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October 4, 2004

Incremental improvement

A Swedish Tango instructor couple Jan and Marta is currently visiting Singapore. Since their website expressly highlighted that they teach a social style in the “milonguero close-embrace” – in their words, “a mixture of tango milonguero and traditional tango de salon” – I was naturally quite keen and decided to attend their classes. Personally I feel that in order to become a well-rounded dancer, it is necessary for me to be aware and familiar with the social form as well as the more athletic forms of Tango.

Well, it is evident that Jan and Martha have very strong roots in social form of Tango. They dance in a close-embrace where the lady is square against the man and the embrace is maintained throughout the dance. Despite the fact that she is limited to fairly “small” movements, Marta dances very elegantly if I may add. As she so succinctly put it during the very first class, “The body is also a language,” which in spite of her relatively poor English she succeeded in communicating to us by example.

However, it also showed a little that they do not teach Tango for a living, unlike all previous teachers who came to Singapore? In the classes, they provided glimpses of little things to look for in social context, small movements, improvisations and possible adjustments here and there. Certain theoretical aspects could have been examined and discussed a little further, in my opinion. Refinements rather than challenging us with concepts, or maybe even techniques. The direction seems to be for simplicity, but always with connection to your partner in mind. To be fair, this is what Tango is all about to many Argentinians from what I can gather. Nevertheless I got a lot out of the social aspects and especially had a chance to become more comfortable with dancing the milonga, despite being in a close embrace.

This begs the question, is it always necessary to bring in teachers who teach things that will dazzle the mind – the “wow factor”, or is it better to have teachers who can provide constant albeit incremental improvements? I suppose the best of both worlds is having resident instructors who can provide input on a long term basis!? It’s also interesting to speculate how this need may be correlated to the level of maturity of the Tango community in Singapore, in fact.

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