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August 26, 2006

How much learning?

Recently there has been a debate on the Tango-L Discussion List on the appropriate amount of “class learning” necessary for followers. The expressed opinions range from zero, i.e. followers should learn everything on the dance floor, or to needing just as much class time as men, and every shade in-between, e.g. learn a lot in a short amount of time in a group class and then take strictly private classes after that.

To me, there are merits to both sides of the argument. However, I find it difficult to accept the view that recommends not taking any classes because I believe that, just like learning a language, having a certain structure and “good” sparring partners can go a long way.

After acquiring the basics of walking, maintaining one’s balance, in my experience, most followers can enjoy themselves on the social dance floor. However, what follows is largely one of personal choice. After all, people may initially be attracted to Tango for its socializing opportunities, a chance to do something with your partner, etc. and attaining technical excellence at this dance may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

A related question which has been on my mind is whether or not too much learning can actually impeded one’s own natural instincts?

Finally, by extending this line of thinking, is it always a good thing to let your imagination run wild and try create new ways of dancing? I am certain that – especially from leaders’ perspective – that after a while, we all feel “inspired” to create something for one reason or other. For example, trying to dance to alternative Tango music?

As yet, I don’t have a clear position on the last point. It’s a fine balance between diverging too soon from the “set ways”. The hidden risk here is trying to create new things without a full understanding of the core concepts and techniques. By the way, this is a frequent criticism of the young Nuevo dancers, but a remark rarely directed at the Masters of Tango Nuevo, if ever, which goes to show that they had deep understanding of the traditional Tango but chose to expound in a different teaching methodology.

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