|Image courtesy of www.morguefile.com|
In between practicing and dancing as much as I can get away with, I've also been working with some great teachers one-on-one.
Daniela Arcuri, Javier Rochwarger, Enriqueta Kleinman, Silvina Valz . . . . I've been working, and working, and working . . .
I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing that in private lessons, I face very few surprises. I can feel my balance falter, so when my teacher comments on it, there is nothing to say but, "yep, I lost my balance there." When he or she says I'm not extending enough, or stretching through my toes, I know I'm not - I can feel it. I'm "breaking" at the waist, still - another result of not being able to hold myself stable. The list goes on and on - but almost it's always the same list. The same fundamental issues.
Strangely it sometimes takes me a little while to realize they're the same issues. Occasionally a teacher uses a very unfamiliar visualization, or is talking about a different piece of the movement (after all, we're never really static in the dance) and it suddenly seems like he or she is saying the opposite of what the last teacher told me. That's when I break it down a little bit, ask a few questions and figure out if it really is different - or just a different place in the movement. Sometimes there are language barriers. Sometimes the metaphors that worked so well with other students, just leave me scratching my head. For example, a teacher told me "We use dymanics." ? If I read that sentence as it's written (as it was said to me) - it makes no sense. After listening and asking more questions, I finally got the point - but it took a long while to get there. Eventually, we got back to the same problems I've been told about before - just with different words than I had heard/used before.
In a way it's reassuring because I'm getting a consistent picture of where I want to go in the dance. In other ways, it's disheartening to constantly struggle with the same thing. To have to explain to every teacher that, yes, I do understand what you're asking me to do, I just can't do it yet. You telling me how it should be done does not, unfortunately, transfer directly to my body's ability to do it. I get frustrated with teachers who simply repeat again and again what they've already said, as if that will make it happen. Either I don't understand what you're asking of me, or my body simply isn't capable of doing it yet - either way, repeating it over and over is not helping me. And of course I get frustrated with myself too. To the teacher, I usually end up saying I will try to get it a little better during this lesson, but it's going to take months of practice do what you're asking of me. Usually that's enough of an explanation so that we can move forward with the lesson.
Part of is that I still don't have enough muscle strength to hold my body as stable. You need your abdominal muscles for nearly everything from walking to turning to disassociation and on me, those muscles are still very weak. So I work, and I practice. I value most the teachers who have been able to help me "work around" the weakness while I build back the muscle. Daniela Arcuri and Enriqueta Kleinman have both been so very helpful in giving me tools to increase my balance and stability, even while my core muscles are so weak. It's a slow process, but it's starting to pay off. My goal of technique training a couple of hours a night has worked out to more like an hour a day - but even that has shown dividends.
DVD Review - María Olivera's Follower's Technique Video
On related topic, it looks like I have to take back my blanket criticism of DVD tango tutorials. I've never been big on trying to learn from videos. I'm not a visual learner, and so much of what we think we see in tango is really illusion. That said, I have found one DVD that has really impressed me.
A video by Maria Olivera on follower's technique (which you can find here http://www.tangosalon.com.ar/
The first criticism I have is that she teaches boleo technique in isolation of the lead that should be creating, or at least co-creating, the shape, speed etc. leaving it to the follower to choose what she feels like doing. (I will often choose to follow a high-boleo lead against the floor, particularly if it's crowded on the pista - but I would never choose to follow a low, soft boleo lead with a high boleo. To me that seems too careless.) I understand that these are exercises to build flexibility and responsiveness, but a few words on actually the role of the lead in how to follow boleos would be helpful.
She also emphasizes keeping the heel almost constantly slightly lifted, which not only runs contrary to what every other teacher has told me to do, but also contrary to my own comfort and stability. To pivot, you really do have to lift the heel, at least slightly, but beyond that I've always been taught, and feel more comfortable stepping, to keep my heels on the floor.
Other than those areas, which are very small factors in view of the entire content - the DVD has been incredibly valuable to me. I wish I had excerpts to share, but there aren't any online that I could find. If you're comfortable with solo technique exercises - I highly recommend this one.