Updated 9/26/08

El Firulete 
The Argentine Tango Magazine

The Other side of Pablo Veron
by Valorie Hart
Copyright (c) 1997-2008, Planet Tango. All Rights Reserved

I was at Stanford and in most of Pablo Veron’s classes. I was privileged to be allowed to attend the classes at Stanford through the generosity of Richard Powers. I really don’t feel it is my place to comment, since I was a working guest, but in spite of the bad manners of it, I feel I must say a thing or two.

The first class got off to a rough start for a couple of reasons, mainly having to do with inept translating and a misunderstanding of how students show that they are ready to work at the assigned class hour.

Indeed, Veron did come into the class at the appointed time and what he saw was a group of people chatting, sitting, walking around and not a group of people ready to work. As a classical ballet student for many years, my training for dance class is that you show up, you shut up and you take your place and indicate that you are there to work. A bit strict for sport dancers. Since Pablo comes from this type of background both as a dance student and a dance teacher, his confusion is understandable. No one looked like they were ready to work, so he went to have breakfast.

By the time he returned, the class was mad. Pablo was not too happy with the class either. The translator could neither speak nor translate either language in a communicative and pleasant manner. But hang in there gentle reader. For the next class, Pablo was given two new translators, who for the rest of the week split the task between them, each one taking a different class at a different time of day. Lo and behold a “new” congenial, communicative Pablo Veron emerged.

I only attended the non basic classes and as a non basic dancer, I can only say that these classes with Pablo were the most challenging, interesting and fun. For the first time ever in any group class I have ever taken at the so called non basic level, a teacher did not teach down to the lowest common denominator. It was each dancer’s responsibility to come prepared at the non basic level and be responsible for their dancing. That is not to say that Pablo just threw a bunch of difficult stuff at us and hoped (or not hoped) it would stick. He was helpful, playful and generous. The people who stayed in the class, despite the wagging tongues that could give a Salem witch hunt a run for its money, were quite happy. The basic class people I spoke to also loved their classes with him for the same reasons.

The point is that when you invite a foreign teacher to teach, the proper handling and presentation of that teacher is crucial. The teacher needs to be briefed on the protocol of the teaching environment. The teacher must have the best translator available. The class must be informed of the difference of levels. The teacher needs to be provided with a user friendly environment (see Brad Stam’s report on Pablo Veron in Santa Fe with Michael and Luren).

One question asked of me to ask Pablo was why he wasn’t giving more instruction to the women. Apparently it was noticed by the person with this question, that some of the women were “flying” their leg on the back step/turn of the giro, and she wondered why he didn’t make the correction. His answer was simple and direct and not arrogant, and actually full of respect for the women of the non basic level. He felt that to make corrections regarding technique was not appropriate in this type of class (group not private) and at this level (non basic is my term, advanced is what it was supposed to be called). We were not basic dancers, and therefore we should not only know the proper technique (that he repeats over and over in his basic classes), but also practice it on our own and not slow down the presentation of advanced material with questions about basic fundamental technique.

To me, part of the maturity of a non basic dancer, the woman that is, is to accept that for the most part, when the couple is executing figures, she is turning, always turning. To turn with pristine balance and technique and to add personal embellishment is part of the joy (and hard work) of being a woman who dances Tango Argentino well. There is no “instruction” past a certain level, no steps to learn, no patterns to memorize. There is always the work to be done on balance, posture, technique, embellishment, musicality, response to la marca. There is always so much to do.

When I was first introduced to Pablo, he was charming and an open book. And no, he didn’t know my identity. I was just another smiling middle aged gringa speaking my bad castellano saying hello to the young man from Argentina. 

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