Thursday, September 17, 2009

Note on Notes

Recently, a fellow student complained to the organizer/host about my note taking. She said she found it distracting. I was directed to this particular workshop’s policies, which specifically states that notes are prohibited until the end of the class during the review. I was surprised and turned off by this policy, as in my opinion it seemed antithetical to encouraging learning by restricting the use of a tool employed by many.

My note taking began in August 2007, when I took classes in Buenos Aires with Los Dinzel. They encouraged note taking as a way to record and remember all that was taught in class, much more so than video, especially as their commentary related to technical points, or as we did various exercises in class which would translate quite bizarrely/boringly on video. Since August 2007, during many of the hundreds of workshops/classes I’ve attended in the United States and Buenos Aires, the maestros who have commented on my note taking have all been encouraging and pleased that I do it. Many of them view me as a “serious student” (their words, not mine), and it reminds them of their students in Buenos Aires, many more of whom take notes via paper and pen than students in the United States. In Buenos Aires, it isn’t uncommon when being invited to an aspiring tanguero or full-fledged maestro’s home to be proudly shown their stack of notebooks filled with notes in their own personalized tango shorthand. At Luciana Valle’s Intensivos, she gives every student a notebook and a pen and specific instructions to take notes during class. I take much comfort in the words of Los Dinzel, Luciana Valle, and the many other maestros who have encouraged my note taking (and were pleased with the results).

During 2008, which I spent unemployed, taking notes in class and then having ample time to transcribe them on computer gave me something to do, a goal, a structure, a deadline, and most importantly, a reason and way to keep my analytical thinking alive. Basically, it kept my brain from atrophying and my spirit from getting too depressed.

To me, taking notes has been a way to link my brain to what I was seeing, to really think about it and to try to capture it verbally in such a way that I could reproduce it again in the future, whether it was a step, a sequence, or something technical. Writing the notes down initially was one thing, but transcribing them later on was another way I reviewed what went on in class in my head and sometimes with my body. Reviewing the printed notes for publication was a third time I reviewed what I had written. Without a doubt, these second and third intellectual/physical reviews would never have occurred if I didn’t take notes in the first place.

My early notes were pretty sketchy, but I found over time it got easier to write them. I am not sure if that is because my eye/brain connection improved, or because I had gone to so many lessons/workshops where, after a while, I noticed that the fundamental basic technical concepts were repeated many times over, even among different teachers with different dance styles. I did find myself writing a lot of the same things over and over again. For a lot of these things, sometimes it wasn’t until much later that I could actually incorporate them into how I dance because I finally understood them intellectually or because my muscle memory had finally gotten to the point where my body caught up to where my brain wanted it to be. But my brain was the driver, because I knew from a verbal context what was needed in a visual/physical context. And sometimes it takes a lot verbal repetition to finally get our bodies to where we want them to be. There were plenty of things that were wrong with my dancing, that I needed to be told many, many times how to fix, before they actually got fixed. And since I wrote the problems and fixes down, there was no excuse for me to claim ignorance about the problems or how to fix them, and gave me a goal to work toward.

Some people in the United States who see me take notes sometimes comment about how strange (primitive) it is, and ask why I don’t take videos instead since it’s easier than doing something manually by hand. I just smile and say it’s my thing. My notes are not just descriptions of what the maestros do in their summary demo at the end of class. The notes include a lot of technical tips and sometimes really good nuggets for my brain to roll around as well as background info such as the fundamental precursor exercises we did and why we did them, what music we drilled to, and how we built a particular sequence by breaking down each individual step. Examples of the difference between note taking versus video can be seen at the tangostudent.blogspot. And in my opinion, the optimal educational vehicle to supplement live instruction includes both written notes and video, though I have no desire or inclination to take video myself (no time to take, edit and upload). I’ve gotten a lot of kudos from fellow students locally and internationally because of my notes, but I won’t bore you with the details.

Personally speaking, my notes / blog are a way to honor the wonderful teachers I’ve been able to learn from thus far, without whom my tango identity would not exist. Those maestros are:

Adam Hoopengardner & Ciko Tanik
Adolfo Caszarry
Adrian Veredice y Alejandra Hobert
Alejandra Gutty
Alejandro Biggo
Alejandro Hermida y Silvana Anfossi
Alex & Luz
Alex Krebs
Alicia Pons
Andrea Corea
Andres Amarillo y Meredith Klein
Anthony Blackwell & Ye Ling Chen
Ariadna Naveira
Arona Primalani
Aurora Lubiz
Brigitta Winkler
Bruno Tombari y Mariangeles Caamaño
Carlos y Maria Rivarola
Carolina Bonaventura y Francisco Forquera
Carolina del Rivero
Carolina Rozenstrozch
Cecilia Gonzalez (la famosa)
Cecilia Gonzalez (la otra)
Chelsea Eng
Chiche y Marta
Chicho Frumboli y Juana Sepulveda
Christy Cote
Claudio Asprea y Agustina Videla
Colette & Richard
Damian Essel y Nancy Louzan
Damian Rosenthal y Celine Ruiz
Dani Tuero
Daniel Peters
Daniel Trenner
David & Nancy Mendoza
David Cadiz
David Orly-Thompson & Mariana Ancarola
Debbie Goodwin
Demian Garcia y Laura De Altube
Diego Alvaro y Zoraida
Diego Di Falco & Carolina Zokalski
Diego Escobar & Angelina Staudinger
Donato Juarez
Eduardo Cappussi y Mariana Flores
Eduardo Saucedo y Marisa Quiroga
El Flaco Dany
El Pajaro y Belen
Ernest Williams
Fabian Salas
Facundo Gil Jauregui
Facundo Posadas
Federico Naveira y Inés Muzzopappa
Felipe Martinez & Rosa Corsico
Gabriela Elias
Gachi Fernandez
Gail Robinson
Gary Weinberg & Nirmala
George Garcia
Gigi & Warren Jensen
Giovanni Garcia
Glenn Corteza
Graciela Gonzalez
Guillermo Garcia
Guillermo Merlo y Fernanda Ghi
Gustavo & Jesica Hornos
Gustavo Benzecry Sabá y María Olivera
Gustavo Naveira y Giselle Anne
Gustavo Rosas y Gisela Natoli
Homer & Cristina Ladas
Hsueh-tze Lee
Hugo Daniel
Humberto Decima
Ivan Shvartz
Jesus Velazquez
Jonathan Yamauchi & Olivia Levitt
Jorge Firpo
Jorge Nel
Jorge Torres
Juan Miguel Exposito y Daniela Peez Klein
Judy & Jon
Julian Miller
Julio Balmaceda y Corina de la Rosa
Laura Collavini
Lisette Perelle
Los Dinzel
Los Hermanos Macana
Luciana Valle
Luis Bianchi & Daniela Pucci
Luiza Paes
Luna Palacios
Marcela Guevara y Stefano Giudice
Marcelo Solis y Romina Hahn
Maria Eugenia De La Latta
Maria Paz Giorgi
Mariana Gonzalo y Gustavo Funes
Mariana Mazzola
Mariela Franganillo & Cesar Andres Coelho
Marta Anton y “El Gallego” Manolo
Matt MaMoody & Shasha
Michelle & Murat Erdemsel
Natalia Hills
Negracha y Diego Lanau
Ney Melo & Jennifer Bratt
Nick Jones
Nito y Elba Garcia
Nora Dinzelbacher & Ed Neale
Norberto "El Pulpo" Esbrez
Olga Besio
Omar Vega
Orlando Paiva Jr. & Laura Tate
Oscar Mandagaran y Georgina Vargas
Pablo Nievas y Valeria Zunino
Pablo Pugliese y Noel Strazza
Pampa Cortez
Patricia Gomez
Patricia Hilliges & Matteo Panero
Pier Voulkos
Raul Bravo
Rina Gendelman
Robert Hauk
Roberto Riobo
Rodrigo Palacios y Agustina Berenstein
Rosalia y Alejandro Barrientos
Ruben Harymbat y Enriqueta Kleinman
Ruben Terbalca
Santiago Croce & Amy Lincoln
Sean Dockery
Sebastian Arce y Mariana Montes
Tete y Silvia
Vanesa Villalba y David Leguizamon
Veronica Alegre y Jose Luis Ferrar
Victoria Galoto y Juan Paulo Horvath

Anyway, sorry to ramble. This was just something that weighed heavily on my mind, being the avid note taker that I am.

The student who complained about my note taking will probably never read this, but to her I write:

I am sincerely sorry for causing you to be so distracted by my note taking that it irritated you enough to complain about it. I am jealous that without notes your brain power, visual perception/recognition, analytical thinking and memory are enough for you to improve as much as you want and are capable of, and can get you to where you want to be, technically, musically and aesthetically. I only wish you the very best on your tango improvement journey. You just keep on rockin’ with your bad self. Peace out.

And to those maestros who have given me some really good nuggets, and those who have encouraged me and my note taking, either by verbally thanking me or saying a kind word about my blogs (or insisting I start them in the first place by setting them up for me), or by giving me some really fancy notebooks and pens, or by generously sponsoring my attendance at classes/workshops locally, domestically, and internationally (that would be Pablo), or by comping me in to your events: you all have my sincere, heartfelt thanks and deepest appreciation. None of what I do in tango could have been possible without your support. Besos y abrazos a vos todos.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

i appreciate your sharing of your learning. don't let people stop your note-taking. when i or friends have taken the same class as you, the summaries become extremely helpful, reminding us of subtle points that could be easily forgotten.