We wrote this a while back when there seemed to be a shared Tango consciousness regarding great teachers having or lacking the ability to be star dancers and star dancers having or lacking the ability to be great teachers…

Mark at Tango Beat wrote, “Great performers in every art discipline are not necessarily the best teachers. Is tango the exception?” He makes a valid point and we have had the experience of learning tango from dancers who seemed to dance well, but couldn’t teach to save their lives. However, we have also been fortunate enough to have as our maestro, Andres Laza Moreno, who has the “wide spectrum of talent” that Mark speaks of. Andres is both an incredible teacher and a phenomenal dancer.

Meanwhile, Bora wrote, “People’s tolerance for your mistakes goes down when you enter the ‘experts’ circle.’ After all, who will want to learn from you or see you dance if you fail to live up to the occasion, even if it’s during a social dance at a milonga?” Although we understand and partially agree with this comment, it depresses us tremendously. We’ve witnessed performers flexing almost every muscle in their body in order to avoid making a single mistake. Yet those with an eye for it, can see all the “mistakes” happening underneath this guise. They’re only fooling those very people who don’t want to learn from people who aren’t “perfect”! It is satisfying and oh-so-real to see the Tango greats make mistakes and own them! THAT is real Tango; as is understanding that there are no mistakes in Tango; there are only miscommunications.

Thankfully, there are those who understand and have said that a good dancer does not necessarily make a good teacher, and a good teacher does not necessarily make a good dancer. Nor does that need to be the case. THANK YOU. The old adage “do as I say and not as I do” fits nicely here.

The two of us do not need to dance like Sebastian Achaval or Ricardo Vidort in order to be great teachers. And at least we have the wherewithal to know that we are not even in the same realm as some of those great dancers (although that doesn’t seem to be the case with most teachers)!  We can, however, still be excellent and lovely dancers with an ability to teach the most “advanced” dancers in our community… without being perfect or being perfect technicians. In fact, we have been told and reminded that Tango should NOT be perfect and it is during those times of “imperfection” that Tango can enter your dance (Gracias, Javier). That little comment is a Tango-jewel. It’s something we treasure and pass on whenever we get the chance.

Finally, back in our ballroom days, our teacher and coach (a National champion) told us that you don’t need to be a champion or among the best dancers to be an incredible teacher. Some people need to seriously reconsider why they think they need to learn from the “best” dancer who teaches in the world when they’re unlikely to ever dance better than the “worst” dancer who teaches in their community. We’re not saying this to limit anyone’s potential, but rather to encourage students to seek out the best teachers (especially in their own hometown) instead of only those they THINK are the best dancers.

About Movement Invites Movement

We are relatively young Argentine Tango dancers and teachers who are married both to each other and the dance. We truly found Tango after making an 8-month Tango pilgrimage to Buenos Aires and we are using this blog to share our thoughts and feelings about our Tango experiences. We are not aspiring authors and our writing skills are questionable, but we write our truth. View all posts by Movement Invites Movement

11 responses to “Perfection

  • David Turner

    The very big extra dimension that links into this discussion about teachers and performers and is unique to tango is simply this. In tango, how it feels to the couple in each other’s arms matters so much more than how it looks. In this respect, I often deplore the fact that within tango we have those who see it as merely another dance, indeed a form of contemporary ballet and, perhaps at the other extreme, others who see it as a body language for communicating feelings.

    I am a subscriber to the latter philosophy. The last thing I want at a Milonga, is a show from a ‘professional’ couple but I realise that many others love that. There is no necessary connection between being a good teacher and being a show dancer but I would guess that a good tango teacher should feel lovely to dance with. All the teachers I admire certainly satisfy that rule.

    • Movement Invites Movement

      Absolutely! We left the “feel-good” philosophy out of this post, but we couldn’t agree more with you. We also have the experience of learning from teachers who most people think look amazing, but feel horrible (particularly the leader).

      • David Turner

        One issue we have is how people who have devoted their careers to dance can make a living. There is no possibility that dancers can survive just by dancing in shows, so they have to teach. When they demo, they are selling a dream that the vast majority of their pupils cannot achieve.

        Indeed, I am often saddened to see hobby dancers, albeit tango obsessed, perform ugly and inappropriate ‘advanced’ moves at a milonga. When they do this with their usual partner, it’s bad enough. When they attempt to lead them in social dance with others, fail, humiliate then ‘teach’ the move, I become angry. In that respect, the teaching of stage moves long before the basics of personal balance, musicality, elegant walking, connection, leading is a crime against tango. The problem is when I teach, nobody wants to learn to walk; they all want ‘stuff’. A pretty young couple from Argentina, trying to eat are never going to fight that.

        Here endeth the rant!

        Viva el Tango!

      • Movement Invites Movement

        Thank you for feeling comfortable enough to rant with us :)

  • David Turner

    Let’s rant! Today, I want to mention that frequently unpleasant phenomenon, the boleo. So called because the movement of the leg evokes the action of the boleadoras, balls on ropes, used to such good effect by the gaucho to wrap a fleeing steer’s legs to bring it down. This movement can be attractive if led thoughtfully and musically but….and it is a big BUT… so few leaders know how to lead one effectively. The outcome is often that the boleo becomes merely an adornment and a dangerous one, at that.

    I once saw a man at a packed milonga, lead a giro into a blind space to his left with a high boleo as his lady had her back to the traffic. The outcome was that the woman stepping backwards along the line of dance was kicked at hip level. I would have thrown the offending couple out.

    If she really must, a competent follower should be able to perform a low boleo at ankle level, almost within her own personal body space but it would have to be led properly, not from the arms, but from a sudden reversal of chest rotation. Otherwise, in my submission, the boleo is a stage movement; it’s ballet to impress an audience. There is no place for Queen Boudicca’s scythe at a milonga.

    Viva el Tango!

    • Piotr

      They often lift their leg even if I lead a low boleo. It’s not always the man’s fault ;) Women like to do boleos and embelishments to impress potential dance partners. Since they are expected to wait to be asked for dance, their motivation on a milonga has something in common with a stage performance – contrary to the men’s job.

      • Movement Invites Movement

        You’re right. We’ve seen many women lead ganchos and boleos themselves. Rarely is it a beautiful sight.

      • Piotr

        Yes, most ganchos and all high boleos to be executed properly need energy, a contra from the leader. If a woman does that alone – especially when she does a circular gancho instead of simpy finishing a pivot to the right – it looks really lame.

      • Anna Pridanova

        Was about to answer David, but not I can answer you both. When lead into a boleo either in a crowded milonga or by someone completely new to me I shall always do a low boleo – with my toe on the floor. I personally like doing boleos, but I think it is also lady’s responsibility to adjust to situation and understand the consequences of her partner’s lead. So I shall wait until I get into arms of my perfect partner, who has very good sense of the floor, other dancers, me and above all the spirit of the codigos and shall go high only then.

      • Movement Invites Movement

        Thanks for your Comment Anna. We agree that the follower has to take some responsibility as well!

  • caityrosey

    Just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for The Versatile Blogger award. See my most recent post for the next steps. :-)

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