What makes a good teacher?
I remember once when I walked into a milonga in San Francisco seeing someone new. There was this guy hunched over with bent knees. I figured he was visiting from LA or somewhere. Imagine my surprise when the organizer told me he was the teacher who was here visiting for the week teaching a series of seminars. I was horrified. He looked like Ichabod Crane. I knew that he was actually a musician who had come up with a “method” to teach tango and in my opinion to fleece the pockets of anyone who would let him.
Later in the evening I introduced myself to him as the President of the Association of Tango and asked him for a dance. He rudely refused. I am sure he did not want to embarrass himself. He had surrounded himself with a group of future students, all young, and probably too naïve to know, that he knew absolutely nothing about tango. Throughout the night people asked me my opinion. As the President of the association, I was in a delicate position, so I told them, “Watch him dance.” They would always respond with, “But he is Argentine.” My comment to them was, “So what.”
Being Argentine does not mean you know how to dance or teach. There are plenty of bad Argentine dancers and teachers. Having danced in many shows does not make you a good teacher. Being able to lift your leg up high and twirl on one leg means you had lots of ballet. Being able to turn and turn means the same.
Can this same person dance socially? I know lots of show dancers that cannot lead nor follow. I know show dancers that are nightmares to dance with. A bulldozer would feel better. I have heard from male friends that many female show dancers feel like a refrigerator on the milonga floor. They have no clue how to follow. Why? When they dance in a show they dance a routine. It is choreographed. What do you think they are going to teach you in a class?
Then we have the reverse going on. There is this new trend to find milongueros to teach. Find some half dead old guy and his wife. Stick them on plane and send them to teach their secrets. Well there are a couple of problems. First of all, the half dead old guy and his wife have been dancing together for 50 years. How sweet. She won’t let him dance with anyone else even in the class and she has NEVER danced with anyone else. So they are supposed to teach YOU how to dance? He taught her and no one else, and she has never taught anyone else. But they are Argentine.
So what does a real teacher teach you? A real teacher teaches you how to dance. Tango is only 3 steps that can be combined into 40 or so movements. A real teacher teaches you to walk, to do ochos, and to turn (giros). A real teacher helps you to be comfortable in your embrace, to understand and feel the music, to have good posture, to know where your feet are. It is really easy and you don’t need 5,000 private lessons to learn.
® Deby Novitz 2008TangoSpam all rights reserved. No parts of this may be reproduced without permission of the author
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