In addition to teaching in the community, I teach tango at ASU’s School of Dance in the Institute for Design and the Arts. Formally teaching two levels of social Argentine Tango at a University is a pretty unique situation. Students receive two credits towards their degree for each, even repeatable course they take. During a 16-week semester, we meet twice a week for a total of three hours a week.
When I was asked years ago to replace a retiring faculty member, a single tango course was in place. I immediately revamped the syllabus when I first came on board. Later the advanced level was added.
Over the course of a semester I take my students on a dynamic tango journey. They begin with walking and connection games. I conduct classes on milonga, vals, musicality and a presentation on the history and evolution of the dance form. We also watch videos of famous tango couples to help my students define their aesthetic. They are also required to attend milongas and practicas in the community and participate in the student-run Tango Club.
In the short time that I have been teaching, I have seen a difference in my students in their first tango class. When I first began teaching in 2005, almost none of the students in the class had ever heard of or seen tango prior to class. Now, thanks to reality TV shows, almost all students have seen or have been exposed to some form of social dancing, including tango. They are, of course, surprised to discover that Argentine Tango as a social dance is sometimes quite different from what they have seen on TV or YouTube.
Some students are occasionally disappointed but more often than not they are intrigued by the possibilities that Argentine Tango offers them through the partner relationship. This partnership demands skills in listening and improvisation, attention and patience in order to move through the space together. In this evolving dance form they learn to negotiate, lead and respect each other and their community, and the culture of the dance itself.
With more than 80 students each semester, it really never is the same class twice. Class has been called a stress reliever and a fun distraction to the everyday, heavy course load of many honors students. Although basic templates and syllabi are in place, my students inspire and surprise me all the time and oftentimes send me spontaneously into new, exciting directions. Every semester these young students remind me how magical and powerful dance can be.
They find friendships and sometimes even love – two of my students recently married. Students tell me that they learned to be better persons through tango or found their voice through the dance. Several of them have been dancing with me their entire college careers. Life has fed their dancing, and the dance has fed their life.
It is a wonderful experience to watch them form bonds of friendship and trust. I think one of the most exciting aspects of watching my students’ process of learning this dance is that they come with honesty and openness. They are willing to have a positive experience as they challenge themselves. They laugh together and help each other. It is a reciprocal openness that I share and enjoy so much.
I love my job!
I love dancing!
I love tango!