Thoughts from Gustavo Naviera & Susana Miller
In your seminars, your students often videotape themselves practicing the material, but you discourage this. Could you explain?
GN: In our classes now, we often tell the students that we encourage them to take written notes, instead of just making video records of the moves. First of all, when you perform the action of making a video, what you are actually doing is practicing using your camera. This may be beneficial to you, but in itself it has nothing to do with learning tango. Then, most likely you will never look at the video again. And if you do, we predict it will not be nearly as useful to you as you had hoped when you made the video. We say this from personal experience…….the real point is: if you take written notes instead of just making a video of yourself, it’s true that you may never look at the notes again either. But the act of making the notes will start to change the way you think about your tango. You will find a way to analyze and explain what you are doing to yourself in symbolic terms. These symbols will become valuable tools for you to analyze the tango you do and the tango you see others do, and will remain at your disposal when you are improvising the social dance. So the act of writing notes about your lessons WILL make you a better dancer, much more than the act of operating your camera.
Susana Miller -From Tango, learning and energy
While we’re learning steps we slowly incorporate basic principles to do with balance, the ability to transfer or receive the message as an act of reflection, the subtle duration of a pause, the way to construct a musical phrase through the dance. These are the elements that make the dance and give it quality. The techniques and the fundamentals are easy to grasp intellectually, but the memory muscles require a different time frame. Constant practice based on a solid formation is the shortest path to dancing well….
…The academy has replaced the patio of old, where you learnt to dance with your aunt or your sister or following a friend who already knew the steps. You learnt playing, almost by instinct, there was no comradeship with women in the academy, the men didn’t learn with them, and thus avoided the stress produced by the presence of the opposite sex, when men end up wanting to impress the women.
The challenge is to rethink the teaching methods we use today in order to get as close as possible to those traditional, nonprofessional methods that worked so well in their time. These classes have a great usefulness: you learn steps, technique, musicality. But men should complement the classes simultaneously with a more direct experience, replicating the natural feminine methodology, following those who know how to lead, the milongueros and the teachers, and use this body to body experience as a regular, irreplaceable learning method. A good dancer after all, when they understand their role, leads and follows.
The woman who has learnt to follow has a deeply intuitive understanding of the role of the man. She has danced hundreds of tangos, just as she has followed hundreds of dancers. The man has as his reference point only one dance, his own – he dances only his own dance, and the woman follows. The woman receives more immediate and complete information than the man in the body to body experience. For this reason you don’t often see a woman leading without the proper language or out of time with the music. She has, through her experience as a follower, a physical and emotional perspective of what is good dancing within the role of the man.
The body learns with the years, it converts itself into a technical instrument, it learns what is pleasant for oneself and for one’s partner, the music becomes a full-body experience, not just sound.
The way to accelerate this natural process is to experience these sensations from the opposite role. And in addition to use the dance floor, because the Buenos Aires dance floor teaches; the crowded floors oblige us to circulate using certain codes, to support the body’s weight in the right places in order not to lose balance, etc. Teaching outside of Buenos Aires still implies a great challenge. The dance floors don’t teach, the traditional milieu is not replicated, the old magicians are not present…
…To train yourself using direct sensations and intuition is, although in a different context, the closest to dancing in the patio with your aunt or your friends.