[Tango-L] Breaking the 'paso basico.'

Tom Stermitz stermitz at tango.org
Wed Feb 13 10:59:05 EST 2008

I don't think you are being anti-american; just angry and rude. I  
don't understand the anger. Rudeness can occur in any culture.

I do not teach the 8CB. I don't do the 8CB. It does not work on a  
social dance floor. Try it.... Oops, ran into this guy; oops ran into  
that guy; oops why the heck is that guy stepping backwards onto me.  
Watch the poor beginners with the 8CB struggle, become frustrated, and  
quit. If you an avoid imprinting the 8CB on beginners, you can at  
least doubles your retention rate.

I've been to Buenos Aires a number of times.

Frankly? There are a lot of bad dancers in Argentina. It was better 10  
years ago, although maybe I've improved as much as the quality there  
has declined. I will say that, in general, even the bad Argentine  
dancers usually have an understanding of the feel, music and meaning  
of tango.

There are several fairly significant differences (generally speaking)  
between Argentine teachers and US teachers.

First, Tango isn't taught in a weekend workshop. It is a week-after- 
week practice. The "master" of the month blows in like the wind, and  
leaves no trace but a few wacky ganchos, bruised ankles and injured  
backs. (Actually, there is a strange marketing arms race of  
superlatives about each and the next "master of the masters".)

(1) Teaching in Argentina, the students are more likely to know the  
music, and know what the dance looks and feels like. Arriving at the  
typical milonga, the failure of the 8CB is immediately obvious. You  
could almost get away with "just teaching steps", knowing that the  
students just need a framework.

In the US, we are faced with teaching the cultural package of tango,  
not just steps. Here is the music; here is what it looks like and  
feels like; here is how the posture is; here is how a milonga is  
organized. I think most Argentine teachers have no concept of how to  
teach the cultural aspects to foreigners and just throw up their hands.

(2) Most (not all) Argentines who travel have achieved mastery and  
acclaim in Buenos Aires. This normally means they are great stage  
dancers or they are good at the athletic, nuevo style. A super-skilled  
dancer is not always the best person to teach normal-skilled people.

Nothing wrong with nuevo or stage, but 99% of my students are normal,  
people, doing tango for fun. They are never going to be on stage, and  
they would need lots of training (and to subtract 20 years off their  
age) to achieve the fancy nuevo vocabulary. As a result many (not all)  
US teachers and I focus on social style of tango.

(3) Most Argentines don't have the experience of creating and  
nurturing a tango community from scratch. Advertising; gathering in  
beginner students; getting them to stick and learn; creating the  
transition from beginner to Intermediate; watching them figure out how  
to dance in a milonga setting.

You learn a few things in 10 years of teaching week-in, week-out,  
multiple levels of class, watching your students go out onto the dance  
floor, even watching some of them succeed in Argentina.  "De donde sos  
vos?", "Como es, que no bailas como estranjero", "Who was your  
teacher?", "Who taught you to dance like an Argentine?".

On Feb 13, 2008, at 7:49 AM, Keith wrote:

> I'm not being disrespectful, but I really, really have trouble  
> understanding the
> Americans on this List. I assume you'll freely admit that no  
> American can dance
> anywhere near the level of the Argentines.And yet you still insist  
> on teaching
> Tango your way and not the Argentine way. Why is that? Do you really  
> think
> you know better? If you do, it's OK, just say so.
> ...
> I'm sorry if you think I'm being anti-American, as I've been accused  
> before on
> this List. I'm not - but you're trying to change Tango for the worse  
> and I just
> don't like what you're doing. Why can't you just do things the  
> Argentine way?
> I guess that's my question.
> Keith, HK
> On Wed Feb 13  1:07 , Tom Stermitz  sent:
>> On a social dance floor, the 8CB w/DBS is COMPLETELY non functional.
>> When you are social dancing, you have to break the pattern every two
>> steps, so why bother to learn a useless pattern.
>> For a beginner, it is harmful:
>> - It creates rote-patterns,
>> - It takes away their prior ability to "just walk around the room"
>> - It doesn't feel like dancing
>> - It is impossible for them to dance it with grace and musicality.

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