Teaching at a practica

dchester

Moderator
Staff member
#22
*laugh* I do feel that need - i think this is a consequence of starting of my tango with a teacher who was really into the nuevo philosophy - and I am also easily distracted by shiny things - when i see something cool i want to steal it. Even if it doesn't quite work for me it is often really informative about how all that stuff works deep down. One of the things that i still wish i found a way to fit into my dance is the things i learned at el pulpos workshops. He did some amazing stuff, but his ideas don't integrate well with other things. He once said that he considers the thigh one of the leading surfaces in tango, and his vocabulary makes sense if you follow that premise. From time to time we still dig out his materials and practice, but i have never quite found a way to use most of it in my dance - it is too specific. Thinking and practicing his stuff has influenced my the way i lead, receive and lead the exit wraps, ganchos, and saccadas a lot, though, so all is good.
I know what you mean. I've also been fascinated by some of his ganchos and stuff. Unfortunately, I don't really practice them enough to get really good at them, as they aren't really too consistent with my preferred style. I remember the last time I had talked to Norberto, he was saying how he had changed, and was really liking close embrace now (back then), which was how he danced at the milonga, (although he still was teaching the moves that he was known for).
 

dchester

Moderator
Staff member
#23
Yes, teaching at a practica is bad: "You're stepping too far away in the molinete. Step closer."
I would say it's bad, if it's unwanted. It's certainly risky though, (even of the advice was correct).

However, troubleshooting is good: "Our molinete feels bad. Could you try stepping closer on your back step so we can see how it feels?"
The way I tend to handle this, is by saying what I'm feeling/detecting (like, you're stepping too far away at this point), and then I ask, "am I doing something that is making you feel you should do that"?

I agree with Gssh's general sentiments on troubleshooting and talking things out. I think one of the most underappreciated skills in tango is self-diagnosing. Being able to figure out for yourself what's going wrong. Sure, you might get it wrong. But there's learning in the struggle.

If something feels wrong, don't wait till your next private lesson to fix it. Tweak, test, experiment, talk it out with a practica partner, change what you're doing, have them change what they're doing. You might not fix it. You might think you've fixed it but really haven't. But only after having worked at it yourself, bring it to your private lesson and have your teacher check under the hood.

I find that over the years I've gotten better at troubleshooting, and some things I fix myself before the need for a private lesson. Or I outsource troubleshooting by posting videos of myself to tango forums. ;) Saves money!
Yeah, I don't have the time (or the money) to take every problem I have to a private lesson, (where over half the time, the issue won't even re-produce).

At the end of the day, not everyone you dance with has had the same teachers, and thus might not have the same philosophy on how some things are supposed to happen. I think it's good to have some understanding of different possibilities.

Some people insist that the way they (and/or their teachers) do things is the only truth. I don't believe that at all. I think tango is more about possibilities and preferences, than simply right and wrong.
 
#24
Dancing is about acceptance. Either you accept the other person's dancing or you don't. You don't have a right to change the other person's dancing to suit you. Dancers are not like light bulbs where every wattage fits the same size socket. Everybody isn't compatible with everybody else.

I can't take a tanda of a woman's horrible frame when she is pushing against my left hand like it's a wall. My shoulder can't take the pressure. She doesn't have to change her frame but I make a change. I'll let go of her hand and hold her wrist. That will relieve a lot of the pressure. If that doesn't work, I'll push her arm straight down to relieve the pressure. If she complains, I tell her I have arthritis. (That usually defuses her defensive attitude.) If she terminates the tanda before it's conclusion, that's great.

Sometimes a woman says "that was easy." I ask if she wants to try an experiment to see if it can better. Almost all of them say "yes". Now that I have her permission, I throw her right arm over my shoulder for a dance. Almost all say it was better. I explain there's no pushing against a wall, their muscles are more relaxed and it's easier for them to move. Any comment I give is based on m-o-v-e-m-e-n-t and not how to execute a figure.

I've probably written too much. Just in case, I've taken out the asbestos suit.
 

Gssh

Well-Known Member
#25
Yes, teaching at a practica is bad: "You're stepping too far away in the molinete. Step closer."

However, troubleshooting is good: "Our molinete feels bad. Could you try stepping closer on your back step so we can see how it feels?"
I think this might capture it best - what i feel is not ok for a practicas (and every other collaborative learning environment) is _authority_. If we are not in a class where somebody has decided to be our student and give us this authority we are all fellow students, just with different and hopefully complementary viewpoints and experiences. The "correct" response to this should be something like
"i know, but i am working on something else, this is a sideffect of that - i am thinking about...."
"it might feel like this to you, but i think it is a consequence of you not keeping up with the turn - you set up steps this large with your lead when starting the turn, and i will step on the beat, so the speed of the turn is pretty much fixed - unless we want to do half or double time? I can work on playing with the timing and stepping in the moulinette, but i think we should smooth this out, first?"
"i am working on getting all my steps of the same length, and with this song i am not fast enough in my back ocho - could you lead a more compact moulinette to give me more time?"
"i am not doing a back step - i am crossing, but it feels to me like you are trying to push me out of the cross too quickly, and then then i fall into my side step - maybve we try this without listening to the music and figure out the mechanics we think should happen in slow motion?"

There are a lot of people who take on the mantle of authority at practicas, and i think this is antithetical to what we are trying to do there. (completely aside from the question if they have the skill to back up this claim) - even teachers who host their own guided practicas where they are explicitly there to give guidance often act quite differently than in their lessons - they suggest, give options)
 

Gssh

Well-Known Member
#26
I remember the last time I had talked to Norberto, he was saying how he had changed, and was really liking close embrace now (back then), which was how he danced at the milonga, (although he still was teaching the moves that he was known for).
That is really interesting - to some extent he started me off in my journey to close embrace. When i took his workshops i was still very much doing nuevo of the openest embrace kind - my teacher liked to talk of the embrace as "like a beetles antennae", where it serves to perceive subtle changes in each others bodies, and then reacting to those, and i loved the demonstrations of visual leading, and actually moving and being moved by ones partner was anathema. His stuff was so much more physical than that, and there was real transmission of impulse. Looking for more of that feeling of actual substance to the connection, where we become conditional on each other, instead of being independent and reading and interpreting each other, lead me where i am at now with dancing counterbalanced CE with partners who like it.
 

Zoopsia59

Well-Known Member
#28
I think (like many things), some people are much better at troubleshooting than others. If someone feels that their follower is stepping away on some step, there's probably "some" validity to that. However, it could have been triggered by something the leader did, and so on . . .

An issue is rarely 100% one person's fault, and 0% the other person's fault (of course it's rarely 50% / 50% either).
:cool:

The bottom line is that sometimes, finding the true root cause can take a while to figure out. It can be like unpeeling an onion.
It's sometimes easier to figure it out by observing than by being a partner in the dance. That's why I try to always watch my students dancing at events to help me when I'm in the lesson with them. Or I arrange a practice partner for their lesson sometimes
 

Zoopsia59

Well-Known Member
#29
I have always practiced, alone as well as with partners. In fact, my partners and I have never even talked much during practice sessions. Each one of us just practices focusing on their specific things. Sometimes we may ask each other how this or that feels, or which way of doing this or that feels better/more comfortable... to that extent, no more. I don't need more from a practice partner, and I don't give more unless that person is taking a lesson from me.
Serious troubleshooting and feedback, I mostly get in private lessons from my instructors who I believe are best qualified for such things.
Lately I have been practicing leading with a leader who is trying to improve his following. We spend part of our session with roles reversed and helping the other with the opposite role. The rest of the session we dance our usual roles taking turns focusing on something we each want to work on (actually we're taking turns when we reverse roles too) For instance, he'll have a move he can't get working and we'll do that and I'll give him feedback; then maybe I'll get feedback from him on something. Of course, we have a lot more feedback to share when we are dancing reversed roles!

And of course, sometimes we aren't working on a specific problem move.. we are exploring ideas and variations on moves that we have learned
 

Zoopsia59

Well-Known Member
#30
t. But they'll rarely do any harm to the community.
People teaching bad habits or improper technique do quite a bit of harm. As do the ones who teach the "right way" (and everything that doesn't fit their narrow paradigm is "wrong") Just because they had good teachers, doesn't mean they actually took in the fundamentals they needed. Plenty of students don't ever look beyond the steps even when the teacher tries to emphasize it.

IME, people who start teaching too soon are usually the same people who are oblivious to how their own mistakes are causing their partners trouble. Then they primarily teach students dancing the opposite role and they teach by only dancing with them and never arranging to watch them. They don't even necessarily watch them when out dancing socially.

Also in my experience, these teachers are almost always male leaders.
 
#31
No one here appreciates tangueros that in 2 hours at a practica save a talented beginner to struggle around for 10 class hours with a poor leader? :)
It seems to be not so difficult for me, in particular because classes and most workshops have to focus on leader problems.
 
#32
My approach to that is: I take a private lesson from time to time, and then, whenever I am in a learning situation, a class or practica, I practice what I learned in the lesson. With a poor leader, with a rich leader, with a pillar, with a chair... It is all practice.
If you feel that you just struggle instead of practicing or learning in a class, I'd say, just cut on those classes and do more privates/practice sessions with better partners. But chances are, you are missing on some possibilities of being proactive in your practicing strategies. ;)
 

Gssh

Well-Known Member
#33
People teaching bad habits or improper technique do quite a bit of harm. As do the ones who teach the "right way" (and everything that doesn't fit their narrow paradigm is "wrong") Just because they had good teachers, doesn't mean they actually took in the fundamentals they needed. Plenty of students don't ever look beyond the steps even when the teacher tries to emphasize it.
Random observation: What is most fascinating to me is that a lot of teachers talk/explain a very different tango than they actually dance or teach. Their actual corrections and demonstrations are often quite different from how they describe what they want to do and what the underlying principles are. I often wonder if they remember their teachers words unchanged, but their dance is much more colored and changed by their own style/preferences/experiences (or lack of fundamentals).
 

sixela

Well-Known Member
#35
Dancing is about acceptance. Either you accept the other person's dancing or you don't. You don't have a right to change the other person's dancing to suit you.
That's very true at a milonga. But at a practica, that's definitely not the case for the partners with which you're really trying to practice things.

You also don't have to "change their dancing" (which incidentally betrays a mindset about who needs to change that is troubling). But you can certainly experiment with things and ask the person to humour you and change their behaviour at least temporarily. And if they then do something that "feels better" to you, you can then ask: "does this also feel better to you? If not, why? If yes, how were you influenced not to do this before? Was it something in the way I moved?" etc. There's an element of shared exploration of what works, what doesn't and the search for the boundary between those --which can also teach you very interesting things to explore-- that is implicit in the word 'practica'.

But obviously some practicas really are mini-milongas, or at least the are for some people. And others might want to dance with you but not want to practice with you. It's all fine, and you need to respect the wishes of these people to, or not dance with them.
 
#36
That's very true at a milonga. But at a practica, that's definitely not the case for the partners with which you're really trying to practice things.

You also don't have to "change their dancing" (which incidentally betrays a mindset about who needs to change that is troubling). But you can certainly experiment with things and ask the person to humour you and change their behaviour at least temporarily.
Everybody isn't open to experimentation because that implies they are doing something wrong. I have to wait for a "lead" from the woman she's open to experimentation.

My biggest problem is when a woman pushes on my left hand as if it's a wall which feels like my shoulder will be dislocated. I've asked woman to stop pushing and 95% say "I'm not pushing." They are pushing but don't realize it. There's no negotiation when you ask somebody to experiment when she feels no reason to do so. Instead, let go of her hand and hold her wrist.
 

Bailamosdance

Well-Known Member
#37
One easy solution to the 'pushing' is to simply use your normal pressure. Let her push your hand away and let her see that the force needs to equal yours. Beginners many times ask us ballroom dancers for a 'strong lead' but that is their confusion - they need to be more responsive and sensitive, the lead does not have to get stronger.

It might also be that your frame is at fault.
 

sixela

Well-Known Member
#38
Everybody isn't open to experimentation because that implies they are doing something wrong.
Ah? Sometimes you might have to ask them to change something to help _you_ understand. That's what experimentation is for: you don't know the result of an experiment and who is going to learn what. Otherwise it's not an experiment.

Yes, as I indicated not everyone is open to that. Some also just want you to dance so they can practice their stuff in isolation, and the last thing they want is for you to dance as anything but your regular self.

As I said, you can't force the issue, nor should you try.

But if you meet a certain set of people regularly, surely you can find kindred spirits and spot them at a practica?
 
#39
One easy solution to the 'pushing' is to simply use your normal pressure. Let her push your hand away and let her see that the force needs to equal yours.
I wrote I don't want my hand pushed away because it causes pain in my shoulder.

It might also be that your frame is at fault.
Based on compliments, I don't think so because I don't push them like a wheelbarrow filled with bricks.
 
#40
And others might want to dance with you but not want to practice with you.
Then it's up to me to offer a compelling package if I like to dance with them.
So a practica means something like plain dancing an hour, practicing half an hour and pausing half an hour.
As most follower at my intermediate level are quite short of leaders they accept immediately if they like to dance with me.
A benefit is that after that they stop to excuse themselves for every mistake I lead at milongas. :)
 

Dance Ads