Sunday, 24 October 2010 at 14:46
Ah, that's what I needed. 4 days of uninterrupted tango. I am thankful for the Tango Mango and all the people I spent time with there. So much joy, learning, expression, focus. It's not just the dancing, but the people, the late night conversations about everything from politics. economics and science to silly tango fashion, favourite jackass episodes and general good humour. Then there's the fresh air, and the generosity and community spirit people seem to have in the tango community (in my experience). I'm still on a high. I was chuckling to myself on the train back to Southampton, remembering some of the many great moments, between deep focus on new tango creations unfolding in my mind.

More interest in 'the book', which is firmly in the very final stages now (yes, I tire of writing that), and also some in my tango teaching, without making any effort to promote it, which I take encouragement from.

Despite sleeping very little (it's always the way for me at the Mangos) I feel spiritually refreshed.

I had originally planned to spend only two days at the Mango and two days walking in Dartmoor, but my walking partner found a compelling distraction (in the form in a 'nice young Russian lady'), so I stayed longer. All is as it is meant to be. But I do look forward to exploring Dartmoor more before long.

safe and relaxed tango in confined spaces - practica session notes

Saturday, 9 October 2010 at 18:37
11th Oct practica plan

theme: Safe and relaxed tango in confined spaces

Question: How do you help each other relax in a busy milonga?

Shrinking dance floor. Continually reduce allowed floor area during practica.

Avoiding collisions: side steps and turns.
Dancing expressively in minature: small giros, favouring the open side. slow steps, fuller body communication, the richness in comunication is only between the two of you.

Game: take half a song without a single full step, projection and balance changes allowed. Try with different partners.

Game: use line of chairs to make a narrow corridor (could use people if enough) to practice following line of dance. Two couples going through at once. Do ochos and giros along line. Can you do your favourite figure?

Dancing within a circle of people (2 couples to make circle, 1 couple in the middle).

Blind folded tango within protective circle. Practice feeling for safe space.

Go from dancing in small circle back to a 'normal' small floor, compare level of relaxation.

Beginner/refresher tango course - session notes

Wednesday, 6 October 2010 at 09:47
After several years of pondering teaching tango professionally, now seems the time to do it. I've already dipped my toes in with the guided practicas I've started running, I have a lovely local venue and hopefully a lot of potential to grow the local scene. Also a little extra money would be very handy right now.

I put together some rough notes for a 4 week course of 4, 90 minute sessions. I'd be very interested to hear any feedback from people who have some experience teaching tango. What ideas or activities work well for you with a new group of beginners? Does the below seem too ambitious for only 4 sessions? Any advice welcome!

Session 1: What is tango? Spirit, origin, music, culture, addiction. Two people connecting through touch and music, a timeless human activity. The embrace (hugging, the frame circle, listening), walking back and forth with connection and rhythm. Walk like this animal game: prowling cat, nervous mouse. Demonstrate the musical richness of ‘just walking’.

Session 2: More on attitude, patience and respect. Getting more balance and comfort in the walk: head above shoulders, above hips, rolling weight, angle of foot, ‘finding the ground’. Role-play in walking: ‘impatient rusher’, ‘indecisive worrier’, ‘seducer’, ‘peaceful zen monk’. ‘There is no wrong foot’ concept. Getting around corners. Rock-step for musical expression and changing direction (also tests frame and connection). Obstacle course game, use rock-step or a simple pivot to ‘steer’.

Session 3: The axis and your core. Ochos, a walk with a zig-zag. Break it down into different shapes or ‘stances’ for leader and follower. Step through the stances and correct posture. Practice drills against a wall. Find your axis between each step. Practice in pairs. Milonga etiquette, line of dance, safe distance. The responsibilities of leading and following. Line of dance and collision avoidance game. Playing with step size. How small can you step?

Session 4: The free leg and following the direction of lead. The cross. ‘A move’ vs. ‘Free leg, following the lead’. Putting the cross into the dance. Show some variations. Refresh ochos, rock-step and pivoting. Introduce the giro: stepping around the corners of a square, disassociation. Balloon exercise. Couple has to keep the balloon between their chests as they do the giro.

I've also thought ahead to future courses. 'core skills 1' below is essentially what I've been teaching in the practicas so far. Had great feedback on it so far.

Tango core skills 1, 4 week course:

Session 1: 3 elements to walking as one (including work on double time and intro to close embrace)

Session 2: stepping with intent.

Session 3: density and dynamics.

Session 4: safe and relaxed tango in confined spaces (more on close embrace).

Tango core skills 2 (requires core skills 1) , 4 week course:

Session 1: free leg, leg wraps, planeos, linear boleos, circular boleos

Session 2: leg invasions, ganchos and secardas

Session 3: shared axis, volcardas and colgadas

Session 4: playing with symmetry and asymmetry in form and timing (including breaking the embrace)

Further tango skills, 4 week course:

Session 1: Enrosques, turning and spinning.

Session 2: Back secardas and over-turned secardas.

Session 3: Gancho and secarda chains.

Session 4: Aerial movements.

Stepping with intent - practica session notes

Friday, 1 October 2010 at 15:42
4th Oct practica plan

'Stepping with intent'

Sub-themes: trust (as comes from patience and respect)

How can leader and follower step with confidence and precision?
What makes steps: indecisive, disconnected with leader or follower, uncomfortable, rushed, etc.?

Lack of technique, respect, patience and trust. Other ideas?

A recipe for more confident and precise steps..

Always listen for direction.
Aim for smooth resistance while transferring weight.
Trust that the space is safe.

Be clear about direction but do not force it.
Aim for smooth lead energy while transferring weight.
Make sure the space is safe.

Walking exercise -
striding out, big smooth steps. how can you stay connected? (revise ideas from '3 elements to walking as one', e.g. grip floor, role weight)

Exercise with ochos -
Question: what angle are the steps of an ocho?
How long is a piece of string? It depends on the lead.
Try varying forward and backward ochos from a walk with a slight zigzag to large over-rotation going in the opposite direction to normal? Leaders and followers try to apply the above recipe.
For leaders, try leading a forward ocho, while you are in cross basic, so that the follower is stepping deep into your space, brushing your leg with each step. (Demonstrate)
(Typically some followers will be hesitant to follower the actual direction and strength of the lead, either increasing the angle of the step, or cutting it short. Both of which diminish the connection. Some leaders will respond to that by being ever more forceful, or giving up and dancing with less interest.)
Help everyone feel the difference the recipe makes for this stylish and sensual step. Strategy for leaders to encourage followers to make such steps: gentle confidence, and building up from very slow movements. Strategy for followers: trust, but with discretion.

Demonstrate a change of embrace that relies on giving clear direction and listening for it.


Give 5 minutes of play to find a new or unusual way of using the recipe.

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