Tango Argentino > The rules of a practica

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by Lois Donnay, Aug 3, 2015.

  1. ArbeeNYC

    ArbeeNYC Member

    Maybe yes, maybe no. I'm not exactly sure how it worked in Buenos Aires in the old days. Men learned from one another at the time primarily because there was no professional cadre of teachers around to instruct them and no formalized instructional system as there is today. Not to mention the roving bands of performers who give workshops around the world. Also, what transpired back them, at least in my understanding, is that younger/inexperienced dancers learned from older and more experienced male dancers. That doesn't happen today. In a co-ed group, an experienced dancer is going to practice with his partner (generally, also experienced), or an attractive beginner. Generally, you find the inexperienced dancing with one another. It's difficult to learn in those situations because there is no one to guide you. At such times a teacher can be very helpful.

    What I found very useful and would like to do more of was to rent a practice room and practice *alone* with a partner, just the two of us. Bring music and work on stuff. You can make as many mistakes as you like. Nobody will care but you two. Costs a bit more than a practica but you can focus more sharply on what needs to get done.
  2. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Exactly. This was very different from newbies trying to learn from each other through You Tube videos or through unguided practice the way it is today. The whole idea that "there were no teachers" is hogwash. Of course there were teachers. There may not have been professional teachers who tried to derive a living from teaching while doing very little actual social dancing, but there were most certainly skilled experienced people there guiding beginners. That's teaching.

    What's more, they also taught newbies the codes of the milongas and respectful attitudes, such as "Don't assume you are God's gift to tango and expect the most skilled partners to fall into your arms". That's a "code" sadly lacking in many communities and venues. People evaluate themselves as more advanced than they are (a situation not helped by the descriptions attached to most workshops which are listed as "beginner" and "intermediate/advanced" and should more accurately be described as "beginner", "not quite as beginner", and "almost ready to go beyond beginner").

    In the old days, unskilled leaders who got arrogant were smacked down by either followers or the older, more experienced men. Unskilled followers didn't get criticized and corrected by leaders barely able to execute their own role. They were either taught by their family members or by skilled leaders.

    The problem with this is finding a practice partner of a similar level who accepts that they are of a similar level, so that it becomes mutually beneficial. In the US, this is more of a problem for followers, because so many leaders suffer from the lack of "reality check" mentioned above. They expect to practice with a more experienced follower (thinking they are at her level) and often have nothing to offer that follower.

    And of course, as you mentioned, if beginners get together to practice with each other without any guidance, they probably won't actually improve anything except their ability to do the learned step sequence from their class, and possibly only with one another.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2016
    Angel HI likes this.
  3. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    [QUOTE=". . . Not unusual for one leader to work with two followers and vice versa. . . . [/QUOTE]

    This is GREAT!
    One thing slowing down your learning is the difference between what you feel/think you are doing and what you actually are doing. Friendly, direct comment from a third person on that will help you to correct your inner image of the movement faster.
  4. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    I have understood that in the male practicas a beginner was trained in the follower role by an experienced dancer. When they have learned to move according to the rules/ dancing tango they were introduced to another beginner at the same skill level and the experimenting as a leader started.

    I have got the idea, mostly based on Denniston's book, that these practicas were not a teaching community but an experimenting community.
  5. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    You said it yourself:

    You call it "trained". I call it "taught". An experienced dancer instructed a beginner. By the time 2 male dancers were brought together to begin experimenting, neither was a beginner in tango. But neither was deemed worthy of dancing with women in the milongas yet. They still had a ways to go before that happened, but even by this point, they knew more about the follower role and needs than many so called "advanced" leaders today. But that didn't make them assume they could go to a milonga and dance with the best tangueras. They practiced with other men who were at their level, exchanging roles.

    I don't see how any of that negates my point that teachers existed.
  6. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    Today the dance life is mostly organized around an idea of a life long teacher /student relationship.

    At those male practicas only the first few months had this teacher /student structure, a period when the beginner was trained in the follower role. After that the experimenting in leader role started and continued a longer time at the practica and later on they were introduced to the milonga. The evolution of leading seems to have been along the experimenting path only. (Denniston)

    Yes at that time the leaders knew a lot about the following.
  7. LivingstonSeagull

    LivingstonSeagull New Member

    There is no single "correct" way to learn tango. There is no single "correct" way to dance tango. There is no single way to teach tango. There are as many ways as there are dancers and those that teach. The term "professional tango teacher" is somewhat vague as well - there are many that make a living from instructing others. Not all of them are good teachers. A lot of them maybe great dancers which doesn't necessarily make them great teachers. So many times getting instructed by these "professional" teachers is not necessarily superior to just getting together with dancers of several levels united by passion to learn and perfect their skill - and work together on the dance. Is it equivalent to those old practicas in BA? who knows now? This is stuff of old books and legends now. What matters is what makes your dance better as measured by your desirability as a partner by those of more experience and higher skill than yours. I think this scale remained the same as it was 100 years ago. So whichever way works for you to increase your skill - that's the correct way for you to learn.
    Angel HI likes this.
  8. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

    MDG, Can I get an "AMEN"?
  9. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    According to the old stories the male practica group asked it's members to treat the minority group/female dancers with respect, as queens.

    Today the groups have changed positions and I have seen individual followers treat, at least, some leaders with respect. The problematic thing is that the followers are not as a group taking responcibility for the situation of today.
  10. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Seing this more and more often. Has there been a change in grammar? Not a native speaker, I might very well be unaware.
  11. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    I have 3 years of language studies in English - it may deffinetly be uncorrect.

    newbie, what do you think about the message?
  12. Chrisa Assis

    Chrisa Assis Member

    How many times haven't we all gone to a milonga or a practica and we have left disappointed?
    People complaining is a norm, but I think it is a step forward that someone decided to act on that and start this discussion!
    It can be very discouraging going out with a specific intention and specific expectations and your outing being spoiled by other people...
    But I believe, our evenings are mostly spoiled by us! We bring this on to ourselves!

    Practica is self explanatory is where you practice! It doesn't matter what was happening in the 40s or the 50s, now it is 2016 and things have changed.
    So we have classes to learn Tango, practicas to practise Tango, and Milongas to socially enjoy Tango and the Tango community. Maybe that's not the best way to do things, the history will prove us right or wrong.
    But if someone is going to a practica and is expecting to have a milonga experience he/she will most likely be disappointed and vice versa!
    And because in Tango there are many things one needs to practise on, we might have people coming in to a practica with their partner and only dancing with them--maybe because they are building on their partnership for example. Other people might be coming in alone-- because they are hoping to work on their social skills or work on dancing with different people. You can even get people who mostly want to practice alone, so they pick a corner of the room and they do their thing-, maybe because they just want to work on something very specific and they don't have the space at home.
    All these things are what a practica can be!
    If there is a teacher organizing it, it can be a guided practica, where the teacher gives tips and advice as well!
    So if I went for example to a practica and I saw a leader practising his/her walk on their own I wouldn't go over to tell him/her that they should be practising with a follower because there are so many followers sitting...
    Why? Because it is his/her own time and h/she gets to use it in the best way h/she sees fit and secondly because it is the out of concept, I should be expecting any leader to be doing that in a practica and thirdly because it is plainly rude!
    Which gets me to the last point of etiquette, rules, codes etc etc..!
    Classes, practicas and milongas have one thing in common: they are "social" or better said "group/ public" events, meaning they involve a lot of people.
    Therefore we all need to be polite, respectful, considering and simply nice. The same way we would be while walking down the street, or in bar...You wouldn't go in bar, walk up to a man sitting alone and tell him that there are so many women sitting around waiting for a date so he needs to start getting busy..! And then be annoyed because he didn't as you suggested..!
    Not only it is out of concept and none of your business but it is also rude!
    TomTango, Angel HI and Mladenac like this.
  13. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    How do you know?
  14. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    Teacher teach you what works for them, and you need to find a way how to map their views on dancing with yours.
    The format of your new establish practica is good, but it's not to be so isolated from community.

    You might develop some things that would be to different for community and feel/be isolated.
    I hope that more people would come to your practica ;)
  15. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

  16. Chrisa Assis

    Chrisa Assis Member

    Hi Angel!
    I am still trying to see how the forum works, but I must say I am enjoying it soooo much! People chatting freely, exchanging opinions, views, frustrations... it is great! I hope I had found about it earlier but its ok, better later than never!
    I am glad you liked my post, I have gone through the same frustrations, and still sometimes I can't avoid feeling a bit left- out, or neglected or not respected or not understood, but I think a shift of perspective is the first step to a healthy tango life..!haha
  17. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    If only.
  18. Wabisabi

    Wabisabi New Member

    i have been dancing for 10 years; I am certainly not the best dancer out there, but I can hold my own and have worked hard to dance well.I recently moved and attended a practica I had never attended before. I knew no one, the crowd was welcoming and the venue lovely. However during a tanda with one gentleman (who was a very good dancer) I was barraged with unsolicited and unrelenting "advice." From the start, the man launched into eveything he thought I was doing wrong. It began with the embrace and literally was non-stop. I was too slow, too fast, too high, not grounded, not centered..it honestly was relentless. I almost started to cry it was so bad. At one point he said I needed to enjoy the dance more...seriously.

    I had never danced with this person before, we had barely exchanged names and he hadn't even given me 5 seconds to get used to dancing with him. It was so unnerving and off putting. He never stopped critiquing my dancing during the entire tanda. It was hands down the worst experience I've had on the dance floor.

    I literally left the practica afterwards because I was so shaken. i am up for learning and improving, it's why I go to practicas in the first place, but this was ridiculous.

    I wish I could say this was an isolated experience, but it's not.

    If I could give some advice to those leaders who want to teach during the practica I would offer this:
    1. Be kind
    2. Before offering any advice/ suggestions, dance at least one song. Allow the follow some time to get know you. Every man we dance with dances differently..it takes us a moment to get used to your lead...give us moment.
    3. Ask us if you can offer your advice..don't just assume we all want to hear your opinion on how we dance. And remember..it is just your opinion. Often we will contradictory advice from different leads. One man will tell us our embrace is too loose another too tight...don't assume you are the authority.
    3. Limite your criticism...one or two points..give us time to address those.
    4. Try telling us something positive..what are we doing well? Who doesn't want to hear about the things they're doing well.
    5. Allow for time to dance..talking/advising/critiquing throughout the tanda makes it difficult for follow to actually follow.

    Thanks for letting me share.
    Mladenac and raindance like this.
  19. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    1) Don't
    2) See advice #1
    Lilly_of_the_valley likes this.
  20. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Active Member

    In a milonga I don't stop for talking about what happened or did not happened.
    Not even if she askes for it!

    If we are in a practica the best method has been to lead two variations of the movement we did not come together about. I can lead the movement with pivot and then a similar without pivot. Or I could ask her to be totallly stiff and then relaxed beyond the normai when we proceed. The idea is to give her an opportunity to notice the variations in my lead and an experience how these variations feels in her body.

    As a follower you maybe could cut of the leaders talking by asking for this kind of variations?
    Or as my follower friend put it: I don't get this! Could you pick up something else, please

Share This Page