[Tango-L] Teaching Beginners & Intermediates and getting them to Milongas

Tango Society of Central Illinois tango.society at gmail.com
Fri Feb 15 12:53:51 EST 2008

Most agree the 8-count Basic is a hindrance to development of
improvisational and navigational skills. Teaching walking in the
direction of the line-of-dance (no back steps) and some navigational
strategies, e.g., stationary and turning rock step combinations,
including the ocho cortado, while experiemnting with rhythmic
variations (different combinations of quicks and slows, with exposure
to tango, milonga & vals), gives beginners a reasonably sized
repertoire of small movements that can be pieced together in different
ways. This is the beginning of improvisation, both in terms of
movements and musical variation and teaches leading and following
skills as opposed to memorization of fixed patterns. In conjunction
with improving the (close) embrace, this is all we teach in our 6-week
beginner course.

The primary skill beginners need to survive at milongas is navigation.
If you teach line-of-dance walking and rock steps for navigation, you
can have a beginner functioning at a milonga, and even be connected to
the music.

One of the main hindrances for beginners attending milongas is the
belief that they are not skilled enough. They go to milongas with
their basic walking and navigational skills and they see boleos,
ganchos, and volcadas, as well as rapid movement around the dance
floor in numerous directions, and they feel insecure. When asked, many
of our beginners have commented that the 'advanced' dances 'in the
middle' (sic) are so good, they lack the confidence to get on the
floor and be seen. Well, confidence does not equal skill. Many of the
navigational hazards in the middle lack good leading and following
skills (as can be seen from women being dragged off their axis), do
not understand milonga codes regarding navigation, and are oblivious
to the music; thus, they are not good dancers. Given that environment,
it's not surprisiing that in a culture than places value on step
acquisition in dancing, those without a repertoire of visible figures
will feel insecure, even if their navigational, improvisational, and
musicality skills are higher. Changing this insecurity requires
changing the dance culture, which is no small feat.

The problem of insecurity at milongas does not end with beginners.
Many intermediates are also intimidated by the circus in the middle of
the floor, especailly when it spills onto the edges. This is due in
part to age differences. Younger dancers in general have higher
confidence. They are less inhibited. However, it does not mean they
are better dancers, even though many of them could easily become good

One solution to this problem is to cultivate an enviornment where
insecure dancers feel more comfortable. One possibility is to
advertise an event as a 'practica', but actually create a milonga
environment. It could even be done for beginners (and invited helpful
intermediates), perhaps beginning with some instruction in milonga
codes (e.g, use of cabeceo, dancing to end of tanda, clearing floor
during cortina) and then proceed with a milonga environment. After a
few 'practice milongas', this might increase the chances of beginners
entering into the tooth-and-nail environment of the regular milongas.


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