ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios

The Tango learning artefact

Posted on: March 3, 2012

I start with collecting some of Stephen’s ideas about learning.

Knowledge: signs, expressions, justified true believe, proposition, representation, set of connections

How to learn: to incorporate, to model and demonstrate, to practice and reflect

Community: place where I learn, what have we learned as society, experiences of a person,  replicated by others

Speaking about Tango …

I met my husband Gert dancing Tango 15 years ago. We danced for a year then we paused for 12 years and 2,5 years ago we started again.

Last Tuesday we practiced a figure with the name “Salida”. It is one of the first figures we have learned in our first Tango course many years ago but there are a large number of variations to the “Salida”. The Salida consists of 8 steps and at step 5 the woman has to cross her legs. Last Tuesday the variation was about spinning during dancing the Salida.

Knowledge: A lot of competences are necessary to dance Tango

  • Of course one should have a certain feeling for the rhythm of music.
  • Then the dancers need to “know” their bodies and they should be able to move them according to the rules of Tango.
  • The dancers should be able to control different parts of their body in detail, e.g. the feet should not be parallel but like the letter “V” and inclined to each other.
  • A feeling for room and how to move in the room is necessary as well.
  • Furthermore the dancing partners should be able to “work together”, to perceive their partner’s movement and to react, to motivate each other (dancing Tango is real word and sometimes frustrating!), to laugh together.
  • The man must take the responsibility to lead, he is responsible to plan the figures, to control the movement of the dancing couple and to avoid accidents with other dancers. So it’s a hard job to be a man dancing Tango.
  • The woman on the other hand has to perceive the intentions of the man and to follow his suggestions, a hard job as well!

How to learn

As I’m always curios to “understand” learning processes I try to observe our approach and will describe my ideas about it.

Gert learns with his “feet”. He is very focussed on the steps he has to take and he practices the steps as often as possible. In my perception a part of his knowledge “sits” in his feet. Furthermore he loves music, plays several instruments, sings in a chorus and is able to analyze music in detail. He is able to dance with the rhythm of Tango.

I “think” about dancing and every figure has its place in the room. I put my feet in relation to the room and spinning means to put each step about maybe 30 degrees to the right or left. Practicing the steps alone doesn’t help me, I like to observe our movements with respect to the walls of the dancing room. Furthermore I want to discuss our performance with Gert, to analyze it and identify how to improve it.

So our learning approaches are quite different.

Coming back to the “Salida”: Gert struggled with this variation because for his feet it was something new. In my head it was the same figure we have already learned and practiced many times, but done in a circle. Dancing it, speaking about it, doing it again and again we succeeded more or less to integrate it into our dance.

As the roles of men and women in Tango are so different I sometimes puzzle over changing roles: how would we learn if I was the man and Gert the woman.

Our teacher Dado is very brave in doing his job. He explains the figures, demonstrate the figures, observes us practicing them and gives us feedback. Furthermore he plays with his language, he uses jokes, he motivates us. And he analyses our movements and focuses on different details of the movement.

His female partners change and normally act in the background.


We are part of several Tango “communities”. There is the dancing school where we attend our lessons ones a week. And during our lessons we also have to change partners and to learn how to dance again with another man or woman of the course.

Furthermore in Graz there exists a large Tango community and sometimes if we have time we dance at Tango events, outside the dancing school. As many inhabitants of Graz like to dance Tango sometimes foreign trainers are invited to teach the Tango “aficionados”.  And last year we were in Argentina and danced Tango in Buenos Aires.

3 Responses to "The Tango learning artefact"

UAU! good!

What a beautiful description of your Tango experience! Thank you for sharing this. I will pay close attention to the next round of “Dancing with the Stars” on TV to see how the men and women learn this complex dance. Keep well and keep dancing! 🙂

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