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October 01, 2007

Levels in Tango Workshops and Classes

Following tango workshops I frequently hear women say that the guys weren't "ready" for the level of class they were in. I can understand the frustration, because in a class the women are at the mercy of the men in a way.

On the other hand, it often happens that these very same women who are complaining have put themselves in an intermediate or advanced class when they themselves are also beginners. It's no excuse that the men did the same thing, but women who have sufficient experience will know enough to work effectively with the men in a workshop at higher levels. One of the young women who went to a national festival in August told me in detail about the low abilities of the men in the intermediate and advanced classes. But she herself started learning tango last Spring. I said, but, why were you not in the beginner classes? She said she thought the men would have been even worse on those classes. It makes sense that you will progress more if you are practicing with someone better than you. But it is very difficult to build good tango skills and concepts when you skip over the fundamentals, impatiently going for the more difficult material, the fancier movements, the styling, etc. When I study with ANY teacher for the first time, I take his or her beginning classes. One finds the most detailed explanations of that teacher's personal technique philosophy in the foundation classes. And everyone is brought up to speed together. One learns a lot. Whereas it is possible to come away with nothing when taking a class above your level, because if you can't experience it in the class you can't retain it.

Another think that I see is that men need to have someone to practice with. Otherwise they won't learn anything. As soon as women start to get good they avoid classes and just take privates or the occasional workshop. From the woman's point of view it may possibly be the right thing for her development. But it doesn't help to grow the men so that we end up with a nice community of dancers. Maybe men need to practice with each other until they are good, like in the old days.

When I practice doing the woman's part, I don't mind practicing with men who don't know what they are doing, because together we can usually figure out what they and I both need to do (tactfully). But I really dislike practicing with guys who think they know what they are doing when they really don't. They tell me what to do and blame me for not doing things right. They talk rather than lead. That's hell. I would expect that women should feel the same way - enjoy practicing with men who are "learning" and not enjoy men who tell them what to do despite the man's ignorance. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Women often only want to practice with the best dancers. And maybe that's because the men dominate them and abuse/hurt them in practice situations.

Everyone is in the game to enjoy dancing, and there should be a way for beginners and advanced dancers to practice together with mutual enjoyment.

I personally think that dancers of all levels should take the same classes together and practice together, and the teacher should have material in every class that is suitable for beginners as well as advanced. That's how I try to teach (but people don't seem to like it). I guess people feel that they need to be socially promoted and don't like being in a class with less experienced dancers... as if they are being held back from learning things. Sometimes that can happen, I guess, but I think that everyone needs to help pull each other up.

Posted by joegrohens at October 1, 2007 11:22 AM


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