The teacher is not always right two

I get comments these days that are more like posts than comments. I am not complaining all comments are welcomed, good and bad, but I like to reply to them all. So for the second time I must do a post in reply to a comment.

I received a comment from Jantango in Buenos Aires Teacher is not always right and feel again that this deserves more than a quick answer.

I remember the first time I was at a milonga in Buenos Aires it was at Confiteria Ideal in the afternoon. We had been taken there by our guide for the trip, who educated us about the codigos where to dance and how to cope with what was a totally alien environment to us.

We fell out some time later, which was a shame, as I think she gave us invaluable information for times to come, and although we are no longer in contact I would gladly recommend her to anyone visiting for the first time.

She had the sense to bring us early, when the place was less crowded. This allowed us to get a feel for the room and to get up and dance in the time when people were still coming in.

So how does this relate to the comment? Well no teacher I had been too had ever been to Argentina, none of them knew the codigos, none could tell me how to cope.

As more people came to the milonga, we found it more and more difficult to move, and for some reason, I had yet to learn, and we were always in the middle of the floor.

We had couple of days of this before our first dance lesson. We had been signed up with a guy called Roberto Canelo. He was not milonguero in the true sense of the word, more a stage dancer. In his early days he had been embarrassed at his local club, Club Almagro by being asked to leave the floor and watch how the true milongueros did it. He soon learned how to navigate the floor and move to the music not just doing steps, so now he passes his knowledge on at his tango school. Nothing of this was known to me, of course, I was just passed to an Argentine who taught tango, and of course to me the fact that he was argentine was all that mattered to me at the time.

With him we learned to dance milonga, how to cope with a crowd how to navigate the floor, and importantly to me, why I always ended up in the middle. He told me that old milongueros will dance to the outside of the room, taking any space left to the right, forcing any principiantes into the middle. So now I must learn that as well as protecting my partner I must defend my right hand side, I do not let anyone into this space, it is mine alone. With this knowledge I can gloat at the show dancers, principiantes and yanquis who populate the middle of the floor. He learned all this by going to the milongas, he already was a great dancer, but could not cope with the milonga floor, not until he had experienced it himself and had the coaching of other milongueros.

So when I learn that a great show dancer with years of experience could not cope at a milonga, you should not be surprised that I greet with horror the thought that people who have less than two years tango experience want to teach. You should also not be surprised that I will not go to any teacher who has never visited a Buenos Aires milonga.

Too many spend their time learning steps. In the UK we learn boleos, ganchos , baridas, but rarely do we learn about the music. What we need to do is listen to the music, as it changes cadence, we need to be aware and change with it.

Often in beginner’s classes, we are so intent on learning that our movement’s bare little relationship to the music, this is Ok for beginners, but as we get more proficient we should be dancing to the music not just doing moves in spite of it. Go to almost any milonga in Europe and you will see them; they do all the moves, awesome routines, fancy footwork, but no musicality.

In the northern hemisphere we need to learn that dancing is not about moves, this is not Strictly, it is social dancing. Tango is the music as much as it is the dance, if you do not feel the music then you are not dancing tango. The music needs to be in your mind and in your soul. If you spend all your time learning more and more moves, you miss the point, your time would be better spent listening to the music, and trying to get to know the artists.

And don’t even think about getting me back on the subject of DJs playing non tango music.

Again all comments are welcome, good or bad. If you disagree tell me why, wealth of experience comes from exchanges of ideas not monologue.

3 Comments

Filed under Tango

3 responses to “The teacher is not always right two

  1. Nice article, Bob.

    You’ll look great to other deaf people, but grotesque to those who can understand the music.

    So true. Which is pretty much why the UK now has two distinct kinds of dance event called milonga. Each one is filled with people happy to be dancing with others as good at Argentine tango as themselves.

    PS Your link _Teacher is not always right_ is faulty – should be Teacher is not always right.

  2. tangobob

    While what you say is undoubtedly true, you need to understand that Tango developed as a musical genre first. So while people can no doubt move to other forms of music, to be called Argentine Tango it must be done to Argentine Tango music. I like the reference to deafness, it helps me now to understand how someone (we have a few round here) who is deaf can ballroom dance.

  3. Albanaich

    Absolutely fabulous – this applies to Swing dancing as well as Argentine Tango.

    The difficulty is not the ‘non-Tango’ music, its simple music.

    The experienced Swing dancer, like the experienced Tanguero wants music that is layered, polyrhythmic and syncopated.

    The DJ wants to play something that is simple, undemanding and easy to dance to.

    If you have any experience with Modern Jive you’ll quickly realise that only about 1 in 5 people can naturally can hold a beat, 1 in 10 identify phrasing and about 1 in 20 understand syncopation.

    Most people brought up in Europe, inspite of being surrounded by music, are musically ‘deaf’

    That’s why they created ‘ballroom Tango’ and ‘ballroom Jive’ – the music was to complex to understand so the dance was reduced to complex physical movements to a monotonus tempo and rhythm.

    The difficulty is of course is that if you are musically deaf you think you can improve your dancing by more and more attention to physical detail – but it doesn’t work that way.

    You’ll look great to other deaf people, but grotesque to those who can understand the music.

    Ever watched ballroom dancers doing ballroom tango? These people actually think they are dancing.

    It takes years and years of training to achieve such total absence of musicality

Please comment, I love to hear your views.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s