People attending classes in “Argentine Tango” are usually presented with a series of set step sequences, progressing from basic to complex, that are modelled, drilled and then practiced. This type of dance training results in a form of dancing that does not provide adequate repetition of technical skills, emphasises the rote memorisation of showy step patterns that provide for little control on the dancing floor and over-emphasise the action of the feet.
The objective of this program is to move away from the model-drill-practice model and to offer a systematic movement practice that provides a technique basis for improvised dancing. The question is: How it is possible to teach movement for improvisation without teaching set step sequences using model-and-drill method?
Steve Paxton, the creator of Contact Improvisation, observed that improvisation cannot be taught, and people who learn contact improvisation through exercises do not necessarily thereby learn how to improvise movement. He observed that the practice of naming movements, movement patterns or exercises changes their fundamental character. Coming to the conclusion that improvisation cannot be taught Paxton developed Material for the Spine, a set of exercises that develop basic movement skills that can be used in developing coordination and understanding of the body that can form the basis for improvisation.
So this presents us with a third possibility which is to teach basic movement explorations that can form the basis for dance improvisation in Argentine tango. These explorations should be simple and progressive and provide the basic awareness of movement and habits of efficient movement. They should be reasonably close to tango dancing so that they have face validity and provide some basic movement habits that can be immediately utilised in tango dancing.
Dance improvisation can’t be taught explicitly but is rather a skill acquired through practice. Given that (i) improvisation cannot be taught directly; and (ii) the alternative of teaching fixed sequences of steps is ineffective and prevents the development of improvisational skills, the alternative proposed is movement explorations that provide the basis for improvisation in tango dancing.