Tips for teaching your first tango class

postitleswirl

I suspect that after what I have taken to calling “The Distance”, a great many tango dancers will not return to this arena, which so tightly binds elation to torment.

Equally I do not doubt that many will return with a renewed care for our community and a desire to rebuild it with great love. I believe many people will be inspired as never before to share the gift of tango, feeling now perhaps more than ever before the preciousness of gathering, and embracing.

Indeed my student Josh is already preparing a class for his community, a clean and sober gym. We had a conversation about how to think about teaching, and this post contains my notes:

1. Mind the gap

The biggest mistake  teachers make is to forget the difference between being someone who already loves tango and being someone who is just considering learning a social dance.

Most people who start social dancing are not doing it because they “want to learn Argentine Tango” but because they feel they need to socialize. You have one chance to create a good experience for them. If you don’t, why will they come back? A good experience is one where they feel good about themselves and the people they meet.

This means you have to detach yourself from ideas about “correctness” and even “tradition” because those things are not what is important to them. (Maybe later, but not yet.)

The words ‘passion’, ‘intimacy’, ‘connection’, ’embrace’ that are so familiar and moving to us so much may actually be a little scary for people who are standing in a room of strangers they aren’t sure they really want to to touch. Better to talk about ‘flow‘ as that’s a popular concept that lots of people might be interested in:

“When we enter this dance, we have a contract. The agreement is to give our full concentration to maintaining this exactitude. When we dance, we can’t space out, check out, or become distracted because another person’s body depends on our full concentration and real-time response. It is the aspect of mutual concentration which compels us to and keeps us in the coveted state of “Flow”. from Until Forever

2. Remember that most beginner tango classes fail for most of the students.

Your success depends on getting something right that most teachers get wrong. Since retention rates are so terrible for beginner dancers and no one has yet cracked the code, the best thing you can do is NOT REPEAT what you’ve seen before. That means throwing out everything from which steps to teach first to the kind of room and the lighting.

Do your best to avoid the standard methods and moods. There’s nothing wrong with them except that they don’t work.

Don’t just repeat what your teachers said. Ask yourself if those exercises are fun and make you feel good. Ask yourself if the instructions are executable.

Traditional tango music is an acquired taste, so if you don’t want to drive your students away, play music that’s familiar and emotional for them. Good choices are Leonard Cohen, Lindsey Stirling, Eric Clapton, or any popular slow ballads.

People generally think they know how to walk. When they come to a tango class they usually discover that they don’t know how to walk. This is disempowering. It’s better not to make them feel bad about themselves. Instead of focusing beginning classes on walking, share movements that are easier, more interesting, and fun, like rebotes, voleos, and ganchos. Once they can see how tango communication and connection works, then they may slowly develop an interest in refining it in more subtle movements like walking and changing feet.

Instead of teaching them how to change feet, teach them immediately how to walk in cross system so they have the confidence that there is no such thing as “the wrong foot” in tango.

Be sure to tell them from the very beginning that there is no set relationship between tango dancing and music and they can move with the melody or the silence as they feel.

3. Don’t Dumb it Down

What is generally taught as ‘advanced’ are movements that are actually much more fun and interesting.

Play the sacada game and encourage the students to use front and back sacadas. They’ll be much more likely to do the back sacadas than experienced dancers. This way you create more open minded dancers from the beginning.

Colgada and volcada feel really nice. They are a great experience of connection.

We all need more students, more dancers in our milongas, and great partners to dance with for the next few decades…

How can we Popularize Tango?

marketinggyide cover  e

Marketing is about Who is in the Room with You.
And Why.

 

With Sven Elze, Founder of the very popular Milonga Popular – Berlin, we’ve created a Thinkbook for Organizers, exploring how we can define the Tango Tribe who will resonate with each of us, find new marketing channels, craft resonant messages and images, and create experiences that make students fall in love with Tango from the first session.

Enter your email below for immediate access to the Thinkbook…

Apertures

Newest

All the Blog Posts EVER

Posts by Email

Frustrated?

Themes

SEARCH the Blog

The Berlin Interviews

Guides

More Guides...

2020 TangoForge

6-19.February Wellington NZ
7-9 February Bruges Neo Tango

…DISTANCE…

See you at

Reflect and Train

and

Exercises from Maui

Themes

Important Insights

Books

Power is the courage, confidence, and competence to make things happen. I want to create in a way that’s incomparable and define my own compensation package. You too?

Syntax of Power is a raw, potent, and spare revelation of how I got to where I am and how I take on the struggle every day.

This book is not about tango, it’s about everything else.

It’s about stepping into the darkness of change, learning how to take care of yourself, and making things happen.

Dyv stands for Duro y Vio. We were inspired by a 2007 conference at Harvard University about tango as a transnational culture. Also we wanted to create something that would help people to imagine a queerer tango. We forbid ourselves to use the word ‘passion’ and instead tried to articulate the experience more precisely.

Argentine Tango is more than an elaborate and difficult dance, it is an international culture of intimacy, desire, and dignity. No mere romance or memoir, the intricately woven stories evoke tango’s true mysteries … the elation, the frustration, the compulsion…

We published the book in 2009. Dancers asked “how did you know what I was feeling?”

Silences in history. Silences by code. Silences of fear. You already know that Tango’s silences can be sublime and they can be devastating.

What I do in my blog is use myself as a lens – sometimes a microscope, sometimes a telescope. I try to be as honest with myself and you as words concede. Then I try to find a deeper meaning and imagine a pathway for us.

A blog post can be a fragment, a wisp of inspiration, an outline for thinking. A book must complete and reconcile it all. Now I drag the social scientist to the scene to enumerate the facts of the case, the mystery which brought both stardom and tragedy to my life.

We didn’t start online education in March of 2020. We started in 2014. Learn more about our Digital School