Friday, August 27, 2021

Surprises and Challenges when learning

When I started to relearn tango the landscape surprised me! There were things I thought I could already but when trying they crashed quite totally. Some new complicated figures were just complicated for me but the follower continued taking the cozy old steps. Then we had some old figures I knew very well and could perform with most of the followers but this time we were supposed to do them in a synchronous manner with the partner and this was demanding. Here are some of the issues!

Change the system

When dancing I never thought of the changes from the parallel system to crusada and back but during the class I became aware of my habit to fix the change by myself. To let the follower's feet fix the change felt like an effort! Now I had to plan it in advance!

Contraposition leading

I am a leader, born into nuevo tango and there the open, counterposition ochos were the very basic skill. When she was moving to the right my sidestep was advancing to the left. Later on I learned the old milonguero style small counterposition ochos and all that was ok. On nuevo training, the teacher was even astonished that I could make them that well.

So all this in my pocket I wanted to lead this!  
(8.44min if the link is failing us!)

In the video, Cristina is walking in line but my teacher wanted us to lead the follower to a series of sidesteps left/right/left, a kind of advancing ZZ. It is a good way to manage the figure in a small space! We did it in the leader tech class and then I was going to lead it on a private but it all was a big splash, crash! For some reason, I wasn't able to lead a follower in one direction and go myself in the opposite direction. I could not find a way to make it work. I was just standing there wondering How come? and What happened? I had done it before, why not now?


I think the enrosques are the most demanding skill a leader can achieve.  He needs to be able to isolate the shoulder, hip, feet movements and have complete control of the upper body and abraso. His frame control is combined with a different pattern in his free leg and foot.  The teachers said that many of these figures are impossible to process with followers if they are not advanced. I wonder if it is true? The follower needs to know the giro and ochos. She needs to be sure, stable on the basics and always reach to the space in front of her leader - that's enough I think!
We will see if I need to change my mind later on . . . .


My early baridas were of the type: stop and drag the foot or let the follower drag my foot. No problem there! This time we were supposed to do it simultaneously in a flow while turning or walking in line. The simultaneous version puts demands on both in the couple, we need to have balance, to be able to stand on one leg and move the other parts of the body freely. We need to come together with a partner to train so we become comfortable with all common variations in different settings.

So some things are standing tall and some collapsed down!
 but also
Some found, sound and working!

Tango Lesson: Syncopated Snake-Walk & Beyond in Vals

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Why would an advanced leader train with me?

This question a follower was wondering about!

I don't think that the advanced social dancers have all techniques at top level and if the leader wants to lift up something the problems can be similar to those at my level. When I want to add a variation of a known figure to my milonga vocabulary there are just a short rough period and then we can catch up the normal flow. If I instead want to introduce, develop a for me totally new technique the situation is quite different.

The day I want to expand to a new skill I start to work on it at home up to a level I remember the steps for me and the follower on the chosen figures. After that I can have a private lesson with a teacher but later on I need to train them with a partner and Yes! At this point the problems start!

In my world most of the followers start at beginner courses but as soon as they can atract sufficient number of tandas most of them stop regular courses and trust on that the leaders will teach the rest of the needed skills. There are not many at a practica who wants to sparring dance with me not even if I promise to dance the same number of songs so they can train the steps of their choice!

When it is time to introduce the new elements to an informal milonga there is a clear drop of skill on several areas. Even if I can move ok on pista the flow is not so smooth, not so effortless. When I am tweeking in the new steps the variation of other content gets lower as well as my focusing, selfconfidence and musicality.

There are followers who do not accept this drop in the tanda quality, but want a full dance experience always! This forces the leader to seach new partners and here is an opportunity for the followers willing to cooperate in learning and learn themselves. Maybe you are interested to get new friends also! Here the changes are quite obvious!

Are you training with me now?
 A follower asks irritated at a milonga

Nooo, I just dance badly today!  
A suggestion to the leader

I have been asked and others have confirmed the same phrase at milongas


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Feeling for cultivating or for composting learning?

It is crucial for your development to know what type of learner you are, before choosing your long-term learning process. I am a visual learner, who has an enormous appetite for training and tango is my main hobby. Are you also towards those patterns then you may have use of these my experiences!

Do you too recognize this?

I participated in a lot of workshops. Afterward, I talked sometimes about the content with my partner and we tried to run it occasionally. Time passed by and little by little other things occupied my time and mind. However, some figures and techniques survived and became part of my pista vocabulary but the extensive majority of them have withered at some remote corners of my mind.

It looks like this! All my forgotten figures . . .

What about frequently reactivate the knowledge history?

I was not happy about my routines and started to cultivate the workshop content instead! I use my camera to film the class summary and I try to memorize the verbal instructions and teachers' feedback on my issues. At home I watch the video material/run through the memories and decide what to keep and update into the training log**.  That log is maintaining and organizing all the material for my coming reviews at practicas and solo training sessions! Those two are my knowledge cultivation events!

To develop a decent physical fluency on sequences requires repetitions but not so much time. The bottleneck slowing down and lengthening the repetition sessions is the memory* - or anyhow my memory for me! Use any tricks you know to memorize the steps and the groups of sequences - pictures, stories, whatever you have learned during a lifetime, to support your memory!

How much time is needed?

To get an idea about the time needed for repetition we assume that you want to keep 60 of your favorite workshop figures for social dancing. If you still remember the steps from the workshops your solo training will take about 15 minutes and some longer with a partner. This is realistic when you can the steps by heart but if you need to check the video often then two hours will not be enough!

In a 5 mins micro training session you are able to run through a lot of details you want to improve and maintain. I watch also the videos regularly and the time varies. It can be 10 mins but it can be longer if not properly prepared. I run all these activities several times per week and after a rest period of 4/5 weeks, they are activated again! The key is to pick them up before you start to forget them!

When you prepare your review material do it carefully and edit your videos so only the important pieces are on the final compilation. In this way your review time will become shorter and your learning becomes focused. You get faster to your goal!

 If you choose to work with the figures, micro train your technique consistently and review the material regularly you will develop a stable technical base. When you cultivate systematically the chosen part of tango, you will feel the difference in your body and I am pretty sure it will become visible too!  

What do you think, are you interested?           

This routine will have an impact on certain parts of tango, I mentioned the technical development, but there are more to tango and you will always be surprised and challenged by new learning possibilities!  :)

*The memory is highly needed at practica but it should be shut down in a milonga!

** Via the link below you can read about a Training log I use

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Tango path vs True tango: Your deepest tango experience.

When we talk about tango we want often to define the true tango, what tango really is and most of the time I agree with the descriptions! Still, I would prefer to present my experience of tango as a path the dancers are advancing on, a mental landscape I am passing through.

When I started out the tango WAS about steps and ochos and turns and figures for me. Fast music urged me to move fast forward and a slow song gave me more calm steps. To manage the difficult figures made the joy burst hilariously out and l was looking for more challenges! My dance was external and the music expression was external! Everything in my dance was easily visible to others!

The paradigm shift was the change from the external dance to an internal one!

One day my partner was rising tall at the end of a musical phrase and I felt that it was the most beautiful thing ever! For me, this was the first time I clearly experienced the external movement and its internal equivalent. During the external years, I had developed the internal equivalents for tango and an ability to recognize them within me. Now we could just stand there with small movements released by the music and enjoy a tanda! The best ever! :)

Today I can fall off to a totally external dance during a fast milonga but a heavy Pugliese could tease me down to the most internal dance instead!

Tango keeps surprising me! The sources of joy during the first years were different compared to the delights now. The scenery of today will change and the path will run through different landscapes during the coming years and I am curious!

It is wise to find pleasure from every period of tango, from every section of your path! 

Paris 2011