Wow, what a couple of weeks it has been!!! Something to write about. A training week, a festival and a full two hour tango show in Riga, a week of Ashtanga yoga and Anatomy of Wholeness on a remote island with vegetarian food and outdoor toilets, and to top it off, an experimental workshop on learning tango.
I'll start from this weekend. We had a very special workshop with a very special teacher. David Gorman is an anatomist, Alexander-technique teacher and a creator of the Learning Methods system. He is teaching people to learn in an efficient way, and to use these methods in any field, like dancing, music, sports, or even communication and relationships. We met him on the yoga retreat last summer, and got fascinated about his approach to learning and training and teaching; he could solve problems in yoga even though he does not practice it himself! We even took two tango lessons from him, and were very impressed - yeah, he does not dance tango either.
We knew immediately that we want to use these methods in learning and teaching tango, and already during last season we did it to some extent. We wanted other tango dancers and tango teachers to know his methods too, to know what they think of them, and to work together with them to improve tango teaching. And this summer after the yoga week the tango weekend became true!
For the workshop David wanted the group (not me or him) to bring up the subjects, and he did not want to plan the program beforehand. The problem was of course that the students did not know yet what kind of problems David and the Learning Methods are able to tackle. All kinds of problems, I tell you, I know from my own experience that it works even on colgadas!!! During these two days we saw many different situations where the Learning Methods can be used, and now we know more of what works for us as humans and as tango dancers and teachers!
First David introduced his concept of flow and wholeness, and then we talked about those moments when the flow is disturbed in the dance. It seems those moments were familiar to everybody! And everybody had more or less successful ways to cope with them. But what were you doing when you were still in the flow??!!!
David was very interested in the communication side of this couple dance, and it seems that there was a need to talk about it. The students brought up a lot of questions, some very personal, and with David's patient guidance we discussed them. A big revelation for many of us was how different is the leader's and the follower's view on what is happening when dancing or trying to lead and follow certain things. "The Experiment" was introduced as a tool to find out solutions.
The role of the follower was also big question, and what a relief it was to let the leading come to you, instead of focusing and narrowing down on the following, and forgetting yourself, loosing the wholeness… In the end of the day we actually ended up practicing active following when dancing tango, and I saw many smiling faces, both on men and women!!!
As a teacher I think one important thing to remember from this first day, is to be open to this kind of questions and concerns. The role and responsibilities of the leader and the follower, disappointments and successes with dance partners, confidence in your role, confidence to dance… I don't know how much they have to be addresses directly in the classes, but at least notice them and give them time and attention when they come up. One helpful idea was that the tango etiquette takes care of some of these problems - when the etiquette is followed!!! Dancing the 3 or 4 tangos, making a nice build-up during the tanda, following the line of dance or la ronda, and including your partner AND the whole dance floor into your focus! The etiquette seems to have a much deeper meaning than just a bunch of rules that you can decide to follow or not!
And of course it helps if you allow yourself and your partner to have the ups and downs, the good, the better and the not-so-good days… Any level you dance, you will always have the whole range of emotions and experiences!
On Sunday David decided to start the day with introducing the concept of the Centered Support, and how we can use it to stand and move freely. This was exactly the thing that I wanted David to teach at the workshop!!! I think it is a very very useful thing to tango dancers - and humans. Tango dancers are quite familiar with this type of body work, and this idea was easy to integrate into actual tango dancing. For me the centered support brings the idea of wholeness to a very physical and practical level.
During the day we did very nice exercises of concentrating on the whole couple or on some detail, and I think that at this point it became very clear to all of us that it really is worth while to concentrate on the wholeness and presentness and not to narrow down on some detail. When given some time, our bodies unconciouss coordinating system will take care of the details, as long as the intention is clear.
In the end of the day we got a short glimpse of how David starts to work on actual tango problems of students. Unfortunately there was very little time left; I would have loved to spend more time on that, especially from the teacher's point of view. For me it has become very clear that the way to learn and teach is to refine the intention and not the details! As a teacher I can try to help the student to refine the intention - this Autumn will be an interesting experiment for us and our students to find the intention in all kinds of tango movements!!! Of course it helps if the teacher also knows the details, but the skill of a teacher is to know when to say something and when NOT to say it! And an important thing is to give the student (and the system) time to make it work!
Thank you everybody for joining the workshop, I really hope to get some feedback to find out what was useful for you, and maybe already some experiences in using this knowledge! We will have an interesting Autumn!!!