Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tango Teachers-Only Forum?

The question on a for-tango-teachers-only Facebook page was:  "How do you teach a beginner to walk?  What is the first thing that you start with?"  This is an advanced question.  The starting off question for a teachers-only Facebook page might better be:  "What makes a teacher a great teacher?"  Or, "should I really even be a teacher?"

But being a good student, I will try to answer the question about walking, and how to teach it -- but I say this as only as a customer (I am not a teacher):

I practice walking still more than any other thing.  So, I would recommend teaching students  to walk by themselves for a long time and practice it outdoors as often as possible. We give lip service to how walking is taught for years before anything else in Buenos Aires, but then we start with a figure, calling it the "basic step."  Walking is the basic step.

Secondly, I would suggest teaching them to walk in close embrace as much as possible.  Always teaching in open embrace with a partner will inculcate that open is the natural embrace and easier when in fact showing intention is more difficult at the more advanced levels when there is less connection.  

Tip: You can even start with a pillow between body-phobic students (Americans), but teach connectedness!  If they don't want to embrace a stranger, suggest therapy before taking up this wonderful dance.  In therapy they can work out their body issues and perhaps unresolved traumas.  Maybe explain to your students that open embrace is for people who wish to do advanced moves and to dance for others (our best marketing for bringing people to tango).  Closed embrace is to dance for one person -- your partner (a great way for people to STAY with tango).

I will address the more basic question "why I am not a teacher" (some ideas for unqualified teachers) and "what makes a teacher great" (a great business plan for good teachers) in my next posts.  ¿Nos vemos?  ¡Hasta entonces!


smw said...

Easy on space phobic Americans...I remember when I first started and I really felt like my space was being invaded and I wasn't even that close! A lot of people don't make room in the close embrace for their partner and it is uncomfortable until you get the hang of it, particularly if your breasts end up on your partner! It was a gradual acceptance for me that it was okay to share the same space when necessary and that most dancers were there to dance, not to cop a free feel. I wouldn't have done that if I'd been told I had issues and needed counseling, the patient dancers who helped me and made the shared space comfortable were what made it work.

I still like walking more than anything else too, there's a special joy in being intensely connected to your partner and the music. ;-)

Tango Therapist said...

@ SMW: I love your comment. I was being too harsh and inpatient. Living in Mexico 3 years and 10 years in Germany was my education before starting tango, so I just don't understand "die prüdische Amerikerinnen." You are right -- a gradual introduction is good. A great teacher from Hawaii used pillows and it was great to get the connection without the cultural issues getting in the way. Being new to the DC community, however, I at first amazed by how many intermediate dancers were open embrace only dancers. I kept asking myself, "Can I sit down now?" There are only so many tandas before I die. May all of them find some connection with the soul in front of me.

smw said...

And if you think it's bad for you, strap on a pair of breasts and see how many woman arch back and away to avoid even the slightest contact. I dare you for halloween next year.
As always, you will discover your favorites and they will discover you to your mutual delight. ;-)

Tango Therapist said...

@SMW: You have given me a great idea -- instead of using a pillow to train close embrace, perhaps pillow-breasts for training purposes. I may make millions on that. No surgery needed / impress your friends / become better at tango / empathize with women -- all in one.