One Year On, Three Years On, Five Years On

28th September 2010

(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

Introduction

(Editorial Note: this is an extension of the "One Year, Three Years" article from early 2009. Think of this as the Tango version of the Up Series)

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.

I want to improve my connection / frame / dance technique in MJ

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.

After five years

"Frame" means much more now than when it started. Your posture has improved and you have much more control over your body which allows you to lead far more clearly. You have a deeper understanding of how to convey information through the frame. You know what's important in the way you lead a follower and why. You can have great fun playing with tiny slow movements. You find that bouncy dancers and "thud, thud, thud" music are nearly impossible to dance to.

More information

I want to improve my connection / frame / dance technique in MJ.

I want to add tango-y moves / footwork to my MJ

After one year

You've probably found the majority of moves that are going to work in an MJ freestyle.

Home Simpson had a problem:
"Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home winemaking course, and I forgot how to drive?".

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.

After five years

You've found what works for you and the people you dance with - Lunges, barridas, volcadas even colgadas. By now you probably only lead them on people you know will be able to follow them. You've found that doing adornments yourself work well, even if your partner has no clue about tango. You've experimented with Tango or tango fusions and either decided you're not interested or started doing them properly.

More information

I want to learn Tango-y moves / footwork.

I want to learn a tango fusion

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 years

You'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).

After five years

You've found that less is more. Walks, using the embrace, adornments and emphasizing collects work well to give you the feeling of connection without getting the "I'm dancing with a beginner feeling". You have a range of "moves" - lunges, volcadas and so forth but you only led them on people you know will be able to follow them. If you meet a tango dancer at Ceroc you just dance tango rather than a fusion.

More information

I want to learn a fusion dance.

I want to master tango NOW!

After one year

Um 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 years

N/A.

After three years

Still N/A.

More information

I want to master tango now.

I want to dance to modern music

After one year

You'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 years

You 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 five years

You're probably beginning to mellow a bit towards traditional music. While it's not wonderful, it's no longer quite as bad as it was. You know where to dance tango locally to modern music and the DJs, but wish there were more.

You feel that Otros Aires is overplayed. You're hearing lots more possibilities in modern music, but find "thud thud" music hard to dance to. Blues Rooms are your friend.

More information

I want do dance to modern music

I want to learn lots of cool moves

After one year

You'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 five years

"There is always a someone on the dancefloor who wrestles his partner through all kinds of maneouvers, interrupted only by short pauses where he repeats a move 5 times till it "works", or where he explains just exactly how the follower has to move to make the 40 step sequence he wants to do work. Note that he dances mostly with beginners. Note the frozen smile on his partners face. Don't be that guy"

You have now become "that guy".

Beginners and intermediates think you're a God Among Men. More advanced dancers wish you'd go somewhere else. Preferably somewhere far, far away.

More information

Learning Cool Moves

I want to learn Technique

After one year

You 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 years

You 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!

After five years

...And then there is also always an elderly, overweight guy, in a suit, shuffling around the outside of the floor. All he does is walking, and maybe an ocho once in a while. And this old guy always has a succession of gorgeous young women, who all dance incredibly well, plastered all over him, with expressions of bliss on their faces. Be that guy.

You hit a barrier at three years, and for a while couldn't work out where to go next. Classes didn't seem to help. Dancing socially didn't help much either. Eventually you found a way past - going back to practicas, make it your mission to dance with all the best dancers in London, private lessons. That kind of thing.

You've realised the importance of sticking with one style for now.

Things are getting better. Your basics still need work, but you're finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You're slowly becoming That Guy.

More information

Learning Technique

 - Christopher O'Shea, 28th September 2010