Advanced Tango

14th February 2009

(More Next Steps articles.)

"Reaching this level is not the end. It is in fact the beginning of the journey" ~ William James.

Advanced in years?

Ok so clearly no-one is an advanced Modern Jive dancer because that would just be wrong and egotistical...

You will however occasionally see workshops and classes for "advanced" tango dancers. What it perhaps surprising is that they are usually defined as "have danced for 3-5 years".

On the face of it this doesn't make sense. Surely someone who's focused on technique, dances 3 times a week, has a regular dance partner, and so on, isn't at the same level as someone who dances socially once a week for the same period?

Why are you here?

Well there's a few self-solving aspects to this.

Firstly why are you attending the class in the first place? Say someone goes and they just want to learn another sequence; well hopefully after 3 years of learning sequences they've gotten pretty good at learning them by now.

OK, so they'll largely ignore the technique aspects, but that's their choice. Likewise the technicians may be focusing on the technique aspects, but they should also be able to pick up the sequence easily enough. As for the purely social dancers, well why would they want to be there in the first place? And so on.

Comparing apples and bicycles

As for comparing one advanced tango dancer with another, because they've most likely specialized in different areas they'll have different strengths and weaknesses. It's like trying to say whether a Dodge Viper is better than a Silver Ghost.

It really depends what you want to do. In reality they'll probably do it with different people, to different music, in different places.

So what is an advanced dancer?

What can probably be said of an advanced dancer is that they have few if any "holes" in their basics.

It might be arguable that the first step of being an advanced dancer is to be able to do one thing "right" - not the way it's taught to beginners, not the half-assed way you stumble through it as an intermediate. But right.

What those "basics" are will depend on what path they're following. For the technician it might just be standing in a proper tango posture, being able to invite an embrace and lead a walk. For a social dancer it might be that you're only ever sitting out dances because you want to.

Obviously the "advanced" level continues considerably further than this. But I remain unconvinced anyone's ever going to truly master tango. An advanced dancer may well spend the rest of their days as "just a beginner", forever learning.

 - Christopher O'Shea, 14th February 2009

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