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.