Monday, November 1, 2010

Tango Teachers-Only Forum Part 2 : Why I am not a Teacher

Last night, an out-of-town tanguera asked me if I were a teacher.

As usual, I said, "No, I am a dancer."

I am NOT a teacher.  I am only 4 years old as a tanguero, and I have too much to learn.  If I found myself in a small town, I would teach and be a DJ, but for now I have NO desire to teach with so many qualified (and unqualified) teachers around!   Only from such a tango-deprived circumstance (living where there was no tango) could I become a member of the AUTTA (Association of Unqualified Tango Teachers of America). 

I was added to the Tango Teachers-Only Forum on Facebook by mistake.  Or perhaps it is the mutation of the same "evil little voice" that I hear at nearly every milonga I go to and dance with a stranger:  "Are you a teacher?"  Luckily from my training in psychology, I know the two types of auditory psychoses:  Non-command and command.  "Go and kill someone" is a command hallucination.  "Are you a teacher?" is not a command.  I don't HAVE TO become a teacher, you see?  

Going by the long list of members of AUTTA, this harmless non-command "little evil voice" can convert into a dangerous psychotic event only when the person sees it as a command to become a teacher.  The answer at a milonga should be: "No, I am a dancer and I am only dancing with you at this moment!"  IF I WERE a teacher, after the tanda, I might add:  "And here is my card. NOW I am a teacher."  I want to never stop being a dancer just because I might be teaching some day.  I don't want to judge and analyse my partner or cause them performance anxiety.  I want my partner to melt in my embrace and feel the power of this remarkable walking embrace.

I am learning from teachers about the problems of teaching.  Why did they start?  Do they really still love to dance or has it become merely a business?  I am certain that nearly all teachers started teaching because people asked, "Are you a teacher?"  This is like people who do not know much, cheer leading me into being something they do not understand.  Imagine being inspired to become a mathematician by people who cannot add well.   So for now, I just want to dance, and I don't listen to those little voices:  "Become a teacher."  I am waiting for the divine call -- la Vocación de Diós.  

By the way, here is my card:

Mark Word
Dancing with one Soul at a Time
Housecalls for emergency cases only!


  1. I need a housecall! Coming to Cali anytime soon?

  2. Is that Cali in Colombia (donde se baile cumbia mas que tango)? Or is that CALIfornia? I have to get that straight before buying my plane tickets! If it is Cali... hope your neighbors are in Groupo Niche, my favorite salsa group.

  3. "I don't want to judge and analyse my partner or cause them performance anxiety. I want my partner to melt in my embrace and feel the power of this remarkable walking embrace." -- That is such an important thing. It's hard for teachers to turn off the teacher-inner-voice while dancing socially, but also I think it's difficult to risk being so available emotionally - to be vulnerable, as we can certainly be in the embrace, when they're supposed to be seen as authority figures. It's hard enough to be open that way just as a dancer, I imagine it must be far harder as a teacher, even if you're not dancing with one of your students.

  4. As Ruben always says, he's danced tango for more than 30 years and he continues to learn more about it every day!

  5. CALIfornia...hmmm, I think my neighbors sometimes play mariachi music, but more often bad rock. ;-)
    Somos Son does play locally from time to time.

  6. I have been teaching for more than 10 years. I started teaching too soon, because, as the organizer put it: "You're not ready, but there is no one else to do it." In my experience, many partners will have performance anxiety, even if they don't know you are a teacher. Almost all will believe you are judging them.

    In hindsight, I would propose that until one is able to get most partners to relax and open up by the second or third song in a tanda, one should not yet try to teach.

    More importantly, for those seeking teachers; if someone makes you feel tense or judged when dancing, or if they try to teach you instead of dance with you, politely decline their card.

  7. @Sean: "You're not ready, but there is no one else to do it" is what God told Moses. :-)

  8. I'd like to comment from the perspective of someone who would like to teach tango, but, as yet, is only an occasional teacher.

    I don't believe teaching or dancing professionally would in any way spoil my enjoyment of tango or detract from the joy I take in it, which is very deep rooted. I have made passions into professions before and, while people always say "you will no longer enjoy it as much when you are doing it for a living" this has, frankly, never been a problem for me. I don't get easily jaded or bored with things (or people) I love.

    I hear, often, that teaching tango for a living is no idyll. But how many jobs are? I think it is certainly a great deal more enjoyable than an office job.

    I have spent the past four years closely observing my own teacher, whom I consider to be a genius, and have learnt a great deal from her. When I see people struggling with their dancing or dancing badly, I want to rush over and share some of the tips, ideas and exercises which she uses and which I have seen work on her students. (I refrain from doing this unsolicited). With the students I have had, it has given me great satisfaction to see their dancing improve.

    As far as dancing with students at the milonga is concerned, that, for me, is a separate topic. At the milonga, I am there to dance for pleasure. My students are usually beginners are not pleasurable to dance with yet. Of course, I aim to help them improve, but this is always a long, slow process. I don't want to feel obliged to dance with students and I don't feel dancing with them is included in the cost of the lesson. (Of course I dance with my students in class and I am also willing to practise with them and help them with their dance for a fee. But I don't teach on the dance floor and I consider the milonga part of my time off. I don't teach on the dance floor. If you had a friend who was an accountant, would you expect him to give up a part of his evenings to do your accounts for you, for free, instead of enjoying himself with friends? What if your accountant friend earned very much less than you, in fact was rather hard up, and you could easily afford to *pay* him to do your accounts instead? I think the situation is rather analogous. Of course, more advanced students sometimes are pleasant to dance with and then I will happily dance with them.

    My main reason for not teaching full time is financial. There is a great deal of competition among teachers in Buenos Aires, where I live, and it is hard to make a living. But if I could do so, I would.

    Meanwhile, I describe my adventures living in Buenos Aires and dancing tango as close to full-time as possible here:

  9. Terpsichoral: Thanks for your comments and ideas.

    Socrates denied that he was a teacher. I think he is known as one of the most outstanding teachers of all time; so he was making a philosophical point.

    I agree with all of what you say, especially because both my essay and yours speak for our own experiences. I have since taught tango to a PTSD patient and his wife. The results were amazing. 1st, he recovered from PTSD in record time. 2nd, he and his wife became excellent dancers in record time although they both said they had two left feet (a total of 4). 3rd, I watch the most amazing transformation of musicality when we focused on the healing aspect our goal after a frustrating session with technique. The transformation was so unbelievable, I am cautious to write about it. For one, most people who have been dancing for years would not even understand the level at which these beginners danced from a rhythmic perspective. Secondly, even I have doubts that what happened could be possible; so why confuse my readers?

    Notice the last words of my post. Was this a Freudian slip or a paradoxical remark indicating a hidden thesis?

  10. You have observed very interesting details ! ps nice website .


Please leave a comment with four options:
(1) Here on the blog.
(2 & 3) On the links given above for Facebook/Google+ links.
(4) Comment via email at, which with your permission, I can paste into comments.