Does It Take Two To Teach Tango? No

Originally published at: Does It Take Two To Teach Tango? No – Awaken Tango

Since tango is danced in pairs, people tend to think they need a partner in order to teach the dance. I directed a tango school and taught classes for almost 10 years and I’ve concluded that this is unnecessary, and usually actually counterproductive. Here’s why:

  • I believe that one of the biggest prerequisites of teaching basic tango is knowing both roles. Yes, even for beginners in a Tango learning lab. So, if you’re teaching, ideally you already know how to lead and follow whatever you’re teaching.

  • If one person teaches and the other assists, it’s very easy for learners to perceive values such as inequality or dominance in their interaction, which can be magnified by gender stereotypes. I don’t think these are healthy values for a tango community.

  • If both people teach, then it takes an enormous amount of time, energy, and communication for two thoughtful and intelligent adults to create a lesson plan, an expenditure of resources that is usually not justified by the tango economy.

  • Why model all the material with your partner, when you could be doing that with several different hardworking students who can probably do it well too, and who would all benefit from the opportunity?

  • You might say that having an “assistant” is good because they can go around and work with students. Well, I haven’t found this to be the case that much, because usually assistants can only help half the students since they usually only know one role. Related to this, my point of view is that if you’re teaching group classes, part of your strategy should be to inspire plenty of intermediate role-switching dancers to come to those classes and learn by working with the beginners. So, there shouldn’t be a need for an extra person to do just that.

  • If you are trying to help an up-and-coming dancer in your community lift their status by having them be your assistant, there are better ways to do that, like have them learn to DJ.

I’ll write later about why I think those festivals and marathons that hire Tango teachers as soloists (instead of as couples) are doing the right thing.

So, in case you wanted to start teaching tango in your community and you were waiting to find the perfect partner — no need! You can start now, by documenting your curriculum and doing a soft-launch of a learning lab.

Mitra Martin has been exploring tango since 1998. She is the co-founder of Oxygen Tango.