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.