Teaching Tango

Reflecting on Competition

It’s that time of year again and I couldn’t resist peaking on Facebook to see how the US Tango Competition went this year. And to see how some students of mine had faired. It is an interesting place to be after participating four years in a row, to be a voyeur so far away!

Also interesting to have discussions here in Germany with my friend, Stefan, who can speak about competition from the perspective of the ballroom world. He says that even though there is a European Tango Salon Championship and several subsidiaries throughout Europe, that Tango competition has just not caught on in Germany (although I did meet the champions from last year, last year!) It was only about four years ago that he had heard of Tango Salon competitions. He says that the teachers do not promote this here. Our conversation continued with him expressing his thoughts that competition is a good thing. He reflected on his own experiences in competition where the process, the rehearsals, the journey, were the best parts, not the actual competition. The actual competition happens so fast. It is so quick that sometimes that really isn’t what you remember most! Competition is a good thing for people and it helps them grow. The common sentiment has been – tango is for passion and for socializing not for competition. And I understand this, having had this same sentiment.

It appears that Shaun Rosenberg in his Blog, 10 Reasons Why Competition Is A Good Thing agrees with Stefan (and Rommel Oramas, former partner for Salon Championships). He presents some good arguments for competition, beginning with how it promotes growth, creativity, helps to advance civilization, how it teaches us by making us want to win the next time, it promotes taking chances, makes us goal oriented. I know that these are all the reasons why Rommel chose to compete and why he competition 2014continues to pursuit this passion. “Everyone needs to have some passion to live and some passion to win”, says Rosenberg. Competition is good in business, we see it all the time, why do you think there are more products and sometimes better than before products – think Apple!

I don’t think it’s for everyone, but I do think it helps to improve the level and quality of one’s own dancing and the level of dancing overall. Everyone needs someone to admire. It helps to promote Tango to new audiences, and can help to excite those who might feel like giving themselves a goal in their dancing. For me, I still cannot stress enough how much my understanding of the dance has expanded. I feel like I had a narrow vision of the dance and struggled to convey certain aspects of it to my students. I know my training has made me a better teacher. And what I love to do is contextualize the understanding of the dance and now I can. Congrats to those who braved the competition and DID it this year!

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Eyes Open vs Eyes Shut

Does the title give it away? Do you know what I’m talking about? When are yours eyes open in tango and when are they shut?

Has your tango teacher told you, as a follower, to close your eyes? Close your eyes so you can feel more? so you can be more receptive? If so, I’m commenting on this.

I, too, have told my followers, my friskier follower babies, to shut their eyes. I might recommend this if the follower is particularly frisky or anxious or running away from the lead. At a milonga I have been known to close my eyes in order to pay more attention to my lead, as I DO get distracted! And I think sometimes at a milonga depending on my leader I am inclined to close my eyes.

HOWEVER, as followers grow up (in tango yearsI ask that they open their eyes for many exercises. I hadn’t thought too much about this until, during my training with Graciela Gonzalez, she spent almost an hour yelling at me to open my eyes. We have to not only be receptive with our bodies but also our eyes. The eyes can help us to become more present in our dancing.

Skull with lines from eye socketThis brought me back to my work with Dr. Pam Matt and what is referred to as The Thinking Body, (after the book by the same title by Mabel Todd, founder of the somatic form Ideokinesis). The idea behind the work is that the body’s posture and movement can change with mental focus on imagined actions, like visualization. The images used are creative, active and endless, and the body reacts to what the mind’s eye sees.

So I bring the idea to you for deciding to dance with your eyes open vs shut!

Imagine your eyes resting in your eye sockets and allow information to come into the eyes. I think our eyes spend so much time actively seeking information as opposed to passively absorbing what comes before them.

In the drawing of the skull I have added 2 lines, that ideally would make a cone shape with the circle where the eye would be at the far left position. If you imagine that the eye is supported by its bony structure of the skull, the eye socket, and then the muscular supports for the eye move diagonally back into the head (which they do). So if you could visualize the eyeballs resting in a relaxed state with the images that come before you moving into your skull where your brain and information processing lies! The eyes then become passive but your body still is receptive in well, almost the same way. Try this next time you are working hard on your technique and you have chosen to close your eyes, try opening them for a time and see what happens to your dancing. The real goal of the follower is not to “check out” while dancing, see if your passive vision can support you. And as a side note, check out what it does to your posture.

Thanks to Flickr photos for the skull drawing.
M
ore on Ideokinesis at http://www.ideokinesis.com/

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A Great Technique Class

On Sunday I conducted a technique class that was nicely attended by ladies from the Austin community. I am really enjoying my time in the Austin tango scene – Austinites are very friendly and this carries into the tango world as well.

Sharing technique and body mechanics to receptive and eager dancers is such a pleasure. I am seeing that there is a desire to understand the dance at a more profound level so having a forum for that is very rewarding for me as a teacher.

I remember when I first started dancing tango some female dancers in a class asked a adornos 1male visiting teacher whether ladies should practice anything alone to improve their dancing. His response was very clear, he believed no, that the dance is a couples dance and should focus there. I remember agreeing with him at the time because I think he was trying to stress the obvious importance of the couple, their connection, and the mechanics of how to make Tango work: how to lead, how to follow. After all it does take two as we know! My how times change and how 10+years can change my mind!

Now I find great value in studying my own body mechanics for tango, knowing that I need to understand something about my own body first, before I share it with someone else. I see this in my students as well. I like taking time in all my classes to have dancers find their own bodies before spending time connecting with partners.

In Sunday’s class, during the hour of drills, I spoke about the followers’ pivotability or pivotness. I speak of this both in The Tango Workbook and in my classes. The follower has to know that she has the ability to create a pivot, yes, generated from the lead but manifested in her standing leg. The pivots are also easier when the knee of that pivoting leg is soft or a bit bent. She controls her standing / working leg. It was great to take the time with the dancers to dissect the movements.

Remember, a coach can always help remind you of how the body can work more efficiently and that you can continue to work on the technique both alone and inside your tango embraces. Tango Coaching – love it!

Thanks Austin for a great class! We’ll do a similar repeat class on March 15th!

 

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End of February Workshops at SNAP

It has been raining a lot here in Austin and has been cold! Perfect weather to get things done, sleep, eat, and get organized! I have signed up for a German language intensive class and have reunited with some old tango friends, as well as a friend who I knew nearly 30 years ago!!! Aside from doing a little bit of teaching here I have organized a weekend of classes in Scottsdale.

Daniela Teaching with AmandaThe workshops are scheduled for the end of February @ SNAP – Saturday, February 28 and Sunday, March 1st.
Saturday will be geared to Beginners/Intermediate students and
Sunday will be geared to Intermediate/Advanced students.
3:00pm – 4:30pm we will concentrate on technique, drills, and clarifying vocabulary
4:30pm – 6:00pm we will use our technique to refine our dancing for the social dance floor. I will teach vocabulary and musicality.
I am looking for 16 students for each class each day so please register directly to me to confirm your spot. $35/day or $20 for each class.
SNAP 4425 N. Granite Reef Rd. Scottsdale, AZ

Your support by spreading the word is always helpful.

I look forward to seeing you all in a few weeks.

PRIVATE LESSONS:
There is limited time for private lessons and semi-private lessons so let me know ASAP. Private lessons will be held at SNAP and in Chandler. Private lessons are $85 for 45 minutes, $160 for 1.5 hours + $10 floor fee (per hour). Semi-private lesson of 6 persons or less $160/1.5 hours + $10 floor fee (per hour).

CONTACT ME DIRECTLY by Sending Me an Email or by calling me or texting me : 480-442-9550

 

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The Tango Workbook First Edition

The Tango Workbook BookcoverIt has been about 5 weeks since I left Phoenix and I’m happy to report that I finished The Tango Workbook in time for the new semester. The Tango Workbook is a 65 page PDF document geared to the beginning Argentine Tango student. It is NOT a how to dance book – it is however, a supportive text for those students who learn visually and like to read what they might have heard or missed in class. I cover milonga etiquette, leader and follower technique reminders, a short history of Argentine Tango history; I talk about pivots, la cruzada, molinetes and more!

I have spent the last several years writing this workbook and have received feedback from students who have actually used it in their Argentine Tango course. Here are some of their comments:
It’s easy to read and to follow along with the class.
I liked the workbook and the information is super useful.
I sometimes miss things in class so when I read the workbook it helped me remember what we learned.
The section on Milonga Etiquette was very helpful. I was so glad that I read it before my first milonga experience. I was prepared!

 

 

 

 

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