Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Open Letter to a Tango Teacher

This "open letter" happens to be just to me--my future self--in case I get the probably ill-informed idea that I should teach tango:

Dear Future Self:

Please remember these seven things, if you think you are now ready to teach, especially #7 --

1. Diversity is Good: Respect the spectrum of tango (milonguero, salón, nuevo). You don't have to do what theologians have done and start wars and kill each over our differences.

2. Help the Gene pool: Have your students go to different milongas from different teachers.

3. Take care of your own soul: Dance 100% with the person you are dancing outside of a lesson. You have danced with teachers who examined you but were not truly present -- like someone listening to a Bach Cantata at a concert next to you, but not there with you. Hold that woman. Make her feel as if she is the only woman in the world.

4. Practice the Art of Dancing for Yourself: Dance with people outside your "stable." It is amazing how limited teachers become and are unable to read anything they do not intellectually/experientially know. You can dance all night with all levels of dancers, and then a teacher cannot follow the same thing you have done with everyone else -- a true sign that they have been dancing within in their own studio or the same partner too much.

5. Teach No-Blame Tango: Talented teachers help dancers from seeking blame when things go wrong. Don't be like some teachers who blame the leader, then come demonstrate to show how it is done, and then they cannot lead the move either. (Never an apology to blamed leader follows.) Teach no-blame tango.

6. Teach the "ST" Synonyms: Social Tango & Safe Tango: Floorcraft is the science of many couples dancing together. Social dancing is impossible with a high risk for injury. Learning to have fun in a small space is a good marketing tool, but the social aspect of safety needs not be hidden. Floorcraft is the one of main subjects in every class on social tango, right?

7. The Real Subject is NOT Tango: This could have been #1, but I saved it for last as it is the most important. The real subject is not tango. What you are teaching mostly is how a person can enjoy themselves, love themselves, reach out to others and feel the tender touch of another person. An ocho cortado is only a way to get to this real goal. The greatest teachers in history have inspired the student to thirst knowledge not to HAVE knowledge. If your students feel depressed and you make them feel as if they know so little after your class, please consider just going back to dancing and not teaching. Two towns that I know of that have an inordinate amount of judgmental tangueras, and in both cases this phenomenon is the teacher's misunderstanding of the Real Subject.

In a few words: Teaching is a calling. So, Future Self, tango communities need teachers who are advocates for the love of primarily dancing--not watching tango.  Social dancing includes the succor of a vibrant, local tango community. Be a good teacher with the goal of making great tangueros/tangueras. When in doubt . . . just dance.

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  1. Great words of wisdom...

  2. Mark, interesting, but I disagree. Most of what you have there is not about teaching. Not at all. It's about looking after your parter, you and dancing. TEACHING, is entirely different.

    *NOTE, I said most, no wars required...
    **On another note though Mark, I would say that that should be compulsory reading for dancers....

  3. "I will be a good teacher"
    creates more of the desire
    "I am a good teacher"
    creates the manifestation

    Blessings to you on your journey. May you have fun in every moment.

  4. @ Anonymous: I was constrained with my graphic on "I will be..." :-) I appreciate your desire to help me. Affirmations are powerful. But the issue I really have struggled with on these teacher-posts is NOT being a teacher. I guess I have not conveyed this well. I see too many show-boat teachers on the social dance floor and dysphoric teachers who seem to have lost the joy of teaching. I hold them in my arms and they are not allowing me to dance with their soul, pulling back. I am no longer afraid of dancing with even the best female because I dance my own dance and listen to the music intently when it is clear that they are going through a checklist of my deficits. A local teacher even corrected a problem that I feel that she created (we lost our centered connection), and then DURING A MILONGA corrected me verbally. She was "right," and at that moment I was not dancing my own dance; so she was right.

  5. @ Anonymous -- I meant to say "lost the joy of dancing" (not "teaching").

  6. I feel like it is not about the tango or the teaching but finding the love of life - that warm, excited, huggy feeling within yourself and with others. Trusting yourself and trusting another with those special, loving emotions that were torn away from those of us who served in combat where we are left just plain numb or flatlined. Has anyone else felt this way?

  7. I agree with Mark's view. Beyond technique, a teacher provides a prominent example.

    And, should a tanguero disconnect from one of the best reasons for dancing, from whom will his students learn?


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