To add on to the main lessons I learnt from BsAs, here I attach a short list – to serve as a reminder for myself – of the important technical things I picked up, and need to revise…
Group classes at Escuela de Argentino Tango
- steps and leads that can be used for milonga (as in the music style)
- lossening of the embrace and yet have a closer connection with my partner
- some slightly fancy enrosque patterns that requires the leader to be a bit more “selfish” in keeping his balance/axis (in the highly-hyped Villa Urquiza style 😈 )
- how to dance freely
- going with follower’s axis/weight so that she can also move freely and not be restricted by me
- the mental attitudes to project
At the milongas
- feeling the music
- joy of dancing
- truly dance with each other
- patience and yet be quick to react to music and situation on the floor
For many years, and probably unlike many fledgling communities around the world, the Tango community in Singapore suffered from a systematic problem: there were no high-calibre local instructors. This was natural as everyone who was dancing in Singapore at the time started in the same boat – from scratch! The local scene was essentially at the mercy of visiting teachers who travelled to Singapore at their own expenses(!), and who furthermore taught a variety of styles and levels which were sometimes incompatible from one instructor to the next. See, for example, this list of Tango teachers who had given short workshops in Singapore over the years. Suffice it to say that there was quite a variety of styles.
While some teachers returned regularly to Singapore there were usually long gaps between visits. It was not really until 2006, when IXI Danza and Tango Oriental undertook considerable financial risks to hire specific teachers and started organising workshops on a larger scale compared to previous years, that there was some consistency in the quality of instructions. Unsurprisingly, since that time there has been a mini-boom in the local Tango scene, as evidenced by the number of regular milongas and local instructors. Due to a number of intensive workshops by the same overseas teachers, the level of dancing has also improved dramatically over the past three years.
I have been meaning to write a summary of my experiences of BsAs. This is a quick attempt to try to capture some of the most important lessons (majority below is from the classes I took) I learnt during the one-month stay.
- Dance freely. This is a concept I cannot stress enough. In particular, 1) Not to feel constrained to dance in a particular style and 2) not to be afraid to make mistakes – they may lead to new “creations”. And, as a teacher I respect highly put it succinctly, “to dance you need to move!”
- For leaders: allow your partner the freedom to move and express herself, through your embrace (which by the way does not mean opening the embrace if you are already in close embrace… :shocked:) and the next point.
- Follow your follower – physically, not just some mental delusion…
- Listen to your partner. Respond to her mood, energy and musicality. For followers, assert yourself in this equal partnership we call tango.
- Dance with passion. Move only when you feel compelled to do so because of the music.
- Patience. This applies not only in developing navigational skills in crowded conditions but also in learning and adapting to every new partner you dance with.
- Most importantly of all, have fun in every dance! Go with the energy you feel on any night, whether it’s high or low.
As any Tango community slowly matures, inevitably more and more people will decide to join the teaching ranks. Consequently it can get very confusing for new-comers wanting to take up Tango. How can they choose who to learn from?
Under the circumstances, a commonly cited advice is to “watch how the teachers dance”. While this is not too bad, I feel that it is insufficient. Firstly, the correlation between dancing skills with teaching/analytical ability is not always guaranteed. Secondly, to the untrained eye, as long as someone seems to be able to move with some degree of confidence (even if he is throwing the partner around, or she is back-leading her partner), everything seems well. Or is it?? 😉
The following list, perhaps not exhaustive, is how I usually advise a new-comer when I am asked the question. For simplicity, I will assume the teachers always teach as a couple. By the way, obviously this list implicitly excludes anyone who starts teaching after having learnt for a year or so, no matter how “good” he/she seems – unless we are talking about very young communities of less than 1-2 years old.