One Year On, Three Years On
14th January 2009
(Part of the Tango Fusion collection of articles.)
"When I learnt ballet, they made us do the same basic moves over and over again. I wish they'd told us 'Look this is what you'll be able to do, but first you need to learn this' " - Amir Giles
- I want to improve my connection / frame / dance technique in MJ
- I want to add tango-y moves to my MJ
- I want to learn a tango fusion
- I want to master tango NOW!
- I want to dance to modern music
- I want to learn lots of cool moves
- I want to learn technique
Is it worth it?
Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. There are two interesting things about this. Firstly before he did succeeded, it was considered impossible, literally beyond the limits of the human body. Secondly after he succeeded, a number of people were suddenly able to do it.
Tango itself is enjoying somewhat of a re-awakening. More and more MJers are also exploring tango. Questions are being explored and answers found. Every day people declare such and such is impossible. Until someone comes along and does it...
This is intended to give you an idea of what you can expect to achieve and based on that help you decide whether it's actually worth doing. There are quite a few limitations. Different people learn in different ways and have different aptitudes. This article assumes you're the type of person who is interested enough in how things work to have found and be reading this article. Likewise there's many different teachers out there. And as I said, you stand on the shoulders of Giants. What may have taken someone else years to figure out will hopefully be given to you much sooner.
After one year
You've probably exhausted the MJ workshops on this. You know where the local tango technique classes are. You're beginning to realise just how deep the rabbit hole of tango technique goes. Your MJ is a lot smoother. You have a much clearer idea of exactly what's going on in any given movement. Your MJ leading is no longer about waving an arm around in the air. You're beginning to find bouncy followers and "Thud, thud, thud" music harder to dance with.
After three years
Now you know the rabbit hole goes much deeper than you thought! You have a deep understanding of the subtle possibilities of musicality. You can generate a profound connection with the right person. Bouncy dancers and "Thud, thud, thud" music are difficult to dance with.
More informationI want to improve my connection / frame / dance technique in MJ.
After one yearYou've probably found the majority of moves that are going to work in an MJ freestyle.
Yep, you're now suffering from this problem.
You might be playing around with walking though...
After three years
If you've learnt tango then you're probably stripping down all the moves and making them flow more cleanly as well as fixing moves that "never quite worked". If you haven't learnt tango you probably haven't made much more progress at all in the last 2 years. You can lead some walks without having to verbally tell the follower what to do.
More informationI want to learn Tango-y moves / footwork.
After one year
You've picked up a good selection of moves. There are moves you've heard of but don't know how to do. You think you have good tango technique (sorry, it's a "lie to children"). You're confused about why you can lead some moves on some people but not others as there's no apparent common ground. You're wondering about learning actual tango.
After three yearsYou've started your own website / blog, or you're contributing to someone else's.
You can dance a variety of impressive advanced moves. You can name most of them and probably even remember the English translation for some of them. You're wondering if there's a way to work around the pitfalls, possibly with more technique. You've probably tried a tango class and either walked away or wanted more. In doing so you realised that in fact your tango technique is fairly terrible (or opted for denial).
More informationI want to learn a fusion dance.
After one yearUm you're pretty much done. Now it's a matter of working out what you want to do next. Tango's huge and constantly evolving. Realistically you'll never master all of it and I'm not convinced there's any real point in trying. Take a look at the other road maps and figure out your next destination.
After three yearsn/a.
After one yearYou've found several local venues that cater to this. You probably know quite a few of the songs by heart and have got enough moves / technique to play with comfortably.
After three yearsYou not only know which local venues play modern music, you know how much and which styles. You're recognised when you go there. You understand some of the differences between traditional and Nuevo styles but aren't really that bothered. You've probably specialised in a few styles of tango and although you can get by in the others don't really enjoy doing so and prefer to sit them out. You can name and recognise modern (Post 1980) artists and songs that you can tango to. You've got at least one neuvo tango cd and you've downloaded several tangoable tracks.
After one yearYou've probably learnt a nice selection of cool moves. There's quite a few interesting one's you've heard of but don't know how to do yet. You still feel like a kid in a candy store. You watch people freestyling, or giving performances and wonder how to do "that move"?
After three years
You're now suffering from Homer Simpson's problem...
It's still fun learning new moves. There's no real end to them. You watch people freestyling, or giving performance and with a bit of time and thought (and preferably a willing partner) you can figure out how to lead "that move".
You might be wondering about learning more technique.
After one yearYou know nothing. You've collected bits and pieces of information that don't seem to join together. You ask other people and wonder if there's some kind of secret handshake. (There is, it's called private lessons and dance partners.)
After three yearsYou know less than nothing. You're frustrated. Tango teachers are evil. Move monsters must all be burned at the stake. Slowly.
On the bright side, your dancing is actually very good. People enjoy dancing with you. If you can learn to relax you can have some pretty amazing dances. You've probably missing the type of information that needs to be conveyed either physically or can't be taught directly.
Learn the secret handshake for the sake of your sanity!
- Christopher O'Shea, 14th January 2009