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Simplicity

Stephen P. Brown
Greg Olsen
Nancy Ingle
Jack Karako
Jacques Gauthier
Walter M. Kane
Stephen P. Brown
Matej Oresic
Stephen P. Brown
Greg Olsen
Alexis Cousein
Alexis Cousein
TangoMan - teaching styles
Tom Stermitz
JC Dill
Stephen P. Brown - teaching styles
Ted Crowley - teaching styles
Walter M. Kane - teaching styles


From:    "Stephen P. Brown"
Subject: Simplicity (Was: FLOOR CARESSING)


Kate Withey wrote:

>Have you not heard/seen women's endless laments (on this list & in
>reality) that so many men are more focussed on proving how many steps they
>know, when we'd all be so delighted if they'd just calm down, simplify, &
>focus on the music & the woman they're dancing with?

I have trouble with the simplicity-complexity dichotomy that is sometimes
expressed on Tango-L.  Simplicity and complexity are largely in the mind of
the beholder.  That is, if one takes tango as being constructed from a set
of relatively simple elements and choices, one does not see much more than
combinations of those simple elements.  Most of the seeming complexity of
tango arises when one insists on seeing tango as a set prescribed step
patterns to be memorized.

--Steve de Tejas

P.S.  I agree with Jak's observation that form follows function, but I do
not agree that form leads function.

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Date:    Fri, 6 Nov 1998 17:06:02 -0800
From:    Greg Olsen at Work
Subject: Re: Simplicity (Was: FLOOR CARESSING)

I totally agree with Steve's comments on the simplicity-complexity
dichotomy.  The false dichotomy lay in the way tango is taught.  I was
struck by how profoundly simple tango can be after having taken a class
from Alberto Paz.  This was after having spent a lot of time with another
instructor learning long chains of what ammount to figures, as if I
were learning ballroom dancing.

I don't think the regimented figure-centric method of instruction from
ballroom dancing is well suited to teaching tango.  A focus on fundamental
movements and positions seems to be a more rational approach to teaching.

Happy trails,

Greg Olsen

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Date:    Mon, 9 Nov 1998 21:16:44 -0400
From:    Nancy Ingle
Subject: Help from Leaders (was FLOOR CARESSING)


Kate Withey wrote:
  I, of course, as a follower, would say it's primarily a leader
>problem -- that being who I dance with.  Have you not heard/seen women's
>endless laments (on this list & in reality) that so many men are more focussed
>on proving how many steps they know, when we'd all be so delighted if they'd
>just calm down, simplify, & focus on the music & the woman they're dancing
>with?

OK leaders, here is your chance!!!

  Given this problem, and my own experiences with guys who would be much
more desireable as partners if they did not see me as a pole around which
to do their 'tricks', what can we say to these leaders that will permeate
their skulls?  I would appreciate input from leaders who may have been
guilty of this at one time in their tango lives and who were gently
corrected by someone.

  There is one guy in my dance circle who persists in beginning the very
first measure of the very first dance that we have with the most
complicated, often sycopated, sometimes stutter-step moves he knows.  The
result is that my whole body immediately goes on 'alert status' and by the
end of the dance I am so tense, I can scarcely bend my knees.  He does not
understand the lovely concept practiced in BA, of beginning the tanda with
the most basic, and elegant movements and working up to the more
challenging moves by the end of the third tanda......in fact, he is
notorious for only dancing one dance at a time with a lady.

  I would love to know what to say to him, because with this exception, he
could be one of my favorite partners.

Nancy

"Dance as if no one is watching; love as if you can't be hurt.  Sing tho'
no one is listening; live as if it's heaven on earth."
                                                 Author Unknown
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Date:    Mon, 9 Nov 1998 09:54:21 EST
From:    Jack Karako
Subject: Re: Help from Leaders (was FLOOR CARESSING)


"  I would love to know what to say to him, because with this exception, he
could be one of my favorite partners." - Nancy

* Get him involved in this list.

* Positive reinforcement; tell him what you like about his dance or praise
someone elses dance because of it's elegance and progression of  dance
elements, and of course do not mention his stutter step

Regards
Jak
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Date:    Mon, 9 Nov 1998 10:15:10 -0500
From:    Jacques Gauthier
Subject: Re: Simplicity (Was: FLOOR CARESSING)


> from Alberto Paz.  This was after having spent a lot of time with another
> instructor learning long chains of what ammount to figures, as if I
> were learning ballroom dancing.

I also have difficulty with long sequences.  I can do the individual
components but would rather decide for myself how to put them
together.  Having to remember what comes next in the long
sequence is detremental to my learning.  I've found that my
favorite teachers teach single elements without building a long
sequence for it.  This holds true for me wether it be Tango,
Tap, Salsa or Swing.

Jacques G.

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Date:    Mon, 9 Nov 1998 13:32:07 -0500
From:    "Walter M. Kane"
Subject: Re: Simplicity


Hi all,

Greg wrote on Friday, November 06, 1998

>
 The false dichotomy lay in the way tango is taught.  I was  struck by how
profoundly simple tango can be after having taken a class from Alberto Paz.
 This was after having spent a lot of time with another  instructor
learning long chains of what ammount to figures, as if I  were learning
ballroom dancing.

>         I don't think the regimented figure-centric method of instruction
> from ballroom dancing is well suited to teaching tango.  A focus on
> fundamental  movements and positions seems to be a more rational approach
to teaching.
>
------snip-------

I haven't had the opportunity, yet, to have a class with Alberto, but have
nonetheless learned to extract "focus on fundamental movements" from what
might seem to be "figure-centric" instruction.

So far, every teacher I've experienced, whether in my regular classes or
workshops by traveling maestros (Osvaldo Zotto, Pablo Pugliese, Juan Carlos
Copes, to drop a few names), has used figures and sequences of figures as a
means to illustrate the fundamental movements, and how they can be
combined. Once we understand that memorization of a sequence (a la
ballroom) is not the objective of the lesson, but that it is merely an
exercise to place the fundamental elements into a context; to get us
familiar with some of the combinational possibilities into which they can
be incorporated, the value of the instruction is magnified.

It appears that different teachers may place more or less emphasis on the
fundamental elements, though, and it's up to us as students to remember to
concentrate on the basics. During a lesson, we may repeat a taught sequence
10, 20 or 50 times. Later in practice, I might do it another 100 times or
more. But a week or two later, I don't remember the sequence, or care to.
The jigsaw puzzel has fallen apart, and may not necessarily ever be
reassembled into the same picture. But then, if I've learned anything, the
elements and various segues from one to the other are reinforced. My
objective now is to use them to create my own picture to interpret the
music I hear.

If I can do that with my partner, then we're dancing a tango.

Tangringo
____________________
Walter M. (Tangringo) Kane
Harriman, NY
oldzeid@frontiernet.net

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Date:    Mon, 9 Nov 1998 13:35:14 -0600
From:    "Stephen P. Brown"
Subject: Re: Simplicity


Greg wrote:

>>>I totally agree with Steve's comments on the simplicity-complexity
>>>dichotomy.  The false dichotomy lay in the way tango is taught.  I
>>>was struck by how profoundly simple tango can be after having taken
>>>a class from Alberto Paz. ... A focus on fundamental movements and
>>>positions seems to be a more rational approach to teaching.

Dave responded:

>>[H]ow does that translate to instruction, particularly in the print
>>and video realms? Is anyone using that premise as the foundation for
>>their teaching?

Walter added:

>So far, every teacher I've experienced, whether in my regular classes
>or workshops by traveling maestros (Osvaldo Zotto, Pablo Pugliese,
>Juan Carlos Copes, to drop a few names), has used figures and
>sequences of figures as a means to illustrate the fundamental
>movements, and how they can be combined.

>Once we understand that memorization of a sequence (a la ballroom) is
>not the objective of the lesson, but that it is merely an exercise to
>place the fundamental elements into a context; to get us familiar
>with some of the combinational possibilities into which they can be
>incorporated, the value of the instruction is magnified.

Agreed, BUT instruction in the fundamental movements and positions of
tango greatly facilitates that understanding.  I have great respect
for Juan Carlos Copes and Osvaldo Zotto as dancers and teachers, but I
would not describe them as teaching the fundamental building blocks of
tango.  Because they do not teach these fundamentals, I find it
difficult to describe them as TEACHING how the fundamental movements
can be combined--even if that is what can be learned by someone who
knows the fundamentals.

My own observation is that only a minority of tango instructors teach
that tango is made up of fundamental movements and positions.  Some
like myself are community based.  Of those who travel to teach in the
United States, the names that come readily to my mind are:  Daniel
Trenner, Rebecca Shulman, Pablo and Esther Pugliese, Alberto Paz &
Valorie Hart, Mariela Franganillo, and Brooke Burdett.  These
instructors teach a systematic understanding of the fundamental
movements and positions of tango.  That is the focus of their
instruction.

As far as videos are concerned, Daniel Trenner has produced a number
of instructional videos teach fundamental movements.  He has one
series with Rebecca Shulman as his partner and another series with
Brooke Burdett as his partner.  I recommend either series.  Those who
are interested may want to check Daniel's Bridge to the Tango website.
The URL is http://www.tangobridge.com/dtango7.

The Puglieses' also have four videos.  I have not yet seen their three
new videos, but their teaching emphasizes fundamental movements and
positions.

For descriptions and independent reviews of 54 videos available in
North America, you may want to visit Planet Tango.  The URL is
http://www.hooked.net/~tangoman/revu-1.htm

--Steve de Tejas


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Date:    Mon, 9 Nov 1998 15:52:36 -0600
From:    Matej Oresic
Subject: Re: Simplicity

There is a big difference between "talking about fundamentals" and "learning to dance". Dance teachers are expected to deal with the latter, i.e. get people to MOVE. It is amazing how rarely people ask themselves, instead of how "well" (or fundamental, blah-blah-blah) the teacher is teaching,  whether he/she got any good students with this teaching. Lots of balloons and mediocrity, and little real substance ...  creating more philosophers mistakenly thinking they understand the fundamentals of the dance, than real dancers.

I was lucky enough to have studied by teachers like Danel&Maria, Pepito, Pablo Veron, with lots and lots of practice..., and they, one way or another, also influenced the way I teach. I also like a lot the way Eric Jorissen teaches, being able to motivate people to move, while not spending too much time on "talking about". No wonder I still don't have a clue what I am doing or how to improvise!

No, seriously, it is a mistake to dismiss the well proven teaching methods as "not teaching fundamentals". Atcualy, it is ridiculous! ... maybe it is too indirect for some, but people did learn to dance tango, with probably more varied styles than most of the other ways of teaching ...Yes, one starts with a pattern, but then, one introduces a variation of the pattern, and in this way challenge the students to communicate properly at the point the variations occur (i.e. the variations are chosen depending on the topic covered in class). That way the student, while learning to move together with a partner by actualy doing it, is always presented by the challenges, and the students can make their own conclusions about the fundamentals of the dance. There is not one way of understanding tango, even at the very fundamental level. Miguel Zotto said in an interview by Fabiana Basso (1994):
At one time we had a project together with Eduardo Arquimbau and Copes to write down a methodology of the dance; but we came to the conclusion that this is not possible because it immediately loses its essence. It is a social dance of the people. What would be the point of having lessons with teachers if we all taught the same? That's the charm of the tango, that with with each person you find a different character and style.

Intriguingly, while generalizing, I observed that people who learn from teachers who over-emphasize the "fundamental movements", all look the same. Even worse, many of them think they understand the fundamentals of the dance, while not necessarily being able to dance. So, we got many new philosophers instead... I think if one is trying to teach tango as a way of personal expression, one needs to start somewhere else, and leave many things to intuition ... and THAT is difficult! Developing intuition in tango is what makes tango teaching very challenging!

Best regards,
Matej

http://lancelot.bio.cornell.edu/matej/tango/

p.s. For those around NYC, I will take over Danel&Maria's Monday instruction (beg/int tango, adv. milonga, adv. tango) while they are in BsAs (Nov 16, 23, 30). Check this site for details:
http://home.att.net/~jesshschein/dan_mar.htm

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Date:    Mon, 9 Nov 1998 16:45:52 -0600
From:    "Stephen P. Brown"
Subject: Re: Simplicity


     Matej wrote:

     >It is amazing how rarely people ask themselves, instead of how "well"
     >(or fundamental, blah-blah-blah) the teacher is teaching,  whether
     >he/she got any good students with this teaching. Lots of balloons and
     >mediocrity, and little real substance ...  creating more philosophers
     >mistakenly thinking they understand the fundamentals of the dance,
     >than real dancers.

     >No, seriously, it is a mistake to dismiss the well proven teaching
     >methods as "not teaching fundamentals". Atcualy, it is ridiculous!
     >... maybe it is too indirect for some, but people did learn to dance
     >tango, with probably more varied styles than most of the other ways
     >of teaching

     I am not dismissing anyone, nor would I dismiss any of the great
     teachers Matej or Walter have named.  I have studied with many of them
     and many other of the great teachers, but that is neither here nor
     there.  I am simply identifying the methods of instruction.

     To simplify, tango has seemingly divided into two approaches of
     instruction which might be loosely identified as the Todaro and
     Petroleo approaches.  Under the Todaro approach, the emphasis is on
     learning figures and sequences of figures many of which are built off
     the 8-count basic.  Under the Petroleo approach, the emphasis is on
     learning the underlying structure of the dance and then learning
     figures as an application of that structure.  Crediting teachers who
     take the Todaro approach with implicitly taking the Petroleo approach
     is utter nonsense.

     I do agree with Matej that the choice of which approach to take should
     be made on the basis of which would better help one learn to dance.
     But why should we accept the rantings of accolytes in either school
     that the way they have learned is the only acceptable way?  The
     accolytes in one school claim that people who learn from teachers who
     over-emphasize the fundamental movements all look the same and cannot
     dance very well.  The accolytes in the other school claim that people
     who learn from teachers who teach complex patterns cannot dance
     socially.

     Personally, I will not accept such a binary choice.  I choose both
     approaches to learning.  I think the two methods of instruction work
     well together.   For me, learning and internalizing the building
     blocks of tango greatly improved my abilities to learn tango from the
     great masters--many of whom use the Todaro approach.

     What we should recognize is that in the absence of an official
     licensing body, informal networks of teachers and students have formed
     to act like licensing bodies--creating a form of acceptance that is
     enforced by ostracism and criticism.  In my opinion, the claims made
     by people in these networks as to what is the true teaching should be
     viewed as a form of self promotion, aimed at dismissing any competing
     teaching methods, rather than an attempt to engage in discussion.

     --Steve de Tejas
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Date:    Mon, 9 Nov 1998 15:39:45 -0800
From:    Greg Olsen at Work
Subject: Re: Simplicity

In my original post, what I was trying to get at was that in MY case
a more intellectual, verbal approach to instruction was much more
effective.  Teaching dance (swing), I have found that there
are essentially three ways a student learns: verbally, visually,
and kinesthetically.  I happen to learn best verbally and kinethetically.
Therefore, I tend to gravitate to instructors who can explain
the movement.  I do not function well in a "watch me and mimmick"
lesson.  Teachers of that methodology seem to be also the teachers
of the "long chains of figures" style.

As to the informal networks of teachers and students that function
like governing bodies, it ammounts to a "My kung fu can beat your
kung fu" mentality that is generally rather junvenile.  Let someone
find a teacher that they are comfortable with and learn from them
irrespective of that teacher's "lineage".

Happy trails,

Greg Olsen

>From: "Stephen P. Brown" <Stephen.P.Brown@DAL.FRB.ORG>
>Subject:      Re: Simplicity
>To: TANGO-L@MITVMA.MIT.EDU
>
>     Matej wrote:
>
>     >It is amazing how rarely people ask themselves, instead of how "well"
>     >(or fundamental, blah-blah-blah) the teacher is teaching,  whether
>     >he/she got any good students with this teaching. Lots of balloons and
>     >mediocrity, and little real substance ...

[-snip-]
>
>     What we should recognize is that in the absence of an official
>     licensing body, informal networks of teachers and students have formed
>     to act like licensing bodies--creating a form of acceptance that is
>     enforced by ostracism and criticism.


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Date:    Tue, 10 Nov 1998 10:41:20 +0100
From:    Alexis Cousein
Subject: Re: Simplicity


Matej Oresic wrote:
>
> There is a big difference between "talking about fundamentals" and "learning
> to dance". Dance teachers are expected to deal with the latter, i.e. get
> people to MOVE. It is amazing how rarely people ask themselves, instead of how
> "well" (or fundamental, blah-blah-blah) the teacher is teaching,  whether
> he/she got any good students with this teaching. Lots of balloons and
> mediocrity, and little real substance ...  creating more philosophers
> mistakenly thinking they understand the fundamentals of the dance, than real
> dancers.
>
> I was lucky enough to have studied by teachers like Danel&Maria, Pepito, Pablo
> Veron, with lots and lots of practice..., and they, one way or another, also
> influenced the way I teach. I also like a lot the way Eric Jorissen teaches,
> being able to motivate people to move, while not spending too much time on
> "talking about". No wonder I still don't have a clue what I am doing or how to
> improvise!
>
> No, seriously, it is a mistake to dismiss the well proven teaching methods as
> "not teaching fundamentals". Atcualy, it is ridiculous! ... maybe it is too
> indirect for some,

The indirect methods work best. And as you were citing Eric Jorissen:
he's very adept at just that. He can look at a bunch of people, see a
`fundamental' thing that isn't going too well with most of them, and
then devise a strategy to teach them something `by practice' that they
can't get exactly right without addressing the more fundamental problem.

By observation, that seems to cure the underlying problem much easier
than spending hours discoursing about the Fundamental Wrongness itself.
After all, it's a dance, not a religion, so you can't really understand
anything without moving it to muscle memory, and no amount of discourse
is going to achieve that.

--
Alexis Cousein
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Date:    Tue, 10 Nov 1998 11:04:43 +0100
From:    Alexis Cousein
Subject: Re: Simplicity


"Stephen P. Brown" wrote:
>      To simplify, tango has seemingly divided into two approaches of
>      instruction which might be loosely identified as the Todaro and
>      Petroleo approaches.  Under the Todaro approach, the emphasis is on
>      learning figures and sequences of figures many of which are built off
>      the 8-count basic.  Under the Petroleo approach, the emphasis is on
>      learning the underlying structure of the dance and then learning
>      figures as an application of that structure.  Crediting teachers who
>      take the Todaro approach with implicitly taking the Petroleo approach
>      is utter nonsense.

To be honest, I had the displeasure then pleasure of having attended
classes with Todaro, once with only a sketchy understanding of the
underlying structure of the dance, and once when I had grasped this
aspect of the dance much better (i.e. a few years later). The difference
was enormous; I can tell you that the first time was neither enjoyable
nor very productive (trying to mimic a sequence of 24 beats without
understanding really what the structure is, is, to say the least,
challenging, and we hadn't been introduced to the rythmic aspect of the
dance at all, and he didn't spare us one bit!).

Todaro really *expected* everyone to understand the structure of the
dance, in my opinion. I'm not sure he'd have done that with absolute
beginners, but then, I've never seen him teach to beginners either . I
think it may also have been Todaro's conscious choice to teach that way,
but he wouldn't have done it if he was the only teacher, or if he had
always faced a public who didn't already have an understanding of the
structure of the dance.

The first time I met him, his expectation that someone else had prepared
the terrain for him was probably wrong in this particular setting; the
tango scene didn't really allow progress by emulation above a certain
level, and not many people were already mature enough to grasp anything
about dance structure. It showed.

Even Pablo Veron -- who was also giving classes--, had some problems
grasping this, though he wasn't totally oblivious to the problem.

A few years later, that picture had totally changed -- and attending a
class by Todaro had become a much more enlightening experience.

(
/begin{digression}
My first time was probably as close as he'll ever have gotten to
teaching beginners -- we weren't beginners, but the Belgian tango scene
was only budding then, so even the more `experienced' dancers were not
much better than todays's semi-beginners ;). As I've now officially been
dubbed `of the old guard' by some young lions, I can only feel jealous
at how fast they are progressing, because the teachers and peers you use
to pull yourself up have become better and more mature ).
/end{digression}
)

-- Alexis Cousein

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Date:    Tue, 10 Nov 1998 11:12:05 -0800
From:    TangoMan
Subject: Simplicity


I'm extremely impressed by the accuracy and expediency used by Steve in
pinpointing one of the major cancers that corrode some of our Tango
communitues these days. Visions of Tango dancing Napoleons with Stalin
complexes abound in small communities lost in the checkered map of the Tango
continent.

>But why should we accept the rantings of accolytes in either school
>that the way they have learned is the only acceptable way?

People shouldn't but unfortunately the relation teacher/student is more
about control than anything else. It worsens when Napo is the gatekeeper and
nobody gets out and only a few can get in.

>The accolytes in one school claim that people who learn from teachers who
>over-emphasize the fundamental movements all look the same and cannot
>dance very well.  The accolytes in the other school claim that people
>who learn from teachers who teach complex patterns cannot dance
>socially.

We say that "cada maestrito con su librito", each lil' teacher with his/her
own lil' book. Putting down , pooh-poohing and ridiculizing has been an
unfortunately byproduct of the over-60 generation of dancers turned teachers
that, in some cases have lived in this country for many years, or have been
brought into this country to share their life experiences with the newcomers
to Tango. The smaller the community, the bigger the ego of the appointed
heirs to  regimes of terror and intimidation.     ;-)

I'd like to take this moment to thank the inventors of the Internet,
satellite dishes and television sets because they have made possible for
people to see beyond their Tango Pleasantvilles and find out about the land
of the free and the home of the brave.

>What we should recognize is that in the absence of an official
>licensing body, informal networks of teachers and students have formed
>to act like licensing bodies--creating a form of acceptance that is
>enforced by ostracism and criticism.  In my opinion, the claims made
>by people in these networks as to what is the true teaching should be
>viewed as a form of self promotion, aimed at dismissing any competing
>teaching methods, rather than an attempt to engage in discussion.

That reminds me, the first organizational meeting of the International Dance
Institute Of Tango will take place as announced and all charter I.D.I.O.T
members have already been notified through our private network.
Soon, people like Steve will have to find other means to make sense because
I.D.I.O.T will rule the (tango) world and those who oppose it will not be
invited to perform at the next P.T.A. meeting.
Tangazos,

TangoMan

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Date:    Tue, 10 Nov 1998 16:17:15 -0700
From:    Tom Stermitz
Subject: Re: Simplicity


"Stephen P. Brown" <Stephen.P.Brown@DAL.FRB.ORG>
"Matej Oresic" <matej.oresic@CORNELL.EDU>

>     To simplify, tango has seemingly divided into two approaches of
>     instruction which might be loosely identified as the Todaro and
>     Petroleo approaches.  Under the Todaro approach, the emphasis is on
>     learning figures and sequences of figures many of which are built off
>     the 8-count basic.  Under the Petroleo approach, the emphasis is on
>     learning the underlying structure of the dance and then learning
>     figures as an application of that structure.  Crediting teachers who
>     take the Todaro approach with implicitly taking the Petroleo approach
>     is utter nonsense.

I think of these two methods as Structural (splitting figures up) or
Improvisational-conceptual (assembling elements into a figure). It is
certainly valid to construct a social dance or an exhibition using either
approach, and teachers from either school definitely borrow from the other.

In the end, the skill with which someone eventually dances has as much to
do with talent and hard work than with the methodology. I have observed
before that you can dance one night a week and perhaps get good in three
years or dance three nights per week and perhaps get good in two years.
(Survey your own community to see if this hods true.)

Also, Steve pointed out to me that it is highly unfair to compare beginners
of one school with advanced dancers of another.

Learning in isolation.

I do notice that students who only study from one teacher or within one
school of tango are much worse off than those who have access to or try
several different approaches. I have heard teachers try to hold on to their
students by claiming that they (the poor students, or perhaps the poor
teacher, I don't know which) will become confused if they see other
material.

Learning Curve.

I think the initial (one month) learning curve is slightIy faster for the
structural approach, while the improvisational one is much faster by the
end of the first year. But I've only had the opportunity to observe people
within the Colorado community; maybe it is a personality or talent issue,
not methodology.

I also notice that many leaders desire the security of having a sequence of
steps shown to them, especially at the beginning. But, it is very easy to
get locked into predictable sequences if you stick with that method too
much. I noticed from my own learning how extremely difficult it was to
break old patterns, even though my initial teachers came from the
Gustavo/Pugliese/Trenner "improvisational-conceptual" school. I notice that
many beginners and intermediate leaders in my community are stuck with the
same thing.

Followers.

The discussion has been around the meaning of this for leaders, and indeed,
that is one of the accusations most frequently leveled at teachers who
emphasize figures, i.e. that they are only teaching to the leaders.

While followers can learn with either method, they haven't the slightest
need to memorize a figure and in fact, those who have learned the sequences
together with the guys get confused when lead something not in the
sequence. Frequently a brand new follower is better than a one month
follower who knows too much to simply follow.

But, one thing certainly slows down your learning, and that is studying
from only one teacher or within only one school.

Tom Stermitz

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Date:    Tue, 10 Nov 1998 16:00:15 -0800
From:    JC Dill
Subject: Re: Simplicity


On 03:52 PM 11/9/98 -0600, Matej Oresic wrote:

>No, seriously, it is a mistake to dismiss the well proven teaching
>methods as "not teaching fundamentals". Atcualy, it is ridiculous!
>... maybe it is too indirect for some,

Are you really saying that there is no such thing as progress?  Are you
really saying that because it "worked" (according to YOUR definition of
worked) in the "old days" that this means it is best?  Are you really
saying that since it works for you it's perfect and the fact that it
doesn't work for others is irrelevant?

<sigh>

Some years back I attended a horseshoeing school for an 8 week course.  I
learned more in that one 8 week course than I had learned in the previous 8
months of working as an assistant/intern to a highly skilled professional
horseshoer.  The difference wasn't in the horseshoeing knowledge of the
people teaching (the person I interned with was definitely a pro who knew a
LOT about horseshoeing), it was in the "how" that they passed on this
information to me.  In the "old days" the only way one learned to be a
horse shoer was to become an assistant/intern to a master shoer.  Today we
have better choices.

Thus it is the same with AT.  One *can* learn by being taught the old ways,
but that doesn't mean the old ways are best.  When a AT master dancer
learns to *teach* instead of just show moves, the retention rate and
progression rate for the students goes up significantly.  The material
being taught is still the same, fundamentals and/or moves, but HOW it is
taught can be different and can be improved on by learning teaching
fundamentals (which are the same regardless of the material being taught).

jc

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Date:    Tue, 10 Nov 1998 17:23:12 -0600
From:    "Stephen P. Brown"
Subject: Teaching Styles (was: Simplicity)


     It seems as though little that starts out simple remains so.  ;-)

     Matej wrote:

     >>Intriguingly, while generalizing, I observed that people who learn
     >>from teachers who over-emphasize the "fundamental movements", all
     >>look the same. Even worse, many of them think they understand the
     >>fundamentals of the dance, while not necessarily being able to
     >>dance. So, we got many new philosophers instead... I think if one is
     >>trying to teach tango as a way of personal expression, one needs to
     >>start somewhere else, and leave many things to intuition ... and
     >>THAT is difficult! Developing intuition in tango is what makes tango
     >>teaching very challenging!

     The problem in identifying the effects of a teaching style by observing
     dancers is very few who have any ambition to excel in tango study only
     with professors who teach the underlying structure of tango.  The
     ambitious students will study with several or many professors, and most
     tango professors base their teaching on figures and variations.  That
     means most of the students who can be clearly identified with learning
     only from professors who teach the underlying structure of tango are
     likely to be beginners--either because they are new to tango, or
     because they have not worked hard enough to develop dance skills.

     I would hate to compare two methods of instruction by taking the
     beginners from one group and compare them with the more advanced
     dancers of another group.  A more interesting comparison might be
     made with beginning to intermediate students.

     Like Tom I have observed:

     >...that students who only study from one teacher or within one
     >school of tango are much worse off than those who have access to or
     >try several different approaches.

     Another difficulty with making a comparison between the methods of
     instruction is that many professors who emphasize the underlying
     strucure of tango do not claim that they are offering a complete
     program to develop an advanced dancer.  Rather, they claim that that
     they offer a way for their students to find their way into the
     improvisational aspects of tango.  Looking for advanced dancers who
     were only taught under this method may fail to understand the intent
     in this form of instruction.

     I might note that Mingo Pugliese and Gustavo Naveira do emphasize the
     underlying structure of tango and claim the ability to develop
     advanced dancers, but I would be hesitant to dispute their claims.

     However it is learned, dancers with a knowledge of tango's underlying
     structure in their bodies and heads have better intuition and are
     better able to do what Walter suggests, which is take the material
     taught by any good instructor and make it their own.

     --Steve de Tejas

     (Not yet affiliated with I.D.I.O.T.)

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Date:    Tue, 10 Nov 1998 17:01:56 -0800
From:    "Crowley, Ted (NLC-EX)"
Subject: Re: Teaching Styles (was Simplicity)

My overall view is that a variety of teaching styles added together is the best as each of them strengthens different areas. But I have a couple comments (as a student) on teach-long-patterns vs. teach-small-compents:
I'm good at learning patterns -- at almost any class I learn them as fast and do them as well as anyone in the room. But a thing I cannot do (and think many others cannot also) is spend a class learning a long pattern, or even 2 or 3 variations of that pattern, and come away from that class knowing how to use the shorter elements that formed the pattern in different ways, in order to improvise other patterns. I probably could do this if after each class I and my partner (if I had one) spent another hour breaking apart the patterns and analyzing them -- in effect teaching ourselves. But I don't have that opportunity, and during the class we are focussing on what the teacher is asking us to focus on and practice at each moment. What we learn is what we think about and teach our mind/muscles by practicing, not something else.

And of course long (memorized, not invented on the spot) patterns themselves are somewhat useless in Tango (like other dances that move around the room), because each one moves through a certain area of the dance floor, from 5 to 15 feet long, of a particular shape. It is pretty rare to find an open section of floor that large and of the right shape, and for it to stay open long enough. Even in the classes this is often a major problem, just finding space to complete one assigned figure. At a milonga with a fairly crowded dance floor, you need to be able to make your own sequences up from smaller compenents on the fly to fit the changing available places to dance, rather than doing patterns you have memorized, or you simply won't dance much -- most of the song will be pauses, waiting for people to get out of your way. Been there. Done that. So we all have to learn how to make our patterns out of shorter elements. And I theorize that learning this process would be a lot easier if it were actually taught.

But on the other side of the coin....

I recall when I first started Salon Tango and went to a Daniel Trenner workshop where he only taught basics of movement and lead: technique. I could do the exercises fine, but when he put on music and we were supposed to apply the things we had worked on to dancing together, I was stuck. I didn't know what to do. In effect I had learned HOW to move and HOW to lead but not WHERE to lead. If I had taken the workshop some calendar time later, when I had a small vocabulary of patterns, it would have been no problem. Thus I learned that memorizing patterns is important.

Another issue with making things too small is that if every single step that one takes involves making a decision, the leader can be easily overwhelmed. For example, it means making decisions 4 times as often as leading a series of 4-step patterns would, and that much less attention left over to enjoy the dance. I think as a practical matter every leader has "patterns" of 4 to 8+ steps that they use over and over all the time, even those leaders who are capable of changing things creatively at every single step if they wanted to. These may be patterns they created themselves, but it is certainly useful to be taught some.

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Date:    Wed, 11 Nov 1998 13:32:30 -0500
From:    "Walter M. Kane"
Subject: Re: Teaching Styles (was Simplicity)


Ted Crowley wrote:


> My overall view is that a variety of teaching styles added together is
> the best as each of them strengthens different areas.

> ... you need to be able to make your own sequences up from smaller
compenents on the fly to fit the changing available places to dance, rather
than doing patterns you have memorized
> ... So we all
> have to learn how to make our patterns out of shorter elements....
> learning this process would be a lot easier if it were actually taught.
> But on the other side of the coin....
>
> I recall when I first started Salon Tango ....  basics of movement and
lead:
> ... In effect I had learned HOW to move and HOW to lead but not WHERE
> to lead. ...Thus I learned
> that memorizing patterns is important.


I believe it's a cyclic process. Analysis to synthesis, and back.

The first time I saw figures and patterns, that was all I understood them
to be. But from the beginning, the teacher would always correct the
fundamentals in my movement, balance, timing, etc., so the feedback
addressed the basic elements.

Little by little, I'm learning to see the elemental aspects embedded in the
figures that are presented to us. Conversely, also little by little, I'm
learning to apply better understanding of the elements when attempting to
execute a figure.

I don't think there is a real argument between the "figure" and "element"
philosophies. The methods complement each other, and students benefit from
both.

What's more important for good writing, vocabulary or composition?

Answer:         Both.

What's more important for good tango, elements or figure
composition?

Answer:         Both.


Tangringo

(Membership application to I.D.I.O.T. rejected)
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Garrit Fleischmann Nov.98
Email: kontakt(at)cyber-tango.com