Tango Argentino > Private lessons: dialogue vs lecture

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by TomTango, Nov 19, 2015.

  1. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    I just took a series of private lessons from an instructor visiting town, and they've reminded me of how private lessons should be, and how they should make you feel afterwards.

    Some background first: many people have the luxury of studying with a particular teacher consistently in a style that they want to have. I don't have that luxury. Private lessons are few and far between. I don't have a teacher I can point to and say that's my style. I've taken lessons with many different teachers of many different styles, so my dance is a combination of things that work for my body and feel good to me.

    A lot of private lessons I've had were of the lecture variety. The instructor watches you dance/dances with you, then goes down the laundry list of things they think you should do differently, a lot of which you were doing on purpose. Any explanations you try to give on why you were doing it this way are met with sad shakes of the head and an insistence that this new way is WAY better, way more comfortable. You're left with confusion, and a lot of disparate pieces of information that you question whether you can/should incorporate into your dance.

    This series of privates was more a dialogue. They started the same way: some dancing, then going over a list of things to do differently. However, when I told the instructor "I want to lead this this way because I feel X, but you're telling me Y," the instructor took a moment of introspection and seriously thought about and considered what I was saying. Then she tried it out with me, thought some more, and either said "that's wrong because..." or " that's valid, but if you're going to lead it that way, try this small change to make it better." So refreshing! An instructor who recognizes different styles, really listens to their student, and can work within different styles to improve a student's dance with where they are at, rather than where the instructor is at.

    I left the lessons with technique that felt fundamental rather than style-based. I left feeling hopeful that I can make MY dance better versus depressed that I'd have to change everything I do to be a better dancer. I left feeling like the instructor listened to me, and cared about my dance.

    I wanted to share this with you all, as some of you might be taking lessons and feeling overwhelmed or confused, like you've wasted a lot of work on the wrong things. A good lesson makes you feel listened to. You should leave feeling torn down, worked, drained, but hopeful. I'd love to hear everyone's experiences with their own private lessons.
    vit and twnkltoz like this.
  2. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    I've never taken private lessons but many times I was advised in way like it was private class.
    That teachers knew me for a lot of time and gave me some specific suggestions.
    But even some teachers I had for a class gave me some insights that changed perception of dancing.

    And I had many different teachers, for some time I wanted them to adjust to me too much.
    And later I realized that I need to adjust to them.

    There is very simple reason, the more I adapt the more I become adaptable.
    And when I dance with their students it will be easier for me to adapt.
    And by adapting my mind grows and is more flexible.

    In a short I prefer dialogue over lecturing since I don't want to be blind followers of someone.
    I want to know complete mechanics and philosophy and that can be done by extensive conversation during the class.
    vit likes this.
  3. koinzell

    koinzell Active Member

    me: "But Oliver, I do it this way..."
    Oliver Kolker: "I KNOW, I'm trying to show you how to do it better!!!"
  4. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    You don't have to prove anything to a teacher in class. You are not required to do things the teacher's way. You are expected only to consider and try what he/she proposes on the matter.
    If you feel like doing it your way, just do it.
    The ultimate proof is in the pudding, I mean, in your dancing. When you and people whose opinion is meaningful to you are happy with your dancing, and see your dancing improving, you are on the right track.
    chipi3 likes this.
  5. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    He is showing you HIS way. :p
  6. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Almost all the many privates I attended were loke collectives classes where I would have been the only pupil. All the teachers were delivering their usual truth. The only benefit was, all their focus and criticism was on me for one hour.

    But then, if I come and say "I lead it this was because..." and "I cannot do it that much better because..." and the teacher acknowledges that both points are valid, then he's a bit in a dead end.
  7. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    teacher should teach you how to adapt to various dancers.
    Or you the dancer should expand theoretical and practical way of moving in a certian posture within a couple embrace.
    What you lead is depending on various factors:
    When I asked my teacher how do I dance with ...
    She answered me to find my way to deal with that kind of dancing.

    If the teacher cannot make you think that means
    you are not listening or the the teacher is incompetent.
    You pay them to share they thinking with you.
    It's not ultimate truth, but it might help you when
    you dance with student of the style they teach.
    Lilly_of_the_valley likes this.
  8. tangobro

    tangobro Active Member

    I may have a different view about dance lessons in general & private lessons in particular. I feel that a tango teacher shares their view of the dance. They usually teach what they do & what they themselves were taught. I seek them out based on what they do and who their teachers were. I've seen that, for those who are performers, how they dance for performance and how they dance on the social floor are different. I've seen that some (very few) have, as a plus, knowledge that helps them as teachers - an awareness of different learning styles & different teaching styles, an awareness of body mechanics, an awareness of the structure & language of music, an awareness of how to articulate these things in the language of the student. Regardless of whether or not they have these pluses I seek their view. I will take from it & integrate what fits my current view of the dance. I do not seek to have them reconcile their view of the dance with that of another teacher, as some students do by saying - teacher X taught that movement Y should be accomplished by using method A, but you say we should use method B. I do not explain to them why I choose my methods, I try to implement theirs in the class. If I can't I ask them what I have to do differently, with the understanding that that it may take time & practice before I can comfortably implement their method.

    In short I approach a private lesson with a defined set of things I want to work on or get feedback about. I let the teacher know at the beginning what those things are & we work toward them. I understand that there may be underlying skills that the teacher recognizes that I need to correct before I can accomplish what my original goal was when we started the class.

    I can have a dialogue with my friends & partners. From the teachers I want the specific methods & techniques that they value & employ. I will then, over time, see if & how I can integrate those methods & techniques into my dance.
  9. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    I feel like this is the key aspect of great teachers that lets them talk to a student and figure out where they're coming from and what they need. Of course they're going to teach what they know, how they were taught. But their deep knowledge lets them identify what to emphasize, what that particular student needs at their particular point in their dance. It lets them sift through what the students are doing that's different from their style versus what the students are doing that is just plain wrong. Tango triage maybe? ;)

    I talk with others who've had lessons when a teacher comes through town. When we compare notes, sometimes we find that the teacher taught us all pretty much the same thing. Sometimes they had us all work on different aspects of our dance. People almost unanimously agree those lessons propelled their dancing much farther than the "one size fits all" teachers.
    Mladenac likes this.
  10. I would be very careful if I were you. It seems that, at least in my part of the world, a person can set up as a "tango teacher" without having any generally recognized qualification from a competent issuing authority or even peer review.

    And I live in a place which is constantly the target of criticism from the globalists for having "too much regulation". I'd guess in a deregulated place like the United States, if anything, the rules are probably even more lax than here.

    One teacher I had, her big thing was repertoire. It was a bit like having musical instrument lessons as a schoolchild... "Now this term Johnny you're going to be working on Prelude in G minor". She'd choose a song she liked herself and say she wanted me to learn that song, learn what movements to do at what point in the music, double-time steps in this measure, pause for a while here, etc. and keep working at that same song for the next few weeks.

    It took all of the immediacy and joy out of the dance. I explained that I had wanted to learn an improvised form of tango, but to no avail. Needless to say, the number of hours I had with that teacher barely got into the double digits before I said goodbye and moved on.
  11. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Studying one song in depth and learning some kind of a choreography to it might be good as an exercise, to help understanding musicality, phrasing and such. But if that's not what you want, and you felt like you were not getting anything out of it, why it had to be double digit number of hours? A couple of hours would be enough, in my opinion.
    Mladenac likes this.
  12. Yes well first of all I had to actually learn to be able to DO the stuff in the first place that the she then wanted me to execute at certain points in the song. Not that she was much help with that either frankly.
  13. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    I don't know if the teacher in question was unqualified or not. Perhaps she was, but I see a totally qualified teacher taking that avenue with someone who had learned in steps and patterns before, and already firmly set in that ways, to help them make a transition from that to musical improvisation. Because improvisation does not equal "to do whatever". We have to do everything within a certain frame of harmony rules. :)
    Anyhow, in the end of the day, it's you and your needs the way you see them that come first, and ten hours sound and incredible amount of time to realize that the teacher is not "it", and you have been learning nothing useful. Better come up with some shorter assessment plan. :)
  14. Without question. But that is easier to do when you already have a little experience and know what to look for.

    As a student who is new to the dance, you experience a huge imbalance in "expert power" and naturally assume "teacher knows best".

    Until, after a dozen hours of tuition, you learn otherwise.
  15. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Well, maybe the teacher did know best. Maybe the student just did not get it. What difference does it make. If it is not working for you after a few lessons, move on.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2015
    Mladenac and oldtangoguy like this.
  16. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear" :)
    Lilly_of_the_valley likes this.
  17. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    Knowing whether a teacher knows their stuff or not is a skill in and of itself in tango. As a beginner, you really can just hope to get lucky, because you don't know any better.
  18. Mladenac

    Mladenac Well-Known Member

    I would go for the one that has the most students in the community.
    Since you will be spending most of time with one of them.
    Or any other that inspires you, you will change them anyway.

    And when you go to other communities try to adapt as much as you can.
  19. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Even as a beginner, one may do a research, and set some criteria of what is expected of a teacher, and what would be defined as a good, productive lesson. Of course the criteria will change down the road. But picking a teacher at random and spending on a dozen of private lessons during which, at best, you have no idea what is going on, does not seem a good strategy, especially if your budget is not unlimited, and you wish to see results.
  20. Indeed. Yet none of my teachers was selected at random. I asked for individual lessons only after extensively attending their group sessions and identifying whom I liked most. As I said before in another thread, they tend to be better-behaved in group classes, as the potential consequences of getting sidetracked are more costly.

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