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July 23, 2008

Thoughts on teaching

I recall a comment made by Andrea Misse in one of their group classes with her and Javier Rodriguez (J&A for short) during one of their visits to Singapore, perhaps sometime last year!?.

It was something to the effect that, when teaching group classes, they do not start with the intention of trying to completely replace a person’s pre-existing way of doing things. Instead, they try to complement and enhance what each one of us already has.

Consider this: by the time many of us who are outside of Buenos Aires took up Tango, it is likely that we had already been walking for a good 10-20 years, if not more, and therefore had developed our unique style. Good or bad, this is “us”. So, what is a visiting Tango teacher to do under the circumstances, given that walking (for social Tango) is such an integral element? Well, J&A’s approach as they said during that class is to try to add something on top of what we have naturally, rather than trying to eradicate everything and replace it with “Javier/Andrea memories”.

An aside: I suspect that is under the proviso that there are no aesthetic or physical faults… 🙂

However, in my opinion, in order to receive the full benefits from any class, we must at the foremost be able to recognise/believe in the value of what is being taught. In other words, it is equally important to remain open-minded to learn without prejudice, and subsequently, after diligent practice, can we then make informed decisions on what to retain in our repertoire. I may be stating the blindingly obvious here but very often I see people rolling up to classes with a very closed attitude and proceed to just go through the motions using whatever skills/techniques they had previously learnt rather than taking a risk in attempting something new. Needless to say, these are the same for whom no amount of classes will have any impact.

On the flip side of things, as we gain more experience I think that we need to have the self-confidence to chart our own paths. For example, these days it is not uncommon to read on various blogs (and youtube) of so-and-so copying some big-name Tango stars. While it is human nature to idolise someone more skilled/elegant than us, I feel that it’s also important to out-grow that in our own Tango development. I am a firm believer that we all have some unique qualities to contribute to the dance.

Finally let’s not bury our personal traits in the pursuit of technical excellence – even if we can ultimately achieve it.

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