Should you try to learn Tango at Festivals?
Have you ever wondered whether a Tango Festival is a good place to improve your dancing skills? Is it worth your time and money to sign up for the festival’s workshops and classes – or is it better to just enjoy the milongas and balls?
Well, we will show you that with a good learning strategy and a bit of luck, you can improve your dancing substantially at festivals.
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How do festival classes fit into your learning curve?
Although learning paths vary from dancer to dancer, there are typical learning biographies to becoming an experienced and secure dancer. Most often, beginners will go through basic courses at a local tango school and slowly start exposing themselves at the local Milongas.
After getting familiar with the local events and the local dance scene, you may get tempted into attending a bigger event, such as a festival. Now how does this fit into your learning curve, and how do you make sure you make the best of it?
Ten Tips to Turbo-charge Your Tango Festival Learning Experience
Improving your tango dancing at a Tango Festival largely involves making the most out of the offerings available at the event and practicing what you’ve learned. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Get a realistic view of what your starting point is. You might want to ask your teacher at your regular courses for their evaluation of your dancing level. They can also give you recommendations on the teachers present at your chosen festival.
- Choose the Right Classes: Festivals typically offer a variety of workshops and classes at different levels. If you’re a beginner, look for beginner-level classes or those tagged as suitable for all levels. Know your level. I know it is tempting to go to classes for more advanced dancers but keep in mind that you interfere with the learning experience of the more advanced dancers – and it might also become a stressful experience for yourself.
- Be Active in Classes: Don’t just passively follow the instructions. Ask questions if you’re unsure about anything. If you can rotate partners, this will also help you to adapt to different dancers. Ask the maestros for feedback and additional guidance.
- Social Dancing: Use the nightly milongas or balls to practice what you’ve learned. Don’t be shy to ask others to dance, irrespective of your level. As long as you don’t stop the traffic flow it is good to do some practicing at the Milonga. Tip: If you come early to the Milonga, the floor may still be empty and you may find other workshop participants to continue where you left off during class.
- Take Notes: After each class or at the end of the day, jot down key points, steps, techniques, or sequences you’ve learned. This will help reinforce the lessons in your memory. Find out what works best for you, take notes on paper, in a note app, and have yourself recorded on video to analyze your dancing style and challenges. Seeing your progress a few months later can be mindblowing.
- Rest and Reflect: Don’t take it too far by attending too many classes in a single day. Allow for the learnings to settle, and give your body and mind time to absorb the new moves.
- Private Lessons: If available and within your budget, consider taking a private lesson. 45 or 50 minutes of a teacher´s full attention can give you incredible personalized feedback to significantly enhance your learning. Just be aware that even the most famous teachers cannot transform your dancing immediately.
- Your core style: It´s good to expose yourself to a different teaching and dancing style, but make sure you have a stable core style. The tango “market” constantly produces fashionable novelty moves and learning approaches – make sure you inject these in the right doses into your learning process.
- The right teacher for you: Watch videos of the teachers dancing. If you like what you see, then they can help you develop yourself in that direction. A lot of the learning progress depends on the chemistry between the teacher and yourself.
- Don’t confuse teaching with performing. I know this might seem like a contradiction to my previous advice. Keep in mind that some people can be great performers and horrible teachers, and the other way round. You can’t always tell, so asking more experienced dancers might be the solution here.
Should beginners expect to learn much at Tango Festivals?
As a beginner, you can learn a lot at a Tango Festival, but be prepared for a bumpy ride, especially on your first festival. You get the chance to learn from different maestros, get to know their specific didactic styles, and have the opportunity to dance with different partners. Just remember to take it slowly so you don´t become overwhelmed.
When is a good moment on your learning curve to visit a Tango Festival?
Be sure you have nailed the basics and feel comfortable on the dance floor: Know your basic steps, have some experience in leading or following, and know to navigate the line of dance. Then visiting a festival can be a super-enriching experience.
Applying what you learn in classes
One effective approach is that you immediately practice what you’ve just learned. Practice during the workshop sessions, at night, before the milonga dance floor gets too crowded, practice with changing partners – hey, and why not practice in your room before getting ready to go out? Do anything that helps the new material sink in: Take notes, try variations, and improvise until you feel the new stuff is yours.
Do I need to learn Spanish to understand the Maestros?
Almost all classes at international festivals are translated into English and often also into the local language, e.g. Bulgarian if you attend one of the events in Bulgaria. Don´t expect perfection though – whether the Maestros are Argentine or from someplace else – be prepared for a safari through colorful accents, contradictory technical terms, and many invitations to ignore the words and instead “feel” the teachings with your body and follow the music. After all its dance – and the international Tango scene is an ever-surprising random gathering of eccentric artists and fascinating individuals.