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11 January, 2013

Learning Tango from Daniel Trenner

Today I cringe to even think about how I danced Tango prior to Daniel Trenner. I am so embarrassed about my technique. Was that me? I want to remove/ take off all my earlier Tango pictures and videos. But I won't. They should remind me of my pre Daniel days and post. Daniel has such a radical approach to teaching and in perfect setting. Anyone who is bit serious about Tango, should come and study with him. Take a 100 hour package with him and see the difference. You will get a whole new perspective- like enlightenment. 

And when I show him, how and what I was taught, he laughs. I show him some of my previous adornments/embellishments. And you know what he said? He said, " When a child learns to bicycle, what do we give him? Training wheels. These were your adornments- like training wheels". Then I showed him even more (Read: even worse). And he said, "These are like saying- Hey look! I have training wheels." OMG!! What was I thinking or doing before? But what do I do? I started my training in India, where there is not a single professionally trained Tango teacher. Yes, I did lot of festival hopping. But that is not real and true training. In Delhi we have a teacher who learnt it from youtube videos. And now he throws big names of teachers, from whom he claims to have learnt. In actual, he has never met them in his life, but has watched their youtube videos. And as Daniel rightfully says, "Untalented person today only COPIES and learns only wrong things." I assure you, Tango CANNOT be learnt by watching youtube videos, just as you do not become a cardiologist and learn to perform a heart surgery by watching a youtube video of it being performed. Daniel says, " You can't feel from watching outside as to what is going on inside". It is technical and needs detailing. This teacher in Delhi, is single handedly responsible for ruining the growth of Tango in Delhi. As Daniel teaches me, "You do not want to be the owner of Tango. Let it grow and stand on its own two feet." Daniel is single person responsible to bring Tango to US from Argentina and spread it. He did not keep it all to himself. He let it grow. 
But today, I honestly and earnestly thank the "youtube teacher" because of whom, I decided to undergo Tango teacher training program. That too with a legend like Daniel Trenner. For, had he not boycotted me from Delhi Tango festival, I would have still been a simpleton, enjoying my crappy Tango as a follower in Delhi and probably been doing more festival hopping and never been thinking about teaching Tango. Only after being outcasted from the festival, did I decide to take reins in my own hands and decide that enough is enough. Now I need to build my own Tango community in Delhi/India. Have a healthy Tango atmosphere in India. In Hindi/Punjabi, we have a funny saying, "Kubbe nu laat maari te kub nikal gaya". Very literally speaking, in English, it translates as, "The person who had hunch back, was kicked and he straightened up." Like I wrote, in my earlier post here, "Sometimes not getting what you wanted, is a wonderful stroke of luck."- Dalai Lama. Looking back, I feel, Wow! good, something like that happened to me. Today, what I have is wonderful and what I see ahead is even better.

Argentine Tango involves so much biomechanics. Today, every step I take is scanned top to bottom. Even the slightest error is pointed. Daniel has many names for the dancer I was before. Like, "Obedient slave." Or he says, "12 year old girl, who was cute but was less flattering". Then he says, "Follow like a woman. Not like a little girl."
Daniel also has a another very interesting simile that he uses (one of my friend who does horse riding would like it). Daniel says, "When  it is a beginner rider, what do we give him? Spirited horse or a beginner horse? We give him a beginner horse. But to an experienced rider, we give a spirited horse, who just goes. And all the rider does at the right moments, is say- wow! easy easy." So he keeps telling me, "Kiran, stop being a beginner horse. Gooo." Daniel also uses another expression.  He says, "Stop playing checkers. Play Chess."

One of my good friend overseas, who is also a good Tango dancer, would always complain about me, "But Kiran you are heavy." And I would not understand that. I kept thinking, "But I am not heavy. I have not put any of my weight on him. I am not resting on him in any which way." He would say, "But when I dance with some very advance dancers, it feels different." I would wonder. Daniel told me the same, "Kiran you were heavy." And now I know the difference. Now I am equipped. 

Daniel asked me many questions over an email before actually taking me as his apprentice. I remember, during our first telephonic conversation, I told him, "But I cannot lead. I have never led in my life". To which he said, " On a scale of 1-10 of difficulty level. With 10 being highest, followers part is 10 and leader does 1. Can you drive a car?" I said, "Yes". He said, "Leading is like driving a shopping cart not car". Daniel makes things simple. Everything is simplified, clarified and given clear approach.
Today, he told me, "Don't teach beginner, beginner dance. Respect them and teach them real dance. Teach them advance from the beginning. Otherwise they will remain beginner forever."

If you have seen the movie, The Karate Kid, in the movie, Mr. Miyagi makes Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) paint the fences and walls, and wipe the floors and the cars, with two specific arm-movements day after day, and only when Mr. Miyagi tests (by mock attacks) and finds that those movements have become spontaneous and unconscious reactions from Daniel, does he give the boy respite from that toil. It was then that Daniel too realizes, why after all his master had made him do that for days—in spite of him becoming tired, aching and fed-up—for those are actually blocking and parrying techniques, which his master by his experience, had ingrained into him without his being aware of it. 
Me and Daniel were at movie theatre today (yes, my teacher is not all work. He balances it all out- work, play, movie, etc etc), Daniel actually tested my back walk, in the movie hall and pointed where I faulted, even under my big, heavy, long jacket. 
Daniel says, "Knowing belongs to old and wise. And yearning belongs to young. The truth lies somewhere in between." In my case, I had stopped in between to raise kids and started later. So the yearning is still there. I burst out of womb of 20 years of child raising. So I am quite close to the truth.

Daniel calls me, Nanook. Because I have adapted to snow so well. Sometimes I go out in snow in a single layer.
I think, I should call him Mr. Miyagi. For a protege like me, he is a perfect mentor. Mr Miyagi is preparing Nanuk to create a snowball effect on Tango scene in India.