“A respected tango dancer and teacher”; and “the fabulous Bob Finch”, were just two of the plaudits that hailed my arrival at Stokies Tango Dojo. Already a little nervous at taking a full class of students of whom I knew nothing, this did little to calm me. Could I Live up to the hype? Would my lesson plan hold out? And more important, would I fluff it?
They were a wonderful bunch and in the end we all enjoyed ourselves, but things never went quite as I expected.
It was supposed to be a group of fairly mixed students but mostly with some experience, what I got was seven very experienced dancers, three men and two women who had never danced at all and about eight or ten who had been dancing about six months.
I started with the basic close hold, with little effort we achieved what was required and soon we were ready to move just a little turning the body and feeling the lead. It soon became clear that this simply would not work; with help and suggestions from the more advanced dancers we split the class. All the beginners moved to the far end of the room to be coached by the better dancers in how to walk.
This left me with a group of about five couples to work with. I think and hope we all had an enjoyable time, and that they now have a bit more understanding of how to dance close hold.
We worked on the basic ocho and giro trying to break it back down to just pivots and steps, slowing everything down and keeping it simple. For some it was not quite enough, but I really needed to keep it simple because after such a short time, most were not ready to stretch it too far. More to the point though, I wanted to emphasise that in a crowded milonga there is little room for fancy steps and there is a constant need to change the way we are moving when someone gets in the way. The women also enjoyed this feeling that they had time to execute their moves and were not rushed, as I made the men wait until the pivot was complete before they made the next move. The women were also instructed to wait; it was no good the men taking their time if the women went ahead and finished the ocho on their own. To reinforce the point I asked the men to sometimes not finish the ocho but do something else halfway through, pointing out that we never actually lead an ocho, only pivots and sidesteps.
There were some misunderstandings about what we were trying to achieve, and I had some problems controlling the class. Just as well they were adults who wanted to learn, I would probably have completely lost control if this had been a group of teenagers, still I wasn’t a bad teacher for an electrician.
I left them with a few tricks of my own; a giro with a twist, and an ocho doblé as a taster just in case I am ever invited back.
In the end though, I think I learned as much about teaching as they learned about tango and hopefully everyone left happy. More importantly, there were some beautiful moves being done and everyone left with a smile on their face.
I half expected though to be told never to return, so I was more than happy to receive one or two thanks later. So I would like to say here “Thanks for having me, it was a pleasure”.