Monday, 23 November 2009

Do tango teachers miss out?

I’m a bit of an early bird, in that I arrive at milongas before midnight and generally tend to leave before 2am. This may therefore colour this post which is about tango teachers and milongas. I go out to lots of different milongas but it’s not often that I have the chance to see teachers dancing as most of them tend to arrive about the time I’m going. The times I have been able to observe them however, I’ve wondered what their objective for the night has been? Tango teacher couples who come together tend to dance almost exclusively with each other (plus occasionally one favoured pupil). They dance beautifully and I enjoy watching them, but sometimes I wonder if they are dancing a bit too much for the people on the sidelines.

So why do teachers keep so exclusive? Do they fear that dancing with someone less good than them will lower their dancing credibility in the eyes of those watching (many who could be potential students)? Is it that they don’t feel it is a challenge to dance with people less good than themselves? Or is it purely, that they know that dancing with most people will result in them feeling obliged to give pointers and tips? Can it be that for teachers, the milonga is no longer a wonderful space where they can dance and lose themselves but one where they are constantly (albeit on a low level) on display and working?

Part of the fun at a milonga for me, is the fact that I never know who I’m going to dance with. I’ve had lucky nights where I’ve clicked perfectly with several leaders and times when I’ve been disappointed by the lack of connection; but a big part of tango is the anticipation and the not knowing what the next dance will bring. The happiness you feel when you have had a lively, milonga repartee, been swept away by a sublime vals or had the most perfect tanda – all unexpectedly and with (up until that point) complete strangers. I wonder if the teachers ever miss it?


  1. Why do teachers keep so exclusive?

    There are so many different reasons. I once wrote a post "who do you dance with?" that caused quite a rift. My point was and still is that the better you dance, the better tango experience you have had, the more selective you are with your dance partner.

    A lot of tango teachers love tango just like everybody else. And they enjoy dancing with good dancers. Male teachers tend to dance more often with women other than their partners or friends. Because man is always man. :D For female teachers, like every other woman, tend to dance with those whom they feel comfortable to embrace. Sometimes, after a long day of working with less competent students, they just want to relax and dance a few tandas with friends or partner. They arrive late because at the time, a lot of regular dancers are gone, more space, more relaxed environment.

    I have danced with a lot of female teachers in the milongas and at the festivals. Most of them dance with me after they get to know me or have seen me before. If I rarely invite a teacher to dance first time I meet her, unless she is introduced by someone or she has seen me dancing and accepts my cabeceo.

    Nobody is missing anything. Tango is about Yuanfen: If you don't get to dance with someone, Yuanfen hasn't arrived yet or there is no yuanfen between the two. You just have to find the one who is looking to dance with you. Simple.

  2. Well, I think I know the teacher/couples you may be referring to and some of them may have been teaching a class before coming to a milonga and therefore it is their way of winding down and seeing friends or getting students. Those that dance only with each other do so usually because they want to have some fun after teaching and being with students.

    It can be a real coup if a man is seen to be dancing with a female teacher and some of them get inflated egos because of this, which is why teachers limit themselves at a milonga.

    The only way you are ever going to find out is if you ask them. As I don't take classes, if I am asked by a teacher (which is rare) I know it is because they want to and I really don't care what the reason is! ;)

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  4. @TP - I love that Yuanfen concept - thank you! and especially the proverb on that page. That really cheered me up.

  5. As for the teachers, actually I think most of them behave more or less the same way as many experienced dancers. It's just that they're the ones you recognise so they're the ones whose behaviour you notice.