The Whole Embrace Project
This project is an endeavor to smooth the path to growth in tango by providing a clear, descriptive framework for growth. These rubrics were created and tested at Oxygen Tango between 2010-2016 and are a work in progress. I hope you find them helpful, whether you are a a teacher, community organizer, or learner. I'd love to hear from you!
I. About the Project
I believe that every skill can be learned, with the right guideposts.
And I feel sad when I notice the wearying and discouraging experience that new practitioners often have as they undertake a brave quest to develop life-enriching practices and are met by mystifying and obscure path to really learn it.
In my first years of Tango, I underestimated the density of the dance. I thought I could get better just by dancing with better dancers. I would look at good dancers and know they were better than me, but I wouldn’t know why - what they were doing, in their dance as well as in their practice, that made them that way.
What I discovered is that there is actually a richly interwoven complex of techniques and content, undergirded by a belief system and interpersonal philosophy, that is invisible to the newcomer and often unspeakable by the teacher.
Without an articulate framework for growth, teachers may inadvertently mystify the student, and as a result the student may perceive growth as something that happens incoherently, inexplicably, and in a basically random way through luck and just a lot of banging your head against the dance.
I want learners to feel fully embraced - not just physically, but by a thoughtful, embracing, guiding structure to thrive within. To help them avoid the pitfalls of confusion, pride, self-delusion, and waste - and instead stay focused on where they can make a difference. I want learners to feel how much we care - that we have set a learning path for them - not just to say “it’s mysterious” or “take this workshop” or “just practice a lot.”
That's why I've written these frameworks. If they feel helpful to you, I'm so glad. If they don't, throw them out. These are just my maps, and a map is never the territory.
II. Tango Levels: The 22 Techniques of Tango - Full Whitepaper
This paper is an introduction to my thinking about tango levels, and my attempt to provide a meaningful descriptive framework for growth. It provides context on where this initiative came from, introduces the 22 techniques and provides a rubric that articulates 4 levels of skill for each technique, and offers some notes on holistic growth as dancers and community members. There is a self-assessment tool.
III. The Tango Level Map
This map provides holistic descriptions of the typical dancers as they proceed from being total beginner noobs to the improvisational-tango-artist-mad-genius level. There are distinct descriptions for leaders and followers, which, interestingly, slowly converge as skill level grows.
III. Tango Technique Clusters Rubric
This is a rubric for what I see as Tango's four major technique clusters: Somatics, Interaction, Unity, and Musicality. For each, I provide a description of each of the following levels of skill: unskilled, awakening, proficient, integrated.