Daily Archives: February 11, 2010

Teacher is not always right

My thanks to Arlenes tango for her comment inspiring this blog.

I have always been a natural cynic, this makes me very inquisitive, but an absolute pain for any teachers. As a child (and later as a student) I drove teachers wild, because I never took anything they said on face value.

I had a maths teacher who never “taught” us anything. What he did do was prove things mathematically; as a consequence maths became my favourite subject after science.

So when it comes now to dance teachers, I weigh up what one teacher teaches against what others teach but never do I just accept.

As I have often said Sharon is a great teacher, but it is not necessary for her to be the best tango dancer in the world. I make no slight on her dancing here as I will explain later. You see the two are not mutually exclusive, the ability to get people to dance is not confined to those who themselves are great dancers.

Back to Sharon, there are things she teaches that conflict with my views. I would never interfere with her class this would be rude, crass, and quite pointless. She runs the class and as I have often said I have no desire to run classes, but every class I have ever been to for tango, teaches something different.

So how then do we decide what is right and what is not? Well my view is that in the end we all dance our own tango. We develop a style that is uniquely our own.

Take simply the mans left arm: The hand should be halfway between the couple, at the woman’s shoulder height and turned as if offering a mirror for the woman to look into. Now go to any milonga, and I challenge you to find more than one or two who have this perfect arm. Now the right arm should be at bra strap height but how far around depends on who taught you and whether you dance milonguero, cayengue, or nuevo, it’s a minefield.

So if nobody does it right, are they all rubbish dancers? Where do you go to escape the confusion?

In England and I think Europe in general, we talk of inviting the woman. We offer a lead and she chooses to take it. In Argentina we hold the woman in a vice like grip, the man turns his body the woman has no choice but to turn hers likewise, there is no uncertainty, no room to decide she will do her own thing.

I believe this offers less of a problem for women no room for confusion, but here in the UK women shy away from this closeness. This leaves teachers with a problem; do you teach traditional tango, as it should be and frighten off these more reserved women who like their own space? Or do you modify tango and at least get the British women dancing?

Whatever classes we attend, we bring much of ourselves to the classroom. No teacher is perfect (and this is what I meant earlier in my comment about Sharon, sorry I meant to infer nothing about the quality of your dancing) they cannot know everything, so they invite you to learn, you learn from what you do in the class, what you later practice, and from what you already knew.

When we teach, that is also from what our own experience has shown us. Rarely have I taken a class, I prefer small groups, better still one to one. This allows me to use techniques that simply would not work in a class. So I may say things which seem to contradict what Sharon has said. One should never take the words of one teacher and use them against another; of course if a conflict seems to appear clarity should be sought. What one should never do is take the words of one teacher into another’s class and try to teach one of their students.

While the teacher may not always be right, it is their class, and the right time to question is when they ask “any questions?” As I have said tango itself is not perfect, you will learn your own way.

Take what you can from the class, learn, practice, go to workshops, but in the end you must be your own tango dancer.

 Please comment, I would love to know what you think.


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