Friday, December 4, 2009

Teacher Training - Transitions

Instructors: Homer & Cristina Ladas
December 2009, St. Louis, Missouri

This is the class outline prepared and distributed by Homer and Cristina at their teacher training workshop during the St. Louis Hot Winter Tango Fest 2009

In this teacher training session we will define and explore “transitions” in tango and the teaching concepts behind them. We will cover a few example transitions, games, and special cases. Several of our most useful teaching tips are included at the bottom.

What is a Transition?
In its basic form, a transition is moving from one embrace to another (i.e. open to close) and can include a change of each partner’s body position and/or axis tilt. A transition usually starts & ends at the same time. Many experienced dancers use transitions to move between variations of the standard embrace (open and close) to accomplish basic dance ideas. Transitions can be functional, dynamic, musical, fun, creative, and add flexibility.

Embrace Terminology
Standard Embrace – A forward facing embrace with each partner in a given body position and axis tilt.
Body Position – The angle between the open and close sides of the embrace (varies from ‘flat’ to a large ‘V’).
Axis Tilt – Line from the ankles thru the chest relative to the floor (can be tilted forward, neutral, or tilted backwards).
Open – No forward (chest/ribs/stomach) body connection (usually with engaged but elastic arms)
Close – A more or less forward facing body connection (can be fixed, hinged, or rolling) thru the chest/ribs/stomach.

Example Transitions
1. Side step (open-close-colgada options)
2. Back ochos (Vanilla Bean to Mocha Java)
3. Forward step in turn (open to close; difficult)
4. Forward ocho (open to close; very difficult)
5. Ocho cortado vs. ocho (To Cortado or Not?)
6. Transition at The Cross (fwd & back)
7. Side step to promenade (close to open)
8. Basic back volcada (very compact/useful)
9. Step-over colgada (with L.O.D. pattern)

Teaching Quotes
Cristina - “Focus on the middle of the step.”
Homer - “Transition during a transition.”

1. Human Magnet w/ & w/o embrace (develops the basic concept)
2. Falling Trust Game (mostly for volcadas)
3. Batman & Robin (for step-over colgadas)

Special Cases
1. Use wraps to transition (in turns & ochos)
2. Colgada to volcada (i.e. collapsible volcada)
3. Functional vs. expressive use of a colgada (for boleos, sacadas, wraps, etc)
4. Non-Standard Embrace Transitions (sweet-heart, etc)

Teaching basic transitions as early as possible broadens whom we can dance with! It allows a tango couple to easily dance in an open or close embrace with balance and stability. Further developing transitions to include more off-axis concepts (colgadas / volcadas) and non-standard embrace transitions add functionality, musicality, and creativity to the dance.

Homer & Cristina’s List of General Teaching Tips
1. Teach what you know & what you dance socially. Do your research not only by practicing but also by social dancing a lot.
2. Have an outline but be prepared to modify it (according the student level, time constraints, partner/gender balance, etc)
3. Make it fun or at least interesting (i.e. add a few games, exercises, drills, anecdotes, etc).
4. Make eye contact with students and speak clearly.
5. Have a system for partner rotation and be consistent.
6. With ‘talkers’ let them feel the move with you.
7. Demonstrate move or idea with a student from time to time not just your partner.
8. Use positive reinforcement if possible (reward vs. punishment).
9. Never contradict your teaching partner – use “and also”.
10. Try to always incorporate navigation (L.O.D. vs. middle) and musical integration (so it doesn’t sound like an after-thought).
11. For music choices have either a theme, orchestra, singer, or song. It’s ok to repeat the same song many times.
12. Balance group time vs. individual attention time.
13. If you must talk a lot keep students moving or doing something.
14. Encourage group to offer comments and ask questions (verbally participate).
15. End with a review quiz and demo.
16. Try to keep an open mind. Don’t consider yourself the last word... Learn from your students.

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