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.
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 ‘mark’ rather than to ‘lead’. (Details about Renaming the Roles.) We believe that dancing both roles is one important practical step in the direction of women’s full participation and men’s full pleasure.
Just in case you need it, here’s a code of ethics for tango communities.
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. Much can be said. The real question is which instructions are effective and empowering? Most teachers are trying to achieve more or less the same thing – sublime unbroken connection, interesting improvisation, and charming musicality. With no standardized pedagogy to guide us (and I believe this is a good thing), we are each wracking our brains for ways to evoke these sensations in our students. We say lots of different things, many repeat unhelpful truisms like “lead with the chest”, but we all mean pretty much the same thing. TangoForge has two pedagogic agendas:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- The “basics” are too 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dancing both Roles: Dancers learn faster and better by learning both roles because they are able to see, feel, and understand the whole movement, not just half of it.
- Expectations for Followers: 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.
I have a lifelong tendency of calling things the way I see them, even when that means I may not be liked as a result. Somehow I’m willing to do this, and I do. My Rebel Tango blog includes raw personal commentary, in the hope that sharing my most painful and edgy experiences makes space for others – to get over shame, to honour your own reality, and follow your desire. I suffer, and I use my privilege of naive courage and my addiction to wordsmithing to try to open space for you, in solidarity. You are not alone. The blog also includes confrontation, when necessary, and documents my attempts to create alternatives, because it is possible to do things differently. The blog responds to stimulating events, and also distills my observations and analysis, with, I hope, increasingly profound articulation.