Learning can be guided by means of simple propositions, properly connected in order of their complexity (and there lies the secret of the method’s efficiency).
Propositions that are not final. Temporal truths that will be broken as ease is achieved and Tango’s basic principles are acquired.
At the beginning, the schematic learning style is rigid, but proves that, with a refined content attainment, efficiency is quickly achieved and the sensation of mastering the dance is greater.
Learning by means of schemes using the most primitive teaching method- command- is a practice that in principle could be considered to be against the improvising nature of Tango. However, when put into practice, it can generate confidence and a very positive feedback in the students’ perception of the message.
Positioning in front of the students, so that they follow you as soldiers in order to learn a scheme of movements, has a positive effect in incorporating a defined content, which encompasses a certain quantity of concepts, two or three, which can be used without exceeding the students’ assimilation capacity.
Being it a temporary resource, the scheme does not allow for improvising in Tango. When students see content materialized through movement schemes, with a beginning and an end, confidence grows, as well as the willingness to assimilate new content.
Students come from work, after spending several hours in the office, stressed, and we are asking them to think, feel, perceive and refine their senses to the essence of Tango in all its purity.
Each of the tangueros knows quite well which the concerns that we have at the beginning are: Not to step on the partner’s feet, achieve a comfortable as well as effective embrace when following the beats; succeed in coordinating our legs, etc.
To a certain extent, what students are really interested in is what they have to do. They have to know what to achieve and, after performing it, have the sensation that they are doing or creating something. And through that “something” (concrete dance pattern or movement) that has a north (dancing line), we will help them to improve the embrace, stepping, coordination, etc. They will improve technically, and that will let them have a better willingness in the future to enjoy the dance.
In our propositions, it is important to handle temporary truths.
For example, in the first class, in which students are taught to walk forward, to start and to stop, I tell them that leaders dancers start moving forward with the left leg, and followers dancers with the right leg moving backwards, and is finished with the opposite leg (obviously, talking about the direct system). I only teach the cross system after several classes, when they understand how the direct system is structured. I use four-step blocks so that they start walking forward with the partner, so that they lose the fear of stepping on their partner’s feet.
I teach this as something fixed, with the corresponding logical explanation of why we start and finish this way. As we see, it begins towards one direction and it is finished with the right leg, since the male dancer’s embrace can contain more in the follower's left side than on the right side; thus, it is easier to stop in that moment than in any other.
Students must have a concept that marks the beginning and the end of a defined movement structure to have the feeling of having achieved something.
When it is clear that they do not step on each other's feet, and that they have a reasonable control of the situation, they are told that the number of steps they can take is indifferent. Always moving forward and finishing with the proper foot.
As teachers, we not necessarily deceive students by using a temporary truth that is broken when they master the content that is being worked on.
We hold some unbending and determinant concepts of how things must be done, and then those schemes are broken in order to devote to new concepts, freer and in accordance with the students’ maturing process, practice.
When suggesting that they can take as many steps as they want, we apply a bit of the improvisation concept. There is no need to develop it completely.
After the initial steps, and having agreed on which foot to move according to the direction we are going to take, we must continue providing content, so that the students are motivated throughout the learning process.
In the first classes, if we keep students practising the important but burdensome exercise of walking forward most of the class, they will not only fail to improve in the technique we are teaching, but they will also get bored and leave the class.
Walking, for instance, will take at least several months in order to adopt the right posture, the embrace, the position of the feet, and other aspects involved in the coordination of movements with the partner.
New contents continue to be included, with increasing levels of difficulty, but when I teach figures or displacements, after my students finish them, I make them walk forward a certain number of steps, to keep the flow of people that coexists in the milonga. That way, students enjoy themselves with content as we improve basic movement form techniques.
They go dancing as if moving through the different seasons. We walk, displacement, walk, figures. Thus, we structure the dance, guiding it and bringing variety.
As learning advances, more concepts are incorporated, increasing the capacity of materializing a different idea with each step, and the decision level of the leaders (increasing the level of improvisation). Even though leaders can see it first as a responsibility in relation to their partner, not as a concept of freedom, this is achieved when students were able to master the dance and the first levels of Tango have been passed.
We can talk to students about that idea of freedom and improvisation, and students stare upon us. But they are thinking why they failed doing the last step, which they have yet to assimilate.
Rounding up: We give students simple propositions so that they have content and tools to dance since we all move according to objectives. The orders we give them first, by means of something simple like learning to walk and subsequently like figures, are short-term objectives. The sensibility- grasping the position of women in their supports- the right tension in the muscles, the imagination and creativity, etc., are for the long term.
Propositions are changed during the classes by introducing new concepts or incorporating concepts that are different from those previously studied. When the previous concepts are mastered, we improve the technique and increase the number of concepts included. The new propositions increase the decision capacity. Subsequently, while dancing, the students realize that the milonga is a place where people do not gather to make a lot of dance patterns, but to have fun with those propositions and tools that we have provided them with. The students’ relation with this dance type will depend on their learning or dancing focus being placed on suffering or on enjoying themselves. Teachers are confident that students will enjoy what they do, but that is strictly personal.