As you know, I am constantly working to refine my pedagogy. An effective pedagogy will enable me to rapidly teach diverse students to dance with perfect connection and interesting improvisation. This post is an update about developments in 2015 and goals for 2016.
Berlin in 2015 was richly productive of new approaches to improvisation for dancing to powerful music: I developed systems for flying steps, ganchos, and soltadas. I also theorized and created an effective pedagogy for a very beautiful aspect of the dance, which is about beginning the dance autonomously, and then, as one of my students put it, “getting to the music and the partner and growing into the dance together”. I call it “El Encuentro“. In addition, I have made a number of technical breakthroughs:
- Recognition of the importance of the Mark’s back leg’s knee extension. This clarifies technique for crosses, front projection, and flying steps.
- I’ve learned that intention/projection for side steps, ochos, and giro are all basically the same: oblique muscle contraction in the desired direction.
- I’ve discovered that co-contraction is even more helpful than we thought. The elusive experience of a supple but taut embrace can be even better specified than elbow extension! Co-contraction of biceps and triceps stabilizes the joints without creating stiffness or weight, and automatically adjusts to changes between push and pull.
These breakthroughs are the fruit of my pedagogic principles, in development since 2010:
- Precise and clear instructions that everyone in the room can understand and implement immediately, verify autonomously, and wield diagnostically.
- Objective (anatomically accurate) terminology that facilitates self-study with non-tango resources (yoga, pilates, weights…)
- Distilled, compact, and memorable toolbox of technique concepts that underlie all tango movements.
- Pedagogy should be ordered by the complexity and subtlety of movements. Larger movements (voleos, ganchos) are most appropriate to beginners because the muscle action and control is large-scale and straightforward. Subtle and multi-variate movements (changes of foot, crosses, ochos) should be considered more advanced.
- Most students cannot remember sequences and feel bad about it. Empower students by teaching movements conceptually, with the variations, so the students are improvising in every class, from the first one.
In 2015 my study of biomechanics produced two new principles:
- Every movement can be described through the actions of flexion and extension of the joints of the limbs. Commanding the joints activates most of the muscle action we need.
- For sublime connection and high-power movements we need to develop muscle control, but since the muscles activate in chains, we just need to identify the most important and easy-to-command muscle in the chain to produce the desired power.
A couple of meta-level pedagogic concepts are also crucial to TangoForge.
- My goal for my students is maximum creativity. Therefore I do not waste any time or power on management of untrained followers. Instead I focus all the power on fundamental technique for dancing at the highest possible level. I want to empower Marks to: protect the quality of their mark rather than compromising it when compensating for partners’ errors and lack of body control, convey the most important tools for muscle use in a few words, and inspire their partners to learn more.
- I see much faster improvement (and joy!) in students who dance both roles.
Goals for 2016
I am revising the TangoForge Knowledgebase, the first comprehensive encyclopedia of tango technique. We will add much more video, re-shoot all the imagery, and translate to Italian and German.
This year TangoForge workshops will engage all students in both roles.
My primary goal for the coming year is to learn to teach a perfect Mark’s front walk in one hour.