Tango Story: In Praise of Tango Teachers
Story | Martin van Kesteren | 24/03/2020 | Views: 431 | Comments: 0 | Shares

Sitting at home, with lots of time to remember past sins, I’m lingering on what tango teachers could have taught me, if I hadn’t been so ignorant and resigned. Fortunately, some dancers are worse than me. I remember one fellow telling me, ‘I never take lessons, I learn everything from YouTube!’, like the President of the Unites State boasting he learned everything from West Wing. You know the type? Another guy is claiming on Facebook to be a newcomer… for six years now, proud he never takes lessons. Apparently, something urges these dancers to create the belief that they are God’s gift to tango. I always thought your tango does the talking.

My early dissatisfaction with tango teachers originated in group classes. I turned to YouTube believing I would learn faster studying maestros and experimenting in the milonga than with teachers whom I suspected of improvising the lessons. The wait for next week’s hourly lesson took just a little too long. It seems stupid now, but, it never occurred to me to take private lessons, which I considered to be for advanced dancers. Now, if anyone asks me, I advise them to take private lessons straight away, because, the long-term business case for it is good. The only problem remaining is, that you have to find the teacher that is right for you, which is not easy if you are not exactly sure what that is.

I assumed for many years that only a leader could teach me how to lead – I was that naïve, and if you are shaking your head now, I quite understand. I’ve also had some bad experiences that didn’t help. One reputable teacher told me that a certain sidestep to the left, dancing milonga, was a convention that followers just had to know and recognise. I believed it for months, until I woke up one night, realising the truth about this teacher. After I returned to online self-instruction, I was often stopped by my resignations: that my dancing days would soon be over, that I was too old, or too out of shape, or too busy working, or spending too much time with the family. I could have used a teacher, who was also a psychologist.

A little voice in my head keeps saying ‘oh come on, don’t be a show-off…most followers are happy just keeping things simple, and you forget most of the material anyway’. But some time ago, during a brief encounter with a teacher, I suddenly mastered a simple body posture improvement that would have been really useful, nine years ago. In another instance, I learned a body-rolling technique I can’t live without anymore. Looking back, the big things I learned in tango I did not find online, but were offered to me by real people. In this moment of clarity, I am setting aside a substantial budget for private lessons in the second half of this year. Bye bye, YouTube, I’m going real.

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