Tango Cohorts at The Tango Archive 2022
In Florence (Northampton), Massachusetts
With Mitra Martin, Daniel Trenner, and Visiting Artists
A definition for our Cohorts: (Adapted from UMHB. Thank you!)
A cohort typically refers to a group of students that enter a program together and remain together throughout its duration. The cohort model is a popular framework for educational leadership programs. This model enhances the success of adult learners due to a consistent structure that offers a stable and supportive group of similarly talented classmates. Research has also found that this supportive and interactive learning climate leads to increased student interactions and interdependence, increased student involvement and improved critical thinking skills. Also, the cohort model allows for significant networking to occur among students. Cohort learning increases student feelings of belonging, confidence, motivation towards group tasks and group processing skills. The cohort model enhances the speed of learning while encouraging social, academic and professional success.
In the Tango Dance’s “Golden Years”, the 1930s-1950s, Men and Women learned Tango Dancing differently from each other. Men at the famous, or infamous, “Practica” organized within the neighborhood by a small group of dedicated regulars who met several times a week, if not more, in the early evenings, before dinner and dancing in the late evening. Women learned at home, from family members, and a small circle of dedicated female friends.
Practice and study were clearly differentiated from Social Dancing. Practice was informal, casual, and relaxed, where mistakes could be made without judgement, and every dancer could practice lead and follow. El Baile de Salon, which we now call Milonga, was formal, and with rigid social codes of behavior. Gender roles were specific, and dress codes were enforced. You didn’t go unless you were ready, and judgement could be harsh.
In Tango’s modern revival, 1980s to the present, the lines between Tango Practice and Salon Dancing have become blurred. Partly because women of the Modern Era are included in formal Practice, from which they were previously excluded. Ironically, and counter ituitively, rigid gender and social codes then became enforced in all modern dance gatherings, meaning gender rules have now trumped good pedagogy, because traditionally every dancer learned both roles without shame. Inadvertently, this has led inefficient learning, principally due to this lack of all dancers learning both roles.
We propose a post modern evolved model of Tango Practice and Study, in small committed groups. Resurrecting the importance of study before “dancing out”, but in the modern environment of mixed genders, and gender non-conforming individuals.
We believe that the Post Pandemic Tango Community will benefit from these small and committed Tango Cohorts. That the Social Dancing of the future will thrive when it is supported by dedicated dancers who are committed to the ongoing improvement of the experience of Tango, including skills for tango intimacy, and developing tango “citizenship”, as in the keeping of safe boundaries, along side the growth of tango dance skills and technique.
For reasons including, but extending beyond, the way the COVID Pandemic has affected the social dance world, we have long been concerned with the pedagogy of social dance, especially viewed through the familiar lens of the Argentine Tango’s worldwide revival. Before the pandemic it was the rise of digital social life, screens, and isolation that were urgent concerns. There was a growing awareness of issues of Racial Injustice, and Misogyny that are challenging community health and inclusiveness. The pandemic has only intensified all the dangers associated with “social distance”, and the general lack of connection skills.
Social dances provide non-competitive, somatic, and collaborative learning that has long been lacking in formal education, and even when in the past it was a more formal part of the educational system, it was steeped in social ritual that emphasized a binary, gender conforming, and overly simplistic presentation of “partnering”. In its defense, traditional partner dances evolved in societies that were themselves limited in the consciousness of how deeply the issues of touch, contact and connection were needed for healthy human interaction. Now, as the pandemic wanes, and societal containers have broken down even further, more extremely impacting the way humans interact, it is time to reimagine how young humans learn to interact, and also how older ones evolve.
We believe that social dances of all kinds, but in our case the tango, offer a unique set of tools for teaching humans how to evolve, to interact safely, and kindle the joy of the experience of safe physical interaction. To that end we are designing an up-to-date, COVID conscious, and safety first program for the study of dance for dancers of all different levels of skill and experience, but one building forwards from the Cohort experience.
We invite you to visit us in Massachusetts to take part in this our first season “Tango Cohorts”. Join a safe intensive small group experience. Casa 62’s (Daniel’s Tango House) Archive’s includes a small beautiful studio, Pilates Gym, Video Viewing Lounge, Print Archive, and kitchen and hangout areas, both indoor and outdoor. Learn from Tango’s vast rich history, and engage in moderated dialogue, and Q and A, with Mitra, Daniel, and our visiting guest artists.
Ways that Cohorts can happen this year:
1- We want to support your existing Cohort!! Have you already been practicing dance in a small safe Cohort within your Community? Consider working with us, supporting our research, and help us in building sustainable dance communities, ones that will help dance survive the pandemic long term, while preserving a high level of evolving dance skills. Bring your Cohort to the Archive, possibly on a regular basis, possibly with your own choice of guest artists. Develop a relationship with us virtually where we can help you develop tailored curriculum for your group using a combination of remote lessons with us, and historical material from the Archive. Peruse our suggestions below, and/or have a new idea of your own about how to use your group visits to the Archive. and then contact us to arrange a first connection.
2- Sign up to be part of a publicly offered Intensive Study. The first of these will take place from May 13-17 with world renown Argentine Master Dancer and Teacher Lorena Emocida.
3- Join a Local Ongoing Cohort in Western Massachusetts, here at Casa 62, beginning during the Summer of ’22. More details coming soon.
4- Create your own intensive study project at the Archive. There are untapped and unmapped materials here awaiting your curiosity and creativity. Or, join a project already underway. We are also seeking individuals who are tango dancers with Archival skills in web, video and print to Intern with us, perhaps even live at the tango house. And we are looking for a tango dancer/pilates teacher who would like to join Casa 62, where there is sufficient studio time available to develop a Pilates practice here in Northampton while you dance with us. See Casa 62’s Pilates studio.
Here are some Cohort ideas we are suggesting/contemplating as we get started in Spring of 2022.
(Consider this list a “tip of the iceberg”! We welcome your ideas.)
Concept 1: For experienced social dancers.
We will be offering at least one local group. And we hope to welcome your visiting group.
Intimate weekend events that include things like:
- Shared meals
- Intellectually stimulating conversation (maybe recording podcast interviews?)
- Working on a difficult challenge together with peers who care about it and getting somewhere
- Fun dancing with great music
- Meet with the same cohort regularly (every other month?) with virtual, Archival support for personal and smaller group practice in-between these in person intensives.
- Tango Think Tanks
- Tango Hackathons
- Tango Innovation Sprints
- Practice Marathons
How many people?
- Our working ideal size is up to 12 total participants, plus our teachers and Casa 62 staff, DJs and interns.
- “Let and Flow”. An updated take on “Lead and Follow”
- Cohort-based pedagogy
- New approaches to helping each other learn
- Tango notation systems
- Creating safer support for tango events
- Inclusivity in our tango communities
- Alternatives to competition
- Include an intention-setting to kick it off
- Long table dinner discussions: http://www.split-britches.com/long-table
- Jeffersonian dinners: https://jeffersondinner.org/jefferson-dinner/
- Create a deliverable by the end of the weekend that gets shared or published somehow
Concept 2: Adult Beginner’s Cohort
New dancers are having a hard time building skills right now. We will create one such group in Western Mass. We will work with your group when you create one.
How it works:
- created through local publicity, and word of mouth..
- Open to up to12 participants, plus our teachers and Casa 62 staff, DJs and interns.
- 6 weekends of study in a school year (from monthly options during Sept-May)
- Facilitated regular virtual meetings with their cohort
- Receive customized content via email (playlists, videos, activities)
- Create final projects with partners or in small groups. Presentations in May.
- Supervised journaling with facilitator feedback.
- Regularly scheduled 30-minute 1:1 lessons with a facilitator, included in the price.
- Weekly opportunities to practice w partners or in small sub-groups. Virtual support from the Archive.
- Final recital livestreamed on the web
Concept 3: Dance Challenge for youth/teens (based in Tango but including Salsa and Swing Dance experiences as well)
We feel that supporting the next generation is imperative. We will create one such group in Western Mass. We will work with your group when you create one.
How it works:
- Funded by donations, and parents as possible.
- Open to up to10 teen participants
- Experienced dance buddies from the community who will practice with them once/week for 15-30 minutes
- 12 weeks, e.g., June-August
- Facilitated meeting with their cohort weekly
- Receive content via email twice a week (playlists, videos, activities) — can be customized
- 8 projects
- Weekly journal they have to submit about their learning (facilitator needs to review/comment)
- Weekly 30-minute 1:1 lesson with Daniel
- Ideally they have two opportunities to dance per week. Maybe one learning lab and one class taught by Daniel that includes buddies?
- Ask a community member to be their partner for the recital (? not sure because of COVID)
- Final recital livestreamed on the web
This Concept is built on the model of The Tango Challenge, developed by Mitra and Stefan during their yenure running The Oxygen Tango School in Los Angeles, and which has already been experienced by more than 35 cohorts. Learn more about the Tango Challenge here.
Concept 4: For Professionals: Teachers, Dance Studios Owners, Event Creators, and other Dance Business People.
The Tango Think Tank
Purpose: To engage a Cohort of serious tango practitioners in a joyful and intensive journey to incubate new work/projects/initiatives/content to support the reawakening of tango.
Topics could include:
- Inclusive, participatory community governance
- Embracing youth and tango’s next generation
- Reconnecting with roots and lineage in a healthy way
- New experiments on learning experience design
- Alternatives to competition that promote motivation to excel/practice
- In-person weekend convening/kickoff with 12 person cohort – 2 days
- Remote/asynchronous development sprint in pairs/workgroups – 2 weeks
- In-person weekend shareouts/harvesting/demo day/celebration shared publicly – 2 days
- Intention setting activity
- Teachers/experts/guides (Daniel, Mitra, others?) share content/”challenge questions”/provocations on the four areas
- Four 90 minute sessions, plus research in the Archive.
- Some could be more like Charlas or podcast-style co-interviews
- Breakouts – Form dyads/trios/work groups to develop projects/initiatives
- Practicas every afternoon
- Friday dinner, Saturday brunch and dinner, Sunday brunch
2-week development sprint:
- Dyads/trios/work groups meet via Zoom develop their idea
- Can use Discourse or Slack for asynchronous planning/creative development
- Each workgroup shares what they developed and received feedback from hosts (Daniel, Mitra, others?)
- Presentation/demos are live-streamed to the public, published, could be amplified via Awaken Tango
- Maybe we get a sponsor/donor/investor who provides a grant to support the final projects, or a cash prize to one of the workgroups
- Everyone retains full ownership of their inventions
- Final party/milonga (encourage other communities to have one simultaneously)
Limited to 12 participants, plus our teachers and Casa 62 staff, DJs and interns.
Pricing: Coming soon. We welcome your input on these concepts as presented, and you will help us determine a sustainable and fair range of fees.
Stay tuned for more information.
Mitra and Daniel, Spring 2022
Casa 62, Florence (Northampton), Massachusetts
Daniel’s Statement on COVID in Spring 2022
Being that I am part of a large social world of dancers who have been shut down for the better part of two years.
Being that I am concerned by the rush to return to a pre-pandemic structure for the organization of classes and social events.
Being that I remain concerned that in a landscape of diverse styles of organized interactions we are endanger of creating an, unknowable and possibly unacceptable amount of risk.
Being that the nature of the “revival” of Tango, even before the pandemic, was characterized by vastly differing levels of training, and understanding, and that post-pandemic many of those skills will have atrophied.
Therefore the times conspire to challenge us to create new ways of organizing social dance, and tp, perhaps, even hold off on big in person gatherings of random people until after the health crisis has really passed.
How we learn, train, practice is separate from how we organize socially for community. In fact it has always been so, at least in the world of Argentine Tango. The “Practica” was different from the “Baile”.
I find myself doubtful and confused by the conflicting information we see about the spread of the pandemic, the efficacy of vaccination, the availability of testing and tracing, and the top-down imposition of mandates about masking and distancing, or now their sudden removal.
I believe that as dancers we are part of a very high risk group, one with a population that includes elders and people with higher risk exposure, and that we are therefore obliged to practice what we love with a greater amount of care and consideration for our peers than the average social groups.
I believe that a return to the way social dance used to be organized before the pandemic presents an uncomfortable level of risk. I also believe that the rewards of the former way dance was organized offered a meager set of rewards. I believe we can do better.
Whereas in the past dance was organized based loosely on the concept of weekly public classes and weekly or monthly social gatherings, I now believe that that model is not only dangerous from the point of view of our health, but that it was also inefficient in the way people benefited, both in raising their level of dancing and enjoying the social experience.
I propose that for local groups, and for gatherings of wider groups of people, that it makes the most sense to move towards less frequent but more intensive gatherings, ones where safe protocols can be engaged before the dance experience, and where the accumulation of practice and experience takes place in more intensive investments of our time, that is in a few short days.
Much of this kind of dance infrastructure has already been in place, such as the dance “marathon” experience, the dance festival, and the “bootcamp” like experience of local study.
I propose codifying this into a set of protocols that allow for the safe learning of skills, and the safe gathering for practice, only now in smaller safer groupings.
Importantly! In order for teachers to survive, the ethics of the “cohort” experience require that dancers commit, attend, and pay for these intermittent intensive experiences. Otherwise we risk losing our teachers, the advanced dancers and organizers that have dedicated their lives to the form, and who never have been compensated very well anyway. They need to be appreciated, and rewarded for staying the course.
Don’t get me wrong, I love big gatherings of random people, it’s just that I believe that that is LAST element of our social community that should be brought back online. For now we should concentrate on keeping and improving our skills, while generating at a smaller scale the “fire” of social life that previously was the territory of the large scale social experience.
I believe this can happen, supporting traveling artists, local teachers, and the community of students/dancers. It just requires us to stretch our minds a bit, and reimagine a safe way of structuring our time together.Here at the Tango Archive, in Western Massachusetts, we intend to model this idea, by organizing these small intensive “Tango Cohorts” during 2022 and beyond.