At the request of another dancer, I finally created the "Things Tango Teachers Say" Word Art
. Here's the graphic - below, the explanation.
Some of this is tongue-in-cheek and highlights the conflicting instruction we get as Argentine Tango students. But some of it, particularly "Just walk naturally"
, are particularly frustrating bits of advice.
I often heard "Just walk naturally," directed at followers
, from male instructors (to both male and female students.) The more I heard it, the more irritated I got. I don't know how much time instructors spend their day walking backwards - particularly in 3-4" high heels, but there's nothing natural about it. We can learn to do it - and do it very well, but we're not structurally built to spend our time doing it. It's not at all natural - in heels or otherwise.
In all honesty, and speaking as a personal trainer for dancers, it's just lazy phrasing. "Naturally" has no objective meaning. Do you mean relax? Do you mean breathe? Say what you mean specifically and leave out short-cut phrases that don't mean anything to students - especially newer students.
A few of my other favorites in the "not very helpful" category:
- Be grounded.
- Walk like a cat.
- Feel the floor.
- Feel the music.
- You're too heavy.
- You're too light.
If you want your students to really change what they're doing and understand what you're asking, be specific.
Say what you mean in a way that is actionable for the student. I had a friend I used to see in festival classes all the time and she would call it "Tango Class Bingo"
. Don't play tango class bingo with your students, for the sake of their engagement and learning. Figure out what you really need your students to change and tell them something specific and useful.
I actually found the infamous Tango Class Bingo card. :)
Some of the boxes are "gimmes" of course, for the normal, common things said in class. Most of the "trouble phrases", like "Walk Naturally" or "Engage Your Core", would be fine if combined with an explanation with some specifics. It's just when they're used in the absence of any sort of actionable advice that they become problematic. And then of course it's always fun to hear contradictory instruction in the same class
. I had one instructor who said heel first at the beginning of class, but by the end was saying toe first. The leaders were obviously quite confused.