Should Teachers Dance With Their Students?

Continuing with the Teacher theme, which always seems to be a hot topic, the above question brings to mind a conversation I had a few years back with one of our local instructors.

Being still relatively new to dancing Tango, I queried a teacher about why he wasn’t dancing with the women as there were a few sitting around.  He told me that he only danced with women he wanted to.

Now, I have this idea that if you are a teacher, and you want to drum up business, you would dance with the punters.  What harm can it do to dance one Tanda?  If you are a teacher, are you ever really off duty?  After all, you are a representative of your organisation.  You are the one selling something.  You are in the venue where you will ultimately see the efforts of your work.

I suppose that a teacher would be approached constantly if it was known that they don’t say no to dances.  Considering that in the UK we don’t use el cabeceo or adhere to the codigos that they have in Buenos Aires, I guess the teachers would be pretty exhausted if they accepted every dance by anyone who asked.  Though I don’t think it would hurt if they put themselves out more.  There are a few who just seem so unapproachable just even to talk to let alone to dance with.

I was reading Angelina’s Tango Blog where she brought the issue up of teachers dancing with their students and other regular patrons of their Milongas.  I happen to think that is a good idea.  Frankly, I don’t expect it as the organisers are usually busy, but it would be nice if they did, though there aren’t many men running Milongas in London.

Apparently, from what I have been reading on the internet lately, there are a few teachers in Buenos Aires that specifically go to the Milongas to find tourists to dance with and try and get them to have lessons, and they aren’t necessarily good teachers.  But how would you know if you are inexperienced and don’t know anyone to ask?  Since the Tango community in London is considerably smaller than in Buenos Aires, it should be easier to weed out the opportunists.

As comparisons are always made about how different the Tango scene is in Buenos Aires to anywhere else, I asked my compatriot in Buenos Aires, Deby Novitz, for an opinion.  Deby is now in her fifth year as a resident of Buenos Aires.  She has a blog titled: TangoSpam:La Vida Con Deby.  Having read only snippets of her blog over the last few months, I recently sat down and read the last three years of her experiences of living in Buenos Aires and life in the Milongas.  Some of what she had to say made my head spin, and if it wasn’t spinning it was in danger of falling off as I was laughing so hard.  So here I leave you with Deby’s opinion on this topic:

Personally I think teachers should dance with their students at the milonga.  They don’t need to dance with all of their students all of the time, but they should make an effort to dance with some of them.

Most teachers are not full time teachers outside of Buenos Aires.  Therefore they are not dancing all day with students, and then going to a milonga at night to dance.  I believe it makes a student feel good to have a dance with their teacher.

My partners and I have always taken our students to a milonga. At some point in the evening we have danced with every one of our students.  A little bit of good will goes a long way.

Deby Novitz

www.tangospam.typepad.com

©Deby Novitz 2009 TangoSpam all rights reserved.  No parts of this may be reproduced without permission of the author

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jantango
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 03:23:24

    It depends. If a teacher is running a milonga in his studio, he knows he is obligated to dance with his students. They pay him for classes and need practice. Women who don’t dance will stop taking lessons.

    It’s another situation in Buenos Aires where there are so many full-time teachers who are so busy with students that they never set foot in a milonga. They dance with students during class and that’s it.

    I assist milongueros with private classes. The dancing doesn’t end after an hour. We accompany students to a milonga to dance with them and reinforce the teaching. I am not aware of teachers who do this in Buenos Aires.

  2. Sue Vosper
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 15:31:20

    One teacher I know tries to dance with all his pupils and its great but if is too difficult to dance with all its better to dance with none as those who not get a chance feel neglected and that the teacher has favourites. Tired teachers who feel obliged to dance with everyone might lose their enthusiasm for the job.

  3. Ms Hedgehog
    Jan 14, 2009 @ 20:48:16

    I do think that merely dancing with someone who can really dance is an important part of learning and some teachers would want to include it just for that reason.

    They are much more practical about these things in the modern-jive scene, with the taxi-dancer system. AFAIK it’s official, and clearly understood, and the taxi dancers get paid. Everyone is honest about what they’re doing, when, and why. I’m not saying ‘adopt it’, but it’s worth thinking about the arguments for doing it or not. I see the new milonga at the Welsh advertise that they have taxi dancers.

  4. d'artango
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 12:09:14

    I’m new to this dance and was having a conversation with my teacher on this subject last week. We were working on connection, lead and basic steps and to get her point over she gave me a lecture on what women want on the dance floor i.e. if I am to be a good social dancer, what is it that good women dancers will look for and want to dance with me again. Teacher is often asked at Milongas to dance with her students, but more often than not they want to show off some snazzy footwork and impress her, rather than dance emotionally and beautifully. Seems to me that teachers do need to earn a crust, but at milongas they want that great dance experience like the rest of us.

  5. tangobob
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 17:15:54

    If beginners only dance with beginners, then how will they ever know what a good lead feels like. In my opinion there is nothing worse than the arrogant teacher who considers him or her self too good to dance with the pupils.
    Tango is first and foremost a social activity, let the elitists stay in their classes, and leave the milongas for those of us who dance for the pleasure of it and not to show off.

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