Reflections on Tango

Chicho y Juana Workshop at ASU

Chicho at ASUWho would have ever thought that ASU Argentine Tango club would have such world renown tango dancers come to visit with them?
I have been teaching Argentine Tango at ASU for 8 years and have watched the club grow and thrive. I have watched dreams come true through tango club. Maybe not gynormous dreams but dreams like, can we have a festival? can we have x teachers come here? I am always amazed and inspired by my students’ creativity and motivation. Yes, they are young and sometimes disorganized but I watch them learn so much through the process of creation. Maybe from the chaos rises the beauty! We are in a Phoenix burb after all.

Chicho y Juana offered a class to the Tango Club Practica on Thursday night and more than 40 students came. This class lasted for more than a generous hour and I think it blew some of the students’ minds. The Tango Club is open to ASU students who are not only in my class but to any ASU student currently enrolled at ASU.

Ironically, I took my first class with Chicho when I first started dancing tango and on his first and only trip to the Phoenix area prior to this visit with Juana. I have had the pleasure of taking classes with him throughout my tango journey. I am always impressed with his creativity. Possibly through my exposure to other kinds of artists I am not put off by his shy nature, which has often been referred to as unfriendly. He is a creative genius at work! It was really fun to watch him open up to the young students during this weekend: he listened to them. I know he and Juana had opportunity to share with tango club president, Ganesh. A time that I know will remain a lasting memory for Ganesh!

Juana at ASUThe way Chicho teaches reminds me of my modern dance days when I would take a class with a master teacher in a crowded room full of other eager to be seen dancers and they would throw choreography at us and then say, “now perform it backwards, invert it, retrograde it, mirror it, put it on the other side”. Chicho is not so extreme but he likes to offer ideas of creativity and possibilities in the movement form.

AND let us not forget – CONNECTION. He spoke of this wholeheartedly and importantly. Which of course makes me smile. The true magic between the partnership. And it’s not about the steps but about understanding the concept. Chicho said this repeatedly.
It goes back to “technique” – the technique of the dance is not that different along the spectrum of body types and labels, etc. One of my stellar students came to me last week and said, “what Chicho is saying is not that different from Graciela Gonzalez. Isn’t that interesting?” YES!

And this blog would not be complete without mentioning their spectacular 5 performances during the Saturday evening Grand Milonga in ASU’s Ballroom. Someone in the community commented to me that their performance energy was palpable and it filled the room. I experienced the same feelings, which I do when I see them perform. I think performing Argentine Tango as an improvised dance is an art form in addition to just learning to improvise. I think it’s a hard thing to do well. (and that’s a blog for another day!) Chicho and Juana won the hearts of many with their spectacular performances. They smiled and shared their dance generously with us. The highlight (if there’s a way to rank 1 song above another!) was Chicho’s dedication to Ganesh prior to their 3rd song performance to the slow challenging melody of Astor Piazzolla’s Milonga del Angel. A rare thing, Chicho told the audience, to dedicate a performance to anyone.

I know this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Chicho y Juana and ASU Tango Club.
Daniela with Chicho y JuanaJuana and Ganesh

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Sensory Overload

daniela teaching 2

Daniela giving aural cues!

I hear from many of my students that sometimes they feel overloaded after a weekend festival. I know this feeling too and I was reminded recently of this fact.

As you all know I have recently moved into a new home and studio space, which is fantastic! And in the process of this move came the need to purge stuff. Stuff that I have held onto for many many years including a small article I had saved specifically about the topic of sensory overloading.

The article written by dance and science author, Margaret Skrinar was part of a Science and Dance series that she contributed to the Boston Dance Alliance newsletter during my modern dancer days. She says, “No other physical endeavor places greater demand on the sensory nervous system than dance.” Aren’t you feeling better already knowing this? She goes on to say that the nervous system can only effectively attend to one sensory item at a time and in a sensory overloaded situation like a class or workshop, each sensory mode becomes interference for the others.

As we are learning to Argentine Tango we are picking up information from our hearing – both cues from the instructor and the music; our sight is used to watch the demonstration of 2 bodies and their orientation to each other and the orientation in space; kinesthetically we are receiving information through pressure changes on the skin from our partner, the instructor, and the floor; and there’s proprioception, which is the ability for one part of the body to know where it is relative to the other parts, like where your left leg is relative to your arms in your embrace.

There are dancers who are accustomed to specific teachers and are able to handle multiple stimuli through what Skrinar calls “chunking and anticipation”. So if you have already taken class with me you filter some sensory information for another, you might tune out what I am saying to work on the visual, what I am doing and what you are seeing. Chunking has to do with putting information into big chunks as opposed to single units. I see this with my intermediate dancers who are able to identify a cruzada, for example, in a series of movements. They are able to chunk movements by identifying parts of it as la cruzada, this similar movement becomes one unit rather than six or seven or eight distinct steps.

So what can you do to reduce your sensory load and still improve?
Chunking and anticipating seem like good plans to me. Maybe begin by looking for elements that seem familiar. Crossed feet system or parallel system for example or that cruzada that you know so well. Do you know what kind of learner you are? Rely on that information to help you learn. Maybe listen more or listen less, or what about humming demonstration patterns or ideas. I know some visual learners who doodle as they see the movement, which helps their bodies understand what they are seeing. My students know that I have language that I use to express the timing of certain phrases ie: “taca taca tum” or “bum and bum and bum”. And then they imitate me to remember those phrases.

Some ideas for teachers:
1) Skrinar suggests lessening the visual stimulation, which would work for dancers who use the mirror to imitate their teacher. Which could be useful to turn away from a mirror to do drills, for example, requiring the body to rely on its own proprioception and kinesthesia to learn.
2) Show and don’t talk – decreasing the auditory stimulus. Or showing movement without music. (And I am sure this could be argued as I find movement so intrinsically tied to music that I need the music to learn but maybe you don’t.)
3) Ask dancers to just watch and not try to imitate to reduce interference.
4) After dancers try a phrase give them a moment for proprioceptive and kinesthetic information to be processed by the brain.
5) Give dancers time to try movements without visuals and aural interference.
6) Teach in chunks, which I think is a very popular strategy in tango!

What other strategies do you use to learn or to teach by that work for you? Share on the accesstango Facebook page @https://www.facebook.com/LearnArgentineTangowithDaniela

Skrinar, Margaret. “Sensory Overload: is it slowing your technique development?” Newsletter Vol.9 Number 4 of Boston Dance Alliance Newsletter. Boston, MA: July/August 1997. Print.

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Are you an effective learner?

Some of you know that I am a part of the Tango Learning team, tango teacher, Tomas Howlin’s creation of the Tango Learning program. It is a progressive program designed to help students learn and also to help those who are teaching to better instruct. Each level is a 3 day intensive that begins each day with a body knowledge session that I have guided during the Tango Learning in Portland and will be doing again in Albuquerque at the end of the month.

Recently Tomas posted on Facebook  a link to an article entitled:  4 Key Characteristics to Effective Learners. And of course I see the tie in with Tango and Tomas’ course. Here are the 4 key characteristics to being an Effective Learner: 1) they are curious 2) they are process-oriented 3) they apply what they have learned 4) and they retain.

Are you a good learner??? (is that proper English?)

I know from watching my students over the years that applying what they have learned has certainly helped them in understanding and retaining the subtleties of Argentine Tango. Practicing helps and even spending a little time each day walking or thinking about a new concept of a just learned concept will help it to translate into your body. Although the 4 Characteristics doesn’t translate directly to Learning Styles but we will address that in another blog!Take Notes note

I found early on in my modern dance days I would spend time after rehearsals writing down the sequence of movements in order to better remember them. I was never good a drawing but I had stick figures and practically my own language and abbreviations for directions and body movements. I carried this practice into my early tango days when I was taking classes with as many teachers as possible and learning to lead. I would look at those notes before going to dance and would pick something to practice from the notes. I found this practice most helpful in retaining the information in my mind and in my body.

When studying extensively with Graciela I took mountains of notes. I then retyped them onto my computer which added another dimension of retention. I don’t feel obligated to do this, I like it and it helps me revisit the material.

I look forward to your successful learning and remember that practicas are designed for that: for learning.
AND HEY – It’s Tuesday! Practica @ SNAP at 8:30pm.

 

 

 

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Sacadas Saturday!

Saturday, October 5th we will take a look at the mechanics and function of Sacadas. Sacar is the verb to take so this is the idea in the structure of tango. We will be taking the place of our partner. Sacadas, like boleos is a BIG topic. But I look forward to tackling your questions and get you on the road to practicing safely! Both the Lead and Follow technique will be covered.
Workshop starts at 12:00pm – 1:30pm $15.
PLEASE RSVP directly to me and I will send you the address to the NEW TANGO ROOM in Tempe.
RSVP Daniela

 

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Not just a New Look! New New New!

I tried my hand or my face at Video Blogging – how hard can it be? Or so I thought! I have added my 20th attempt on here just because you might enjoy it!

I just finished an intensive 4 day course called CareerHearted with Jeff Goodman. An impressive step by step look at one’s career and step by step tools on how to begin it, expand it, transition it or wherever your career is now. I highly recommend it. And of course how serendipity works, I take a course on how to get a fresh look at my career and I have a new template for my website so that I will have more versatility in sharing Argentine Tango with you.
ALSO, soon to come, there will be a new logo. I think it is time that those tango legs get put to rest. And finally, starting in October, I will be moving classes that were at Rhythmic Expressions to my new home studio. I will soon have all the classes and the location of the new ones on accesstango.com.
So until then, remember that this Saturday’s workshop is on BOLEOS! It starts at 12:00pm and is at Rhythmic Expressions at McClintock and University (617 S. McClintock Dr. Tempe, AZ). As always please RSVP to me if you will attending the workshop. You can send a message directly to me.
This Sunday will be the last Sunday practica at Rhythmic Expressions – class starts at 6:30pm.

Tuesday night practicas are still at SNAP and have not changed time or format yet.

See you soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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