During the interview I stressed the necessity to focus on basics, to structure the classes, to keep group sizes manageable... lots of important points that guarantee, that our visits all over the world help developing Tango. And yes, I can be proud of our work: I can see real progress during classes, I help people to understand things better and to evolve their personal style. Very often, we receive enthusiastic mails after classes, telling us, how tango-changing our classes are. That‘s very encouraging.
But are they really? What if we come back? Have the dancers really changed or improved their Tango? What is the impact we have on people‘s Tango and what are the factors that further progress? To illustrate these questions, I am gonna tell you a story of two Tango communities, one in England and one in France.
The Tango community A is situated in a tiny English village near a bigger industrial town. We have been invited for the third time by the local organisers, a very nice couple teaching Tango since 5 years. It‘s always a great pleasure to be there, not only because we have been received very warmly, made friends and had some great food there. Although it‘s been only 1,5 years, we can see, that our classes influenced people‘s dance a lot. Many of them really apply what we are trying to convey in our classes and I can see, that they are enjoying their dance and progress. It is great.
The other community B is situated in a lovely French town with lots of culture and historic sites, near our hometown. We‘ve been teaching there since 7 years. The members of the Tango club are lovely and we know them quite well, as we used to give regular classes in another town nearby. Many of them have visited our Milongas and Festivals in the past. But unfortunately, very few of them take up our ideas of technique or musicality. They do well during the classes, really trying to grasp the concepts, but when we return in the following year or see them at a local event, only very little has changed. Most of them just keep on doing what they did before and we can start all over again with our basic principles. That‘s actually frustrating.
So why the difference? Why is one group responding to our teaching and the other not so much? What are we doing differently? May it be the teaching in different languages, English and French? I took that into consideration, but have to say, that our French speaking abilities are almost as good as the the English ones - at least in the teaching context. I may not be able to write a blog in French, but I can very well explain the counter-body-rotation, believe me.
A friend pointed out, that it might be a matter of respect: when we first came to town A, we were already quite known and thus more respected. Whereas in town B, we were basically locals, some of them even knew us as beginners. So maybe, they aren‘t so much impressed by what we teach and don‘t feel compelled to apply it... I can understand that point, but I don‘t think, it get‘s to the heart of the problem.
I rather want to look at the totally different circumstances in these two communities:
Tango community A (TCA) is pretty young - referring to the number of years, that people are dancing. I guess, only very few people are dancing more than 5 years there. They started learning Tango in a period, where there was already a decent know-how and good teachers where available. So all of them already had a good idea of social Tango before we started spilling our ideas.
Tango community B (TCB) is much older and quite a lot people there are dancing the same number of years as we do. They‘ve seen a lot of bad teaching, especially in the first years, where most Tango teachers were doing unspeakable things on the dancefloor. Some of that stuff sticks to you until the end!
TCA has got very dedicated professional teachers, who participate in our classes and take consciously up our ideas in their teaching. This permits people to understand the concepts on a deeper basis.
TCB does have a couple of very different teachers, who focus on steps in an open embrace, although they take part in our classes since years. This confuses people.
TCA hosts regular Milongas, where you can find traditional music suitable for dancing and practising ours and the resident teachers musical concepts.
TCB does have no regular Milongas and the DJs unfortunately focus on rather undanceable music, no matter of which époque and on Electrotango.
Other visiting teachers:
TCA hosts different visiting teachers over the course of the year, but most of them seem to focus on basic work. They may be dancing more in an open embrace, but they teach a modern way of communication, that goes well with our concept of organic movements.
TCB hosts visiting teachers of a more classical or showy style, that promote such a different technical approach, that they basically contradict most of the things we are teaching.
In TCA you‘ll find a lot of people, who are really dedicated to Tango. They visit regular Milongas, travel for Tango and form strong opinions about how they want to dance. They choose teachers and classes consciously.
In TCB most people won‘t travel a lot (or at all) for Tango and many of them practice other dances as well. Most of them don‘t seem to care much about the style of teaching and dancing, they just wanna have fun and take whatever class is offered.
I could go on and find even more differences, but I think, I covered the most important ones. And now comes the part, where I ruin my business because I have to conclude, that travelling teachers can only achieve very little. Even if their teaching is fabulous, the impact will be limited by the local circumstances.
So this is what I want to tell organisers and dancers:
- Don‘t invite visiting teachers, if you cannot support their work locally. It does not make sense, to expose people to good ideas and concepts, if there is no-one who can practice the stuff with them after the „stars“ have left. (If you don't have teachers, who can cover that, set up a monitored practica to encourage discussion and practice of the workshops contents.)
- Don‘t bother with the great „ball with demo“, if you don‘t organise regular Milongas, where people can dance to decent music and practise whatever they have learned in the workshops.
- Forget about a „ very special couple“ if you plan to invite another „very special couple“ who contradict all their ideas next month. People need a little consistency in concepts.
- All of you, be sensible consumers! It is up to you to decide, how much time and energy you want to invest in Tango and what kind of classes you book. You don‘t have to book every class and you don‘t have to appreciate every teacher. An intelligent buying behaviour and a lot of dedication are the most dominant pre-requisites for developing a personal style.
- The fancy travelling teacher may give you some good ideas and concept, but it takes much more, to build up a Tango community with a decent level of social dancing.
So... if now some of you organisers decide to cancel our invitation, because I convinced you, that we will not have much of an impact, I cannot help it. But I rather hope to encourage a more conscious teaching & event management: Please, think about what you want to achieve for your Tango community and plan your events, workshops and regular classes according to that goals. It will help you save a lot of money and it will be much more satisfactory for everyone, including the travelling teachers! ;-)