Ask Arlene…About why some teachers want to give a lesson on the dancefloor

Dear Arlene,

Here is the question I have been pondering for quite some time. Why do so many instructors try to teach at a milonga. When I go to a Milonga I always seem to come in contact with instructors who want to teach at dances. I have had them come up to me and say you need to fix this or that, and I think the best one was one who came up to me and asked me to dance. I said yes and as I was dancing I noticed she was trying to back lead. Then she said that all men should come to her for musically lessons. After the first tango and while waiting for the next song in the tanda I said the following, “I come to Milonga’s to dance, visit with friends, and have a good time. If I wanted a lesson I would go to a studio and take one. Now you can either let me lead and enjoy the rest of the tanda or I will say thank you and go sit down.” She was so shocked she left the floor. I rarely dance with instructors, I have some great friends that are instructors, and have asked this same questions to them. The only thing they told me was they believe the instructors are using the milonga’s for new students. Please let me know how people in the UK feel about this.

Best Keno

Dear Keno,

I am afraid that I have to agree with your friend.  I am not happy about lectures on the dancefloorwith even the best intentions.  You are right, if you want a lesson, then you should go to a class and pay for one.  Milongas are for relaxing and having a good time, after all, that is what you are paying for, and it is up to you to decide how you will spend your evening.

I do think that if a teacher wants to drum up business, it is a good idea for them to be seen dancing at the Milongas and to dance occasionally with new people.  If people like the way they are dancing, then it figures that they might get students for their classes.  When I first started going to the Milongas I would watch the teachers.  If I liked what they were doing, then I would try a class.  Some are better dancers than instructors.  Most of the teachers in London do not usually dance with people outside their circle or only with some of their students.  Like anyone else, they also want to enjoy themselves.  I have heard from a couple of teachers, especially the women, that there are people that think they are so wonderful if they get to dance with a teacher, so most of the teachers are very selective with who they dance with.  I don’t blame them for that.

As for a teacher criticising their dance partner’s skills on the dance floor in order to drum up business, I personally have never experienced it or heard of it happening, and certainly not about any of the longstanding instructors here in London.  That would just be too rude.

I think you did the right thing in saying what you did.  I like your style!

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. irenicon
    Jul 06, 2009 @ 07:36:34

    I came across it in BA, but never in London.

    In London only ordinary leaders seem to ‘teach’ on the dance floor – often by haranging their partner – see it often – no idea what is going on there! 🙂

  2. Sophie
    Jul 06, 2009 @ 14:53:34

    Some teachers definitely “recruit” on the dance floor. What does it say about their teaching? well if they have to resort to such tactics, their classes must be pretty empty (and they probably suck at conventional marketing).
    Name and shame is what they deserve – get them out of business or into a proper line of conduct (their choice)

  3. David Bailey
    Jul 06, 2009 @ 14:54:45

    Arlene:
    “As for a teacher criticising their dance partner’s skills on the dance floor in order to drum up business, I personally have never experienced it or heard of it happening, and certainly not about any of the longstanding instructors here in London. That would just be too rude.”

    Have a look here:
    http://www.jivetango.co.uk/GettingStarted/LaDulce.html#Tyrant – I assure you this story relates to a long-standing London Tango teacher. It happens.

    A lot of London teachers do seem to use milongas as marketing opportunities, from what I’ve heard.

  4. David Bailey
    Jul 06, 2009 @ 14:57:51

    On the story – whilst I agree with the sentiment of your friend, he sounds a little bit too undiplomatic (and that’s me saying it!) – I think I’d have waited for a repeat performance of this spiel before blowing my top. On the other hand, it depends on how insistent this teacher was being.

    Perhaps there should be a code – “No Soliciting, You Are Here To Dance And Have Fun” – at London milongas.

  5. El Chupacabra
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 01:20:29

    I think some of these instructors have too high a sense of themselves. Most aren’t social dancers and couldn’t hack a crowded milonga – they’re mostly ballet trained / contemporary dancers who want to cash in on tango.

    As for musicality, I’ve been shocked by these instructors, supple bendy and flexible enough to kick their own bum, yet they can’t move to the music.

    More to the point – if a teacher is doing that on the floor, he or she is seriously lacking knowledge of milongas and what happens there – you have to consider whether that teacher really is interested in tango culture at all.

  6. El Chupacabra
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 01:22:53

    On a more positive note – I dance with female teachers and I don’t think I’m special. They don’t either. We’re just friends.

  7. Arlene
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 14:29:33

    @ David Bailey
    Who is Tango Tyrant?
    I see no reason why a teacher shouldn’t use a milonga as a marketing opportunity. Softly, softly…..

  8. David Bailey
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 15:01:16

    @Arlene:
    “Who is Tango Tyrant?”
    – I know who it is, but La Dulce didn’t want to name him for obvious reasons, so I’m afraid I’ll have to respect her wishes. You’ll just have to accept that this guy is a tango teacher in London, and that this is an accurate reflection of his actions. I’ve heard a similar tale about him from another contributor to my site, for that matter.

    “I see no reason why a teacher shouldn’t use a milonga as a marketing opportunity. Softly, softly….”
    – well, it depends how it’s done I think. I think the best method is to give your partner a really good dance, then if the topic comes up in conversation, there’s nothing wrong in mentioning that you “happen” to teach – that sort of thing goes on all the time. But I object to an in-your-face “Right, here’s what you’re doing wrong, pay me money and I’ll fix it” approach.

  9. happyseaurchin
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 15:18:15

    learning to lead is tough
    and i think the system for learning it kills a lot of inspiration and the funkier dancers are turned off

    i found the best way to learn was to dance with forgiving partners
    and found the more experienced dancers terrible
    since they would demand certain rigour or methodology

    so i believe keno was right to bring it up
    and trying to resolve a tricky situation

  10. Sophie
    Jul 09, 2009 @ 08:54:25

    Brilliant – More tales of Tango Tyrant must go around as he’s not toooooo hard to spot – and his tactics must be thrown into the light so that the tango road doesn’t start for all women by painfully stubbing your toes on all the rocks that wait for you to amble awkwardly by.

  11. David Bailey
    Jul 09, 2009 @ 13:58:08

    I’ll pass it on to La Dulce, but she has turned her fire on Ceroc at the moment…
    http://www.jivetango.co.uk/GettingStarted/LaDulce.html#Flirting

    🙂

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