Are drills becoming part of the dance?

Published July 11th 2016
Author: Chris

In my last blog post I highlighted the issue of the modern trend in tango posture. This time I’m going to put forward my theory of why this trend has occurred and discuss the effects on other areas of the dance.

Last time I stated that the tango posture has become more leaned and straight and this results in discomfort and restriction while dancing. I do not think this trend is a natural progression of the dance but instead is caused my misinterpretation by teachers. There is no governing body of Argentine Tango and as such there is no need to have any qualifications to teach tango unlike Ballroom or Ballet. This is a doubled edge sword, it is easy to start a tango class which allows more people to dance tango, however, there is no lower limit on the quality of teaching. Of course all tango teachers have a passion for the dance and may be very good dancers, however they may not be good teachers or communicators and may not a deep enough understanding of the dance in its concepts. As such, important information that should be taught is either missed completely or misinterpreted.

So why do I think this has resulted in the problems for the tango posture? Well first let’s examine how people learn tango, first they will go to local classes then when they feel they have progressed then will start attending workshops. So, if someone feels they are ready to teach they will tend to repeat the classes and workshops they have attended. This is where problems begin.

Workshops are often one off events that focus on an element of the dance that is not normally covered in a general tango class. This may include advanced techniques or complex figures such as volcadas or colgadas. Let’s take technique as an example, a workshop’s aim may be to improve chest isolation. As such the workshop will include a series of drills and a move such as the cross to enforce the isolation. This is a good thing as technique can be improved or new techniques considered.

However, someone who teaches may attend such a workshop and feel this is a way of teaching the cross in their own class, even though the aim of the workshop was not to teach the cross. When this teacher returns to their own class they may not remember every detail from the workshop so information is lost. Also those attending the class, who may never have done a cross before, will learn drills that they will associate with the cross and believe this the only way to do a cross. This means that drills on chest isolation have now become part of the cross and ultimately part of the dance. These drill elements may impede the dance and the quality of dancing will decrease.

I think a similar thing also occurs with language. A workshop may cover a new technique to make the cross look elegant. Then due to the “Chinese Whispers” effect this become the cross is elegant or the cross is a beautiful step. Yes the cross can be nice but I consider it to be mainly a transition step to something else, like an ocho. This language has led to the cross being elevate to a level above what it truly is.

So back to my gripe about posture, I think a similar thing has occurred here. I think the posture needed to be adapted to become straighter and more leaned compared to the posture used in say the later 1800s to allow for step development. However, this has become the straighter and more leaned the better, and has resulted in the problems alluded to be my previous blog. Also I believe that drills aimed at making sure the shoulders do not impede the follower, i.e standing with your shoulders back for 15 seconds or stretching up through the chest for a few seconds to insure it is not dropping, have become part of the tango posture.

This highlights the need for tango teachers to think about the reasons behind what they are teaching and question what they have been taught themselves.

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