Learning Tango

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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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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Adornos: those sweet embellishments

I am often asked by women and men about them. How to do them? When to do them? What to do as an adornment.
In a recent conversation with my partner, Rommel Oramas, he asked me to look it up in the dictionary. My lovely ipad dictionary came up with 2 definitions.
Adornment: noun – the action of decorating yourself with something colorful or interesting.adornos 1
This was the definition that Rommel particularly liked and what he liked about it was the decorating yourself part.

I think with many things in tango we often get caught up with what we see from the outside, watching from the milonga sidelines or watching youtube or a demo during a festival. This ominous triad: the music, the couple, and those who are peering at you whether you know it or not. And because we are viewing from the outside we might think that adornments are fundamental, necessary, obligatory when we dance. Because we are watching from the outside and they look cool or maybe not so cool but either way as we travel on our tango journey adornments are something we are anxious to add to our dance.

I tell my students that learning adornos is like a special purse: filled with things we like, don’t like, need, don’t need, may need, and most importantly things we may have borrowed from someone else or have been guided to buy. It is fun to hunt for adornos at festivals and youtube, to save them and then bring them out when no one is watching to try out solo, in your kitchen (or living room or bathroom!), hoping that you will have the opportunity to perform it perfectly at the next musical opportunity.

adornos 2So coming to my point – the adornos have to be true to you; an extension of yourself. They are additions to your collaboration with your partner. Sometimes the lead will give the follower space and will support and follow her adornos.  Sometimes the lead will initiate the adornos. Sometimes the follow or the lead will steal them! However they happen, I like the idea that I am decorating myself: I am adding colors to my conversation in the dance. The music dictates, the collaboration allows it, and I use the adornos as extensions of my tango center. Whether they come out as silky circles, or rhythmic skittley tappings, or caresses to myself, my partner, or the floor. I have borrowed them and continue to explore them in the dance. But I remember to do them for me and as part of my communication with my partner.

 

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Practica and Leading Ladies Coming Up!

Happy August Tangueros/as!
The whirlwind vacation is coming to a close and the fall line-up commences!
Sunday practica resumes August 4th at 6:30pm with an all level class. Tuesday practicas continue as usual (special thanks to Tyler Litman and Acacia Crouch for holding down the fort) and Saturday, August 10th will be another Leading Ladies workshop beginning at 12:00pm at Rhythmic Expressions. I am completely looking forward to that! We’ll start with a Restorative Stretch and dive right into some technique and figures both leading and following. Bring your questions and a towel to roll up. As I have stated previously, I think learning some very basic leading techniques improve our following skills. Come try it out! (Ladies only!)Being tourists

Some of you have been asking about the Saturday workshops and I have yet to post those dates and topics. I will have those soon. I know with all the festivals in the fall and Thanksgiving that there are limited Saturdays which makes scheduling challenging but I appreciate your enthusiasm!

Finally, to say, that dancing in NYC, Boston, and Baltimore has been an exciting adventure: a chance to visit with old tango friends and to make new ones. As I have watched the milonga dance floors I have seen people who have reminded me of tango characters from all my years of dancing. It has been a mirror’s reflection of my experiences: my successes and trials in tango. There are lots of someones for everyone out there in tango world, so enjoy dancing!
And I am reminded that learning to tango most definitely has its stages. But no matter where you are in your journey and no matter where you are the music enraptures, the embrace captivates and it feels good to be a part of something bigger.

See you soon!

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