Quality Control

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In the last days the Berlin Tango Scene has witnessed an interesting and overdue conflagration.

Some Argentine tango blogger found a video of one of Berlin’s longtime teaching teams and publicized her outrage over the quality of their dancing. At first this post gathered some approval within the Berlin community. Then compassionate influencers quashed the self-righteousness of their upstart adherents.

In the end the response from Berlin to Buenos Aires was “don’t you dare tell us what is correct Tango. We are Dancing!”

Indeed Berlin dancers do reject Porteño authority and assert that whatever they are doing is inherently “authentic“.

It raises the question of whether there should be any kind of quality control in this entirely unregulated industry.

Certainly, great gratitude and respect is due to foreign teachers who built the global tango scene, a.k.a. lucrative market for Argentina’s industry of elegant “champions”.  And how foreign teachers dance and teach must be contextualized in their lack of, or very limited, access to Buenos Aires or any critical mass of experienced dancers.

And yet, the fact that provincial teachers were willing and able to donate decades of effort does not in any way make them fit teachers as the industry evolves and is refined. A long history of having already been teaching may or may not have resulted in an increase in quality. That depends on the teacher’s skills for self-assessment.

But no less is it the case that svelte Porteños should be entrusted with our tuition money. They may dance like birds, but like birds, most of them can’t tell you anything about how to learn to fly. They have no greater certification as teachers than any foreigner, as there is no system for this. The fledgling teacher training programs are just a proliferation of industry products.

The dancing quality of neither foreigners nor Porteños should be used to assess their teaching. The only measure at hand is this one: How do their students dance? Are most of the students in their classes dancing well? What is the rate of improvement?

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