Pedagogy

Our Marks have large vocabularies and our beginners are already interesting improvisers. Our beginning Revels are able to feel their way through advanced moves.

We are committed to teaching tango technique by articulating the simplest instructions that are consistent across movements and levels.

We studied and analyzed every tango move to understand its biomechanics. We distilled technique to a memorable set of just 5 tools.  We want you to understand what you are doing and apply it to new situations.

We seek to dance with contrast of mood from serious to humorous, with a contrast of rhythmic and melodic musicality, with contrast of speed and dynamic, and variation in the embrace from sweet to sensual to athletic – always with sublime connection.

We encourage all gender/roles, styles, and the application of tango to every music you love.

You have to believe you can do anything with your body.

Pablo Villarraza

Regardless of which “style” of tango you prefer, all Argentine Tango relies on the same skills.

We have studied anatomy and biomechanics to be able to give direct and clear instructions for sublime connection, balance, clear communication, and fluid movement.

We describe motion in terms of position and action of joints and contraction of muscles. We use scientific terms to describe communication between the bodies and the science of animal gaits to describe the various ways four legs can move along.

We have distilled all tango technique to just 5 Biomechanical Tools.

  • The Arch of Connection
  • Intention/Projection
  • Transfer
  • Co-Contraction/Power
  • Embrace Actions

All of our biomechanical claims have been evaluated by two physiologists, Brendan Roach of Wellington’s BodyLab and Michael Chang of Sydney University.

While students find some of the names of the 10 tango muscles and the anatomical terminology unfamiliar at first, in sum, our tango terminology is compact, memorable, and wieldable.

Objective anatomical terminology allows students to train with the assistance of any gym trainer, yoga or pilates teacher, physiotherapist, or online exercise training.

We teach Argentine Tango technique in a way that everyone can understand and implement, so that teaching is not a cult of personality and metaphor, but a toolbox that students can use on their own to diagnose their own errors, assist partners, and learn faster from any teachers.

Learn to use your body for tango. That’s Biomechanics.

Until the mid-1990s, tango was understood in groups of steps, or sequences. The Cochabamba Investigation Group analyzed tango and identified the basic Elements, from which dancers can compose.

There are 25 distinct tango Elements (see the Lexicon), each with a number of variations ranging from 5-100. We can do any variation with a number of different dynamics bringing our total expressive possibilities to roughly 1000.

The technique for each Element is consistent across its variations, so once we learn how to go looking for variations, and how to move with different dynamics we have a huge vocabulary at our disposal.

Dancing from the Elements empowers dancers to to express every music, challenge partners to maintain intense concentration, and use space skillfully for better floorcraft. Improvisation skills are essential to navigating crowded dance floors and dancing on diverse music.

We dance Argentine Tango in a traditional way which means that we take pride in our skills. We dance every movement in the Tango Lexicon inherited from the 1940s – in every variation, on both sides!

Learn to use tango for your creativity. That’s Improvisation.

TangoForge education is motivated and bound by these commitments:

  • No more Secrets: Argentine Tango has been needlessly mystified. If it is indeed made possible by blood, ineffable authenticity, and innate abilities then no one can ethically charge money for instruction. If a person promotes themselves as a teacher they must believe that it is teachable, and it is their responsibility to find effective instructions and teaching methods for doing it at the highest possible level.
  • No more sequences: Sequences are an intimidating memorization task which then become a habit that is hard to break. Following sequences dulls Revels’ perception. Marks should improvise from the beginning, and Revels should learn to be ready for anything.
  • No abusive teaching: Ridiculing students’ mistakes is not teaching. Telling students that tango is difficult or takes many years to learn is an excuse for not teaching it and, moreover,  disempowers students needlessly. ‘Difficult’ is a word we use when we don’t have a good method for teaching the matter at hand (and therefore should not be charging anyone money for that experience).
  • The movements usually called “basics” are quite subtle, refined, and hard for beginners: Rather than teaching an arbitrary canon of classics and customs, tango movements should be taught in consideration of biomechanical complexity and subtlety, gradually building students’ physical skills.
  • Curricula should start with large movements, advancing to small ones as students’ muscle control improves. Beginners should dance slowly and deliberately, aiming for perfect technique in every movement. As they master the technique, their dance can speed up and get smaller.
  • Distillation: Teaching should be distilled to the minimum possible instructions, and instructions should be identified that are consistent across movements, levels, and contexts.
  • Consistency: Technique should be consistent from beginning to advanced levels so that students do not have to unlearn beginners’ tricks and oversimplifications as they advance.
  • Objectivity: Instructions should have an objective basis, referring to human bodies (not animals), biological body parts (such as muscles and bones, rather than imaginary axes), and restricting the use of metaphors to those with which people are likely to have experience (hugging, swimming, throwing a ball) not moving “like a leaf in the wind” or “as if you are a tiger”. If teachers communicate tango technique in anatomical terminology, students can easily study and practice body control with the assistance of any exercise or bodywork professional and many online exercise resources.
  • Confidence and empowerment: The primary factor in whether students learn is whether they feel confident. It is therefore part of the work of a teacher to sustain and expand students’ confidence. Teachers should avoid showing off and intimidating the students, and should be mindful to create lesson plans that are empowering.
  • Mistakes are not “always the Mark’s fault.” Revels are responsible to move in a way that makes possibility and fulfils the Mark’s expression. Teachers are responsible to provide comparable quantity and precision of instruction about both roles. Good Revels are able to bring out their best (and sometimes more) from their Marks. We demand a lot of Revels, because we want to be able to do anything with them. Revels who don’t train bring down the level of dancing in a community, because instead of growing their dance to the highest possible level, Marks focus on how to dance with untrained girls.
  • Dancing both Roles: Dancers learn faster and better by learning both roles because they are able to see, feel, and understand the whole communication, not just half of it. 
  • Improvisation from the very first day, so Marks don’t get stuck in repetitive habits and perceive the possibility to make tango their own right away.

Tango at its best is inclusive and compassionate, open and generous, and liberates people to express themselves. People should feel free to dance tango in either role, with any person, in any embrace, and to any music without fear of condemnation and prejudice.

Just in case you need it, here’s a code of ethics for tango communities.

Teaching

Many, many things can be said about Argentine Tango, and are. Within five minutes of dancing, we can find fault with nearly any partner and issue twenty corrections. The real question is which instructions are effective and empowering?

We believe that most teachers are trying to achieve the same thing – sublime unbroken connection, interesting improvisation, and charming musicality. With no standardized pedagogy to guide us, we are each seeking ways to evoke these sensations in our students. We all explain it differently. Many also repeat unhelpful truisms like “lead with the chest”. But we all mean pretty much the same thing. TangoForge has two pedagogic agendas:

  1. To train dancers to be creative. We want you to blow your own mind on the dance floor and move the spirits of the people who are watching. This depends on clarity about the responsibilities of both roles and about how we communicate. It also depends on both dancers’ precise body awareness and control. We only teach improvisation, never sequences.
  2. To provide distilled, consistent, and empowering instructions. To this end, we use anatomically-precise terminology and we avoid metaphors and abstractions. Our instruction is procedural. “Do this, then this, then this.” Our instruction refers to a small toolbox of biomechanical instructions which anatomical terminology. We never use sequences. Instead we systematize the universe of possibilities.
Here’s are our guides to evaluating instructors and getting the most from workshops.
We want women to be empowered and to share responsibility for the dance rather than dependently seeking entertainment. This is why we us the term ‘Revel’ rather than ‘follow’. We want to liberate men from the expectation to be authoritative and perfect, so that they can be creative. This is why we use the term ‘Mark’ rather than to ‘lead’.

Revelling is not about receiving a good dance, it’s about enabling your mark to dance as never before! We demystify “good Revelling” so that Revels can feel confident, look great, and feel light and responsive to marks. Most importantly we show Revels how they can contribute to the dance, instead of feeling passive and dependent. (And that doesn’t don’t mean unled adornos, from which I generally abstain. We mean creating space that draws out the Mark’s creativity – what we call being a Divine Space/Time Machine.)

We teach Revels how to feel empowered both on and off the dance floor. We teach you what you have to give as a Revel, to enjoy your own movement rather than depending on a “good Mark” to entertain you, and to understand what you can give to the mark, so his dance gets bigger.

The result is that Marks say they can tell immediately when they’ve got one of our Revels in their embrace, even our beginning Revels.

We believe that dancing both roles is one important practical step in the direction of women’s full participation and men’s full pleasure.

I’m very interested in the differences between the roles and gender is a major topic of the blog.

As a scholar, I am uncomfortable with the lack of citation and attribution of knowledge and ideas which is the norm in the world of Argentine Tango. My technique has benefited from the strengths and weaknesses of all my teachers, but in refining it I have forced myself to question even my beloved friends and the resulting pedagogy does not represent anyone, although it owes a tremendous debt to those named below, and many more whose names I do not even know.

I began dancing Argentine Tango in 2005 under the instruction of Makela Brizuela and Pablo Rojas in Los Angeles, California. I took private lessons with visiting teachers. Homer Ladas impressed me with a sense of solidity and generosity, both in his way of moving and his way of relating to people in tango. El Pulpo influenced me with the possibilities of softness in the joints, and with his method of expanding a tango concept, barrida of the foot, up the leg. The idea that a plethora of movement possibilities could be made conceptually consistent was exciting to me.  Sara and Ivan Terrazas contributed to this perception. They also worked to give tango a technical and conceptual structure.

In 2007 I chose Dana Frìgoli as my maestra and began studying her technique. In 2008 I began to lead in earnest, studying at DNI in Buenos Aires, the school founded by Dana and Pablo Villarraza. In addition to Dana and Pablo, the teachers who were most influential to me as follower and leader were Cristian Duarte, Pedro Farias, Julieta Falivene, and Ezequiel Gomez. I was also taught by Adrián Ferreyra and Rocío Lequio. I took many other classes from other teachers while in Buenos Aires, but none of these were influential in my technique. I continue to study with Pablo Villarraza, as well as other leading local stars when in Buenos Aires.

In 2010 I completed the entire 30-hour annual seminar of Chicho Frúmboli as a follower and I have studied my notes and videos from this seminar repeatedly as a leader.

From 2006 through 2010 I danced at milongas 4-6 nights a week. While in Buenos Aires (now totalling 11 months), in addition to private lessons and group classes, I dance at one or two milongas every night. I have also danced in New York City, San Francisco, Paris, København, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rotterdam, Zurich, Utrecht. As a follower  I have thounsands of hours of floor time with advanced leaders of all styles from many parts of the world.

In 2010 I began intensive retraining of my body and development of body awareness and control under the supervision of pilates instructors who are also professional ballet dancers, Ali Townsend in Wellington and Simonne Smiles in Sydney. In 2010 and 2011 I studied contemporary dance technique with Alicia Orlando in Buenos Aires and Martha Graham technique with Mira Mansell in Sydney. In 2012 I resumed my study of ballet and especially the study of the foot through pointe work.

Hours of investigation with my dear friends Sebastián Arrúa and Armin Kyros were important in stimulating the development and articulation of my technique. In particular, I want to acknowledge Sebastián for insisting that we develop a technique with fewer instructions.

From 2010 through 2014 Brendon Roach and Michael Chang evaluated the TangoForge biomechanics.

But most important are my students, who both motivated and underwrote the development of my pedagogy.

As a Mark

While most professional marks can follow to analyze the clarity of a lead, professional male marks have only followed their own teachers and students, and rarely if ever in milongas (when they can’t interrupt to ask questions or correct). As a revel, Vio spent thousands of hours dancing in milongas, dealing with the best and worst in tango technique. I studied hundreds of Marks from all over the world, good and bad, at their best and worst. I analyzed the most delightful moments that marks can create –  charms of embrace, musicality, and improvisation.

TangoForge expertiseAs a woman mark at 160cm and 46kilos I can’t rely on strength, leverage, or romantic charms. I have to be clear and use perfect technique in advanced moves.

What revels say about dancing with me:

You are actually more interesting than most men.

You dance the most complicated dance of any woman mark I’ve seen.

As a Revel

I spent years frustrated when I heard marks praise “good followers” but no one could tell me how to become one of them. I paid for class after class where in an hour I’d be lucky to hear one piece of Revel’s technique. Once I found a maestra willing to share her secrets, I studied hard. I’ve refined the best advice I could get, studied pilates and yoga to understand my body better, and distilled it all into a coherent pedagogy.

What marks say about dancing with me:

I lose myself with you.

You set me free. I feel like I can do anything.

With you, I don’t dance any clichés.

You have a lot of tango in you.

I don’t have to think. I can just dance.

Perfect. That’s dancing.

 

I went to study with Pablo and Dana because they promised precise technique.

I left for the same reason. I wasn’t getting it.

Afterwards, I worked with Sebastián Arrúa and we agreed that the DNI technique was at times too detailed and must be distilled. I embarked on this project, seeking to refine what I had learned there.

The distillation project took the form of seeking a compact toolbox of technical concepts which could be used to explain the constitutive technique in any movement, and resolve any disfunctional one.

Within a few years I realized that many of their concepts were vague and hallucinatory. No one could figure out what we meant by “push the floor”. I embarked on what would be a 5 year journey to anatomical precision.

Roberto and I believe that tango has been mystefied as a business strategy for slowing down students’ progress. We believe this is unethical.

We reject the mystification of an ineffable, inherent, indescribable tango. I believe there is a biomechanics of lightness, clarity, and even of tango’s seduction. And we believe it is irresponsible to teach if one doesn’t know how to make these plain. Our teaching is motivated by my determination to teach ourselves, and our commitment to revealing what we do clearly to our students, with the intention that they will dance as well as we do or better.

We want to dance with our students as soon as possible.

We offer all of our knowledge immediately through our MasterCourse.

We see our work as the demystification of Argentine Tango.

What is in the MasterCourse?

The MasterCourse includes a total of 16 videos, covering the 25 Elements of Tango. The total time for these 16 videos is just under 10 hours.

TangoForge Argentine Tango: Dance from the Elements

MasterCourse enrollment includes full access to all resources in our Digital School, immediately, for a period of 18 months:

  • The Mastercourse 25 Elements of Tango in 16 videos (EN/DE)
  • Exercise Center with muscle diagrams and pilates-based exercises on video, to learn to control the 10 most important tango muscles. (EN/DE)
  • Home Solo Practice Courses for both roles and a Pair Practice Course. A total of 30 video session sfor home practice. (EN/DE)
  • KnowledgeBase Encyclopedia, hyperlinked for quick research with text, images, and video clips. (EN)
  • Access to all of our live workshops during your enrollment period. If you have any questions we will answer online and in person at no additional cost.

For more information about the MasterCourse or our DIgital School please feel free to contact us by email to Office@TangoForge.com or using the chat box in the bottom-right corner of your screen.

 

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2020 TangoForge

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Books

Power is the courage, confidence, and competence to make things happen. I want to create in a way that’s incomparable and define my own compensation package. You too?

Syntax of Power is a raw, potent, and spare revelation of how I got to where I am and how I take on the struggle every day.

This book is not about tango, it’s about everything else.

It’s about stepping into the darkness of change, learning how to take care of yourself, and making things happen.

Dyv stands for Duro y Vio. We were inspired by a 2007 conference at Harvard University about tango as a transnational culture. Also we wanted to create something that would help people to imagine a queerer tango. We forbid ourselves to use the word ‘passion’ and instead tried to articulate the experience more precisely.

Argentine Tango is more than an elaborate and difficult dance, it is an international culture of intimacy, desire, and dignity. No mere romance or memoir, the intricately woven stories evoke tango’s true mysteries … the elation, the frustration, the compulsion…

We published the book in 2009. Dancers asked “how did you know what I was feeling?”

Silences in history. Silences by code. Silences of fear. You already know that Tango’s silences can be sublime and they can be devastating.

What I do in my blog is use myself as a lens – sometimes a microscope, sometimes a telescope. I try to be as honest with myself and you as words concede. Then I try to find a deeper meaning and imagine a pathway for us.

A blog post can be a fragment, a wisp of inspiration, an outline for thinking. A book must complete and reconcile it all. Now I drag the social scientist to the scene to enumerate the facts of the case, the mystery which brought both stardom and tragedy to my life.

We didn’t start online education in March of 2020. We started in 2014. Learn more about our Digital School