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January 20, 2003

Recent Tango workshops

Recently there has been a proliferation of Tango workshops in Singapore – 3 since mid-October in fact – each consisting of about 4-5 classes. We are indeed quite fortunate to receive all the attention, but at the same time, it also means a lot of new material to absorb. This is especially so for anyone game enough to have attended most of the classes, i.e. myself! Of course it has to be said that, given the lack of exposure to the Tango culture for those of us in Singapore, often it is a treat just to see the teachers strut their stuff. Further, these may be the few chances where we have a yardstick to measure ourselves against.

Given this influx of new information, what are we to do?

Perhaps an analogy can be made with eating? When sampling foods, good or bad, we all need time to digest, just from the physical aspect. I mean, it’s not enough to just ‘watch and copy’, i.e. eat, but time must be provided to internalise, i.e. digest, so that when the teachers are gone, some of the skills can hopefully be retained. Ideally, one day the techniques learnt can form part of our repertoire, but done in our own way, defining our ‘style’. This is exactly like the process of digesting all that has been eaten: retaining only essential ingredients that are useful and usable by you, and discarding the excesses.

As an aside, sometimes a particular technique may not suit our personal style at all. However, again using eating as a comparison, just as there is a difference among us in the rate of metabolism and so the pace of learning can be different between different people. Also, as people have different tastes in food, because of different temperaments, we will find some techniques easier and more natural than others. However, this should not be a discouragement or deterrent to learn the more challenging and awkward techniques.

Since I have been busy editing the videos taken during the workshops for my own revision, here are some quick observations:

  1. Experienced teachers appear to take their time when dancing – be it in class demonstrations, or during Milongas – and very, very deliberately. A related issues, or also very likely to be true in any case: they generally seem have an eternity to execute the same movements that we the students can struggle to complete in an entire bar of music!
  2. Another aspect which definitely separates the good dancers from the less experienced is a distinct change of tempo from time to time, and pauses. An associated element is the listening to and playing with the music.
  3. Moving across the floor is akin to a gliding action, and leaders especially almost seeming to ‘hug’ the floor with the feet when moving.
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