The Popular Practilonga!
Practice + Milonga = Practilonga!
Since my interview and time spent chatting with Mitra, I have found that the topic of growing tango and teaching beginners to really be a hot topic (again or still). I spoke recently to my colleague Karen Jaffe of Tangogypsies in Asheville, North Carolina and she spoke adamantly about the joy of practicing. The practica seems most logical, like with anything you need time to practice, to let something new sink into your body and your mind. And it should be a fun place to do that!
I remember in my early years of tango going to Buenos Aires and attending several practicas that were hosted by well-known maestros. It really was a practice space. It was a great way to meet people and to connect with them to go to milongas together usually after the practica. The atmosphere was casual, music playing in the background, people talking, drinking mate, asking the Maestro questions, usually with one partner, using the time to problem solve, to discover, to explore, to PRACTICE! There was no ronda (line of dance), it had the air of something about to happen! Like a classroom where everyone was told to take a partner and go to a corner and solve a problem, and at the end there would be a correct answer!
Over the years the Practilonga came to be, I think mostly in the US and Europe. This is a combination of the practica and the milonga. Funny to think that these 2 could meet but it was / is an answer for communities where the traditional etiquette and structures of the milonga could be put aside. This might be due to community size or competing events.
I offer you Karen’s Practilonga user’s guide
What is a practilonga?
A practilonga is a social dancing event that combines the relaxed etiquette of a practica with many of the same elements you will find at a more formal milonga.
Designed for all level dancers, there is more light in the space and a designated area for people who want to stop to work on a movement or talk, where they would normally impede the line of dance at a milonga. That practice area can be delineated by chairs or tables, however you want to make it clear that that space is for practice.
How does it work?
The music is played in tandas, as is found at most formal milongas. Dancers may chose to continue social dancing, moving counter clockwise around the floor, working on refining navigation skills. They may also choose to work on elements of the dance, in the designated practice area. The rules of etiquette can be relaxed making it ok to dialog with your partner while dancing. If it becomes necessary to stop to dialog, or to work on something, then that couple can move to the practice area. Line of dance will be expected to continue moving.
Suggestions for a productive practice
1. Find an element, concept or movement; something specific to focus working on.
2. Ask a partner if they would like to work on that specific topic with you. You could ask them prior to coming to the practica or at the practica, but they might already have practicing plans with another. It also might depend on the community size.
3. Establish a warm-up practice period where each dancer is making “mental notes”, but otherwise remaining silent, perhaps 5 minutes or 2 songs.
4. After the warm-up period have a dialogue time, where each dancer has a chance to say something. Choose something that felt “good,” or “right” about the topic, and then something that “could be improved”. Focus on one point at a time.
5. Repeat the practice, working to incorporate the new information.
6. Dialogue and practice until you feel it is time to choose a new focus element, or to change partners.
7. REMEMBER to use “I” statements; I feel, I need, I would like, I think, etc. Generally, these are received better and they take away the feeling of blame. Avoid the use of negative words if possible. It’s always nice to thank your partner!
8. When in doubt or in need of assistance you can always direct the questions to assistants or to the teacher.
Karen: Practicing is not just for beginners, but for EVERY LEVEL of DANCER and I think, even MORE important for more experienced dancers who may have habits, that they would like to break out of in order to create new habits or to find new ways to make their dance more enjoyable and interesting. The focus really is on EXPANDING, it is not just a linear progression, it is QUANTUM.
I feel that even after 20 years of dancing, my continued study and intense practices during my annual month long trips to Buenos Aires, as well as exploratory practices and preparations for teaching workshops, are an important part of my growth as a dancer and teacher.
Find Karen at home in Asheville, in her garden, or on her monthly stays in Buenos Aires at Tangogypsies.com
To conclude, I think each community needs to be attentive to the group they are serving. Maybe some of the suggestions need to be altered. But communicating the goals of the space to your community definitely helps.
How does your successful practica or practilonga work?
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