Virtual Tango Instruction

I just saw this new offering from Clay in Portland: Virtual Tango Instruction. Here is how he describes it:

The goal of this program is to give you, the student, the opportunity to take a brief tango lesson from a variety of great instructors from all over the world without ever having to leave your home.

Students videotape themselves and upload the video for the instructor to watch, and the instructor then provides written feedback. Students can pay extra for instructors to annotate the video with comments. My first reaction: Total disbelief. My feeling after some reflection: Tentative acceptance. Here’s why:

First Reaction: I can’t imagine, as a student, having a completely one-sided lesson. That is, dance lessons generally have some amount of back and forth. Students rarely incorporate corrections immediately, and teachers may have to find different ways to express themselves in order to be understood. (It isn’t enough to point out the error, and it is rarely enough to give an entirely mechanical explanation of how to fix it. Usually, students have to be tricked into the correct movement through imagery, intention, metaphors, or some other explanation that sneaks up on the problem.) A one-sided, written response seems very incomplete, not at all sufficient for learning.

Upon Reflection: Not everyone lives in a place with lots of tango. I have been lucky enough to live in a city that, despite the small community, has quite a lot of exposure to the rest of the national tango scene. Many dancers here travel and bring back insights from other places, and many organizers bring in guest instructors. If you are stuck in a small community with few opportunities to learn from different people, however, this long-distance learning may be better than nothing. And it’s at least an interesting experiment.

So even though I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who has access to other forms of instruction, this could be a great opportunity for a dancer who doesn’t normally have access to these kinds of teachers. I would be interesting in hearing the experience of someone who has tried this virtual tango instruction.

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3 thoughts on “Virtual Tango Instruction

  1. What will they think of next to make money off tango! I’ll offer my services without charge.

  2. I’m interested to see that “may be better than nothing” seems to be the only basis for your conclusion “Tentative acceptance”.

    If the only alternative to this Virtual Tango Instruction is nothing, the student must be totally isolated from any social dance scene. In which case, I wonder what is the point of the student taking Virtual Tango Instruction. Except of course to qualify as a Virtual Tango Instructor… 🙂

    (It isn’t enough to point out the error, and it is rarely enough to give an entirely mechanical explanation of how to fix it. Usually, students have to be tricked into the correct movement through imagery, intention, metaphors, or some other explanation that sneaks up on the problem.

    I think you’re referring to the recently invented class-based teaching model that’s popular with trickster instructors.

    Contrast this with the traditional way to learn to dance tango. Dance with someone who can dance. No instructor’s trickery is required — or desired.

    • As someone who learned to dance through formal instructions (beginning as a young child with ballet), I believe instructors can add value in a classroom setting, at the very least to help a dancer learn how to take care of their own body over a lifetime of dancing. That said, not all instructors who try to teach tango know enough physiology and pedadogy to actually add value. And I don’t think you can truly learn to dance without dancing. (I will tell anyone who listens that I learned most of what I know by attending practicas and just going for it.)

      Of course, I never heard from anyone who tried that virtual instruction. Perhaps this whole post was pointless. 🙂

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