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 weeks. 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. 

I will first descri­be a cri­ter­ion in a gene­ral way and then illus­tra­te my point with con­cre­te videos. 

If you are not inte­res­ted in my comments you can easi­ly skip them, becau­se I have cho­sen a smal­ler font size for them. 

I have cho­sen three vide­os with Jor­di (Tan­go Tools), Pablo (Tan­go Space) and Leo­nar­do Bar­r­i­o­nue­vo. I will only deal with vide­os for men / lea­ders, but the same cri­te­ria of cour­se also app­ly to vide­os for women / followers. 

To under­stand my „reviews“ I stron­gly recom­mend that you watch Pablo’s and Leonardo’s vide­os first com­ple­te­ly and at least some minu­tes from Jordi’s video AFTER the warm-up part. Other­wi­se you will not real­ly under­stand what I’m tal­king about. 

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.

Jor­di clear­ly descri­bes what he is going to do and you learn that the exer­ci­ses are „simp­le“. Pablo’s tit­le is infor­ma­ti­ve (a minor fault is only that the order of topics is wrong becau­se lapiz comes befo­re enros­que), howe­ver his descrip­ti­on is rather stran­ge. Ins­tead of say­ing expli­ci­tly that the topic is rather advan­ced (in his intro­duc­tion he calls it „very chal­len­ging“), he tells the view­er that you „don’t love them half the time“, which is a very odd way to moti­va­te peop­le. Both Leonardo’s tit­le and descrip­ti­on („Exer­ci­ses to do at home“) are not very hel­pful becau­se you get no info about the topic. 

The­re should be clear sound and appro­pria­te volu­me.

Pablo should use a bet­ter (lapel) micro­pho­ne, the poor sound qua­li­ty makes watching pret­ty hard. 

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 … „. 

Jordi’s intro­duc­tion is very good, Pablo’s is ok, whe­re­as Leonardo’s is too short. 

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 time stamps in the descrip­ti­on so that you can easi­ly skip (part of) the warm-up. 

Jordi’s warm-up is excel­lent but rather long, howe­ver thanks to his time stamps you can shor­ten it or skip it com­ple­te­ly. Both Pablo and Leo­nar­do don’t real­ly have any pre­pa­ra­to­ry exercises. 

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. 

Only Jor­di shows move­ments from behind and from the side. Copy­ing Pablo’s move­ments is very hard, becau­se you see him most­ly only from the front. It is slight­ly easier to copy Leo­nar­do becau­se you often see him from the side, howe­ver showing the steps also with the back to the view­er would also help much. By con­trast 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 want to 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. 

Only Jor­di men­ti­ons this aspect. 

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 talk for examp­le about the wrong posi­ti­on of the foot, a clo­se-up can illus­tra­te your point. 

Only Leo­nar­do makes use of clo­se-ups (when you see e.g. only his legs). In Pablo’s video it would be hel­pful to see e.g. the enros­que move­ment / posi­ti­on in a close-up. 

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. 

Only with Jor­di you actual­ly practice. 

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. 

Pablo’s enros­que has not­hing to do with the first move­ment (giro and lapiz). It would have been bet­ter to make a sepa­ra­te video about enros­ques with cor­re­spon­ding preli­mi­na­ry exercises.

PS. If you under­stand Ger­man, you may be inte­res­ted in my arti­cle about good, „nor­mal“ tan­go les­sons (zip) that was publis­hed in Tangodanza.