[Tango-L] Breaking the paso basico with simple movements

Tango For Her tangopeer at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 12 12:18:53 EST 2008

The most successful approach I have ever used for
teaching newbies and helping beginners and
beginner-intermediates does not involve counting. 
And, I like using this method when leading a very
large class, like at one of the big events where
various teachers are rotated through each week.  The
first time I used this was in front of 80 people and I
always partnered with the newest followers.  I added
in a little walking, but, mostly, here’s what I did:

Show them that being face-to-face, with the leader on
his right foot and the follower on her left foot is
“home base” (step 2 of the basic).  I would constantly
tell them, “If you ever feel lost, remember that (when
dancing in parallel), you are at home base half of the
time.  This is the place where you can readjust your
connection.”  We spend a lot of time at this point. 
Always take them back home.  Every other step is that
comfy place where the leader can find his follower,

Then, I proceed to teach them about pivoting the
follower.  I stick to 90-degree pivots and wiggles
where the follower ends up back at whatever position
she started from.  

Then, teach them about rocksteps with the follower
facing the leader, with the follower’s left side to
the leader and with the follower’s right side to the

Mixed with this is giving the leader the comfort of
figuring out how to change feet (to and from crossed
position) without moving the follower.   Simplify it! 
Clear their heads of all those other responsibilities
and let them get in touch with their own feet!

So, what do we have so far?  

If the follower is on her left foot, the leader can
rockstep, wiggle her, or turn her 90-degrees so that
her left side is facing him.  When her left side is
facing him, he can rockstep, just have her step
forward, just have her step back, pivot her or wiggle

If the follower is on her right foot, the leader can
wiggle her or turn her 90-degrees so that her right
side is facing him. When her right side is facing him,
he can rockstep, just have her step forward, just have
her step back, pivot her or wiggle her.

I would turn on the music, giving them a simple
exercise.  Wait until I found a large number of
leaders or followers doing the same thing wrong.  Stop
the music, discuss it, show it, fix it and start the
music, again.  

By the end of the class, leaders where stepping in
tight 2-track parallel steps.  Leaders were changing
their feet.  Followers were more at ease at what to do
with their free leg during these movements and while
the leader was thinking.  I mixed in a lot of the
follower instruction.  And, they were moving together
without frustration.

At the end of the class, I demonstrate a dance with
the newest follower in the room; a dance where we
never toke more than one step from our original spot;
a very musical dance with which everyone could
identitify.  The follower feels as though she is doing
soooo much!  The leaders see, in a long demonstration,
that it really IS a beautiful dance without having to
do all those steps, without having to walk, walk,
walk, even though they still feel uncomfortable.

You can hear a pin drop during the class and everyone
feels comfortable, more musical and more in control. 
A great side-effect is that leaders no longer spiral
to the center of the room.  They gain the control to
be able to stay on the outside of the dance floor. 
And, their dances were more musical and playful than
they were before ... dances of walking, going to the
cross and spiraling to the center of the room.  And,
why aren’t they spiraling to the center of the floor? 
Because they have just completed an hour of training
in becoming comfortable stepping in different ways
relative to their partner.  They are comfortable with
each other.

I always advocate, as a base, teaching about simple
movements, no counts, and playing with your follower. 
Within that paradym, it is so easy to mix in teaching
follower’s technique.  How many teachers do you see
that spend way too much of the class teaching steps
and walking?  Tango for her!  I know you have to spend
an inordinate amount of time teaching the new leaders.
 But, it really is possible to teach them while
demonstrating that the follower is the main aspect of
the dance, focussing on things to do with the

I will always remember my private lesson, “Don’t ever
go to the cross!”  I rarely do.  Instead, I play with
the music and my partner.  And, I teach like that. 
And, it works! 

You know what else is cool about this approach?  In
the same time that someone else is teaching them to
walk, walk, walk or do some pattern, I have taught
them to be in sync with each other while changing
their orientation to each other, changing feet and
being happy just playing with the music without having
to “go somewhere” just because they were always taught
to “keep moving”.  Pauses, wiggles, rocksteps and
single steps are a great place to be!

As for the intermediate leaders, in the same class,
you can practice moving with different feels.  Try
everything 3 ways!

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