Sunday, 23 August 2009

Andreas Wichter at Carablanca

I always think there's a difference between teachers of dance, and teachers of steps. There seems to be a good number of the latter, and they tend to encourage students to be 'step collectors', '...the kind of tango dancer no one wants to meet...' as Oscar Casas remarked witheringly.

Teachers of dance teach steps too, but they also teach you to dance, a much more complex and complete teaching.

Andreas talks more than most teachers, but it was all to the point, and interesting, and he was listened to attentively. He started by talking about good posture, the vertebra between the shoulder blades pushed forwards, the chin pulled a bit back, so the chest leads. Then walking with good posture to the music, on the beat. Then walking in single and double time. It had never occurred to me that double time can be led through the shoulders: for want of a better idea I'd always pushed ahead and just hoped my partner would step back fast enough. Then the close embrace, walking in close embrace, and finally walking in the embrace in single and double time. All well-explained, reasonable, practical.

Talk of the social dynamics of male and female in tango. We were recommended to try to use the cabaceo, since that removes from the woman the need to refuse a dance to a man hovering in front of her.

It was a good evening. The class was well-attended, particularly for a warm Friday evening in mid-August, and there was a good crowd right until the end of the milonga too. Very impressively, Andreas was there throughout, dancing with anyone who was interested. I've never seen a teacher do that before. If they don't already know, it gave a fair number of partners a taste of how good close-hold salon tango can be, I'm told. It was the first of two lessons, but I hope he will be back in the autumn, as he lives and teaches in Totnes now. He learned from the late Gavito on his visits to Switzerland. He said that technically Gavito wasn't a good teacher [ed. I've misrepresented his remark: please see the Comments for a clarification by Andreas], but he was an inspiring one, he changed peoples' dancing lives.

Carablanca feels good these days. Even around the edges it's beginning to look a bit like a Buenos Aires milonga, plates of hot empanadas going around, (vege and non-vege) and wine at a reasonable price. A place where you can go and relax for an evening, have a bite to eat, meet friends, chat and dance.


Anonymous said...

I usually ignore the pre-milonga classes - they are usually not worth it for me.

I made an exception for this one. Andreas has the right ideas and articulates them very well. What he said in one hour .. took me months to glean from my current favourite teachers. He said new things too which gave me "lightbulb" moments.

I loved it when he said "try dancing 90% walking and weight changes".

There's a risk that teachers go on and on about the ethereal philosophy and soul of tango but he had just the right amount and all of it was to help you dance - pride, dignity, celebrating difference between man and woman ...

The shoulders thing - it was a revelation to me that this "dissociated walk" that all beginners are told to do actually is useful .. if you walk like that and lead your follower to walk like that then you can change weight - in double time even - with ease and elegance .. without having to shove your follower from left to right .. it becomes a rotational movement and not a push-n-shove. Try it - on the spot changing your partners weight with just your rotation. For me it unlocked a new way of walking .. thanks to Stefano and Alexandra .. and confirmed by Andreas. As a bonus its how we all walk naturally anyway - its not a robot walk that some teachers have tried to mould me to do.

Looking forward to next Friday - with trepidation - as I believe he is covering the giro which, with the cross, is immensely hard!

By the way - why do people ignore a teacher's advice once the milonga proper has started .. beats me?

Charles Taylor said...

Carablanca is getting better and better.

Andreas said...

@TC: Do I really talk that much? ;-) Guess I sometimes do, though I like to think I talk as much as is necessary. Next Friday will see priorities changed, I think, as I've already said the most important things. Let's see.
But then again, people need to understand what they do and why, and how it works. So explaining how simple it really is helps a lot. That means, however, that you have to actually practice at home. As always.

As for Gavito, my contact with him was confined to one weekend. But that weekend saw me changed overnight as was confirmed when one of my first teachers saw me dance upon my return and wondered who I was...
As for his teaching, I can see myself getting crucified for what I said. Just to set the record straight here: his methodology was hardly discernible, but he was nonetheless enormously effective, for me at least.
Thanks for the nice review. See ya Friday.

Andreas said...

@Anonymous: Actually I said "try dancing 90% with weight changes, do the remaining 10% with walking". At least, that was what I meant, for the purposes of the exercise.
Regarding next Friday, fear not. Everything will be as easy as I can make it, that's pretty much the point.

Tangocommuter said...

@Andreas, I just said you talk more than most teachers, but then most teachers demonstrate something complicated and say 'Try that!' (I'm exaggerating, just a bit...)

I'm fascinated that your contact with Gavito was so brief and so impressive, having been impressed by a brief encounter myself. Sometimes it just makes sense.

Afraid I can't be there next Friday so if any kind person could make a few notes and post them somewhere I'd really be grateful.

Anonymous said...

I was puzzled by that evening. Andreas seems to dance in a very controlled, contained way. His partner dances in a more fluid bendy nuevo way.

I danced with her and she maintains an angle to to (triangle, rather than chest to chest). This contradicts the use of rotation to effect weight changes - plus its bad for your back if you're a follower walking along the leaders line of dance.

msHedgehog said...

@AW, well, you had to introduce yourself ;)

@Anon - I quite agree - heart, without the woo-woo.

I appreciated being spoken to about what the woman's responsibilities actually are, in a positive rather than negative sense (and I don't mean ornaments).

Andreas said...


"I danced with her and she maintains an angle to to (triangle, rather than chest to chest)."
-Did you come to the lesson? Because we spoke about this and I had hoped to have cleared up any misunderstandings about this.

"This contradicts the use of rotation to effect weight changes"
No it doesn't. It is just as valid for the embrace as a "full frontal parrallel" and generally works as well. The weight changes work just as easily. Both positions have their advantages and disadvantages, and their place.

"- plus its bad for your back if you're a follower walking along the leaders line of dance."
No it isn't, provided you have a straight axis and know how to dissociate properly. And the dissociation can be done in equal measure by both partners.
If you come to the class on Friday, I'll be happy to discuss the issue.

Tangocommuter said...

My apologies to Andreas, and to the memory of Gavito, for mis-representing his remarks, and many thanks for the clarification.

Game Cat said...


Re the "triangle" vs. "chest to chest" ways of connecting (Anon #2's words, not mine - they both have chest contact imo), if you have the time next Fri, could you explain more about how it works?

The triangle/V is getting more common in milongas.

What I find challenging about it is the increased asymmetry...e.g. it can be tougher to giro to man's left.


Andreas said...

@TC: Don't worry about it, I just wanted to clarify in case people with torches and pitchforks turn up at my door...
And re talking: I could probably talk for three hours straight without repeating myself and it would all be stuff I felt people would really need to know. I usually try to insert nuggets of talk at key points. Sometimes those nuggets get a bit fat, though. ;-)
I've seen the "Try that" approach. Got the t-shirt.
People need to *understand* what they are doing, then they can figure things out for themselves, which ultimately *must* happen in order to own the thing.
@MsH: I always enjoy learning new words. "woo-woo", he he.
@GameCat: Ok, remind me on Friday.

Snow Leopard said...

Andreas, What you said last Friday at Carablanca was very interesting. My brain enjoyed listening to you. And my brain knows that what you said is right and it's the way I want to dance.
But for my body to understand, it needs to spend more time in class doing rather than standing listening. For some of us, maybe less cerebral types, more exercises might be better than more information.
In any case, I'll be back for your second class this Friday.

Andreas said...

@Snow Leopard: Message received, and I promise the ratio will be much different this Friday. Thanks for coming back!

Boetticher said...

I liked the talk/dance ratio last week. I've never felt so satisfied at the end of a pre-milonga class. And it set such a beautiful tone for the rest of the evening.

There are enough opportunities throughout the week to attend classes where it is 'try this, change partner, try again, change partner, now try this...' It's not often we get to hear tango being spoken about by someone so well informed.

To be honest I wouldn't mind if Andreas talked for the entire hour.

Looking forward to tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

this friday wasn't so great - doesn't anyone else think so? there was less connection between the teacher and the students, and we spent most of the class rushing through the previous part 1 - never did get round to part 2.

someone else said they don't like pre-milonga classes, i see why.

msHedgehog said...

@last Anon, I agree it was frustrating not to be able to go on from where we'd left off in part 1 because of nearly half the class not having been to part 1 - and the part 2 material did build on and require part 1. I think you're right that that's a problem of the pre-milonga format. Have a look at Game Cat's comment on the next post; I think there might be a few people up for a pre-booked 'workshop' or something next time AW is passing through the smoke, I certainly would be, and it's probably not too hard to organise if there are enough, so do keep an eye out if you would be. It gets around the drop-in problem.

Chris said...

> He said that technically Gavito
> wasn't a good teacher [ed. I've
> misrepresented his remark: please
> see the Comments for a
> clarification by Andreas], but he
> was an inspiring one

Gavito himself said "I am here not to teach you but to inspire you."