Tango Lesson Alzheimer

Story | Opinion | Martin van Kesteren | 27 May 2023 | 1 comments

Teachers show a sequence and innocently tell you to try it. “It’s easy,” you think. “Done this hundreds of times. It’s a breeze.” But you missed some stupid detail, or your partner didn’t get the memo. You try again. And again. And again. After a full hour of repetition and failure, you finally get it right, sort of. The teachers tell you that you are amazing and nailed it. You travel home all pumped with excitement. But by the time you arrive, the sequence is already fading. A week later, it’s wiped from your memory entirely. You’re dealing with a common case of Tango Lesson Alzheimer.

I used to think I was the only one with this embarrassing affliction, but I know now that people go into week-long seminars or ‘intensive’ weekends, joyfully accepting they won’t remember a thing afterwards. Try asking anyone returning from Buenos Aires what they learned, after a month of daily workshops. “It was amazing, sooo many new things.” “Okay, tell me one thing.” Silence, or repeated vague statements like ‘musicality’, ‘energy’ and so on. It seems they served them a wonderful high-rise sorbet, that melted in its entirety on the way home.

My first explanation for the phenomenon is my short attention span. Second, my childish over-confidence, tricking me into believing I can do anything on first try. Third, my brain aging. One follower told me she assumed smoking too much marihuana had caused it. Leaders struggle with it, too. Some fight it with an intricate notation system of logical symbols to capture the complex body movements of leader and follower. The great Andrea Uchitel even wrote a book filled with mathematical equations and graphs. It didn’t help me; I remind you of my short attention span.

I tried to make notes, producing stream-of-consciousness poetry, like “Make sidestep let her roll off your chest stop her let her roll back to other side make two sidesteps followed by stop spiral from hips.” A drawer full of notebooks, but when I sometimes throw a glimpse at them, the scribblings seem written by an idiot, separated from reality. I don’t believe in video recording, either. After class, many students whip out their iPhones and record the lesson’s summary, as if they are Japanese travelers in the Keukenhof. You can tell by a certain indifference in their movements, though, that they feel it’s part of the value offered in the class, but outsource their memory to a chip. Only a small percentage will review it afterward, and they all know it.

“Your muscle memory takes priority over your brain. If the moves didn’t sink into your muscles, your brain can’t remember them,” a teacher told me. “Like language. If your tongue can’t pronounce it, it’s hard to remember.” It explained why inexperienced teachers throw ten exercises at you in a one-hour session, while seasoned maestros take one sequence and milk it for ten lessons, focusing on the principle behind it. “Remember, people learn in different ways too: some need to hear it, others need to see or feel it,” he added. “If they can’t remember your lessons, why do you think they book follow-up courses?” “It’s a good question. I guess they don’t remember that they will forget those, too.”



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Published: 27 May 2023 @ 18:58


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Andrea Uchitel commented:

Oh Martin! I think I see your point and I suffered from it too!!! Probably, that is why I invented this little formula you mention in your article  🙂 So, let me clarify that in my book I share just ONE “kind of mathematical equation” (not more than that!) and just in the Fifth Chapter!! In that chapter you may see many graphs representing it, because I develop detailed explanations and propose many exercises so you slowly learn to play with it while dancing. It is one tool for training perception and decision making while improvising, not for describing body movement complexity at all!! Luckily, I wrote it for you and the group of students when we finished the lesson at Los Locos last year, so you don´t depend on your short attention span, neither need to remember it by heart to go on exploring with it! 🙂 (You shared a picture of it on Facebook recently) I may tell your readers it has the shape of a formula to represent and synthesize three very simple questions: -Where to is the next step? (directions/orientation in space/dance floor), -Where through into the embrace? (relative positions between dancers and free leg system) and -When? (that depends on music, space around, body state, etc). A simple model to play with and create combinations while deepening perception and duo sensation of togetherness. For sure, when you will read the book (hopefully soon in English) you will need some time to understand it. And then, you will need a bit more time to embody it so you can play with it on the dance floor. I truly and deeply believe it is one joyable tool I use for dancing and teaching!! I hope to go on sharing this approach and much more in my next visit to Amsterdam! A warm embrace on a beautiful tango, Andrea PD: Anyone that wants to know more, please contact me trough Ig, Fb or mail: andreauchitel@gmail.com – Read
Comment | Andrea Uchitel | 31 May 2023
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