Tango Topics | Exploring Your Dance

The Tango Practica. The word ‘Practica’ comes from the Spanish and when translated to English, means ‘Practice’. In Argentine Tango there are several types of Practice. All of them have their place in helping a dancer to detect, diagnose, and change their dancing experience as it relates to Argentine Tango. It should be noted that while this glossary item depicts the more common of these ideas, this is by no means a complete list. It is the more common that you’ll find. There are and always will be hybrids of these ideas.

Type 1: The North American Practica. This is an open or free-for-all practice space where the line of dance is sort of not respected, and not necessarily enforced. Anything goes. There are men dancing with men, women dancing with women, and mixed gendered couples. Typically the music is played in Tandas, and there are Cortinas. The rules of the Milonga are applied: a.) Followers must wait to be asked. b.) Leads typically ask for dances using cabeceo, chateseo, siteseo, walkbyeseo, yelleseo, grabeseo, and Followers indicate via Mirada that they’re interested. 3.) The line of dance is sort of observed. 4.) Tandas/Cortinas vs. Continuous Music. Sometimes, depending on the Practica, an area in the middle is designated as a dedicated Practica Area, and there are one or two outer tracks to simulate a dancing environment. There are some benefits to this type of Practica, over the other types of Practicas that are listed. One of them is the freedom to do whatever you want within the space and on the floor. The downside of this is that 90% of the time there isn’t a teacher on-hand to help problem solve. There some noted exceptions to the downside of this issue in certain cities and Practicas. This type of Practica is focused on dancing and not necessarily actual practicing your underlying technique, or figures, it’s more a Milonga than an actual Practica. If there are issues with how someone is dancing, typically it is left to the dancers to negotiate that experience, and not necessarily the people/organizers running the Practica.

Type 2: The European Practica. This is a type of practice that is very similar to class or workshop where the participants do not change partners. An instructor is there to deliberately guide how dancing should happen with a particular piece of vocabulary or a sequence that is being worked on. This is practicing not how to dance in the line of dance, or at a Milonga, but rather practicing a specific series of movements devoted towards a very specific goal. As to the music, the music is not necessarily played in tandas, but rather the instructor chooses the music based on the specific movement being studied. This type of practica has advantages over the North American variety in that it forces the participants to focus on specific elements that need to be addressed. This event type is not necessarily a class or workshop but rather specific and guided practice time towards and on a specific topic. The rules of the Milonga do not apply at all. If there are issues with someone’s dancing, that is brought directly to the teacher running the practica and it is addressed immediately. The fact that this is called ‘European’ style practica, does not and should not indicate that this is what you will find only in Europe, but as it happens, this is the predominant form of the practica in Europe that you will find. It should be noted that you’ll find all versions of the practica all over Europe.

Type 3: The Buenos Aires Practica. This is a Milonga. Pure and simple. There are no teachers on hand. And if there are, they’re not working for free. There are a lot of these types of Practicas around the world, and all over Buenos Aires in specific. The rules of the Milonga are basically in effect, and the only thing that differentiates this as a Practica is the name of the event. Other than that, it’s nothing more than a Milonga. Music is played in Tandas, and there are Cortinas.  Sometimes, there are no Cortinas to the music whatsoever. It depends on the Practica DJ. There is a notable exception to this list: The DNI Practica in Buenos Aires. This particular type of practica sports the fact that practice is actually encouraged and if you need to do something, do it in the middle of the room. It resembles a variation of the North American Practica, and while there are teachers on-hand, they’re generally not working for free. You’re on your own. If there are issues with someone’s dancing, it’s not your problem, and no one cares for the simple reason that there are so many dancers in the room especially during the hot season.

Type 4: The BsAs/Tango House Practica. This should not be confused with the Buenos Aires style practica. It is its own separate thing. Typically it’s a cross between Type 1 and 5! While there aren’t necessarily teachers on-hand there are lots of other tango dancers around, who do sort of qualify as actively interested in expanding their dancing opportunities and their understanding of the dance. Tandas & Cortinas are played, as is continuous Music. It depends on who’s running the DJ booth. There is a sort of line of dance. Man to Man dancing, Woman to Woman dancing, Mixed genders. Doesn’t matter, whoever wants to lead and follow. These things are generally formalized in the Tango House’s internal event calendar but not necessarily publicized to the outside world. This type of Practica has many benefits over all the other types, as there are no rules, and there is actual practicing going on with an eye towards actual social dance but at the same time you can stop and have a discussion about what’s going on.  If there are issues with someone’s dancing you can discuss it in the moment.

Type 5: The Private Practice Practica. This is where a group of dancers rent space together and decide to work on their stuff on a regular basis. There’s no teacher on hand. There are no rules. Someone DJs. There may be Cortinas. There may not. Someone decides what to work on and how to do that. Generally, there’s someone acting as a guide towards helping the group get things together. These are generally informal outings and not publicized at all. If there are issues with someone’s dancing, it may be a group issue that is discussed.

Type 6: The Guided Practica. This is very similar to the European Practica mentioned above. However, the thing that distinguishes it apart from the European variation on a theme, is that the Guided Practica is not working on a particular piece of vocabulary or sequence. It’s working on actual social dancing skills, on what would happen in the line of dance. Its name actually describes what’s going to happen, you’re going to be guided along as if you had training wheels on. This environment simulates what would happen at a Milonga. So that means the rules of the Milonga are used and relied upon. There are Tandas and Cortinas. However, unlike a Milonga environment, there is a teaching couple or teacher on-hand to guide you through the process of social dancing. If there are issues with someone’s dancing skills, those issues are brought to the teacher immediately to be resolved. It should be noted that the Guided Practica has many benefits over and above the other variations listed, as well as detracting factors. One of those pluses is the fact that issues are immediately addressed. One of those detractions is that the rules of the milonga are enforced.

Type 7: The Festival Practica. This is an odd practica type, it’s very similar to the North American Practica, with heavy influences towards the Buenos Aires Practica. What makes this an oddity is its namesake. It happens ONLY at Festivals. There’s no difference in the quality of dance, and most people treat it as another Milonga to play at. One more opportunity to dance. There’s no actual practicing going on of whatever is being taught at the classes, it’s more practice dancing more than anything else. Everyone is doing their own thing. The line of dance is enforced. The rules of the milonga are adhered to. There are Tandas and Cortinas. If there are issues with someone’s dancing, it’s more than likely not going to be addressed. Deal with it. Floorcraft can be kinda sketchy at these events. Be careful.

Type 8: The Ideal Practica. This one doesn’t exist. Call it a wish-list of ideally what should happen but doesn’t. a.) Tandas played but no Cortinas, rather a 10-second silence between the Tandas. b.) Line of Dance is respected. Rules of Floorcraft is/are encouraged and enforced. c.) Local teachers are on-hand to help guide student dancers and to correct issues. Local teachers are encouraged to stop a couple dancing when they see something that doesn’t work. d.) Women can ask Men. Men can ask women. e.) There are 1 or 2 outer tracks devoted to the actual line of dance. The inner space is devoted to spacial couple dancing. Meaning that a couple stays over a specific spot and does not move from that spot. f.) Individual or Solo practice is encouraged and technique reminders are placed where people can see them and be reminded of what’s ideally supposed to happen at a Milonga and a Practica. g.) Community announcements! f.) Issues, as they are seen/witnessed, are brought to the attention of the local teachers on-duty at the practica. g.) There’s a dedicated space for instruction, for private/solo technique, and for simulated dancing.

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