A friend and I were discussing this topic recently. We agreed that they are two very different things. A dancer doesn’t necessarily know how to teach, and not all teachers dance well. One with dance training has limited experience from classes, but no practical experience as a teacher. We have all known someone who returns from a few weeks in Buenos Aires and announces they will be teaching tango. The same goes for those who win a tango championship and start teaching. The title of champion often is misinterpreted to mean if they were good enough to win, they must be ready to teach. Those who prepare as school teachers take university courses in education to learn methods for teaching before having the opportunity to apply them to actual classroom experience. Teachers become better teachers by teaching. No one has to pass an exam or present their credentials in order to teach tango. When I began assisting my dance partner with group classes more than twenty years ago, I had no training as a dance teacher, only years of training as a dancer and musician. I observed how my partner interacted with the students, presented each lesson, and the results he achieved. I didn’t agree with his teaching methods, but it was his class. Those years gave me the incentive to begin teaching social dance classes on my own. I continued learning how to teach by listening and responding to my students. Over the years I have talked with milongueros about sharing what they know in private lessons. The first thing each one has said is that they don’t know how to teach nor have the patience required; yet when given the chance to teach, they surprised even themselves. In order to teach well, one needs to have a depth of knowledge of the subject. No one has more knowledge and experience dancing tango in the milongas than the milongueros. Most of them have no idea of how tango is being taught today, but they know what they know. They know the music. No one taught them how to feel. No one taught them their technique; they didn’t know that it existed when they were learning. They danced what came naturally for them from the music. I’ve heard many dancers say the milongueros don’t know how to teach. They are expected to teach tango the way it has been taught for many years by dance professionals that keep dancers going to classes for years. Milongueros impart all they know in a few hours. Most use a teaching method that programs dancers to memorize patterns; the milongueros teach how to dance. I found this post that has some interesting things on the subject of teaching beginners. The young dancers who have been winning the tango championships in Buenos Aires are hardly prepared to teach tango. They practice the steps they learned from their teachers, but they have no feeling for the music. They have little or no knowledge of the different tango orchestras like the milongueros. Their titles almost guarantee they will be doing exhibitions around the milongas of Buenos Aires marketing themselves as performers and teachers. Foreigners go to the milongas to see exhibitions by young couples who are handsomely dressed and capable of performing a rehearsed choreography perfectly. At some point, I hope that more dancers will begin questioning those who teach tango before signing up for their classes. They say that a tango teacher is born every day in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, those who teach aren’t from the milongas. The future of social dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires depends on the development of social dancers. Without them, the milongas eventually will close.
Dancers who become teachers