In my current tango teaching, I've been trying a new approach: alternating very technical, anatomy-based, high-focus work with my crazy, zen games about the flow of energy, organicity of movement, and the FUN of tango.
I have apparently been forgetting the fun aspect too much recently. A student commented to me that my technique class made tango seem very hard. Relax the ankle! Don't bend the knees too much! Angle your hip joint for the best balance! Breathe! Stretch the spine! Push off the floor! etc. Yes, all of this is important for beautiful technique, but no wonder some folks give up on tango!
For this coming week, I am going to play tango games. And I do mean play: tango has so much improvisatory scope that the only way to fully explore it is to turn off the analytical part of the brain for a while, and move from the body; let the brain follow along as best as it can.
For my intermediate class, we are going to look at how the flow and energy of a dance movement suggests the next step. Rather than plan an A + B + C approach to the dance, we are going to use momentum and suspension and going on/off balance, to find what move comes next: a turn? a boleo? a pause? What makes sense from the flow of the motion?
What does the music suggest? Slow, fast, pause, what? If you weren't doing tango, what would you do to this music? If you are doing tango to it, what do you see in your head (turning off the "but I don't know how to do that move" part of the brain)? What other move is like that, and may work instead? When the song is over, you should have learned something about that piece of music, as well as having dancing during it. It's not just about the beat . . .
What does the space demand? Oh no, I'm in a tight corner: what could I do? Wow, extra space in front of me: what works here? Geez, that person ALWAYS backs up in front of me: how do I protect my partner? Forget steps: what direction could I go?
What does my partner provide that adds a layer to this dance? Do I have a follower who is giving me tons of extra energy to tap into, or do I have to provide the gas for this dance? Is my leader responsive to my messing around with the dance, or do I need to just give lots of energy, but not a lot of adornos? How can I be the best partner for this person, for this dance?
For my beginners, we'll play naughty toddler again (for some students, this is new next week): the follower does whatever s/he wants to do, and the leader attempts to keep the dance moving more or less line-of-dance, without crashing into furniture or other dancers. We'll find how much energy can be funneled into the dance to make it fun, if out of control. For the leaders, we'll see how easy it is to lead a partner with a lot of energy, and how to use that energy better. For the followers, we'll find out how much energy can be used to make an active follower, and where the out-of-control line lies with each leader.
I'm still working on what else we'll do, but I think we all need a break from being so serious ;-)
Plus, Oscar and Georgina will be here!!!!! I'm kind of nervous about teaching with my teachers watching, and I'm sure they've never seen such a weird tango class, but perhaps it will spark an interesting discussion! Either way, you'll see me taking class with them all weekend, working on technique again. They always inspire me to work harder to make my dance more energized and full of joy, so BRING IT ON!