Monday, December 29, 2008

What if?

What would you think about a guy with two years of dancing experience offering [the general dancing public] to accelerate the tango learning process by 200-500%

In my experience, the normal tango learning curve (for a leader) would be that you will be an "okay" dancer - still a beginner, but with a solid grasp of most of the basics - after one year of classes and dancing. A leader would most likely still not have his walk on his one year anniversary. I know six year dancers who still don't have their walk.

So this particular teacher is saying he will make you a year five dancer after just one year, or at least a year two dancer.

Don'tcha just hate that? I wonder if he offers a money-back guarantee?

Oh, and just to clarify, he wears the big, baggy pants, so he's not really teaching tango, but rather big baggy pants dancing, so maybe the 500% thing is possible in that context.

Because in my view, a 500% accelerated one year big baggy pants dancer doesn't even hold a little tiny birthday cake candle to a 100% five year tango dancer. Or even a 50% five year tango dancer.

It's been scientifically proven (by the little scientists running around in my head) that you can't accelerate the learning of tango. You can't take privates and dance 10 hours a day, seven days a week, week after week, month after month, festival after festival and expect to be a great dancer in a year. The little scientists have video evidence of this. We've seen it. We think that intensive of an effort is actually counter-productive, e.g., making you a worse dancer, not better.

It has to seep in over time. There has to be an osmosis of tango into your bones and soul. You have to study the culture, and understand the history and the codigos. You have to listen to the music for months and years on end. You have to study the lyrics and ponder those days of yore. You have to visualize and transport yourself to that time - the Golden Age of Tango. Transport yourself dancing. You have to understand what tango meant to those people - the people who danced it and played it and sung it and wrote it into existence.

You have to be patient, allowing the days and months and years to pass, with tango seeping in slowly. Let it absorb into every fiber of your being - mind, muscle, heart, soul and bone.

Then and only then. Patience my friend. Dance it into existence.

500% my ass.


Joe Grohens said...

I guess it depends on what he's measuring. If it's 5 years worth of baggy pants dancing in one year, that's one thing. Still hard to imagine. Perhaps he provides a sartorial makeover right away. :-)

In my reckoning of the normal tango learning timeline for men, assuming >5 hr/wk study/practice time, this is typical:

. 1 yr = able to decide if tango is for you or not

. 2 yr = you sometimes actually feel like you are dancing

. 5 yr = you actually know a bit about tango and can start getting good as a tango dancer ("intermediate")

. 10 yr = you are in a position to develop your style and train yourself

Limerick Tango said...

Is he going to teach you five years of tango or is he simply going to get you to repeat the steps he does?

Alex said...

Astute observation Limerick...

Is he going to effectively compress the teaching of five years of tango into one year? [The teacher might be able to present the information, but who could begin to retain everything?]

Or compress the learning of five years of tango into one year? [Obviously one person, the teacher, can't force the other, the learner, to "learn" at an accelerated rate.]

In either case, and by illustration of either scenario, it's clearly impossible.

Even to parrot five years of some else's steps would be a herculean accomplishment in one year.

Caveat emptor, as they say, let the buyer beware.

Anonymous said...

Problem is, he doesn't dance that good given his two years of intensive tango learning.
Mostly looks like a poor version of the Karate kid.
Not much wrong with that, except he is working on being the tango version of the snake oil salesman.

Malevito said...

Hi Alex, how are you?

Hm, to me that just sounds like a really strange way of promoting himself as a teacher. How do you quantify what a year five dancer is? How does he even know since he's not one himself?

I absolutely agree with you about it having to come with time. Every dancer and teacher I respect has said and will say the same thing. To be sure, there are some talented folks out there who pick up the mechanics really quickly and dance at a very respectable level after a few years. But as Rivarola told me when I was still green, it's not just steps. And it isn't until you get some understanding about what tango really *is* that you can even begin to appreciate the essence of it in the most unassuming elements, rather than being wowed by movements that scream attention on themselves, and aspiring solely towards that manner of expression.

To me, making the claim that you can "teach someone to be a year five dancer after just one year" is to announce that, for you, it is just steps. Which, in my book, means you still don't get it.

Because it's not just about being a "dancer." It's about having tango become such an organic and inextricable part of you that it isn't that you're dancing tango, but that you are dancing yourself.