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

Stephen.P.Brown@dal.frb.org Stephen.P.Brown at dal.frb.org
Wed Feb 13 12:23:35 EST 2008

Of course, Keith (HK) is right that many Argentines teach the 8CB or use 
it in their teaching.  That doesn't make it the best approach to teaching.

To repeat an old story (that is at least partially true), the history of 
modern tango pedagogy came from the renewed interest in tango that 
resulted from the success of the show Tango Argentino.  As the result of 
this revival much of the initial instruction came from stage dancers, some 
of whom had been heavily influenced by Antonio Todaro.  Others also 
reemerged to teach tango, but to be perfectly honest, most of these older 
tango dancers had no pedagogy other than demonstrating their favorite step 
patterns.  Seeing the success of the stage dancers and other older 
dancers, waves of  young Argentines with backgrounds in ballet and modern 
dance began learning tango with the idea of taking to the stage and 
teaching.  Many of these people continue to dance and teach with varying 
degrees of success using the 8CB.  (Some instructors, Argentine and 
otherwise, even claim that learning performance choreographies will help 
facilitate the development and refinement of social dance skills.)  In the 
United States, many of the dancers receiving such instruction, seem to end 
up dancing a combination of stage and salon tango in memorized figures.

Of course, it is possible for dancers to develop beyond the limits of the 
teaching they received, and many do so.  So even a limited approach to 
teaching can generate successes.

Two newer approaches to teaching have emerged (from Argentina).  One of 
these approaches--most often associated with Gustavo Naveira--is to 
examine and teach the underlying structure of tango.  (Mingo Pugliese also 
has a structural approach to tango.)  Internalized, these complex systems 
facilitate the development of improvisational skills.  Perhaps 
inadvertently, the structural approach led to the development of 
nuevo-style dancing because the strucutral approach revealed possible step 
combinations that were not previously used very extensively.

Another approach--often associated with Susana Miller--is to teach tango 
as small step combinations.  Learning through small step combinations 
facilitates improvisation, connection to one's partner and connection to 
the music.  These are the characteristics most absent from dance of those 
who locked into the use of 8CB and other memorized figures. 

Interestingly enough, Tete--whose style is often credited as one of the 
inspirations for Susana Miller's pedagogy--sometimes uses an 8CB in his 
dancing but with a different rhythmic approach than is characteristic of 
the smoother salon approach.

So, I don't think the problem is in dancers using the 8CB, except for the 
dbs.  The problem is in dancers getting locked into the 8CB and other 
memorized figures as Mash was expressing concern about.  The use of other 
instructional approaches is one way to avoid getting locked into these 

With best regards,

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