"Tertulia #2" (conversations) with Makela - New to tango? Classes and "Tarea" (homework)

Tuesday, December 27, 2018 at Makela Tango Dance Studio in Culver City

Topic: Classes Available and the “Homework”  


Steven: Hi Makela, what are some things you have to say to new students who really want to improve?

 Makela: This is what I would like to say to students who would really like to become good in Tango fast. There are people who like to take private lessons more than others, I think you are more like that, and if you can take private lessons in addition to group classes that is definitely the best way to go. They are customized and hand picked training for you. Now, if you want to take group lessons I suggest the Absolute Beginners class on Saturdays. That is from 4:30- 5:30, and what we do is we work on one technical aspect each Saturday—it could be the embrace, the walk, musicality… and I try to start with a brand new group of people at the start of the month. It will take at least 4 sessions to finish the most important aspects that I want to cover. After that, I suggest the student repeat this class at least 2-3 times. So, it will be 3 months on Saturdays. But one thing I notice is that if a student comes only once a week, they forget a lot, and they lose inspiration. Sometimes, you just want more. I suggest that people come on Thursdays too. Thursdays at 7:30 is a Tango 1 class so it is a little more challenging, but I take into account those who are just starting. In the Thursday class I add the basic patterns of Tango, including the basic step, the forward crosses, forward ocho, back ocho, etc.

S: Yes, that has been an especially helpful class for me.

M: There is also the class for followers on Tuesday at 7:30pm and its called Heels. It includes how to do embellishments, how to look the best that you can look, and I highly recommend men to take it without heels also. That same day I have a Tango Fitness class that is for everybody, to make your body strong and to avoid injuries. Tango, is very asymmetrical so it is important to make your body flexible and strong to balance out the asymmetry.   

S: So to start, the Saturday class and Thursday class and then if you want Tuesday classes.

 M:  Yes. After the first month you can also go to Monday, All Levels Class at 7:30. My Mondays have a long history because I started doing it around early 2000 at the Electric Lodge.  That’s my biggest class, there are people who have been coming to that class for years and years and years. That’s an all levels class, and the third Monday of the month we have a big party, with a theme, like wear black or red…we try to make it fun. So, you can come on Thursdays, Mondays, maybe Tuesday for Fitness and Heels, and then after 3-6 months, if you have been working consistently at least twice a week, you can come to Tango 3 on Wednesdays at 8:30pm.

 S: What is different about Tango 3?  

M: Tango 3 is the most advanced class we have and is where we practice things that require much more ability, balance and technique such as whole turns, sacadas and barridas. After Tango 3, if you have mastered that after coming 6 months to classes and practicas then on Sundays at 2pm we also teach Milonga and Vals. And if you aren’t sure what that is you can look at the other blog that talks about Milonga and Vals.   

 S: What are some things students can do in between classes? What is the “homework”?

 M: The important thing is to keep Tango in their minds. One thing you can do is dedicate 10-15 minutes in your morning routine to Tango balance exercises and walking barefoot. First walk barefoot and then in your tango shoes. Some strengthening and balance exercises are good also, going up on the ball of your foot and coming down. Especially for follows but also for leads, we work a lot tensing the back part of our legs so it’s very important to stretch the calves and the hamstrings every time you dance. Another thing you can do is to warm up you shoulders before class, stretch your shoulder blades by putting the blades together and then rounding them. We do a lot with the back and sometimes we pay a lot of attention to the legs and don’t pay enough attention to the shoulder blades. Practice balance on one foot also, both barefoot and in tango shoes. Working barefoot is very useful because you get a very strong connection to the floor. Something else to practice is lifting the ribcage without tensing and/or lifting the shoulders.

 S: And is there anything that someone who has never danced Tango can think about before coming to the first class or be prepared with?       

 M: The blog is a good place to go to explore what calls to you about Tango. Do I want to watch video of dancers? Do I want to learn about the codes and etiquette? Do I want to explore the music? I think this helps people bring a curious mind to the class. Definitely listen to Carlos Disarli, “El Señor del Tango”, in the 1950s he had a lot of instrumental Tangos. They are listed in another blog that you can check out. Also, Juan Darienzo “El Rey de Compas” the “King of the Beat”, Anibal Troilo and Francisco Canaro.  But if you had to pick one, pick Carlos Disarli and the song “Bahia Blanca” and just start with that one.

S: What would you say to students with some experience with Tango but new to the studio?

M: It really depends on how much you want to learn about my method. If you really want to learn my method from the beginning it’s good to take the absolute beginner class. And I’m really glad I have the membership because now you can take as many classes as you want.