Ask Arlene…How do you know your level?

Hi Arlene

I have enjoyed reading these comments very much, and there seems now to be a another subject arising out of this that i would like to address…


Absolute Beginner, Beginners, Improvers, Intermediate, Advanced

Another reason for mentioning this is i attend a class last week and the teacher asked if there were any beginners in the class about eight people came forward…they were asked to wait on the other side of the room while he instructed the improvers/Intermediate on a sequence he would like them to perform while he was busy teaching the beginners the basics…Now while he was on the other side of the room we started to explore this move he had shown us…After a few minutes i noticed the teacher was watching the students doing these movements and he did not look pleased…he then stopped the class and gathered us round…He then explained in no uncertain terms that a lot of the people who considered themselves to be improvers/Intermediate were not and that they were not being true to him or themselves…and that as a teacher it was his job/duty to pass onto us what he knows about dancing and how to dance tango but how can he do this if we are not honest with him or with our tango…

At the start of this class i wanted to step forward as a beginner but i also felt that i was a improver and if i went over to the beginners the teacher would have sent me back or the beginners would have thought i was some kind of showoff because my dancing would have not been at a beginners standard…Anyway the move we were being taught was to lead to the cross then as we step forward with our free leg we do a side step with our free leg in double time and collect then change our weight in double time with our new free leg step forward past our follower while with our chest we lead the follower forward but before she can place her weight on her forward step we step past her and interrupt her forward motion this involves a fair amount of disassociation on the leaders part and then the follower because if done correctly she should have performed a complete turn and we should be facing each other and ready for our next step.

Quite a few people had a problem getting to the cross…….So doe’s our ego or self belief in our ability get in the way of our tango….i’ve been dancing (trying to) for 14 months and at my teachers tango class i still doing beginners classes. Now back to my original question? how do you know what standard of tango you a dancing….just a thought…i still think i’m a beginner even though i’m able to lead a cross now and then….lol

Mr. Walker

Dear Mr. Walker,

I can understand your teacher’s frustration.  I have the same issue when I take an advanced or improver’s class with men who should clearly not be there.  People are always in a hurry.  I can understand that too.  It is only natural to want to be able to get onto the dance floor quickly.  It takes time to dance well.  I still take beginner’s or general level classes on occasion as I feel it is a good idea to go back to the basics and work on my posture and balance.  The way I prefer to dance doesn’t require many tricky moves, if any.   It takes a man a long time to learn to dance Tango well as they have so much to do and think about.  I know beginners that dance better than some so-called ‘advanced’ dancers.  They may not have the fancy footwork, but they have feeling.  I don’t like to put a label on what my level is.  Although I don’t feel as if I am an absolute beginner, I also don’t feel that I belong to any of the other categories either.  I feel as if I am constantly learning.

I would be really interested to hear what the teachers have to say about this subject.

31 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. El Chupacabra
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 00:52:03

    Good question!

    I’ve spoken many times before about teaching in London and elsewhere and how it related very little to social dancing in crowded milongas. The sequence you describe .. would you do it socially? Really? If you answer “yes” then look at the old dancers who have been doing it for decades – would they do it?

    So my response is this; the levels defined by many teachers has nothing to do with social dancing ability. It has more to do with your ability to be acrobatic, have balance and turning ability. Rarely has it anything to do with you musicality or quality of embrace or movement. This is precisely why so-called beginners can be lovely to dance with, and so-called advanced students be a chore to dance with.

    Sadly I don’t see this changing.

    A second thought is more relevant and I don’t have an answer. Too often you have people in a class or workshop that really shouldn’t be there. And it is unfair on you. Because you’ve spend much hard earned cash to pay for that course. You’ve travelled far. You’ve given up your time. Only to have your workshop or class wasted because the topics can’t be dealt with or because all the partners are so bad that you never get to address the advertised topics.


  2. El Chupacabra
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 00:57:44

    My levels:

    Beginner – is learning to move properly, improving balance, understand leading and following.

    Improver – has balance and movement (forward, side, etc), can lead and follow generally. Now is using these elements to understand what connects with what when improvising. Starting to understand musicality.

    Intermediate – is working to get the above to a good competent level.

    Advanced – anyone who thinks they are advanced has stopped learning. What a shame. I often see people who had great potential suddenly stop learning and improving because they themselves have put up this barrier.

  3. jantango
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 04:23:04

    It’s clear when someone is an “absolute beginner” dancer because they don’t know the first thing about the dance. It’s usually clear when someone is advanced when they can be out dancing rather than taking classes. Adults don’t have to spend years in classes to be adequate social dancers; if they are, there is something wrong with the teaching.

    It’s the other levels that are the problem, and the fact that there are levels in classes. One is either a novice with no experience or dancer with experience.

    I want to share what Carlos Gavito used to say in his classes. “I don’t teach levels. You dance at your own level.” Everyone learns differently and at a different rate. That doesn’t mean the person who does the step sequence first is the best dancer in the class; only that they learn visually. Others may need more explanation or demonstration and then lots of practice to learn what is being taught.

    Mr. Walker’s explanation of what was being taught in class is incomprehensible to me. It’s a sequence pattern to memorize. Social dancers need to learn how to walk rhythmically without hanging onto memorized patterns. Those who have never danced before need to learn how to move their bodies to the music before taking on the task of connecting with another body.

    The major void I have noticed in teaching tango is in the embrace. If that isn’t right, nothing works in tango. The steps aren’t important.


  4. Steve Morrall
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 06:47:01

    In the classroom a good teacher will adjust the speed of delivery of a subject to the slowest learner. The inclusion of other students working outside their skill level and comfort zone will impact on the whole group.

    Pushed beyond their true skill level, a novice dancer will learn to cheat technique, posture and style as they try to keep up with the higher curriculum. These bad habits are VERY hard to get rid of.

    As soon as the structure of a ‘learning environment’ is compromised like this we create huge problems for ourselves. When, inevitably, classes degrade into confusion and frustration due to the extremes of ability attempting to share the same class, we loose the better dancers who become frustrated at lack of development. This is not good for any community.

    In a perfect world, an organiser/teacher needs to (a) have a clear definition of the technique required for each level and (b) personally assess the ability of every dancer who books the event.

    Dancers do not intentionally lie about their abilities, but the process can involve a lot of self-deception. It is not a students responsibility to know their level – it is part of a teacher’s duty of care to classify it.

    An extract from my article on “A humble approach to learning Tango Argentino”. For the full document see:

    Steve Morrall
    Tango UK

  5. David Bailey
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 10:41:59

    Heh, I bet I know who that teacher is… but let’s call him “F” for the moment.


    Firstly, the sequence sounds a bit strange – although possibly the description is a bit confused, it’s very difficult to describe movements in writing. So I wouldn’t worry about that. Sequences are mostly pointless anyway.

    Secondly, the teacher sounds like a grumpy git. If he’s not in a position to evaluate the dancer levels, then he shouldn’t blame the students for inaccurate self-evaluation.

    Thirdly, “levels” are subjective – what some teachers might define as “improvers”, others may define as “intermediates”.

    Fourthly, levels at different aspects of the dance vary – a leader who’s spent 2 years learning to walk may be rubbish at a nuevo-type sequence – are they therefore a beginner? It depends.

    Fifthly, I agree with all the other poster comments – nice discussion.

  6. Tango Totty
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 11:37:30

    The main problem in teaching tango and assessing levels in uk lies in the teaching methods used in the classes in UK – where the focus is on learning set steps and patterns and sequences of choreography. This is a direct result of the marketing of tango – sustained of course by the teachers who are going to profit from it. For many people the images of stage tango is what they want to emulate when they go to classes. They think they can be taught a series of fancy steps that involves boleos, superkick ganchos, volcadas etc can make them look good and show off in the milongas. Also teaching a set sequence of steps is something that they can hang on to – something concrete as opposed to teaching of posture, movement, embrace which can often be quite vague and difficult notions which may take many years of bad habits to change.

    Of course learning tango requires some teaching of steps and set patterns so everyone understands the common vocabulary of the dance. But this should not be main the focus of the teaching. In my book there should be a shift of focus to everyone learning basic tango technique and musicality – of course this might not be as successful commercially because it seems to me that many people who dance tango are looking for a quick fix and are not prepared to put in the hard work and the boring bits that are necessary to raise the general level of dance. But until the general attitudes change then unfortunately the paltry standards of tango in London will remain.

  7. Mr Milonga
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 16:19:16

    Tango in London suffers because there are too many dancers out there who refuse to be honest about their dance.

    There are also too many charlatans out there passing themselves off as ‘teachers’.

    When you’ve got a student living a lie being taught by a teacher who should be arrested under the trades description act you’ve got a cottage industry churning out poor dancers with bad habits.

    I find there are many women with an inflated ego about their own dance, which usually coincides with the purchase of their first pair of Commes. They will put themselves in a class which their not skilled enough to be in and if something goes wrong they won’t hesitate to blame the leader.

    Of course the learning curve for leaders and followers are not the same, but that’s another discussion.

    What we should never forget is teaching is a business. Many teachers will not confront class members to tell them that they are not good enough to be taking a class at that level through fear of losing the pupil and a steady stream of income.

    The utopia of being in a class where everyone is of the same general standard is unlikely. As tedious as it might be dancing with a range of abilities helps competant leaders and followers deal with a multitude of situations, good and bad. Ideally we would all like to dance with people as good as or better than we are, but that kind of experience rarely happens in a milonga wherever you are in the world.

    I think it is important that sequences are taught in classes, as it allows pupils to realise and examine the many different ways the simple component steps they may have can be put together. If this knowledge is used correctly then the leader will feel as if he has the ammunition to go out and be the sort of leader followers are eager to dance with because he is using his vocabulary in a creative way.

    I laughed when I read comments about concentrating on technique. It’s like a musician learning the scales. They may appreciate why it is important to learn, but ultimately it is boring.

    Sadly I know too many advanced dancers with
    beginner technique. The glue they use to paper over the cracks is musicality, as it will hide a multitude of sins. Lack of technique will ultimately stunt the growth of any dancer.

    This isn’t just a group class problem. Many people taking private lessons do not want to revisit the ‘staples’ – those steps which forms the structure of practically every tango. Calling the ocho, giro etc the ‘basics’ isn’t really fair because there are far too many people who have been dancing for years who struggle to master the ‘basics’. If someone is paying upwards of £30 for an hour of a teacher’s time, the teacher is going to allow the pupil to set the agenda – no questions asked.

    I’m sure everyone who has commented on this question truly knows their own level as a tango dancer.

    Maybe tango schools should do what many tennis clubs do. Tennis clubs operate a system where new members are ‘played in’, which means they will practice with an advanced member of the club for 15 minutes and at the end of the time they will be told what level they are so that they can play other players of a similar level.

    If schools operated a similar scheme where new members would have to be ‘danced in’, then a lot of confusion would disappear. Any experienced dancer would know in about a minute how good a dancer their new partner is, maybe this could be a way forward?

    Mr Walker the best thing you could do is to communicate with your teacher. Reading your letter maybe it might be better to find another school who will be more attentive to you?

  8. Game Cat
    Apr 21, 2009 @ 19:31:35

    Good posts, this thread, and has opened up many good questions. Appreciate it, all.

    Re ‘what’s your level?’ – as some have already said, it’s an arbitrary definition….only useful for formal teachers. To a dancer, imho there are only 3 questions they should ask themselves:

    1) What are the attributes of a good dancer?
    2) What am I doing now for each attribute?
    3) Therefore which areas do I need to improve most and by doing what? (okay that’s 2 questions in there)

    The challenge with tango is that one needs to get a several things right to be ‘good’ (as Mr Milonga said above) technique + musicality + steps, etc. It’s the combination of these that’s important, and being significantly weaker in any single area at any level will hold back overall progression.

    Re teachers – there is clearly a place for teachers in making yourself better, assuming you find the right one that fits your needs at your given stage of development. Why deprive yourself of it? I don’t mind them making money from it.

    Ultimately, we should be responsible for our own progression. If we’re not getting better in a formal class, it’s not the teacher’s fault, it’s ours….because we decided to pay for it. We can always walk away and find another teacher.

    Also, we should consider all the other ways to get better – self-practice, practica with a partner, observation, milongas, watching good dancers, etc. Teachers are only as good as we’re willing to find the right ones for us, and actually practice those parts of what they teach that are specifically useful to a given individual.

  9. Mr Walker
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 01:56:10

    Sorry my description of the move was bad….so i will try the super short stripped down version…lead to cross uncross then switch places (minus the fancy foot work…)

    Hi Mr milonga
    I’m very happy with my teachers i still do the beginners class because it helps my tango…by still attending and doing the class my tango movements becomes natural…the basics are so important and i’m glad that i understand this at such an early stage in my tango life….Not to mention it is fun and i enjoy it….And it builds a sense of community that improvers dance and share their tango with beginners….

    My tango loves the teacher for talking about being honest about our tango….As stated earlier the london tango scene can be quite rough….This has nothing to do with styles of tango or anything like that it is to do with respecting the space . Me respecting your space. You respecting mine.When you are out this weekend and your dancing ask yourself this is your follower feeling safe…is she enjoying herself….are you being knocked about like some fairground attraction while trying to connect/listen to your partner do you have to dance defensive just to make it through a tanda..i have attended many classes and watcthed many teachers and they all said the same thing respect the line of dance do not lead your follower into the back of others do not overtake….We are all adults we know the rules yet nobody respects them is that the teachers fault?…..I think when he said be honest about your tango he meant BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR TANGO……

  10. Tango Totty
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 09:16:42

    Hi Mr Milonga

    Re: The issue of Technique and Steps

    I have already stated that obviously knowing fundamental steps are important as the basic language of the dance. I still maintain however that most people do not need ‘fancy steps’ to have an enjoyable social dance – and isnt this what we are all here for? Most tango dancers in UK are not trained dancers and have not got sufficient flexibility or skill to carry out many of the fancy moves with enough elegance or grace and so it doesnt look that good anyway even if you can lead it. As El Chupacabara said you dont see any fancy moves on the traditional dance floors of Buenos Aires. Here the emphasis is on the technique, the rythmn and the connection – this is the essence of the social dance.
    Unfortunately this traditional view has become corrupted by popular appeal and demand for tango showmanship – people are confusing social dancing with stage tango thinking theyve got to be able to lead colgadas and volcadas, fancy sacadas and ganchos to look like good dancers – I think this is why the level in UK remains so low because the majority of people just cant do it successfully. I appreciate that technique is boring but a simple dance with someone who has good basic technique – who has mastered the embrace, has precise movement and footwork to interpret the rythmn makes for a much more enjoyable dance than any fancy steps. This is why the emphasis should be shifted.

    I agree with your comments about the tennis club and think this would be a really good system for tango in London. Bring it on!

  11. Mr Milonga
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 12:13:59

    Tango Totty, the issue of technique and steps is an easy one to clear up.

    Just as in any other dance, good technique will ultimately lead to better dances for you and your partner. I don’t think there’s anyone who reads these posts who would disagree with that.

    In regards to steps you have to ascertain what kind of dancer you want to be and how competent you want to be at the dance. If want to learn steps which requires a high level of technique which you are willing to master so you can execute those moves successfully, I applaud and encourage you.

    I think it is disingenuous to suggest that because someone wants to be able to do colgadas, volcadas, boleos etc that they have ambitions to be show dancers. If for arguments sake they do harbour such ambitions, isn’t it wrong of us to look down our noses at them?

    I’ve never been to Buenos Aries, but I have heard the argument many, many times about how simple and understated the dances are without the need for complicated steps. That the dances are good and the milongas are civil.

    So what?

    I continue to go to classes, practicas and milongas because I want to be the best dancer I could possibly be. I’m not going to allow the milongas of London, Istanbul, Rome, New York, Sydney or indeed Buenos Aries to stifle my ambition to master all of the more demanding steps and sequences this dance has to offer.

    My quest to be as good as I can be might be unusual, but the better I become the better it is for every follower who crosses my path regardless of their ability, as I will be able to tailor each dance to their needs and ability rather than being a ‘one size fits all’ dancer.

    Wanting to improve should be encouraged rather than making those who want to excel feeling like tango pariahs.

    Regarding floor craft it is up to every person who enters a milonga to respect all the other people in the room. I’ve been kicked in milongas in Europe and north America, so I know this isn’t a problem unique to London. I’d even put good money betting that the odd toe has been stepped on in B.A too.

    Mr Walker if you are happy in your class and you feel that your dance is improving at a rate you’re happy with then stay. As Game Cat mentioned in his post, much of what you do away from the class will determine how quickly you improve.

  12. Sophie
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 16:35:18

    Hello everyone,
    I attended that class and witnessed the teacher pull his hair at the general low level of people attending a class billed as “intermediate”.
    The move studied is very difficult to describe but I can assure everyone that it was something that can perfectly be done in a milonga, it’s not “nuevo” or acrobatic or apilado and the such, the leader interrupting the follower’s movement to send her in a new direction while himself moves around her. It requested dissociation of the chest and the hips, and clarity of lead. The attendants couldn’t lead a cross neatly (that’s the leaders I danced with) and didn’t understand they had to direct their chest one way and their hips (along with the direction of their forward movement) another.
    The movement had actually been decomposed discreetly in the warm-up where opposite shoulder movements were introduced in the walk – so that wasn’t new to any of the attendants.
    Anyone can assess when they see the teacher demonstrating his topic if that’s a mouthful or not – and then decide to eat humble pie if it’s too big for them. But what I see most people doing is slobbing the entire movement, rather than try to make it work in bits – building solid lego blocks they will be able to reuse or link together.
    Levels vary with each teacher, and with each scene. The old big fish in a small pond story. What the attendants of that class did was not challenge the teacher for clarification, instead messing about with a poor idea of what was actually worked: doing different things but dancing together.
    In classes I generally see people billing themselves as “intermediate” as soon as they have 3-4 months’ dancing, making that level a general muddle for a long time. “Advanced” classes are rarely as advanced as the better students are with many teachers preferring to lower the level to common denominator. But then I agree with one of the above comments that advanced dancers don’t take classes any more. I’m still waiting for a good teacher to start a truly advanced, by invitation only class, where good dancers get challenged all over again. Because there’s always something to learn.

  13. Voice of Reason
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 22:33:58

    I am a little worried by the tone of this discussion. If you think you are an advanced dancer then you will know your level and no doubt feel superior to the rest of us who recognise that it does not really matter since you can only dance with those around you.
    I know that I can move in time on the beat and carry out a variety of steps and sequences. I can dance milonga in time and rarely get a complaint unless dancing with someone who tries and fails to back lead me. I know I used to do more steps in my tango but that was to cover up my inexperience and convince others of my worthiness to dance. Now I accept that after 4 years I am a moderate middle of the road competent tango dancer and that is alright. My fragile ego can cope with that. I know I should be seeking fulfillment and stretching myself but to tell the truth I really don’t care that much.
    So, What Level is Good enough? Does it matter? Am I a bad person for not worrying too greatly?
    You can make your own mind up, I actually feel it makes no difference what level you are if you don’t dance with the right people.

    I feel blessed by the range of women of all levels who will dance with me.


  14. tango totty
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 23:08:31

    Mr Milonga

    Just to clarify – I have no problem with dancers developing their dance by learning complex steps PROVIDED that their technique is already at least competent.

    The problem comes when people turn up to classes thinking that fancy steps is what tango is all about – when they have no clue about basic movement, posture, embrace, musicality. I believe that this is what the classes should be more focused on because it is these elements that makes good social dancers not complexity of steps.

  15. Mr Milonga
    Apr 23, 2009 @ 00:07:25

    Who was the teacher?

  16. El Chupacabra
    Apr 23, 2009 @ 00:28:18

    Great idea Sophie – an invitation only class would work really well.

    I did hear rumours that there was a “secret” invite only class in London …

  17. Mr Milonga
    Apr 23, 2009 @ 11:17:49

    Dear Voice of Reason,

    Just because someone considers themself to be an advanced dancer it does not mean that they are a tango snob, who will only dance with others at their level.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your confessional regarding how you used steps to disguise your fragile ego and it is good that you have found other dancers you feel confident dancing with.

    Tango Totty how often do you go to group classes full of these people wanting to learn fancy steps? Have you ever had a conversation with anyone of these people to find out what their motives are? Do you know for a fact that these hunters for flashy moves could not give a toss for good technique?

  18. Tango Totty
    Apr 23, 2009 @ 12:20:34


    Whether or not you are interested in levelling your tango probably depends on what your motives for dancing tango are. If you dance just for fun – but never attend a lesson or practice then of course levels arent going to matter because you are probably just grateful that anyone dances with you at all.

    But to anyone who has spent a great deal of time and effort improving their dancing and takes it seriously, then it is useful to know your level because otherwise how on earth do you know what to improve ?

    Mr Milonga

    I have been to loads of group classes and experienced dancing with many of these dancers in the milongas. By the way, I dont think that they are necessarily ‘hunters’ for flashy moves – I just think that some dancers have a misguided image about what dancing social tango is all about. I think it is only a change in this perception that can change the level of dancing here.

  19. Mr Milonga
    Apr 23, 2009 @ 14:49:04

    Tango Totty – what is social dancing all about then?

  20. Tango Totty
    Apr 23, 2009 @ 15:52:02

    Being sociable when you are dancing!

  21. Voice of Reason
    Apr 23, 2009 @ 18:50:56

    Mr Milonga

    I appreciate the comments and If I might just say, my comment was a frank and open admission that in my first year of dancing tango I did buy into the whole sham of levels and tango elitism and worked hard at impressing the opposite gender with my silky skills, so that I could dance with others who perceived me to be worthy of their embrace. I was fortunate that a friend of mine took private lessons every week and helped me to improve at a considerable pace. However, when I decided to stop swinging it and just hung loose I felt better. I now feel that I have no one to impress and those who feel that I should, well I don’t mind that they are still shackled by the illusion that any of this really matters. None of us is ever going to become professional unless we grow a ponytail and start saying “si si si- muy bien, muy bien!” and open a new tango school in slough or Watford or Stoney Stratford. I understand the ideal of dancing with those of my own level but I will not avoid someone of a lesser ability level if I enjoy dancing with them. Their level is only a minor consideration as long as they can keep up and dance competently. In the past I have danced with so called advanced dancers, some of whom sensing my caution, give so little to the dance that the experience is far from enjoyable. Obviously Mr Milonga you will have had different experiences and no doubt many others will as well. I hope you, tango totty and others find your wholly grail and are content when you do.


  22. Mr Walker
    Apr 23, 2009 @ 19:09:49

    Thank you Sophie…..
    Your description of the move we were instructed in was perfect. And the general observation about how some of the class where attempting to complete this move was spot on….
    I think i will defer to you from now on about these things….

    In a perfect world we could just talk about the subject at hand without it becoming something else….

    Has our ego’s a part to play in our tango?… what stage do we decide that we are not beginner’s…After that class where it was obvious that alot of people were not ready for that kind of lesson thought i might need to revisit the basics again or work on their flexibilty?

  23. tangobitch
    Apr 23, 2009 @ 21:08:30

    I was at this class. The teacher is an excellent teacher.He will not just teach steps. He wants to teach balance and posture…blah, blah. He was rightly frustrated by the class (including my performance!)! I agree with tango totty – go totty, go totty, go totty!

  24. Arlene
    Apr 23, 2009 @ 21:52:09

    OK. I just came home from a Salsa class. (I danced Salsa before Tango) I hadn’t been for awhile so I took the improvers class. While waiting for the classes to start I was chatting with a young woman about the classes as she hadn’t been to this place before. We got to talking about Tango. She said she was learning Tango and had been doing it for 7 months. I looked at her and said ‘oh, you are a beginner then.’ ‘No’, she said. She told me she was intermediate as the beginners classes were too boring and they didn’t teach enough steps. I looked at her and said that I called myself a beginner for nearly two years until one of the organisers told me not to do that anymore. I also reminded her that Tango is an improvised dance and not about steps apart from the giro as that is a particular move with steps and must be done correctly. Do I really need to tell all of you how the rest of that conversation went? The fact that she was having lessons and didn’t know where the milongas were convinced me that she is a beginner. I gave her my card.
    As I was saying my goodbyes, the organiser told me he thought I would have done the advanced class for sure. I told him as I hadn’t been for awhile, it was better for me to do the improvers and work on a few things. We did turns, which I am not great at as I get dizzy. I used to be really good at Salsa but now that has gotten slack since I put all of my attention on Tango.
    I am not sure that people starting with Tango really know their level and I believe that it is up to the teacher to decide, not another dancer, so I don’t buy into that trying out someone first to see where they are. It might work in Tennis, but not in Tango.

  25. Mr Milonga
    Apr 23, 2009 @ 22:15:49

    Dear Voice of Reason,

    I am glad that you have found a place where you feel comfortable in the tango world. So many others search for such peace, but sadly not all finds it.

    I’m guessing that your friend who was helping you had sound technique. I know of a woman who is a competent dancer but is being taught by an oaf of a teacher who despite taking her hard earned money every week, somehow refuses to work on her fundamentals. He keeps on taking her money and she continues to be dazzled by his Spanish accent, quick feet and Austin Powers smile.

    If she helped anyone to dance then it would be as much use as having Steven Hawking as a speech therapist.

    Being good or wanting to be better should be encouraged not despised. I hope everyone who spends the time to read or make comments on a blog like this feels the same way. If not aren’t you wasting the time of those of us who work at the dance?

    Good luck with your dancing VOR, it is good to read a comment from someone content with their dance. I hope your technique is good!

  26. Voice of Reason
    Apr 24, 2009 @ 14:25:01

    Mr Milonga

    I loved your response. It made me laugh out loud. Honestly, I would not want to waste your time. However, I could not say I am entirely content with my dance and rightly so. After all does pride not come before a fall. I am satisfied that I can dance at all and of course I will continue to try and improve. I just don’t see it as my central motivation for dancing. I am a social dancer and it shows at times. I try and remain content with my paultry offering to the tango community.

    My friend who taught me to dance has always worked hard at learning the skill set of the tango and she has excellent movement, technique, rythm and musicality. Her dancing isn’t bad either. She is particularly fond of milonga and you may even have danced with her without knowing. She still continues to dance well.

    As for the woman you know and her shagadelic dance teacher, I do feel that there is an air of familiarity about the groovy tango teacher you describe so vividly but I can’t quite put a face to that smile. I hope the woman has a good sense of humour if she knows who you are on this blog.



  27. Tango Totty
    Apr 24, 2009 @ 14:39:43

    Mr Walker

    Because of the general lack of formal teaching and training structures in tango, compounded by the fact that tango schools are businesses, assessing one’s own tango level is a a messy and difficult business – and it relies to a large extent on have extremely good personal insight.

    The only way you can really know if you are a good dancer is if you can dance regularly with lots of other good dancers, you can keep up with them and they seem to enjoy dancing with you.

    Mr Walker – no matter long you have been dancing, no matter how experienced you are or what your level is everyone can benefit from regularly revisiting and practising the basics.

  28. Tangototty
    Apr 24, 2009 @ 17:10:36

    You are no longer a beginner once you can really appreciate that dancing good tango is not about steps.

  29. David Bailey
    Apr 25, 2009 @ 18:18:02

    Tango Totty, I have to disagree – I appreciated that before I started learning Tango. That didn’t make me less of a beginner (still doesn’t in fact).

  30. tango totty
    Apr 26, 2009 @ 12:06:24

    David Bailey – I do apologise – it was a generalisation, but there are exceptions to the rule -you obviously have remarkable insight! In my experience it can take people a couple of years to come to this conclusion!

  31. Adelaide Vroshevski
    Aug 06, 2009 @ 23:01:46

    I think there is a major problem with levels in Tango. I have taken classes for 10 months and I consider myself a beginner, although I did ballroom dancing for many years, and I clearly know some rules about following.My collegues who took the same class think they are improvers. These people don’t have balance at all, i feel like falling everytime I dance with the leaders, they push, and pull too much. I am still taking beginner classes and will continue to do that. Of course I used to think beginner classes were boring, but I guess i just have to put up with that until I will try to dance with someone better than me, and I will be able to follow perfectly.

    It happened to me many times to be blamed for not being able to follow. If someone pulls me of course I can’t follow. This happens because people think they are intermediate, as they know a lot of fancy moves, but they don’t know very basic rules. I wish people would have more patience, and that teachers would insist more on basic things, rather than just showing fancy moves to people who have never danced before ( like my teachers for example).

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