Tango Argentino > who's really qualified to teach

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by hbboogie1, Jun 12, 2009.

  1. hbboogie1

    hbboogie1 New Member

    Tango Teachers are a strange lot. One thing they all have in common is a lack of certification, wait a minute …. They don’t need any certification. Lets see I’ve had six group classes with a local teacher I feel like I dance pretty good I think I’ll have some business cards printed up with a slick picture of me in tango attire and start teaching.
    I’ve witnessed this time and again and it really ticks me off and it’s not only the beginners who profess to be teachers but it’s also those who claim to be experienced who have traveled to or originated from BsAs and studied under many of the great dancers.
    I’ve traveled to BsAs many times and studied with the great Roberto Herrera. Now that would look good on my resume but the truth is I had one group lesson with Roberto in 2002. Am I qualified to teach…No

    What I do when choosing a teacher is watch them dance and decide for myself if I feel they are good dancers and more important are they dancing a style I like.
    A good example for me would be Facundo Posadas I love how he dances and wanted to learn all I could about his style.
    I know what you’re thinking…just because someone dances well doesn’t mean they can teach well. You’re absolutely right. I’ve had classes (class) with great dancers who were not good instructors. It’s your job to determine if that teacher is the one for you. You being a pretty experienced dancer can make that informed decision but what about that poor beginner who doesn’t know the difference between good and bad tango?
    This is a problem all over the world and it’s not going to go away. So what can we as a tango community do? Make a black list and pass it out at milongas warning people about certain teachers we don’t like? I don’t think so.
    Post their names and locations on tango forums? Not a good idea. Hire a guy named Big Tony to break their legs? That one could work…..Probably not

    Okay so what’s the solution? I don’t know if there is a solution. I do know that it produces bad dancers that disrupt the floor for the rest of us.
    I just had an idea…. Getting into a milonga could require taking a test like the SATs for getting into college.
    Score too low go back and learn more floor craft or how to lead ochos or whatever.
    We can even ban those that dance Nuevo…now that really would be a good thing. Oh well just wishful thinking. It’s always going to be the way it is.

    Do you think back in 1885 in San Telmo BsAs at the regular Saturday night Milonga they would sit around the dance floor drinking Mate and bitching about the new guy doing the high boleos and not respecting the line of dance….NO, someone would whip out a knife and cut him…ahhh the good old days.
  2. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I don't have a good answer to your main question (about who's really qualified), especially since I think that a teacher may be qualified to teach one aspect of the dance, but not another.

    One thing that I do think would be helpful, is that if someone markets themselves as a teacher, then there needs to be a way for students to publicly voice their opinions of the teacher (and the class). However, there needs to be specifics posted about what they liked and disliked, not just that the class stunk.
  3. hbboogie1

    hbboogie1 New Member

    That's a very good idea. It's so sad to dance with a lady who's been with an instructor for a year and can't dance very simple uncomplicated basics.
  4. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Hmmm... Maybe I am qualified to teach after all.

  5. kieronneedscake

    kieronneedscake New Member

    Ironically, venues for expressing opinions (eg. this forum) are heavily policed on such personalized criticism.

    To be honest, public opinions of people are pretty unreliable too. Some people gush about particular teachers (coincidentally handsome ones...), others strongly dislike their lessons. The issue is not that these people are wrong, but that they are valuing their lessons on different criteria.

    Then there's the matter of styles, and the fact that people are so incredibly vocal about stuff they don't like. One would have to draw together all the criticism about particular teachers and do a fairly thorough analysis. For that you need multiple views, you need to know who is making the opinions... it's just a disaster in the making.

    Suppose you start certifying teachers... regionally, nationally, globally? Who recognises what authority?

    The same problem is found in most art forms I think. You can only go by accumulated reputation.
  6. Captain Jep

    Captain Jep New Member

    Oi vey the "scientific approach" ...

    Have said this before - if someone is a great dancer (or even a good one), then you can see it - they dont need to get a certificate to "prove" it. I hate the modern era's emphasis on "qualifications" over experience.

    I'm just off to wax my car ...
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Have you all seen this one?
    Government in action.
    Not that I'm avdocating it, you understand.

    With West Coast Swing, we have the GSTDA, which actually teaches people how to both dance and teach, and has what in my opinion is a very well thought out methodology. But then, WCS was born in the USA, and is still being sheparded by one of the first people to be trained to teach the dance.
    And, interestingly, she was initially trained by the Arthur Murray chain. People often complain about the chain schools, but they do offer their teachers something in the way of teacher training (or so I've heard.).
    Since AT comes from another country, it's hard for me to imagine an organization in the US being able to prescribe it, or issue credentials that would be respected.

    Caveat emptor.

    I think the best approach is to talk about the teachers who turn out good dancers. I found that here in Portland most people don't want to say anything bad about anyone. (Although sometimes, it's a breath of fresh air when someone says something you've been thinking for a long time.)
    Another mantra here in Portland is that there are many styles, approaches, etc, and you should be open to them and try other teachers.

    Far as bad dancers disrupting the dance floor...
    Well, we get that in country western, too. Last night there was a guy in front of us really messing up, but I was able to keep us out of trouble.
    I was a beginner once, too.
    It was a challenge.

    I've stopped going to milongas where some dancers were a continual problem. There, the organizers try to recreate "traditional" milongas, but tolerate disrespectful, non traditional behavior, as does the overall community, I guess. I made sure that the "community leaders" knew how I felt before I gave up on the situation.
    I'm glad to see some of you discussing (more or less) non confrontational ways to address outliers.
    At the risk of losing patrons, you would think that after several "accidents" of the physical kind, organizers would talk to those responsible. And maybe they do. But, it's good policy to address it in private. But then it's easy to think nothing is happening.
  8. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    There is... It's called Conversation.

    I'm not even in a really big area, and there's still lots of chit chat at the milongas about teachers, workshop, etc.

    The bigger problem is when there is no variety of instruction in an area. If there is only THE tango teacher or THE tango organization, then its almost impossible to offer a dissenting opinion and the conversation has no overall objective balance.

    For instance, I thought I was the only one who wasn't completely enthralled with the main teacher's classes here a few years back. Seriously, it bordered on hero worship! And I was afraid to speak up since I thought I might get blackballed if I uttered anything remotely like criticism or dissapointment

    Later I found out there were others who felt as I did and were as intimidated as I was to say so.

    What changed things was a growth in the variety of learning opportunities. Then it was more acceptable to not be their student (in fairness, I will say that I found my privates with this teacher valuable... it was the group classes that I thought were not helping people much... that old "steps vs concepts" thing)

    Personally, I think tango instruction is a great example of how free markets win out over regulation or "authorized monopoly".
  9. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Watching them dance is a good way of telling if they can dance well. I'm just of the opinion that teaching well is a separate skill from dancing well. Of course, it's infinitely more difficult to teach something if you can't do it yourself.
  10. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    And maybe the instructor is awful, or maybe the instructor has been struggling with this particular student for all of that year to improve them. The only way to really know is to observe an overall pattern of incompetence with a teacher's student roster, or to see if that student improves under another teacher.

    The mere fact that a particular bad dancer has a particular teacher doesn't prove much on its own.
  11. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Is Tonya's ex out of jail yet?
  12. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    I recently had a conversation with another dancer (whose ability I respect) about a teacher we had both taken private lessons with. I had SUCH a negative experience I was curious what her's was.

    She loved him.

    When I told her my experience and what I didn't like about it, she was surprised... Not surprised about what I considered a problem, but that I had had THAT problem with him at all. It was completely the opposite of how he had been with her.

    I'd almost be tempted to give him another try after hearing her (and some other's) reviews, but money is way too tight these days to take the risk... I'll stick with what I KNOW works for me for now.
  13. Zoopsia59

    Zoopsia59 Well-Known Member

    Well, that depends on what mean by "do it yourself".

    I can guarantee you that many of the world's great skating coaches NEVER skated at the technical level of today's champions. Many came from an era when men were praised for triple jumps and ladies for doubles. Many were also not the top champions of their day. Some are also in no shape anymore to do even single jumps themselves or many of the other more difficult elements, and certainly aren't likely to be able to get their leg over their head in a full split for a spiral. The coach who has created the skating juggernaut out of China was unheard of prior to his success building a top level national team, one amazing skater (or more accurately, pair) at a time.

    But these are still the top coaches who turn out the world class skaters

    So yes... teaching is DEFINITELY a different skill.
  14. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Who is really qualified to teach tango?

    In Buenos Aires, there is a saying: A tango teacher is born every day.

    The tango magazines are full of advertising for tango classes. Anyone who can pay for an ad and rent a studio can be a tango teacher in Buenos Aires. There are many schools with large staffs who teach everything imaginable. There is even one that trains teachers and gives a certificate for completing the course. Then there is the University of Tango which provides a free two-year course to anyone who wants to learn tango. Afterwards, one is prepared to teach.

    I used to read all the posts on Tango-A about the various traveling teachers from Buenos Aires giving workshops in the USA. It seems that practically any tango dancer who manages to obtain a tourist visa and pay their own way to the USA can find someone willing to host them for classes without checking out their qualifications. I've read some resumes that are all fiction, but these teachers have a good agent and do a three-month tour without having their backgrounds checked by anyone. People believe what they read if it's on the internet.

    It is a known fact that Americans love to take classes for years. They never feel they are good enough to just enjoy dancing. The more the teacher analyzes what they do, the better they like it. And mentioning the word "technique" will attract even more to classes. Teachers know they shouldn't criticize or demand practice from their students, or they will find themselves out of work.

    I wish I could name all the frauds who are going to the USA to teach when they have less experience than those in their classes. It's especially annoying when these people are teaching in my hometown Chicago. There is no way to stop it. As long as organizers have people sign up for classes and make money, they will continue to hire unqualified teachers who haven't a clue how to teach social dancing for the milonga. Those who invent lots of new steps and perform impressive exhibitions are laughing all the way to the bank while not doing one thing to contribute to good social dancing in the USA.

    Those who spend most of their time teaching in BsAs have no time to dance in the milongas. Just because someone has taught in BsAs doesn't mean they have experience dancing in the milongas.

    We test drive a car before buying. Why not test drive a tango teacher? Watch them dance at a milonga. Dance with them. Observe a group class and see how they teach and what. Then evaluate and decide if they are worth a private lesson or not.

    I know people who take classes in BsAs with the same teachers who travel to the USA. They spend more money on privates and never get to dance with the teacher at a milonga. That should be standard procedure. Those who take a private with a milonguero go to the milonga with him. Women dance with him at a milonga, and they are invited by other men simply because of dancing with a milonguero. That's why women come to BsAs--to dance in the milongas.
  15. suburbaknght

    suburbaknght Well-Known Member

    I'm not an AT dancer, though I've taught ballroom as a professional and an amateur, had amazing teachers and atrocious ones, and been through two certification processes, so while I wouldn't claim to be an expert on teachers, I have seen the other side of the coin.

    When I started teaching for a national chain, I realized that while I was getting a lot of high quality instruction I would need to pay for additional lessons from outside teachers to make progress at the rate I wanted, and given that I was making slightly more than a paperboy, I had to be sure I was getting value for my money. After trying several teachers I finally found a method of locating good teachers: don't evaluate the teacher's dancing. Instead, watch their students. Go to a social dance, or competition, and ask the students who they take lessons from. A few local names kept cropping up over and over from the dancers - and the teachers - I wanted to be like. These were the people I went to for my additional training.

    There's a saying in wine: "You can't drink the price tag." Dancers should say, "You can't dance the resume." A teacher's history as a dancer is no indication of his or her ability as a teacher. Competition victories can be the result of a good partnership (was that a pro-am she was practically carried through?) or an exaggerated empty floor victory. Training under a top teacher can mean as little as a single lesson, and never indicates how much the student actually learned (I've had three hours of private lessons with Emanuel Pierre-Antoine, but I wouldn't call myself his student. But some people would). Mastery of intricate technical moves may be the result of forty or fifty hours of practice that most of us will never duplicate for three seconds of flash. None of these are signs a person will be a good teacher.

    But a good student is a testimony to their teacher. A teacher is a merchant and dance is his or her product. An accomplished student is your opportunity to kick the tires, so to speak. Ask the students how often they took lessons, how much they practiced, did they do groups, privates or both? Did they enjoy the learning process? Did the teacher train them to compete or to social dance? All of these are a much better guide to the teacher's ability than the teacher's resume.

    Now a word on certification. I should state that I unequivocally support a law requiring all would-be dance teachers to have teaching certification from a nationally recognized dance organization (meaning signed with NDCA, USA Dance, World Hustle Dance Association, etc., such as DVIDA, ISTD, Arthur Murray, etc.). Now I must admit that I have taken lessons, and continue to take lessons with non-certified teachers, particularly if they have some skill that I want to learn, but it's been my experience certification is a stamp of quality. It doesn't matter to me who does the certifying, and it's often better to have different teachers learning from different syllabi, but most worthwhile teachers understand the importance of proving their dancing and teaching abilities, if only to themselves.
  16. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Hows about having both !
  17. Temza

    Temza Member

    Absolutely. The tree is known by its fruit.
    So what about beginners who don't know what to look for?
    I was one such beginner. I regard my first year in tango as wasted - God knows what I was taught - but I kept my eyes open, I went to different milongas and slowly, slowly I formed my opinion of what is good, bad or ugly.
  18. Captain Jep

    Captain Jep New Member

    Yeah well in an ideal world :p

    I do agree there is a skill to teaching and teaching dance specifically. So in an ideal world all full time dance teachers should be working towards a quali. However that can be a general quali - it doesnt have to be specific to their own dance. More along the lines of teaching movement and controlling groups etc etc. They can do this while they work.

    However .... it shouldnt be a case of getting the quali before they can be employed in a studio. Trouble is, the moment you propose a qualification, that's just what happens.

    Tango teachers are a rare resource. If someone is mad enough (or brave enough) to be one, we want them out in the field, teaching us!
  19. Angel HI

    Angel HI Well-Known Member

  20. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Here would be a convenient place for a list of bad teachers but for some reason as soon as you say something bad about a teacher, a mod comes.

    At worst a bad teacher can make you lose two years in your learning. One year of classes with him and year to get rid of the bad habits. Once you wander around and you know a lot of teachers worldwide, you choose the ones you prefer and that's it. What are two years lost when seven are needed to develop a leader? It will be nine years instead of seven, that's all.

Share This Page