Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Those who can, do."

If Tiger Woods were a world class tango dancer, would you take lessons from him or from his world class coach?  I would prefer his coach.  But for some reason, I think that people naturally want the master doer over the master teacher.

A comment by a well known tango teacher recently astounded me:  "Those who can, do.  Those who can't, teach."  Ouch!

His point was that teachers are best at teaching what they are not good at.  Also, a problem here in logic?  What a terrible "truism" that too many people believe!  This phrase is an assault on excellent teachers all over the world.

I like this T-shirt below: "Those who can, do.  Those who can do more, teach!"


But let's say just for fun that there is some validity to this idea (that those who can't, teach).  Well, then!  Let's go out and find the teachers out there who cannot dance that well, but they will teach us a lot.  The majority of us go out teacher shopping, looking for great dancers.  But where are the great teachers hiding?  Surely they are out there.  Are you taking lessons from them?  As for me, I want a teacher who can teach and has results over the teacher who can perform, but cannot impart how to emulate what they do.

Teaching is a calling, and many who are good teachers, are also experts in their fields of endeavor.  Yet, having both of these qualities is still rather rare.  I would rather have someone who painstakingly acquired tango than one who is naturally talented but cannot see how difficult it is for the average person.

The problem with poor teachers in language schools demonstrates this problem with the misguided attraction that school directors and students alike have for those who can (speak fluently) but cannot teach.   Just because you can speak Italian from birth, does not prove that you can teach it.  Those who have struggled to learn a language as an adult and are fluent know what it takes to acquire a language, but language learners look for the native speaker.  Language students gladly sit in classes, enduring hours of poor instruction just because the person is a native speaker.  So is it in tango: We tend to look for the great dancer and look the other way when they do not have the best results in imparting what they know.

That's a good New Year's resolution:  Find a tango coach who can do more -- someone who can teach.


  1. So true! Some teachers forget the various styles of learning. Not everyone can just watch a sequence of steps and remember them. Some people need accompanying aural instruction.

  2. It depends what you want to learn...Tango for sure! but what form.. Loose embrace with lots of step sequences with back secadas,boleos etc or social Milonguero close embrace Tango concentrating on the connection and the music.
    You can learn the first from the internet by watching You Tube then go and try and find somewhere to dance like that,, or you can find a teacher that will Help you find your correct posture,sort out your embrace,make sure you have good connection within the embrace and help you with some musicality... Dont be a step collector become a Tango Dancer, The teachers are out there find them and use them to help you... Check out Detlef and Melina They can dance and my god can they teach....

  3. I think your teacher has a point there - an entertainer needs a different set of abilities compared to a teacher. He seems to be ironical - to himself also?

    If teaching tango is a calling it makes you interested in participants, you are thinking a step further and you are patient with your clases.

    I think the best with Detlef and Melina is the immense analytical work they have done to create a set of concepts valid for all situations.

    They have also worked out the movements for their classes so it is easy to understand and remember the techniques afterwards.

  4. @Leading Lady: I think it paradoxical and ironic that a teacher would repeat such a poor belief about teachers. I have often heard this said about teachers unthinkingly, but never from a teacher about teachers. I would argue that he does NOT have a point, but "pointless," poorly worded aphorism which is not only untrue but outrageous to those who feel called to be teachers. Now, I know that you were very kind in your words, and I respect that. And it could be argued that I am way to serious. But why not make a clear statement: Let's stop using this phrase against teachers! It is a slap in the face! Being a teacher doesn't make it one bit better. Hope you are stay warm way up north where it must be dark 24 hours a day right now, right?

  5. @Anonymous: Thanks for the comment, probably your first. I know you must be new to my blog because you recommended "Don't be a step collector become a Tango Dancer." I agree with you 100% on that! I imagine that your statement was probably meant for everyone reading the blog, right? Please read my other posts, especially "Organic Tango." I think you will see in most of my post your suggestion is one of my main points underlying much of what I write.

  6. Yes it is a cold winter but we have our ways to keep balance!

    My late mothers favorite her last 25 years and mine too every now and then!

  7. @LeadingLady: That YouTube clip blows me away.


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