
    raindance likes this.
  3. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    I try not to be overly prescriptive about what is or is not OK for others to do. All you need is to try to recognize what they're after and to act accordingly (or ignore them if you wish).

    What would not be OK is for the people who treat the practica as a mini-milonga to enforce their view of the event on others (by getting irritated when e.g. a couple stops in its tracks to discuss something).

    As others than me also pointed out, some people do want to work on something but don't want to work with their partner on something together, but just want you to dance while they focus on something. Sometimes they may tell you (e.g. knowing well that you're actually interested to know), others may not.

    That's what's good about attending the same practica regularly: after some time, you start to get a feeling for how the different people seem to be wired (or, in some cases, you stay completely baffled by their behaviour, but that's also information).
  4. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Agree. Just dancing the way one would be doing it in a milonga could be practice in itself. Why not?
    Some practicas even have parts of milonga etiquette in place, for example, by playing tandas and cortinas, so people can practice that aspect, too.
  5. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    I like milongas and codigos, to switch the partner every tanda, not talking or giving feedback or even teaching.
    But that yields a competition for quality and quantity of dance I don't need in training.

    So I don't invite spontaneously others in classes, workshops and practicas.
    May be the instructor instructs to switch the couples, but I don't initiate that and just follow.
    Nor did ever my partner say: "Oh, looks better at him, I like to practice with him for a while".
    So I stay that time with my selected partner - and often select a different partner for another practica.

    Even to practice with a dedicated partner at a milonga - if needed - is quite simple: we enter as a couple and acclaim genuine Argentinian Couple Codigos.
    And immediately no one has a right to a say in a matter.

    Of course others will have other aims and strategies when practicing.
    It's totally OK for me - I just don't care. :)
  6. Chrisa Assis

    Chrisa Assis Member

    For me there are two ways to get into a practica:
    1)going in to learn, try new things, change, experiment
    2)know already how you want to work, what you want to work on, with who and for what
    Not a problem with any approach in my opinion, but you need to find the right partner for each one of them...
    If for example, if you are going to the practica to practise a molinete you learned in class so you can get better at it--so you are in the first category--and you dance with someone who is there to work on their connection in an open embrace during a molinete for example--slightly different approach--you are going to have a problem. You are focusing on two different things, you are working on the step and the other person in working on the feeling of the step and the connection between the two partners. Is there a way to work it out? Yes of course there are many ways to work it out...
    1) chat with that person without trying to force your perspective on the other person because there might be some validity in their perspective too. So not teaching them but share with them your perspective and hear theirs
    2)Disassociate your practise from theirs...Rather difficult for me to do, but some people do manage to see past what their partner is working on and work on their thing...So it is a way to go, if you can manage it..!
    3)Don't dance with them..!haha Many people go to practicas with a partner, or knowing who they want to practise with. So that is another way to go...I feel I get bored after some time dancing with the same people, so I like the challenge of dancing with someone I don't know and see what they have to share with me...on the other hand I might get frustrated from time to time during a dance especially if my partner is being rude or ignoring me...I guess it is a risk one has to take...haha

    I don't know overall I think there is worth in all of the approaches above so I try to choose partners who are kind people, loving Tango, ready to have fun while practising and who might have some interesting ideas to share..!
    Does this help..? Maybe..?I hope...I took me some time and a few frustrating years to come down to that but yeah...now I think I am having more fun...
  7. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I've never thought that much about what people are "supposed" to do at a practica regarding what, with who, and how they "practice". As long as they aren't causing a major problem for me, their partner, or others, it's none of my business what or how they dance. They could practice Fox Trot for all I care, as long as they aren't interfering with other couples. I certainly don't care if some people come just to enjoy dancing and not "work on stuff".

    Since the thread title is TEACHING at a practica, I DO have an opinion about giving unsolicited feedback, especially when the giver of feedback isn't really qualified to assess their partner's dancing and in fact, can't even correctly assess what they are doing themselves to screw up the movement. I haven't heard one person yet, in all my years of tango, express how much they enjoyed being blamed by a partner for problems in the dance caused by that partner. Especially when that partner is themselves completely UNreceptive to feedback.

    I HAVE heard far too many beginner dancers get discouraged when criticized by partners they view (often wrongly) as "more advanced". I have seen dancers of both sexes and both roles twist themselves into knots trying to change how they dance based on contradictory advise from other non-advanced social dancers, sometimes multiple times over one evening.

    I have seen far too many leaders telling followers what they should be doing in response to the badly led step, correcting only her execution of steps and offering NO insight into her overall technique that might improve her dancing beyond following the poor lead of that step. I've seen too many followers who have no experience of leading trying to "help" beginner leaders, overwhelming them with everything they are doing wrong, thus making them more afraid to get out there and try. On the other hand, I've also seen followers over-praise beginner leaders, giving some leaders the impression that they have progressed further than they have, which in turn sometimes creates different ego issues.

    I've seen too many people begin teaching too soon (including me) and too many people who do teach assume that their role at a practica is to do so with all their partners (because it's never their fault, right?) rather than work on their own dancing.

    Maybe we all need to stop worrying so much about what other people are doing at practica and focus on what is lacking or needing improvement in ourselves. If you don't think you have anything to work on, trying watching a video of yourself. It will most likely come as a shock just how much you still need to improve.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2016
  8. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Exactly. I found out that the best way to help my partner is by doing my part the best I can.
  9. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    We all operate in a social context.
    I've just "teached" a nice lady what I learned today from an Oscar-Casas-Video about "Energy in the Lead".
    Up, embellishments, intention, down, go - worked pretty good, really. :rolleyes:
  10. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    - duplicate deleted -
  11. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

  12. sixela

    sixela Well-Known Member

    I even have a opinion about giving solicited feedback. In a practica, I'd rather try to encourage someone to do something different just to see whether it feels better or not, rather than try to tell them what they're doing "wrong". And the same holds for advice given to me ("let's try to do X and see what that changes...")

    When you're a teacher it's different, especially in group classes; sometimes you need to be very prescriptive and direct (and teach from what works _for you_), or chaos woulsd ensue.

    But when you're dancing with a partner at a practica an approach based on experimentation and assessment often beats a verbal one. Especially when one of the partners resorts to an appeal to authority rather than cogent argumentation.
  13. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Just thought this deserved a reposting.
    Lilly_of_the_valley likes this.
  14. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    For me when receiving feedback, a lot depends on how it is presented. I actually tend to like direct feedback. However (and I don't know how to explain it), sometimes the feedback was presented in a way that makes me think, "that was really good feedback", while at other times the feedback makes me think, "what a $#%#".

    I also haven't figured out how my state of mind figures into it all, (but it's probably a lot).

    oldtangoguy likes this.
  15. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I'm guessing it has to do with both WHO gives it to you and whether you think they have a clue what they are talking about, and what the feedback actually was. Maybe some of it really was a crock of *#(@. ;)
  16. ArbeeNYC

    ArbeeNYC Member

    Well, in my case, the people I've listened to are teachers. I rarely, if ever ask the advice of a peer and, frankly, it's never been offered. I've seen it though, quite frequently. I've seen someone who was dancing for a year, maybe less, start teaching women - at milongas, no less - and trying to do the most complex steps. Not sure why they thought he was qualified. And I've seen many skillful young dancers, men for the most part, teaching younger followers at practicas. The women are generally grateful to be able to practice with someone so far above their level. They learn a lot quicker that way. For a guy, especially an older guy, it's not so easy. You're pretty much on your own. Practicas in my area tend to be more of a relaxed milonga than a workout session. Some people just dance. Some people practice specific steps. If there's a teacher (and there should be), they'll often help out if asked or if they see you're having trouble with something. Personally, I seem to learn faster when practicing with a partner in a studio on our own, just the two of us. That way we can practice a lot, talk it out, and practice some more.
  17. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    I'm fascinated by the fascination with teachers. I've taken privates from a large number of instructors. Some have been outstandingly helpful, especially when I was only a year, or two, or even five, into my tango journey. But I now find I do best by leading and seeing what the follow does. Not what I expected? Stop and ask her (or him) what they felt. Why they stepped where/when they did. Then I modify my lead till it works. Then I try with another follow. Adjust, rinse and repeat. Etc. Then synthesize.

    This is for me the value of the practica where the ronda and floorcraft are not the driving concerns, and I am able to dance what I want to work on without regard for the line-of-dance. Too crowded for that? Then you are in a mini-milonga and need to find another practica.
    dchester likes this.
  18. Desert Diva

    Desert Diva Member

    I've always been fond of the saying "Too many Chiefs, not enough Indians."

    In my smallish tango community there are many who consider themselves "experts" and love to give feedback, pointers, etc... We actually have a lead who has gone to a couple of tango festivals, made up some business cards, and self proclaims himself as a "teacher." Unlike other professions, there is no official "Tango University" (or regulated proficiency exam) and virtually anyone can slap some paint on a board and hang out their sign.

    Strange as it sounds, for absolute beginners you have to "know something" before you know something.

    There's an older man in the community that is known as "Tango XYZ." He especially likes to dance with with younger women. I've danced with him a couple of times and have NEVER been able to feel (let alone interpret) his lead. I've asked a couple of women in confidence and their reply is, "Oh, me either - I just dance around him." Oh.my.God. Forget about the teaching at a practica, he's actually told me "I led that and you didn't respond" at a milonga.

    Many of the leads in my community dance with one (or two) people exclusively. I questioned the person I take private lessons from, and his reply was that the couple has "conformed" to each other and they feel "comfortable." When they dance with someone else it takes them out of their comfort zone and forces them to evaluate their dance.

    For me, dancing with an "unclear" lead creates a feeling of anxiety that I begin to fall back upon "anticipating" what the lead will do. Anticipating was an battle in my earlier dancing that I've worked really hard to break. I could say much more about my feelings, but it's probably better left unsaid. Let's just say I'm extremely weary of attitudes and condescending "teaching" by clueless individuals. I try to let it "go in one ear and out the other," but sometimes I just get tired and internalize the comments. Sadly, that takes the joy out of my dancing...

    I know there's "another side" because when I travel outside of my community I find "moments of grace" with lovely embraces and tandas with total strangers. I totally "get out of my head" and don't worry - I just "feel."

    I think this was a rant, and I really didn't mean it to be. Give me the red pill please - I want to be free from "The Matrix."
  19. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    My experience is usually the male is simply uncomfortable being near other people. That was (and to a degree, is) my story and it took months for me to switch partners. I have also encountered people that wanted to but just had not started switching. Once asked to do a Tanda, they started doing it regularly. One lady I met was afraid she wasn't good enough and was going to step on my feet. I assured her that she was the one that needed to worry about getting stepped on!

    Side note, if I see a couple not switching I ask both of them if they are switching that night or prefer to just dance with each other. That way I have treated them equally and eliminated the issue of "Hey, I'm not his property, you don't have to ask him if it is OK to ask me" while still addressing discomforts he might have.
    I have been amazed how well and how quickly a really good instructor can get a newby male going and even make it look good. Maybe you could talk to instructors that make it look good and ask their secrets. Another thought is to immerse yourself -- take a beginner's class again to "reconnect" with being new to Tango.
    I think you actually want the Blue Pill. :cool:
  20. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    IME, the males who want to switch but don't feel confident enough yet are greatly outnumbered by the ones who feel that only a few followers are "good enough" for them.

    Aside from the obvious ways one can tell (watching them instruct "lesser" partners in the middle of the milonga floor, hearing them actually say they like or don't like this or that follower) a pretty reliable indicator is when the leader dances with only a few followers s/he is "comfortable with" and they just happen to be the most advanced followers in the community.

    Some of these leaders also seem to be a whole lot less "uncomfortable" around the younger/thinner/less clothed followers than they are around the older/plumper/conservatively dressed followers. ;)

    In the beginning, some guys might be reluctant to dance with anyone other than their usual partner/wife/girlfriend/date/whatever because they don't think they are themselves good enough or because they aren't accustomed to being that physically connected to a relative stranger . I haven't met but 2 or 3 that remain so for years on end strictly out of confidence issues, general social or physical anxiety, or basic shyness.

    Before anyone argues that skilled dancers who spent a long time and a lot of money have every right to choose to dance with other people who are at their level, I'm not talking about that. IME, most of the time the ones who hold out for only the best partners are not themselves at the level they demand of their partner.

    I also realize that it is far easier to learn to dance with skilled partners because you won't get as stuck trying to figure out where the problems arise. I'm not talking about that either. Some people who want to practice and dance with more advanced partners are clear that they are choosing partners that are MORE ADVANCED because they want to progress faster. But there are far too many that believe that they are at the same level as the partners they are choosing and limiting themselves to.
    itwillhappen likes this.

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