Picking local Tango teachers

Let me give you some tips about picking local Tango teachers:

First of all I personally will not advocate any particular Tango teacher to anyone who asks even though I have my own personal preferences, because what may seem right for me may not be right for someone else and to tell you the truth at times they all seem more or less as good/bad as each other. The difference will ultimately come down to a matter of taste. [ I know what you are wondering right now, but sometimes I just can't help telling it how it is ]

One of the best things at your disposal that will allow you to pick a good teacher are your built in senses, you know your gut feeling. It is always good to go see teachers dancing with others socially in a Milonga (term for Tango dance venues). This is just one of the main reasons to attend various Milonga venues fairly early on in your Tango journey even if you do not plan on dancing. Some are free or give discounts for non-dancers. You can also hang around after the various classes given prior to the Milonga to soak up the atmosphere and hopefully get a glimpse of better Tango dancers and potential teachers. A trained eye can tell a lot just by watching people dance and so can you to some extent. The thing to bear in mind is that there are lots of subtle things going on underneath that most beginners are unlikely to pick up on. Still a good starting point is to watch especially since dancing at Milonga venues tends not to be choreographed like in Tango performances or even class demonstrations.

Any teachers trying to convince you that you are not ready to attend the Milonga until you reached a certain level most likely have their own interests in mind. Now you can make your own mind up as far as this goes, but I will suggest to give the Milonga a go as soon as you feel comfortable. Whatever you do, do not leave it too late! Another thing I should probably mention at this point is that these dance venues can appear to be inhospitable places at first and you might not get dances easily, but that is quite all right. You should be more interested in observing things to start with. No need to rush things, be patient, wait until you are confident enough to give it a go and do not allow anyone to entice you onto the dance floor if you are not feeling up to it. In case someone persists, it's probably better to simply thank them politely and tell them that you don't feel ready to dance right now.

Now then. While observing potential teachers try to be mindful about the the four main types of teacher/dancer combinations and by that I mean social dancing and not choreographed or class performances:

1) 'Good' teacher & 'Good' dancer

2) 'Good' teacher & 'Bad' dancer

3) 'Bad' teacher & 'Good' dancer

4) 'Bad' teacher & 'Bad' dancer

Obviously you will not just be able to narrow it down to only 'Good' & 'Bad' in real life as there are many other possible options such as 'Fairly Good', 'Average', 'Downright Awful' and so on, but the above should give you some idea and hopefully be quite self explanatory as to which teacher/dancer combination to aim for and which to avoid. Always aim to find someone who fits both a good teacher and dancer. If you temporarily settle for something in between, remind yourself to keep on looking for better oppertunities.

Sadly if you were hoping to get a glimpse of all the various teachers at the Milonga you may be disappointed to discover not many visit Milonga venues frequently or even regularly. It could be due to their hectic lifestyle or because they churn out all these lessons, but it could also mean that they are not really comfortable dancing socially and perhaps feel a little exposed in such settings. Sometimes it is the absence that tells the story!

No matter who you settle on it is always an extremely good idea to keep on analysing yourself periodically to know exactly where you stand in your Tango journey . Step back and objectively examine goals you may have set at the start or at some other point. Keep on probing yourself to make sure you are still on the right track and progressing steadily. If things are not going quite as well as you would like there may very well be reasons for that!

It's always good to keep asking questions, not only of yourself but of others too. As part of this process you should aim to re-evaluate current teachers on an ongoing basis because everything changes with time and your own opinions and perception may not be what they were when you started. Ask yourself if other teachers, including those who perhaps did not fit the bill before, could have something appealing to offer now or at least provide a different perspective.

The thing to avoid is remaining with the same teachers for longer than you should in order not to inherit characteristics from their teaching which critically will most likely lead to habits in your own dancing. Often these tend to build up without you even being aware. So even if you like your teachers try out others on a regular basis to add a health dose of open-mindedness!

Another great article I came across recently which goes into quite a lot of detail about picking dancing teachers in general: Picking Dancing Teacher: Do’s and Don’ts (by The Dancing Grapevine). It's one of my recommended reads and can be found in my 'Favourites' section on the right hand side column for future reference.

What about visiting guest teachers from Buenos Aires or elsewhere?

Well, that's another topic in itself. We are extremely lucky here in London in that a lot of passing Tango teachers & dancers visiting us all the time. Some will undoubtedly be amazing and really worth looking out for, but again the same general rules above should apply with any of them.

Most people who start out on their Tango journey could probably benefit from having a stable period of teaching to begin with and as visiting teachers do not usually stay here long enough it may actually be better to look at some local teachers first, even if they may not appear to be as good as some of the jet set.