Review: Tango Mango (Devon), October 2009 - Three

3rd November 2009

Date: 26th October 26th - 1st November 2009

Location: Rudolf Steiner School Dartington, near Totnes, Devon


Following on from my introduction article and my notes on the beginner classes, here's some comments based on a couple of miscellaneous classes I attended on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

Tango Mango runs several classes every afternoon - they're £6 for the large classes or £9 for the smaller classes. Large classes, in the main hall, have up to 30 people, small classes have maybe 12-15.

Friday: Leader and follower

This was a large class, run by Eric Rainer-Vehrs and Paul Vossen. The general theme was "how to be inspired by your partner". It was a gender-neutral class - leaders and followers swapped roles throughout the class, and all attendees had to be willing and able to do so.

The general tone of the class was extremely democratic and discoursive, rather than the more authoritative classes I'm used to. This one was more like a workshop, with a lot of interaction and working in small groups or couples.

In hindsight, this class had no tango content - it could have been applicable to any dance form, pretty much. That doesn't mean the class had no value, of course, just that the actual tango dance was not discussed.

The key theme was to attempt to listen to your partner; obviously this is nothing new for followers, but Paul and Eric wanted to expand this to leaders also - asking leaders to listen to, and be inspired by, their followers.

Paul did most of the talking, and he started off by discussing "contaminating" your partner. We quickly realised that this was a poor term, so we switched over to "inspiring" instead...

We spent a lot of time doing walking exercises, first arm-in-arm, then in various embraces (there was an interesting and symmetrical cats-cradle embrace I liked), leading and following each other. We were attempting to attain a point where there was a continuous loop of feedback between both partners in the dance - neither partner being a "leader" or "follower", but both partners being inspired by each other.

This was, technically speaking, bloody difficult. I attempted this with maybe 6-7 different partners, male and female, and mostly we could only achieve a "transfer of lead" arrangement, where we'd agree to swap leads for a musical phrase. This is not trivial, of course, but it's far from a continuous loop of feedback.

However, I did manage to achieve it with one guy; we had a great equal-partnership dance. So I do believe that this is possible, but I also think it's extremely difficult.

As I mentioned in my notes on the beginner classes, the whole "listening to the follower" idea is interesting, and I'll explore it as a concept in a separate article.

Saturday: Tango Grammar

This was a small class, run by Unni Hermansen. The theme of the class was "Tango Grammar", using some of the key "rules" that Unni has identified in Tango. Apparently she's identified 40 so far...

Anyway, this was very much a technique class - we focussed on posture, in various positions, disssociation, hold and a few other areas.

It was all good stuff, but nothing was really new to me - which was surprising as the class was billed as "Intermediate / Advanced" - to be honest I'd class it as a beginner technique class.

However, I had a lovely private lesson with Unni that day, which flooded me with information, and so that more than made up for the lack of new stuff in the class. But I'd love to know what the 40 rules are...

Summing up

Neither of these classes were quite to my tastes; they weren't bad classes, or bad teachers, but they didn't quite suit what I wanted from them in either style or content.

I'd personally recommend attending all of Ruth's beginner classes, and having one or more private classes, but I'd be more hesitant about attending the afternoon classes. It might be more effective to spend the afternoon working on things you'd learnt in the morning, to get them drummed-in thoroughly.

As always, it depends how fast you learn, and how much you can internalise from a class - personally I learn very slowly, and need to work on something a lot before it becomes unconscious behaviour.

But Your Tango-age May Vary.

- David Bailey, 3rd November 2009

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