Here's the final part of Cassiel's interview with Melina Sedó. The original German of this part is here. Melina Sedó and Detlef Engel's website is here, and their tangokombinat website is here. Their YouTube channel is here. Cassiel's blog (in German, but with a Googletranslate link) is here.
Cassiel: Next is one thing, that I always notice, and I’m including myself in my observations: how can lessons build up a leader’s self confidence? This is pretty key issue for me.
Melina Sedó: Another difficult topic. Lots of people, especially those from northern countries, lack self confidence in dealing with others. This shows up right away in Tango as postural problems and hesitation. It might appear at first glance to be a typical problem for men/leaders, but women/followers are often too submissive or passive. There is limited scope for a teacher to address these issues in a group class, but we have, on occasion, managed to uncover the proud and communicative Tanguero hiding in the shy mouse or bad-tempered loner. It takes lots of individual attention, which you can only get in private lessons. We have spent entire privates, just talking, rather than dancing. In our usual group lessons, we use pictures and stories to get our approach across: we suggest dancers visualise themselves as kings, queens, Hollywood stars or opera singers, on the red carpet. We encourage them to exaggerate so that there is some residual left over in their dance, to allow this internal feeling to influence their outer form.
We continually emphasise that Tango is a partner dance, and that it is based on an equality of the partners; that both partners are equally responsible for the process of communication and for being active in the dance. In the past, old concepts pushed men into an over-dominant 'leader' role, who pushed the follower around and was always at fault for anything that went wrong. Women were supposed to be passive dollies, whose role was to stay in front of the leader and to maintain the embrace. That doesn’t really work, it leads to rough dancing, and just forces many educated Europeans into artificial roles which have nothing to do with their usual ways of being. This puts them under stress and holds them back from fully experiencing the richness that Tango has to offer.
My thesis, on 'Gender roles in Tango Argentino' demonstrates that the ideal male partner is not the classic dominant macho figure, but a more androgynous dancer, who knows how to be clear about what he wants, but has enough empathy to also recognise what his partner wants, and to respect what she wants from the dance. Any women who can survive and thrive in the world of Tango, will step up to their partner, and express what they want in their dance. There is certainly no room for shrinking violets.
In our classes, we take into account this modern understanding of roles, and have produced a closed loop communication system; the leader indicates a movement, waits for a response from the follower, and then follows that response. This might sound a tad esoteric, but is firmly grounded in simple, technical, biomechanical laws, more specifically on circular motion, on which we base our whole dance. More details are beyond the scope of this interview, the point is that good technique clears up lots of issues with self confidence.
Cassiel: A more personal question: I tend to hold back a bit, perhaps be inhibited is a more accurate description, with double time steps. Perhaps it's for fear that I might run my partner over. So I tend to avoid using double time, what would you suggest to help with that?
Melina Sedó: Ha! That‘s a great example of what I said: good technique builds self-esteem. I hope the readers don‘t get the impression that that question was just a set up.
Cassiel: Hmm, even if I'm not particularly macho, my basic strategy when things go wrong, is that it's all the leader’s fault.
Melina Sedó: That’s just b*******. There are loads of mistakes that followers can make. If that wasn’t the case, they would hardly need lessons, would they? But to get back to your question, we use the body’s natural movement, counter body rotation, to prepare for each step, forward or back, in parallel. This means that you have an additional channel of communication, which allows you to propose a movement, which your partner will have plenty of time to respond to. If all you do is push faster, all you get will be bigger strides and heated looks from the follower. Have a look at our teaching video:
[In French. MsH has a translation on her blog: it's here.]
This is just one part of our summary of a five day workshop in Tarbes, which illustrates some of our concepts. The counter body movement comes towards the end of the clip. And there is even more on that in our classes.
Cassiel: What are your views on short teaching videos, even YouTube videos?
Melina Sedó: Well, any talented, educated person can learn some things from well-made videos, even short clips on Youtube, so long as the person can process visual input well. Naturally, this method of learning will lack any sort of feedback and subsequent correction, which many people require in order to learn, especially if they don't have a good sense of their own procipriation or are beginners. Even a good video is no substitute for a good lesson, though it could well be better than a bad lesson. We looked after a practice group in New York, using a mixture of video and written instructions. They wanted further instruction in our approach and there was no one around who could help them. It is possible, if you really have no other options.
Cassiel: And the inevitable question: are you a tango addict? What is your score?
Melina Sedó: 248: 31 Milongas, 8 of 19 possible 'yes' answers. ***
My high risk of addiction to tango comes from the number of milongas I attend, though they are almost exclusively for business purposes. In the past twelve weeks I've probably visited a milonga just for fun four times. I tend to dance very little at milongas, apart from demos, because I so seldom get asked to dance or because I‘m just too tired after teaching all day. Sadly, that’s what comes of making my hobby into my job; nowadays I seldom get a chance to really dance. It‘s a pity, but it‘s bound to change again in future.
Cassiel: Dear Melina, thank you so very much for taking the time for us. What do you want to add, the last words should be your own. What do you wish for, for Tango?
Melina Sedó: For myself, I wish that Tango stays with me till I'm really very old indeed and that I never lose my pleasure in it. And for the Tango itself, I hope it grows and prospers, rather than stagnating and that it provides pleasure for ever more people. We mostly covered issues in development and education in this interview. We shouldn’t forget, how many people find something positive for themselves at classes, or at a milonga.
Tango can make us feel happy and satisfied.
[*** Cassiel refers to his 'test for addiction', which is to be found here.]