[Tango-L] Beginners and milongas

Alex alex at tangofuego.us
Fri Feb 15 00:05:14 EST 2008

For what it's worth, we are all making the gross assumption that all
beginners are even interested in attending milongas. When in fact, in my
experience, the vast majority are not and do not.

I would estimate that eight or nine of ten students in a beginner group
class never move past the point of one or two or three months of classes. I
believe that most of these people are simply curious about tango, have had
it pique their interest in some way. The same way that a painting class or
pottery class might pique someone's interest.

For them, the tango class is an end unto itself. I use the analogy of a
pottery class. They go to pottery class on Wednesday nights and learn about
pottery. They are not going home and throwing pottery on a wheel and firing
the kiln in the back yard. They are not practicing nor thinking about
pottery in between the classes each week. They go to the classes, learn
about pottery, have bowl or a cup to show for it in the end, and then they
are done with it. On to the next creative interest.

You might have one hundred new students pass through beginner tango classes
in a year's time (in a small community, or within an instructor/couple's
sub-community). We are lucky, very lucky, if two or four or six "stick". For
most people, tango is not the dance for them - they move on to salsa or
swing - or cease to dance much at all.

Most fail to see tango in its social light - that it is a social dance - a
social experience. Tango has its own culture. (Some have called it a cult.)
Beginner classes often fail in not teaching or conveying the other aspects
of tango (beyond the dance, the vocabulary, the technique) - not delving
into the history, the culture, the social aspects and ultimately the (local)
opportunities available to dance tango socially on a regular basis.

The beginners who do show up to milongas should be welcomed with open arms
by the community. These are the ones more prone to "stick". They are more
prone to "get it" - to understand that tango is not just about the classes
every week - not "just" about the dance.

These beginners should be encouraged to get out on the dance floor and
dance. They should be befriended and mentored by more experienced dancers
and made to feel welcome. They should be enlightened by more experienced
dancers about floorcraft, navigation, cabeceo, codigos, etc. If we don't
befriend and welcome them (and ever so gently assume the mentor role), then
this opportunity for imparting knowledge does not exist.

There are beginners in my former community that I felt comfortable enough to
let them know that the eight count basic is an exercise and teaching tool
only, and not meant to be danced socially - even though the wonderful
teacher there didn't teach it. If some teachers are going to screw up and
teach it - then it is up to the community of dancers to "un" teach it. Peer
pressure (and respecting and looking up to experienced dancers) can be a
great teaching tool.

Mis dos centavos...

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