Tango Argentino > Teaching syllabus for AT - good idea?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Dave Bailey, May 22, 2008.

  1. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    Inspired by this post:

    Whilst I'd hate AT to be boxed-in, regulated, and stifled, I don't think a teaching syllabus is necessarily a bad idea, it might help provide some structure.

    Otherwise. one could draw the implication that good teachers don't need a structure, they can just make it up as they go along - which I'd definitely disagree with.

    So, would a teaching syllabus be a good idea?

    If so, what would you include in it?
  2. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Hello Dave, hello forum,
    I agree, but the huge number of teachers and so called teachers mostly follow the structure given by Mingo Pugliese or Naveira. And the rebells follow Castro.

  3. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    I have a teaching syllabus for beginners and improvers;

    The beginners is loosely based on what I was being taught in Cambridge, (Cambridgeshire uk ) Improvers is based on what I learnt subsequently plus adding introduction to Milonga.
  4. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    Don't know if it's a good idea or not, but I would hate to see one. I would have serious, serious reservations if a prospective AT teacher had a check-sheet syllabus-type thing going on. Which isn't to say they don't have an idea of what to introduce when in their head. I just don't want to see anything formalized enough to be referred to as a "syllabus."

    One of the things I prefer about AT over ballroom (OK, I pretty much prefer everything about AT over everything in ballroom, but whatever) is the lack of a syllabus. There's no idea of having to master A,B,C,D and E before being allowed to see F and G. Because what I've noticed, just comparing myself and other students, is that different things are easy and hard for each of us. I like the option to go down one path and work at what I'm good at (builds confidence and enjoyment) and work on the hard stuff little by little, trusting that it'll get there. And, I can say from experience, it does come...sometimes my teacher just needs to kind of back into it another way. But if I had to sit there and hammer away at it before moving on...I'd have walked years ago.
  5. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    ok, for you syllabub instead.

    I agree with the lack of formality; no grades no exams no standards -whoopee!
    (but if there were they should follow martial arts- I think i'd be a second dan black belt)
  6. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

  7. nucat78

    nucat78 Active Member

    I'm more of a linear thinker and I started in BR before adding AT so I prefer a syllabus approach. I don't know, maybe my lead isn't good enough yet that I can improvise and expect my follow to know what I'm doing.

    And I've gone to classes where we've done long combos of ganchos, boleros and sacadas and been totally lost, probably because the instructor dove right into the whole pattern as opposed to letting us work on a gancho, etc individually and then piecing them together.

    At milongas though I don't dance patterns, I dance what I feel the music is saying.
  8. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    Pattern? what's a pattern?

    is this a knitting thread?;)
  9. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Individual teachers probably have a lesson plan, or some organized approach to their teaching. I know would if I were to teach for money, or series of lessons, or even a group lesson.
    What most of us dislike, though, is the thought that there could be some group of authorities that would end up dictating what is "right" and what is "wrong".
    (An example.. I was told flat out last week, in city across the country, that there was no started step in West Coast Swing. By a "teacher" no less. Whose syllabus is that in?)
    One of the pleasues of AT is that it is supposed to be highly individualistic. Even so, many people forget that and state things such as, "In this, you can do this. And if you do that, it is not this" (as a perhaps not very good example).
    Is it a heel lead or a toe lead? Could be either.
    Your butt sticks out when you dance. Hey, your dancing canyenge! Right?
    Without "A Syllabus", many many things are possible, and the dancers get to decide what they like, and what style or elements they want to learn and use in Their dance.
    And we like it like that.
  10. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    Good points made by all. Yet, I think we need to define or redefine something. Yes, most of us have seen syllabi of one school or another, and there are already several AT syllabi out there. Some are good...many are nonsense. But.....

    What "really" is a syllabus? True, the original intent of the syllabus was to guide one through a list of steps. Real dancers have learned that the syllabus is not just a list of steps, but a list of headings under, or within, which possibilities of movements are found. I believe that all serious AT dancers agree that a step syllabus would be a travesty. However, a syllabus used as a guideline to the logical progression of learning, or as a dictionary of possibilities of sorts, might not be a bad thing. For example, working out at home or at the gym has a logical or more correct system of progression in order to acheive maximum results.

    I believe to define or redefine what a syllabus really is, and/or how it really should be used is the answer to the quesiton.
  11. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    A sometimes used word by American teachers for " step "
  12. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    I wholly agree with Peaches'and Angel's view (posts #4, 10).

    My trepidation about a syllabus is that it is too easy for beginning/mediocre dancers/teaches to come up and use one. Especially syllabi that are step and pattern based, and too linear in approach. It gives the perception of structure and progress. But in reality it limits and stifles one's growing and learning processes, especially in AT, which improvisation is a forte.

    I say this because, I draw from my own experiences when I first started AT and transitioning from competitive ballroom. I was looking for an AT syllabus. I thought that it was the only way to learn. I even went to the point of using Dance Vision and learning the steps and patterns. When I went to a real milonga (NOT the ballroom dance parties), my memorized steps and pattern were horendously stiff, and silly.

    I then decided to learn AT the way it was being taught. I cleared my mind and started as a beginner. Deconstructed my ballroom biases and habits (actually trashed them all together), and learn AT the way it was supposed to be.. Dynamically based on movement and musicality. Delivered with interpretation, intent, and emotion... It works a hell of a lot better IMHO.

    Now, knowing what I know, and experiencing what I've experienced, if you go to a milonga, you clearly see who the step driven syllabi learned ones are... The quality of movemnet is not there, IMHO.
  13. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I've actually been working on coming up with one. If I remember tonight when I get home, I'll post what I have so far.
  14. MaggieB

    MaggieB New Member

    When we teach brand new to ATango people we teach it in the following order, not as a syllabus, just as a logical way for non-dancers to learn in an organized fashion:
    1. 8 count basic [to build the rest on]
    2. forward ocho from #5 [eye candy to keep them entertained and coming back]
    3. walking in and out of the 8 count basic
    4. sandwich from #6 to a forward ocho [more eye candy]
    5. back ocho from #2
    6. giros
    We do not dwell on technique, rather we concentrate on getting them on the dance floor and wanting to continue to learn more... in other words, we "hook" them! We edify the professional teachers [our beginner lesson is always free] as we get to know them week to week in this 1/2 hour "lesson" and let them know that they can and will help them with more technique.

    We find that once they know these basics they can take other lesson our teachers offer while the beginner lesson is going on... and that is a natural progression... they soon learn that yes, they do need more help with technique... we don't have to tell them.

    So syllabus, no, just an easy way for us to get them started.

    We found some time ago that the studio teachers that insisted that newcomers walk, walk, and walk some more for weeks on end... ended up having them walk... right away from the dance... so we refuse to do that.

    I don't know that what we do works, but we keep more than we lose.... and that's a good think for us all.
  15. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    If it walks like a duck.. quacks like a duck.. its a DUCK !
  16. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I've been (rather slowly) working on one. Here is what I have so far.

  17. kieronneedscake

    kieronneedscake New Member

    That abbreviated rather amusingly... You're showing more to the world than I would ;)

    The only context I want to see a syllabus in AT is a checklist of generalised steps, so that no student is left with gaping holes in their repetoire. That way they can deal with most of the stuff that appears in milongas. Hanging onto a student long enough for them to cover the whole syllabus on the other hand... that's a different story.

    Following a recent discussion about volcada technique, I would make sure that suitably experienced dancers knew how to handle a volcada without snapping backs, even if they were not able to perfectly execute 4 varieties.
    Defensive dancing if you will.
  18. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member


    That's an outline that nobody would want to see.

  19. Ampster

    Ampster Active Member

    I went to a milonga last night. There were quite a few new faces. It was observed that our new friends:
    • Had difficulty dancing with others outside their group
    • Lots of fancy/flashy leg movements (Big boleos, adornos, volcadas, etc. even in a tight, packed milonga)
    • All danced out of time with the music
      • No change in pace, with changes in rhythm within the music
    • Navigation skills were not quite there
    • None could "Walk" properly
    • Their movements had a mechanical feel to them
    • Some were "Counting"
    • Cocky
    • Very good with their steps and patterns
    Being the inquisitive (nosey) creature that I am, I found out that:
    • They've all been dancing studying Argentin Tango for at least 1 year or more
    • They've all been dancing in their studio's parties diligently, but seldomly in an outside milonga
    • They all learned form a "Standard Argentine Tango Syllabus" that was "Nationally recognized" from a "world class teacher who taught Argentine Tango"

    Now granted they came from one "school/teacher." But through the years, this pattern reoccurs and has become consistent with one common denominator... The ones who learned from a prescribed syllabus look like... (See above).

    P.S. I was once like this... but has since transcended
  20. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    FWIW, if anyone has any feedback on this, I'd be interested in hearing it (either things that should be added, or things that should be changed). BTW, don't worry about offending me (I can take it). I'd actually rather find out sooner, rather than later, that I'm out in left field.

    Also, as you find things that you feel are wrong, if you could tell me why you feel that way, it would be of even more value.

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