With the latest running debate going on between Chris, Danny, Tango Totty and VOR, it got me thinking about Technique. Totty seems to think it is necessary in order dance a Tango justice and Chris seems to think that it will develop by dancing in the Milongas.
Here is a definition of technique of which I always thought to have meant a way of doing something. As far as I am concerned, a way of doing something can be taught to another person, or it can develop from within.
tɛkˈnik/ Spelled[tek-neek] –noun 1. the manner and ability with which an artist, writer, dancer, athlete, or the like employs the technical skills of a particular art or field of endeavor. 2. the body of specialized procedures and methods used in any specific field, esp. in an area of applied science. 3. method of performance; way of accomplishing. 4. technical skill; ability to apply procedures or methods so as to effect a desired result. 5. Informal . method of projecting personal charm, appeal, etc.: He has the greatest technique with customers.
1810–20; < F: technical (adj.), technic (n.) < Gk technikós, techniká
I think that they are both right up to a point and I will say it here only once as I don’t really want to get dragged into a debate about how I feel about things. So, I will say it how it was for me. When I started to learn, I went to the nearest person that taught it where I lived. I didn’t have access to people who danced it. Interestingly, although my first teacher didn’t teach it the way I really like to dance, he did teach technique, of sorts. He taught the walk. He was very precise about this and also how the follower should follow. The rest of it was too much fancy footwork, but he did teach the walk and explained how the follower should pay attention to her leader in order to move with him. I have to give him credit for that! The rest of it was just show moves I learned later.
My second teacher taught the walk. He is Argentine, taught by his father, and he gave me a bit more. He told me and showed me how to place my feet. It was not only the walk, but also how to walk and how to embrace. He liked the ladies to place our arms up high around the man’s neck. That is how I first saw Tango danced. The walk and the embrace. That was the focus. We would have a whole lesson just walking to the music. We would be corrected if our feet were not right. We would be corrected if we were not in the right hold. If we got that right, we would be taught how to turn in a corner! All the woman had to do was follow. The trickiest thing we did was giros and ochos. I can’t remember him teaching us anything else. Perhaps that is because I never went to any other class except the beginner’s class.
I went to the milongas early in my learning development. I wanted to put into practice what I had been taught. I wanted to know if I could listen to the man and do what he asked of me. I worked out after the first dance how my partner would lead. I learned by feeling and listening. I was familiar with all the songs as I had acquired many and listened to them all of the time. I listened to Tango radio at work. I was able to move to the music with my partner. Sometimes, I was able to move to the music better than my partner! The only time I really got into trouble on the dance floor was when someone tried tricky moves with me!
And that is how I really learned to dance, in the Milongas. In London. How’s my technique? There are a few things that I have learned to do better because of a private lesson or from a comment on the dancefloor (from a teacher I respect) or from doing a basics class. I won’t go to classes anymore unless it is a basics class, for any kind of dancing. I don’t try to copy anyone else’s fancy foot moves. I find I actually move my feet less, but feel more grounded. But I haven’t been to a class for ages. The only regular classes I am going to right now is Belly Dancing, but that is more like an aerobic workout. I needed a private lesson in order to understand how to do the moves properly as I started late. It was just the basics. Interestingly, my bellydancing class has helped me with my Salsa and my Tango and Ceroc! Although I need some instruction, the rest is down to me to get into it and really feel the music and dance to it. It is the same for Tango and the other dances that I do. If I really don’t like the music, I can’t dance to it! Last week when I went to Ceroc, one of the guys asked me why I don’t do the classes. I asked him if he uses the moves taught in the class and he said no. That is why I don’t do the classes, I said. He still didn’t get it!
So, I am wondering if Totty is being a bit semantic with her wording. Is she really talking about technique or instruction. Is she even talking about style? How much technique do we really need? Do we need to be taught anything more than the basics? Do we need to learn how to do an ocho cortado? I don’t even know what that is to talk about, but I believe I have done it. Do I need to know the names of moves? Do I really need to know what a secada is? If the man can lead it, I can follow it. What else to I really need to know? If the move can’t be done in a closed embrace, I really don’t want to know about it.
Maybe instead of all these teachers teaching really tricky moves, perhaps we need more practicas? To improve, we need to practice. If we are not going to learn in the milongas, maybe we could learn in a practica. Instead of people teaching us all of these tricky moves, perhaps they could teach the basics and let us work out a few things for ourselves and stay on the sidelines to give advice? If they see that our feet are not in the right place when we walk, perhaps they can show us how it should be? Unless we are all going to turn into show dancers, do we really need to know more than the basics? I wonder what would really happen if the teachers just stuck to the basics. Would they really lose customers? What would happen if more practicas appeared?
Just a thought!