At the moment becau­se of Covid-19 you can „dance“ / prac­ti­se tan­go only at home. In many cases you have to prac­ti­se alo­ne, eit­her becau­se you don’t have a part­ner or not enough space to real­ly dance as a cou­ple. Accor­din­gly the num­ber of „prac­ti­ce alo­ne at home“ les­sons on You­Tube has increased in recent months. How do you find good les­sons or in other words: What makes such a les­son good (or rather bad)?

In the fol­lo­wing artic­le I will give MY sub­jec­ti­ve cri­te­ria. It’s of cour­se up to you to deci­de whe­ther you also find cer­tain aspects important or rather irrele­vant. I hope to help stu­dents to find good tea­chers, but also to make sug­ges­ti­ons to tea­chers how they could impro­ve their lessons.

The title and / or the descrip­ti­on of the video should give a clear idea of the topic. Moreo­ver it is hel­pful if the level of dif­fi­cul­ty is indi­ca­ted. Espe­ci­al­ly for beg­in­ners it is frus­t­ra­ting when they start wat­ching / prac­ti­sing only to find out that the steps / tech­ni­ques are far too dif­fi­cult for them. Of cour­se it is often dif­fi­cult to deci­de whe­ther some­thing is easy or dif­fi­cult, becau­se a move­ment may be rela­tively easy when you do it slow­ly, but beco­mes quite dif­fi­cult when you do it in dou­ble tem­po. Howe­ver a com­bi­na­ti­on of a turn / giro with some adorn­ment (like lapiz) is defi­ni­te­ly advan­ced and should be labe­led as such.

The­re should be clear sound and appro­pria­te volu­me.

At the begin­ning of the les­son the­re should be a clear over­view of the les­son. Like in a nor­mal les­son the stu­dents should be told what they are going to learn / prac­ti­se: „First we are going to …, after that we will … and finally … „.

The­re should be at least some sort of warm-up. It does­n’t make sen­se for exam­p­le to teach a com­bi­na­ti­on of pivot with lapiz wit­hout revi­sing / prac­ti­sing pivots first. The mini­mum should then be to refer / link to a video which covers this tech­ni­que. If on the other hand the warm-up is rather long, the­re should be timestamps in the descrip­ti­on so that you can easi­ly skip (part of) the warm-up. Even bet­ter than are chap­ters like in this video. They help you to skip parts of the video (in this case e.g. the Warm-up). This video explains how to crea­te them.

After the intro­duc­to­ry exer­ci­s­es the­re should be a demons­tra­ti­on and expl­ana­ti­on of the first move­ment / step / figu­re. It’s not a 100% per­cent rule, but in gene­ral the view­er should see the tea­cher first from behind (and / or from the side) and only then from the front. As long as a tea­cher does e.g. only side steps it is easy to copy them, but as soon as things beco­me more com­pli­ca­ted (espe­ci­al­ly with turns) it can beco­me extre­me­ly hard (espe­ci­al­ly for unex­pe­ri­en­ced beg­in­ners) to men­tal­ly „switch sides“ all the time. For exam­p­le in almost all of her vide­os you see Vanes­sa Gauch from behind, which makes copy­ing / lear­ning much easier.

The­re should be no back­ground music during the expl­ana­ti­on / demons­tra­ti­on of new move­ments. I find such „muzak“ rather dis­trac­ting. Think of a nor­mal les­son: Would­n’t you find it also rather stran­ge, if the­re was music play­ing during demons­tra­ti­on / expl­ana­ti­on of some­thing new?

I want the tea­cher to TALK to the view­er. I find it rather stran­ge when the who­le com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on is writ­ten (like in this video). First of all it makes the who­le les­son rather imper­so­nal, second­ly it makes prac­ti­sing much har­der becau­se you have to come clo­se to your lap­top / tablet / PC in order to read the ins­truc­tions. White text on a white / light back­ground (wall, curtain etc.) makes it even har­der. (Text is of cour­se ok when you trans­la­te your ins­truc­tions into ano­ther language.)

A basic rule for tea­ching any kind of (more com­pli­ca­ted) move­ment when you face your audi­ence is that you pre­sent a „mir­ror image“, i.e. you say for exam­p­le „Put your weight on your RIGHT foot“ but you put in on your LEFT, so that for the stu­dent / view­er it is the same side and they don’t have to turn ever­y­thing in their head.

After show­ing and explai­ning the cor­rect move­ment, the­re should be a descrip­ti­on of the most com­mon mista­kes. Howe­ver espe­ci­al­ly at the begin­ning the tea­cher should only men­ti­on the two or three most important mista­kes. Only after some prac­ti­ce and expe­ri­ence with the move­ment should come finer details. Many tea­chers make the mista­ke of „mista­ke / infor­ma­ti­on over­load“, i.e. poin­ting out too many pos­si­ble mista­kes, befo­re the stu­dent has even tried out the move­ment. Noo­ne can pay atten­ti­on to five dif­fe­rent things at the same time.

In addi­ti­on to just demons­t­ra­ting and describ­ing mista­kes it may help to visua­li­ze mista­kes e.g. with lines, arrows or a side by side demons­tra­ti­on like in this video by Vanes­sa Gauch.

When­ever move­ments or mista­kes are demons­tra­ted / explai­ned the use of dif­fe­rent came­ra angles and distances can help. When you want to show for exam­p­le how the upper body turns a high ang­le can illus­tra­te your point (like in this video). Like­wi­se when you talk for exam­p­le about the wrong posi­ti­on of the foot, a clo­se-up can be helpful.

The next step should be a rhyth­mi­cal prac­ti­ce of the new move­ment. The rhythm / beat may be pro­vi­ded by a metro­no­me or by music. My ide­al would be a com­bi­na­ti­on of both: First 8 or 16 times to a metro­no­me and then again 16 times to music. That would auto­ma­ti­cal­ly help peo­p­le to dance to the music. That is why I find very irri­ta­ting when tea­chers show / „dance“ a sequence and their steps don’t fit the (back­ground) music.

In gene­ral you should prac­ti­se a move­ment on both sides. Far too many dancers have a „strong“ and a „weak“ side and can do cer­tain figu­res (like the sand­wich) only on one side. This limits their dancing severely.

In the remai­ning video the­re should be a clear, logi­cal pro­gres­si­on of move­ments from easy to com­plex and / or from slow to fast. Even if you teach dif­fe­rent move­ments / steps they should somehow be con­nec­ted, e.g. becau­se they are com­bi­ned at the end of the lesson.

Final­ly I find it very moti­vat­ing to watch some typi­cal situa­tions in which the steps / the figu­re that was taught befo­re could be danced / appli­ed. For exam­p­le after prac­ti­sing enros­ques I’d like to get at least some idea, in which situation(s) I could use / dance them. This is of cour­se only pos­si­ble if the tea­cher has a partner.