Teaching Methodology of Learn To Tango

5 Steps of Learning

Rusty in BA 2005

Rusty in BA 2005

A Note From Rusty:
My teaching methods are no accident. Methods of instruction are as important as the instruction itself, and of course in the final analysis the instruction is a product of the method. I am well read, well trained therefore what I do is intentional and with a purpose. Part of my methodology includes these 5 steps to learning:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence
  2. Conscious Incompetence
  3. Conscious Competence
  4. Unconscious Competence
  5. Reflective Competence

I am constantly watching the student flow through each of the phases and I am changing my response in the lesson according to their behavior and movement correctional process. In every lesson there is a small slice of the entire cycle listed above so we are going deeper when necessary, or staying light and easy when the information or movement is challenging. It is important for me to make them aware as each is unfolding so that we can take the newly acquired kinesthetic wisdom into a reflective state as soon as possible. So long as our motions and choices of movement are not reflective and conscious they are either inefficient or they are automatic, neither are the desired quality in tango.

An unfortunate aspect of tango is that all inefficient movements are played out against the body in the personal space of our partner. When this happens it always not only feels bad, it sends messages that are unintentional direct contact body language. We are creatures highly sensitized to body language. When we actually feel the message it is more potent. When we are inefficient in tango, it sends messages that do not feel right to our partner and these messages can be interpreted in a variety of ways. I have hundreds of women and men alike use terms like, man handled or bullied or forced or yanked or thrown around when referring to how it feels to dance with some one. These messages are 99% mixed messages stemming from a simple juxtapositional misalignment. A simple error and someone may deem you a bully or feel like you are tossing them around. (I have felt this when dancing with a 90 pound woman, it has nothing to do with gender or size)

Reflective Consciousness

Reflective Consciousness

Watch for the 5 Levels of learning as you grow and learn to recognize them.  It will help in learning to recognize what is happening in you and in your partner, but you will grow best when the focus is on yourself.

Unconscious Incompetence
This one is easy, it is the pure and blissful state of ignorance. The word ignorance has a negative connotation, but truly it is just a state of not knowing. We are all there about thousands of things on this planet. It is what prompts the beginner’s mind if you let it. The beginner’s mind is pure Zen. A state of admitting that you don’t know. When you start learning tango you have no idea what you don’t know. This is a peaceful state of acceptance and it opens you to the full potential of all possibilities.

Conscious Incompetence
This is when you realize there is something you understand about what you don’t know. This is when questions begin to form. They are forming but they may not have a deep meaning yet. Still the intrigue is enough to draw you deep into the desire to understand more fully. You are recognizing your own mistakes. You can see that you are not getting something and this seeing, makes you want to “get it” and improve your performance.

Conscious Competence
This is what you think you goal is at first. “If only I could move like THAT! It is a goal to achieve, is very satisfying indeed.  But it is fraught with the perils of over confidence, and with that comes an inability to fine tune. So even though conscious competence is a goal, it is by no means the destination. Because conscious competence alone is not the level at which you can actually improvise with anyone and this leads you to the next desired level of learning…

Unconscious Consciousness
Sounds good. Moving without thinking, is a good trait, but when there is no consciousness attached to the movement, it is automatic and happens without your permission. This is a habit and habitual movements are not reacting to the environment or the movements of your partner, so they are not the utopia you are seeking. This is actually the stage when you need your cage rattled! You need to be observed. This is the time to start observing yourself. A good coach can guide you now and help you notice yourself.  Time to wake up the automaton and move on with purpose and a higher awareness.   Usually you need someone more skilled than you to catch these unconscious moments.  If we could catch them ourselves they would not be unconscious. However, you can train yourself to witness yourself and when you learn to do this, your dance goes up dramatically because you are self coaching and that is the utopia you are looking for because it is…

Mad Mirrored Notes

Mad Scientist Tango Notes

Reflective Consciousness
This is the place to be with every level and every mastery of growing in tango. There are those that carry their beginning habits and behaviors right into what seems to be an advanced level, but it is fraught with habit, choreography and an inability to make choices. They are doing some very cool things, but they are rote, unconscious and loaded with begging and intermediate habits and pitfalls. As such it never inspires or gets any better. This dancer usually wanes in their love for the dance. And this dancer begins to notice that the people that enjoy dancing with them are always beginners and intermediates. They never actually please or fulfill a reflective advanced or professional dancer.

A reflectively conscious dancer sees their dance mates, themselves and their partner equally. A reflectively conscious dancer can access that state of observing so totally that it is an almost out of body experience. This is utopia! To be able to fully observe everything in the dance and react with a precision of subtlety that the dance is sublime and effortless. There is no work in dancing like this, it is poetry in motion, an effortless reflection your meditative practice and training. This is available in small dose right away and if accessed, it can be nurtured and will save you countless hours of struggle, thus making your entire learning process a process of growth without stagnation. To attain this careful guidance is needed. A good coach is mandatory!

You can start the process now, the clue it to keep the beginning mind alive by always observing the fact that you don’t fully know. In such you are open to growth. This will bring the humility to be able to ask for feedback from your partner or a trained observer.  These unconscious behaviors can be embarrassing when you discover them, so tread lightly when advising a partner and when soliciting advice from an onlooker, keep your ego at bay and do not succumb to the mentality that dancers are born and not made. Do not attach more than a knowing acceptance of how you are in this moment, understand fully that where you are in this moment is merely on the path to where you are going. Observe yourself in video, in your moment by moment movements. Avoid the pitfalls of self ridicule and rather, allow yourself a nonjudgmental state of observation. You will learn and grow more from observing and knowing than you will be trying to micromanage your movements.

Keep your beginner’s mind.
Observe your behavior and movements.
Notice where you are in the cycle.
Stay reflective.
Have fun and enjoy the journey