Monday, February 04, 2008

After almost 10 years, I still see myself as a beginner.

People look at me askew when I say that I am still a beginner in Tango. But everyday that I learn more, I feel like I know less about it.

Still others give me a disbelieving look when I say that I took beginner level classes for two years. It feels like they think I am trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

And when I tell them that I paid lots of money to visiting teachers only to be humbled by being told that I needed to work on my walking. I can see the disbelief in their eyes and bodies.

Well, I am, I did and I have. Let me explain.

Compared to other dancers, say those that have devoted years of dancing Tango 8 hours a day dissecting the movements of this dance, creating not just original movements but even distinct styles, say for example Pulpo and Luisa, well I am forced to consider myself a neophyte- someone who is still at the beginning of the journey of discovery.

If I dance well, it is in good part to my receiving a very solid base on the fundamentals of the dance via private lessons and in part because I focused on the basics of Tango- embrace, connection, walking, leading, etc. by taking beginner classes for several years.

I guess you could say that I paid so much attention that I was then able to intelligently dissect the basic movements and create my own way of describing and explaining them.

I did not do it on my own. I’ve had the pleasure and benefit of doing this with two of the best dancers in San Diego, Linda Garwood and Isabelle Kay. Both started taking Tango apart when they jointly developed the Tango Essence, a follower’s only technique class.

I credit Linda for wanting to dissect Tango and understand good dance technique at a fundamental level and for being the first to share her knowledge with other local dancers.

Isabelle’s contributed her extensive training of understanding dance and movement to give a solid bio-mechanical grounding to the first real technique class offered locally.

Both are insistent on the respecting the followers space and axis and require the leader to actually lead with his body from his center instead of just pretending to lead by using their arms. Though as they have found out, it is often easier to say and teach then to do.

Interestingly, their interest in good technique is due in part to the fact that both face physical problems and potential injury when dancing with dancers who had lots of steps but no technique.

I have to confess that I am still working on my walk. One of the benefits of teaching is that I get to practice walking with my students. Walking can be a simple carefree effortless activity or it can be a controlled and precise movement. And, when you are really good, it is controlled and precise movement that looks like a simple, carefree and effortless walk.


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