Tango Argentino > What makes a Teacher?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by UKDancer, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. Dave Bailey

    Dave Bailey New Member

    That's a neat trick :)

    You may be right.

    For example, presumably, mechanically it must be possible to describe the physical actions required to take a good forwards step, with a reasonable level of accuracy.

    Go for it...
  2. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    Ah for this you need a PhD in cybernetics; what we consider simple actions become complex if you have to describe them.

    For instance; instructing a robot how to take a drink of water; reveals how complex the action of drinking a glass of water is; involving not spilling the water; acceleartion and decleration within non-spilling limits; creating a seal between cup and lip, pouring and swallowing without choking, and much more besides..and you'd probably end up talking to call-centre in Bombay to someone, who speaks but good English but never has actually danced tango.......
  3. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    It isn't easy to find the right words to describe a physical movement, but that doesn't make the task impossible. It also isn't necessary to describe every aspect of an action, or provide for every conceivable contingency. You would have to if you were programming a robot, but we are not robots (cue for a cheap shot at Ballroom dancers generally ;)), and of course the task has been done comprehensively for most dance styles already, without major mishap. I can pick up my standard texts, and apply my general understanding of general principles, and work out how to correctly execute something I'm not familiar with - and so could anyone else who has followed the same training route.

    I'm not even trying to suggest that codification is necessary to the development of tango competence, but that such a text could be a very useful tool in the hands of someone whose training/experience or learning style suited the approach. If there was a common undertanding of some fundamentals, more effort could be devoted, earlier on, to the development of more advanced aspects of the dance.
  4. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    That's all well and good...if you could nail down some fundamentals.

    Should forward steps be taken heel-first or toe-first? Good damn question! There are proponents of each style.

    Is weight shared or not, or can it even be shared? How does that affect technique?

    In a giro, does the partner traveling along the outside (typically the woman, but not always) pivot to take her steps or not?

    My point is only that the fundamentals aren't necessarily that cut-and-dried. Codification is harder than you might think.
  5. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    I'm not trying to suggest that it would be easy, either.

    But I don't see an objection to setting out a range of generally accepted alternatives, with some evenhanded comment regarding the differences. Anyway, it would be an interesting book. I'd buy it (and principally as a teaching reference, not a dancer's guide).
  6. Peaches

    Peaches Well-Known Member

    If that works for you, great.

    Personally, I'll pick my teachers by seeing whose dancing I admire amongst those who I know teach, then taking a test lesson or several with them to see how well they can convey what they obviously know. Big festivals and whatnot provide great opportunities for this.

    I'll stay far away from codification peeps.
  7. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Different people learn in different ways. I might be similar to you, in that I also like to have fundamental structures, along with definitions. I refer to that as the analytical (or geometric) aspects of the dance. That help me to learn and understand. However, I still have to practice to become proficient at executing anything. If I can't become proficient, usually it is because, I didn't understand it properly, or didn't get all the info/details I needed, or something like that.

    For me, I actually have two categories of "fundamental" moves, that I title (mostly in my head) the "Micro" and the "Macro", fundamental moves.

    At the micro level, there are three: the foot move, the weight change, and the pivot. Pretty much everything can done by combinations of these three things.

    At the macro level, there is walking, rock steps, the cross, ochos (front and back), and the giro (mollinette). The "adas" (AKA named steps) I don't consider to be fundamental steps (although others are free to disagree).

    The other "fundamentals" (but not really moves/step) that I currently define, are the embrace(s), and the rules for lead and follow.

    This is (more or less) the model that I use internally to organize things. However, you still have to be able to execute, which requires practice, balance, and musicality, (in addition to understanding, whether it be at a conscious level, or at a subconscious level).

    Using this model, I'll address one of your questions (about ochos). An ocho involves a foot move, pivot, and weight change, thus once you know how to lead those three things, and understand when they all occur in an ocho, you then are able to lead it.

    BTW, the model is still a work in progress. I actually do think Musicality is a fundamental (at least on some level), but I haven't spent enough time thinking about the specifics of the analytical aspects (stuff that could directly be taught, like various rhythms/patterns) vs the more artistic/subjective aspects. And there probably are a few other aspects that I haven't figured out at all yet.
  8. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    See Alberto Paz's "Gotta Tango", much of which is available through Google Books.
    Who was it several months ago that just found it confusing?
    With any book, as with any effort at teaching, you have to pick what you are going to write about, and what you are going to teach. You can also give a nod to the fact that there are different ways to do something, if you want.
    I was very surprised at how many similarities there were between standard texts on parnter dancing, and the "basics" I learned for AT. If you learn those basics, they will serve you well in many different dances, although you will find that there will be differences among the dances.
  9. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Me, Steve.

    Alberto made it unnecessarily complicated though by strangely adopting terminology
    to describe what was happening for the man from the viewpoint of the lady.
    Then men's steps became openings and crossings instead of simply describing
    what the man had to do. Also it resulted in yet another cross(ing), a term
    seemingly not used by anyone else. It was odd and confusing and I even knew
    something of what he was talking about! There are other anomalies.

    Can you give some references to these books please?
  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    They were all published in the US, and the dates range from ~ 1938 - 1985/2001.
    It'll take a while to type it up since the libraries I used don't have an on line record of books taken out.

    It took me a while to wrap my head around Paz's terminology, too.
    As I am writing up my notes on Western Swing/West Coast Swing, I have a growing appreciation for how much time and effort it takes to write something on dance and music! (especially if you are still in the "Discovery" phase)
    Most "teachers" would rather just teach, rather than "document".

    It'll take a while to type it up a list since the libraries I used don't have an on line record of books taken out. I should be able to reuse it, so I can justify the time spent!
  11. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Sorry Steve, didn't know it meant a major exercise!
    That reminds me about Open Software and Linux. Programmers would
    rather programme code than document what their code does. It can lead
    to some very frustrating experiences.

    Writing documentation, manuals, help files is very, very time consuming.
    And that's about inanimate and mainly predictable outcomes.
    Dance is in another league altogether.

    Despite what others may say, I've more or less come to the conclusion
    that video is the dance preserving and learning tool of the future.
    It arrived just in time to record some of those milongueros who had
    learned during the later stages of the Golden Age. It's tango, you can see
    what you want to see, practise what you want to learn.

    Perhaps books should be kept to historical perspective and outline
    rather than attempting detail documentation. Ballroom books aren't
    that easy to follow and they deal with established, repeating patterns.
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Regarding programming and documentation...
    If you can't read and understand the code, you shouldn't be messing around with it.

    What we can see by looking at books that were written decades ago, is that much of the knowledge was there, and there were people who were making a very real effort to pass that information along.

    Reading posts here and elsewhere, I have to conclude that I was very lucky to be here in Portland and taking lessons when some world class teachers as well as some local people who DID teach basics extremely well were active. (There's more here, but don't want to go into it.)
  13. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Do you recommend the book?
  14. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    First let me say that if you are new to the game (which I know YOU aren't), or are interested in a different perspective, it is certainly worth a look.
    I am currently doing this with my West Coast Swing. It certainly has revived my interest in the dance.

    As to the book, again, Google Books allows you to see (I think) the majority of the content, so you should be able to decide for yourself if it would suit you.

    Also, after years of supporting, but not using public libraries, I have now become a great proponent of them. That would give you way to hold the thing in your hands.
    I like that, and have gone on to buy my own copies of what I thought were the most interesting books. (vinyl copies of music from the 50s, too)
  15. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    I'm not messing with the code, haven't the time nor inclination for that.
    I was talking about using the results of the code and the incomplete,
    sometimes terse, sometimes virtually non-existent explanations of how
    to use it effectively.
  16. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Well, the more you work in a team environment...
    Input and output.
    (I'm trying to remember the latest buzz words and conceptualization for what to me is the very old concept "not writing spaghetti code"". Containers? objects? Please! Let's not go there!)

    And, just so we don't go too far on our own tangent...
    If I input this, what outcome can I expect?
    Where are the commonalities and how do we communicate with our partners, and what facilitates that and how do you teach it?
  17. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I haven't been going there, but I could.
  18. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    Output: Too many buzz words.
  19. gyb

    gyb Member

    The first part has been covered quite well, but I am probably more interested in the second aspect - that of the process of teacher formation (in AT, specifically).

    But a syllabus which, for example, focussed on the following:
    - Steps (forward, back, side, pivot)
    - Lead / follow (initiation, free leg, sequence)
    - Posture and axis
    - Embrace (close, open, in between)
    - Musicality (beat, timing, structure)

    IMHO a key element is missing from this discussion (both of "how to become a teacher" and "how to teach well"), namely the intimate knowledge of tango music, not just in general terms ("musicality"), but specifically the individual pieces which are played on social occasions. I'd argue that no steps, technique, posture etc. is as important defining element of tango dance than that the dancers re-play the tango music they intimately know with their own bodies.

    I can't post links, but run a search on youtube for instance for Ismael Heljalil (El Jalil on tangoandchaos) dancing to Pedro Laurenz. One of the most expressive tango dances, yet you don't see almost a single figure, with the exception of an occasional cross and a single case of something reminding of a back ocho. What makes their dance tango is their connection to the music which they know well: it would take a true genius to produce a similarly expressive dance on the first hearing of the piece.

    But if this is true there is no shortcut to learn tango, no shortcut to learn how to become a tango teacher. No set of figures, technical observations about posture and body mechanics is going to make you become an aficionado of tango dancing. You need to familiarize yourself first with a substantial array of tango recordings which takes several years of listening even for people with really good musical recall. And so one reason it takes so many years for all of us to become good tango dancers is that it takes a lot of time, even with regular milonga-attendance, to get familiar with the music.
  20. jantango

    jantango Active Member

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