How I teach
For 10 years that I have been teaching tango as my full time job, I have been wondering how to improve my teaching: to make it more efficient, and at the same time to make the process enjoyable and the learning real even for adults who may allocate to tango as little as 1,5 hour a week.
After many experiments, I believe that classes should go as slow as possible, while keeping being entertaining.
Let me explain: tango, as any body discipline where there is something more to learn than an order of moves (in other words, a new way of coordinating the body), can be improved and perfected forever. No doubt that one could spend years, learning to walk, 3 hours a week. With great profit.
But I fear that if I would propose this, everybody would run away after 2 weeks.
On the other hand, doing class 1 the cross, class 2 the ocho, class 3 the boleo and class 4 the jumping wide-gap, may be very seductive in the idea and maintain curiosity and desire for the next class, but the odds are that students of such classes will never dance anything, even if they attend for years.
A great inspiration to structure the classes and chose their content is the method of Marina Koch – Lubouchkine, who was my first teacher of Russian language. Instead of the usual language classes (today the restaurant and the food, tomorrow the car, and next time the members of the family…- I tried German and Lithuanian this way: without success, pitifully), each class would study a small text composed of useful everyday sentences, chosen to illustrate freely some grammar point.
One of the key concept is that the student does not need to struggle to remember the content of one class before going to the next. Because each class will repeat many time the former ones, with little variations. This way, even grammar (grammar of tango is called technique) is distilled in a more digestive way.
In addition, I use plenty of playful exercises (or should I say instructive games?) collected from a huge amount of classes that I took myself. Some from tango classes, some from other body disciplines, adapted for our purposes. The Feldenkrais Method, which I am now studying for the 3rd year to become a practitioner, is a powerful influence to create a space where my tango student can experiment, use awareness to reach his goals and make thinks in an easy way.
Example ofthe first 8 classes
Class 1: Shift of weight, the “square”. Turning while going or turning after stopping.
Technique: 1. The queen – push with the foot to grow with the head
2. Move your spine as a whole
Music: The sentence – start when it starts
Class 2: The square + passing by the side, walking and changing roles
Technique: The 3 steps of leading
Music: Energy in the step
Class 3: Interrupted step forward (forward with left leg, back and side)
Technique: The embrace – strong enough to get the information and keep the form
Music: Same as 1 and 2
Class 4: The cross
Technique: Lead a big step and walk to the left. Toes together for the woman. Change of weight in the cross position
Class 5: The cross 2. Exits (side step or forward step interrupted)
Technique: The hips on the heel. Growing.
Class 6: Double time
Technique: Push in the floor to accelerate. Exercises: move with somebody holding the hips. Push a can in the floor. Run in every direction.
Pause before and after
Class 7: Cross 3. Exit through the back step
Technique: A bit of turn and bending the knee. For the woman: turn the upper body and then the lower body
Class 8: Summary, combining all what we need to make a dance