I currently have about 4 lessons a week, including a range of group classes, practicas, milongas, practice sessions and private lessons.Having recently changed the classes I go to and the approach I am taking to keep moving forwards I wanted to share my own thoughts on the role of teachers, the student’s responsibility to them and in doing so hopefully encourage discussion on the whole learning process.Personally I found that in the very early stages of learning Tango attending a single class, or set of classes from a single teacher, was a reasonable approach – combined of course with practice.The role of the teacher was clear to me and a very general one – they helped to correct my faults, encouraged me to keep going, taught figures at a comfortable pace for me to absorb them and generally provided an encouraging and productive environment. I could in fact obtain exactly the learning experience I needed by attending classes with different teachers, they were all very helpful and had much to offer me.However after some frustrations with my progress I have recently changed to learning from 3 specific teachers, and this process has really helped me to be clear to myself on my expectations from each of them.To me the kind of teaching I need breaks down into 3 important areas. Each of them – in my case – needs a different kind of teacher.
To me one of the ideal teacher’s roles is simply to inspire you. Part – but only a part – of this inspiration is to actually be someone that ‘I want to dance like’.This may be in reality nothing more than impossible dream – but in the learning process having someone to copy is made much more impactful if that person is someone who is someone that represents your ideal dancer. Or at least so close to it that you enjoy projecting yourself into their body, to try to imagine and feel what moving like that would actually be like.As a leader in my case this requires a male teacher. It is perfectly suited to group classes, and is ideal if that class has some mirrors so that you can directly compare yourself to the teacher.
The details of the lead and the embrace
The critical role of the embrace and the details of leading are so well documented that it is surely impossible to over emphasise how important learning this aspect of the dance is.Although we can certainly make progress in a group class, and with other people in that class, the help of a teacher who can actually dance with you in private classes, and help to develop your connection over time, is to me invaluable.For me the most perfect feedback on our embrace and leading is obtained from a talented teacher with whom you are actually dancing. If she is held by you she is directly experiencing all of the positive – and negative – aspects of your approach to the dance.As I am a leader then in my case a follower is needed for this, and she needs constant guidance that her feedback on the detailed and emotional experience of dancing with me is a critical part of my expectations from my classes with her. How is my embrace? How does it feel right now – how enabled does she feel to express herself? Does she feel rushed? Over led?Direct and immediate feedback effectively whispered in your ear by someone for whom you have the highest respect goes directly into your learning experience like some kind of high octane injection.
Tango is wonderful in part at least because it is so open, so full of possibilities and opportunities for style and interpretation. One of my teachers recently put it to me that our job as a leader is to understand the follower, to interpret the music and draw something with her. To create with her.Certain teachers have this natural inquisitiveness, open mindedness, broad musical tastes and a desire to explore the creative side of Tango – others simply do not.In my experience this was the hardest teacher to track down, they need to also have small classes of like minded people with that shared passion for expression – no longer so reoccupied by learning yet more figures but rather looking to develop their own creativity.Finding these 3 teachers, and being clear in my own mind on the most important aspect of each of their teaching, has helped me immensely.My responsibility is to be an attentive and respectful student – to put in the practice hours – but also to be clear to them on what I am looking for from each of them.Having found 3 such wonderful teachers I feel fortunate and so well supported to put in all of the required effort in over the next year to keep moving on in my first steps on the never ending journey that Tango takes you on.
In being a student of such talented people and by being clear in my own mind about what I am looking for from each teacher I have found that the whole challenge of learning such a difficult subject becomes continually uplifting, motivational and full of energy.
I have only been learning Tango for just under a year – one of my teachers described me as a Tango Baby – I am one of the many people who have fallen in love with the Tango experience and the personal journey it takes you on.All comments welcome!