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"A Structural Approach Rooted in a System of Turns"

for Learning the Argentine Tango Dance. 

Created and refined by Fardad Michael Serry since 2005, guided and inspired by the teachings of 
the world's preeminent tango couple,

Gustavo Naveira and Giselle Anne,

and of the late Alberto Paz.

 

For people who want to learn about Argentine Tango dance in depth ... Welcome!

Contradictions in the Tango Encyclopedia.

When I started taking Argentine tango dance classes in 2003, and for a good two years afterwards, I often got confusing and contradictory information, not least from very famous teachers, including from Buenos Aires! Going to each class was like opening a new page in a thousand-page encyclopedia; randomly, haphazardly. The entries on different pages were inconsistent, confusing, and very often contradictory. Most of my classmates did not care. Today the situation is still the same most places most of the time.

Consider these two quintessential tango clichés:

"Tango is a walking dance; if you can walk, you can tango."

"Tango is a walking dance; learning to walk is the hardest part of tango."

I still hear many teachers saying those things, and many students repeating them. That example of the contradictory talk about tango explains one reason why the tango dance has one of the highest attrition rates of beginners among all partner dances.

Tango is powerful!

It always baffles me that, often, otherwise clear-minded, rational people buy into the confusion surrounding the Argentine tango dance as perfectly legitimate. For example, they start training countless hours to push the partner like a shopping cart in order to "learn the tango walk". They believe beginners should do that shopping-cart walk in the milongas, and do it on the outside "lanes". They even travel to Buenos Aires and see with their own eyes that nobody except for a few tango tourists does that at a milonga; they see that that there are no "lanes" in a milonga, like there are in a highway. Yet, they come back home and get back to pushing the shopping cart so they can "refine" their tango walk. On the outside "lane"! After some time, when they are no longer beginners, they spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars and countless hours studiously recreating step combinations. Once a dancer gets used to this way of thinking and doing, it becomes difficult to change it. Too difficult to remove the shackles off the feet, and even more difficult to take the dogma out of the beliefs about what tango dancing is. I don't know why this is the way it is, but this is an example of the inexplicable power of tango!

But the power of tango can also be positive.

 

Knowledge-driven Learning.

In one class a dancer learns one thing; in another class, perhaps from another teacher, (s)he learns another thing, ... Do these "things", even when they seem disparate, have a common thread running through them, a kind of glue that pulls and holds them together?

Can these "things" be unambiguously and clearly articulated in unmistakably comprehensible language with definitive pedagogic utility for learning other "things" in the tango dance too?
 

Is it possible to see different aspects of the dance as emanating from a few core, clearly identifiable elements and ideas? Does a blueprint exist to facilitate advancing a clear, consistent understanding of the dance, from which then creativity, originality, and pleasant surprises in a truly improvised tango dance may derive? Frequently?

The answer to all these questions is yes:

The Argentine Tango dance has a beautiful and equally utilitarian structure that we articulate in easily comprehensible language. We use clearly-defined concepts, and correspondingly-clearly teachable fundamental corporal, technical, and musical elements to introduce and work with this structure.

Every tango dancer can learn and understand this structure. From that understanding (s)he can gain amazing insight into the possibilities of the dance and the music for self expression and for connecting to other human beings; and find his or her (or a couple's) dance transforming in ways that reflect a unique identity. This is unapologetically knowledge-driven learning.

Many precious intangibles in tango dancing are highly subjective and personal. Romance, passion, and elegance cannot be taught in a tango class, not least because different people have different ideas of them. What one dancer may consider a stale, inflexible, and frozen-in-time form, may be considered elegant and smooth by another dancer. More importantly, whatever the subjective qualities may mean to a dancer, they usually cannot be enjoyed without first learning to dance well TO THE MUSIC, which brings us to this:

Some parts of learning this dance are NOT subject to interpretations and opinions, because they are subject and subordinate to FACTS. Learning the tools to dance tango well need not be a subject of mystery, secrets, vague and loosely outlined ideas.

A tango dancer gradually develops his or her unique voice in the dance as (s)he first learns, then comes to own, those parts of the dance that are definitely NOT subjective.

The structure of the tango dance is not subjective. Learning it requires no decoding of confusing or contradictory information. Equally important: it is not style-dependent.

 

The structure of the Argentine tango dance is rooted in a system of turns. It is universal; it is "style"-independent.

  • The building blocks of the tango dance are NOT forward step, side step, and back step.

  • The four steps of the turn (or the giro, or if you know it as molinete) are NOT equal, and are NOT at 90 degree angles, and they are NOT danced at equal times; all for very good reasons.

  • The way to start is NOT for the leader to face the so-called "line of dance".

  • The arguments about leading the cross or not leading the cross germinate from a lack of understanding of the structure of the tango dance.

  • (...)


Why is learning the structure important?


Technique, musicality, navigation, partner connection, sequences of steps, and even styling and embellishments ..., they all become integrated through understanding the structure, and understanding the imperatives and the alternatives that the structure encodes into every aspect of the dance. This starts with a clear, unambiguous articulation, and clear, unambiguous understanding of the clear and unambiguous role of each partner far superior to vague and subjective ideas about leading and following and partner connection.


Benefit of the structural approach rooted in the system of turns to learning tango:

  • First: Clarity replaces confusion, sensibility true to the human instinct and experience starts reasserting itself, ... and bit by bit, you start feeling really good because you can understand tango, not just duplicate its steps and figures. From this follows everything else, including:

  • Learning and progress become easier, independent of personal stylistic preferences.

  • As a man or woman, a leader or follower, your dancing becomes more refined, and more enjoyable, with more partners who also know the structure; these are the best-educated tango dancers and they dance all over the world; and most of them do not give a hoot about entering a tango competition, including in Buenos Aires.

  • You will learn anything from anyone, easier, faster, and more efficiently.

  • You will be able to explain your own or other dancers' ideas unambiguously in ways that facilitate learning and the dissemination of tango knowledge, rather than tango enigma.

  • Partners will progress and advance together, faster, and easier.

  • You will see the logic, not the mystery or the magic, that underlies technique and fundamental musicality. But make no mistake: There remains infinite possibilities for personalized individual musical, corporal, emotional, and intellectual expressions that can neither be taught, not learned, ... rather, you invent them, articulate them, and dance them! That is the magical power of the Argentine tango!

  • You will see that musicality in the dance is not entirely subjective (any half-serious musician will tell us that about music, too).

  • Neither improvisation, nor navigation, nor styling and embellishments are exclusively the domains of one partner or the other.

  • As your understanding of the structure advances, you will also gradually free yourself from memorizing steps.

Don't settle for handouts from the tango encyclopedia; in the long run, it will cost you in time, money, good will, frustration, far more than it will bring you enjoyment. Let us show you how to dance, and more importantly, how to learn how to dance. Let us help bring out the best tango dancer in you!

Come dance tango with us!

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