Monday 26 September 2011

Sentadas, Montadas and Ganchos for Beginners

This is one of the posts, with which I will attract the enmity of colleagues and consumers alike, as I am about to break an „unwritten law“ of the Tango community: Do not criticise a a fellow teacher! A couple of moths ago, I complained about the lamentable dance-quality on dancefloors as a result of the teaching of „non-social elements“. I then just spoke in general terms, not mentioning any teacher in particular. (Have a look at my earlier post.) But now, an event of Facebook made my hair stand up and my blood boil. 

A few days ago, a friend drew my attention to this announcement of workshops in Florence. They are being held by one of the most famous Tango-couples, now living and teaching in Italy. She is believed to be the best female Tango dancer in the world. I will not comment on that, but please judge for yourself, if these class contents are fit for beginning and intermediate Tango dancers or social Tango of all levels: 

a) Sentadas con salida en catena 
b) Montadas y ganchos 
c) Sacadas en el giro (see comment below)
d) Movimientos de calidad en el Vals, Tango y Milonga (see comment below)
e) Sacada doble con ganchos 

Are they making fun of the clients? Do they really believe, that a random bunch of Florentine dancers - some of them surely over 50 and the majority of the group in mediocre physical shape - will be able to execute such movements correctly and nicely? Or is this a mistake in labelling and the classes are really meant for very advanced young dancers wanting to perform professionally? 


Seriously, I am convinced that all teachers, especially those who are believed to be the „ambassadors“ of Tango, bear responsibility for how Tango is danced in the Milongas. Over the last years, a broad understanding was formed within the Tango communities, no matter which style they prefer: Most people will nowadays agree on the assertion, that stage Tango elements should be no part of the teaching for social dancers and that an excellent technical basis is required to attempt more complex or even athletic movements. If kicking and jumping is to have a comeback in beginners and intermediate classes - then we are really doomed!

Additional comment after discussion:
I did not want to critisise ALL classes - I just wrote down the whole list of contents as they were presented in the announcement. Quality Movements may be a nice class - if they do not just show steps. And Sacadas in turns are an appropriate content for advanced dancers. So, 2 out of 5 might be ok. But is this good enough?


Anonymous said...

This question must ne allowed: Who of the younger dancers in a good physical shape will be able do dance all this junk correctly and nicely? In most of the cases it looks like rhythmical sportgymnastics and not like Tango.

Ghost said...

I don't speak italian, but the videos further down the page all seem to say "Stage Tango". Is it possible that this is a stage tango course rather than a social tango one?

Still set at a fairly nuts level for beginners either way.

Ghost said...

PS Giving them a fairly hefty benefit of the doubt, it could be beginner and intermediates refers to your skill at stage tango rather than tango, or possibly your skill as a dancer. I've seen a few workshops pitched at students who already knew how to dance either tango, salsa or jive to a reasonable level that were pitched in a similar way.

On the other hand there's a few teachers in the UK who teach ganchos in the their beginners course, so who knows?

Justin said...

That is a very tall order indeed for a beginner or even an intermediate level student.

There does seem to be teachers with more of the push towards whats 'new' and 'wow' rather then the necessary 'how do i walk' and 'feel the music'.

I think the attention span of student leads teachers to cave into the majority of over night sensations.

tangocorazon said...

Unfortunately in surrounding communities to my own these class 'descriptions' are normal.

What can we do? @Justin said it all. I say Keep calm and Keep walking.

tangocherie said...

Perhaps such famous dancers are bored teaching beginners to walk? Perhaps the students expect more than to be taught "the walk" from world-famous dancers?

I completely agree with you, Melina, but if students keep paying to learn this stuff, teachers will keep on teaching it. Lamentablemente.

Anonymous said...

I'd really like to know a lot more details about this course before commenting. As far as I can see, they don't specify at which level these elements will be taught or to whom. Sacadas in the giro sounds like a reasonable thing to teach advanced-level dancers. Quality of movement sounds like a good thing to teach at any level. On the other hand, sentadas and montadas seem like odd things to teach. I have never actually seen either of these moves danced at a milonga, by ANYONE (only on stage).

But I am definitely with you, as far as the general spirit of this blog entry goes. I've seen the results of teaching fancy moves to beginners. See this entry:

Kerstin said...

Diese Kritik ist - leider - allzu berechtigt. ABER Melina, warum nimmst Du uns, über 50, als Beispiel für diese fahlschgeleitete Zielgruppe? WIR haben, oft genug, bei namhaften "Professores de Tango" das Gefühl genossen uns lächerlich zu machen, denn WIR haben in der Regel genügend Selbstkritik um dies zu fühlen, und WIR sind wohl meistens NICHT diejenigen, die nachher mit Ganchos, Piernazos und Voleos die Tanzfläche unfallgefährdet gestalten. Als Mensch über 50 kommst Du, in der Regel, zum Tango aus Liebe für die Musik, und aus dem Bedürfnis dich mit dieser Musik zu bewegen. Raritäten geradezu, sind die Leute aus diesen Jahrgängen, die Showambitionen hegen. Geboten wird uns diese Zirkusnummern, die - die Nachfrage bestimmt das Angebot - von den Jüngeren erwünscht werden. UND, bitteschön!, Frauen mit "Übergewicht" und fragile Männer gibt es in allen Altersgruppen. Könnte eine Litanei schreiben, über die verzweifelte Suche einer "Spätberufenen" nach vernünftigen Unterricht in Buenos aires, in Europa und sonstwo.....

Melina Sedo said...

Liebe Kerstin,

ich wollte niemanden verletzten. Ich selbst bin fast 50 und stark übergewichtig und würde niemals versuchen, eine Sentada durchzuführen. Nicht mal mit Detlef - obwohl der ganz schön durchtrainiert ist! ;-)

Natürlich würde ich GRUNDSÄTZLICH solche Bewegungen niemals durchführen oder unterrichten. Meine Ansichten kennt jede/r der unsere Site besucht oder meinen Blog liest. Deswegen bin ich darauf gar nicht mehr besonders eingegangen, sondern habe nur einen Link zu einem vorherigen Eintrag gesetzt und (quasi als ZUSÄTZLICHES Argument) Alter und körperliche Fitness ins Spiel gebracht.

Natürlich gibt es mengenweise 20-jährige, die genauso an der Herausvorderung einer Sentada scheitern würden und bestimmt auch einige 60-jährige die eine solche Bewegung noch grazil durchführen können! Aber diese machen doch eher eine kleine Minderheit aus. Leider besteht ein Zusammenhang zwischen Alter und körperlicher Fitness. Wir alle werden täglich daran erinnert!

Ein großer Teil der Tangotanzenden ist in einem eher lamentablen Fintnesszustand und unser Durchschnittsalter lag schon 2003 bei über 44 Jahren! Die meisten Tangueros haben schon Schwierigkeiten, auf einem Bein zu stehen. Ich erlebe das tägloch im Unterricht. Wie sollen sie da einen Gancho, gescheige denn eine Sentada durchführen?

Ich wollte übrigens auch nicht aussagen, dass BESONDERS die über 50 jährigen nach solcher Akrobatik im Tango suchen. Ich wollte lediglich auf die Absurdität eines solchen Unterrichtes hinweisen.

Das erinnert mich dies an eine Begebenheit vor einigen Jahren:

Tangoveranstalter aus Nimes hatten ein Gruppe junger Nuevo Lehrer zu einem Festival eingeladen. Die Tanzenden in Nimes waren zu diesem Zeitpunkt eher älteren Semesters und dem Tango Milonguero zugeneigt. Eine dieser Tänzerinnen hatte aus Solidarität mit den Verantaltern einen Workshop besucht und wurde dort dazu veranlasst, ihre Beine über Hüfthöhe zu schwingen und Volcadas durchzuführen. Unsere liebe Freundin C., inzwischen wet über 70, war entsetzt und beschwerte sich bei mir: "Wie können diese Leute nur soetwas unterrichten! Ich bin eine "vieille dame".

Genau! Ich auch! ;-)

Melina Sedo said...

@ TTA:

I see what you mean... the workshops with the extravagant contents MIGHT be addressed to advanced dancers. But they do not REQUIRE that people are advanced and the whole event seems to be targeting intermediate and beginners.
Plus: I've danced in Firenze and can tell you: I have not seen any dancers, who'd be "advanced" enough to do that stuff! ;-)

And yes, quality of movements is fine. I did not want to critisise this particular class- I just wrote down the whole list of contents as they were presented in the announcements. Not ALL of the classes sound terrible: Sacadas in turns is an acceptable content. We teach that as well - for advanced students! ;-)

Melina Sedo said...

Funny... my own earlier comment - the one Kerstin refers to - vanished.

Very mysterious....

Francesca Bertelli said...

To Ghost: Just to clarify your doubt, I speak Italian and these classes are not meant for stage dancers. They are being offered to the florentine tango community of social dancers. In fact, they hold these classes in a place where they do a milonga afterwords, it's not even a tango school, so you can just imagine what the milonga following those classes will be like. -:)

Kerstin said...

Liebe Melina,
danke für Deine sympatische Antwort, und danke auch, dafür, dass Du Dich getraut hast eine "antikollegialen" Kritik zu diesem SELBSTDARSTELLERISCHEN Schrottunterricht, der für viel Geld, in HH zuletzt Workshops a 60 € pro person, angeboten wird! zu äussern.Tangounterricht braucht gelegentlich Kritik aus den eigenen Reihen..... aber, wie gesagt, wenn die Nachfrage das Angebot bestimmt, braucht das Angebot auch Menschen die mit den Füssen abstimmen, und nicht hingehen. Die menschliche Eitelkeit - "hab mal 5 takte mit P.V getanzt" - ist schon ein Faktor. Leider einer, der dem wunderschönen Tango nicht viel Gutes tut.
Ein Beispiel von mir, als junge Frau recht viel klass. Tanz gemacht, bei einem renomierten Maestro in B.A gelandet, tangomässig nicht weit über die Anfänge hinaus, sagte Maestro :
"und nächste Woche dann Sprünge!"
Mag sein, dass er sich gewundert hat, dass ich nicht mehr hingegangen bin. ;-)

Melina Sedo said...


Das ist einer unserer Running Gags im Unterricht. Wenn wir wieder einen ganzen Tag nur gegangen sind, weisen wir gerne darauf hin, dass am nächsten Tag Sprünge auf dem Programm stehen.

Komisch... die nehmen uns nie ernst, sondern lachen nur und kommen wieder! ;-)

Francesca Bertelli said...

In Italy they use the french word "stage" to indicate a workshop. The video on the FB announcement of the classes refer to a workshop. No mention anywhere of "advanced" students, but only beginners and intermediates.

Kerstin said...

Frohlockt hätte ich, wenn Maestro, (Einzelstunden a 110 €) mit mir GEGANGEN wäre! ;-) WANN und WO ? unterrichtet
Ihr demnächst??

Melina Sedo said...

@ Kerstin:

Neulich haben wir in Finnland auf einem Festival 19 Stunden in 5 verschieden Niveaus unterrichtet. In EINEM der Niveaus haben wir an EINEM Tag ein paar Pivots gemacht. Ansonsten sind wir nur gegangen.
Aber ich verlange ja gar nicht, dass alle Lehrer so fanatisch sind! ;-)

Hier unser Programm für den Rest von 2011 und demnächst die Vorschau auf 2012:

Anonymous said...

cassiel said...

All in all i think you've been very polite...

Anonymous said...

I've taken classes on jumps. In the right context they are very enjoyable and interesting. In the seminar I took, almost all the students were very advanced or professional-level dancers interested in exploring the possibilities of stage tango or already dancing stage tango and wanting to improve their technique. And, besides, jumping is fun (though I'm not very good at it). And I've danced a jump into sentada (as part of a choreographed performance). Those things require technique and those techniques have to be learnt. (Incidentally, I am nearly as the same age as Melina).

However, I've never even felt the desire to do any of those things at a milonga and I would be extremely surprised and taken aback by anyone who led them in that situation. (And probably a little terrified).

And I've also taken a number of classes and workshops for advanced-level/professional dancers which focused exclusively on fundamentals. And we spent hours just working on walking and perhaps a few very simple ochos. Those are the classes I seek out. The more I dance tango, the more I want to hone simple things like my walk or tiny details like changing weight on the spot.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the basics in tango are endlessly challenging, no matter what your level. And it is always rewarding to work on them. If you can dance the basics well, almost everything else (except jumps!) will be easy. And, if you can't, nothing else will work. And, even for the best dancers, there is always room for refinement and improvement.

Melina Sedo said...

@ TTA:
Sure, why not teach jumps and Sentadas to aspiring stage dancers. Nothing to say against this. I've done my share of jumping in earlier years as well -though not in Tango. ;-)
But I've SEEN people dance jumps and Sentadas in Milongas in France, Germany and also Italy. It was always done badly and was utterly embarrassing and I asked myself what kind of teacher would have taught those movements to them. Now I know. This is so sad!

@ Cassiel:
Yes, we are all very polite. But you don't know, what words come into my head when I think of writing an article. I always have to tune down! ;-)

Alter said...

I agree with this comment from Tangocherie:
"if students keep paying to learn this stuff, teachers will keep on teaching it. Lamentablemente."

Supply will always satisfy demand. Unfortunately...

LimerickTango said...

Just possibly this is a case of two parties not stepping up to the mark. The travelling teachers have simply sent the organiser the current list of classes that they've been teaching night after night without making enquiries as to their intended target. The organiser, possibly out of awe, has failed to respond that such classes may not be suitable. And the ones caught in the middle of this are the dancers, especially the beginners.

Both organisers and teachers have to be responsible.

Anonymous said...

You'll get no argument here, Melina. And thanks for your bravery in choosing a specific, real-life example.

Melina Sedo said...


I agree: the organiser bears the same responsibility.

But let me tell you how I handle such a case professionally:
I send out my list of workshops. Please keep in mind, that my list will contain only contents that apply to the social dance, so there is even no chance, that an organiser chooses something that absurd as a Sentada.
The organiser will then make a choice and I'll comment on it. We start exchanging mails until we've worked out a sensible solution.
In this process I will keep in mind the following questions:
- what are the levels
- to whom do the classes address
- have the dancers already been exposed to our concepts
- if so: what have we taught them on earlier occasions

Most of the time, I will discourage organisers to choose complex contents. (When we are not VERY sure about the high level of the class, I will e.g. not offer a class of "Elegant turns with entradas".) And I will ALWAYS discuss the specific ORDER of classes so that they build onto each other. Very often, I will even tailor a special package for this specific location and put together "new" contents.

We work almost every weekend of the year in another city in Europe, so you can imagine, that this costs me some time. But it is worth it. The sensitive and conscious choice of classes ensures the quality and success of a teaching-event.

If I can do that - and I'm not particularly smart - why can't others as well?

And this is, why I get so revved up about such an irresponsible behavior. Sorry.

Melina Sedo said...

@ TTA:

I'm not brave!

Ghost said...


Thanks :)

It's weird, people keep telling me what wonderful dancers the Italians are, especially their musicality.

Elizabeth Brinton said...

I think the reason these classes are marketed towards beginners, is that beginners don't know what they need to learn.
Did you ever watch at milongas, the way that beginners are admiring and watching the worst crazy dancers? They do it because it looks "fancy" or cool. They watch it because they need something to see. So much of beautiful tango is hard for the beginner, or observer to see.
But the worst part of these classes is that they ruin people for good tango, or people feel discouraged because they are not athletes, and never hang around long enough to start really learning the lovely basics. In the long run it is bad for business, bad for tango.
Thanks Melina,

Elizabeth Brinton said...

P.S @Ghost: I think Italians in general are quite musical, but still a hazard on the milonga floor.

Tangocommuter said...

Given that there are so many Italian dancers with an instinctive feel for the music and movement of tango, one wonders who, if anyone, is likely to go to workshops like this! Maybe (hopefully) it will be an expensive failure.

But I doubt it: enough people are impressed by the displays this couple give to keep them in business. But accounts of their classes are less than inspiring, so perhaps we are not doomed; perhaps the consensus that what they teach is suitable only for displays, and not for social dancing, and that what they dance isn't feasible for most people, will continue.

Stage tango gets taught under many guises, and people are mislead, so there's good reason to draw attention to the problems.

Francesca Bertelli said...

@ ghost and Elizabeth:
Italy is a big country, with many many tango communities. There are some good and some very good tango communities, some not so good. You really cannot generalize.

Elizabeth Brinton said...

@Francis, you are right of course. I only danced in Rome, and I know our friend Tina has a great close embrace community in the south.
I certainly enjoyed the Italian sense of music, in all styles.

Tina said...

Italy sure does have some lovely close-embrace tango communities with a good level of dancing. One just has to stay away from big "showy" festivals and know where to go.

Melina and Francesca, I won't be able to go to the Raduno Milonguero in Impruneta this October :-(( I'm sure both of you will be there and it would have been nice to see you. But I will pop over to the one in Barcelona in December the week before going to DJ at the encuentro milonguero in Bari :-) Hopefully I'll run into one or both of you at one of those!

Happy abrazos everybody!
Tina Ferrari

Melina Sedo said...

Sure, Tina! Italy does have some real nice close-embrace dancing. But it has also the other extreme! On Sunday, I was at a Milonga in Pisa and saw all those crazy steps, that we've been talking about in this blog. It was a desaster! :-(
As for Abrazame in Barcelona: Unfortunately, I will have to work that weekend. The Encuentro was announced only recently (4 month ago) which is much too short for my planning. I am planning more than a year ahead. MAYBE I can go there next year, if I manage to shift a date, that was planned for that weekend in December 2012. Speaking of the spontaneous, exciting life of Tango teachers... ;-))

Damian Thompson said...

Wow - great to see so many comments!

Heya Melina - Great to read one of your posts too. Now, on the topic of their topics....

Well, I agree with you - Rediculous. Especially if pitched at beginners. IMHO, there are few advanced dancers in any scene. Those that are advanced, usually are performing, either socially or professionally.

As for the topics, these teachers and their ability as teachers. Horrible. I've attended some of their classes only to leave in complete disgust at both of their attitudes, and their teaching ability. These 2 have done nothing but offend almost every community that they have taught in.

Personally having watched them turn up late, kiss in a corner for 10 mins, then talk for 25 insulting everyone in their 'masters' class, short demonstation, tell us to do it - kiss for another 10 mins and not fault correct, assist, or even look at the students. Return to the centre and tell everyone that they are doing it wrong.... Well, they lost me immediately, and then they continued to insult us all by continuing their rude actions.

What a shame for Geraldine whose name was heralded so highly to be dragged to the depths of Paludi who should not be allowed to interact with anyone with the attitude that he brings to the table.

This is all based on my personal observation of him, warnings from others before and since.

AVOID this couple at all costs IMHO. No matter what you thought of them before....

So, this couple don't even care about the people, why would they care what they teach to them? They don't! Often they teach something so difficult just to show that they can do it and that you can't. Arrogance personified.

So glad that Arce hit him for being an arrogant wanka on the dance floor - many more should do that to him.

Tango Therapist said...

Melina... I think the rule between teachers is especially meaningful in the same market. I do not feel that you are trying to steal students/customers away from these teachers.

Tango has come so far that at some point we need a consumer advocate, and you have stepped up as that in this blog. Buyer beware!

So let me add to your remarks to the tangueros/tangueras who might buy this product:

Product claim: "You will look awesome on the dance floor and all your non-dancing friends will be amazed at your abilities.

Side effects: "You will waste your money, horrify good dancers, endanger others and lose friends at a milonga."

One must weigh the benefits against the side effects.

Anonymous said...

@Damian "There are few advanced dancers in any tango scene." I respectfully disagree because there are many at my local scene.

Greetings from Buenos Aires. xx