Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,
I had my first Tango lesson about 2 months ago. I looked forward to and enjoyed my first few classes immensely. One of the reasons I looked forward to Tango because of its complexity.

Then suddenly, Tango became unenjoyable and frustrating because of the constant corrections from dance partners. And often men are saying contradicting things. After a while I wanted to say, "Just dance."

Another, related, observation, is the pushing and grabbing because the woman does not know the lead, and the lack of acknowledgement of the level of dance of the woman. I think this could be called bullying.

After reading some of the Tango websites, it seems that, although the man leads and the woman follows, Tango is a mutual and reciprocal dance [the quality or state of being reciprocal: mutual dependence, action, or influence.]

Both the man and the woman have equal responsibilities and want equal satisfaction and enjoyment from Tango. What Tango seems to offer is the sharing, for that moment, of a special emotional alchemy, that can be accomplished if both partners feel equally at ease with the steps of Tango and with each other.

Dear Neophyte,
Indeed, Tango can be a frustrating experience for beginners. I have heard similar comments to those you have made from other beginning women dancers. On the other hand, I have never heard a man make a similar compliant. It may be because, in general, women are more sensitive and/or polite than men. I know it is not because men are, in general, better beginning dancers.

Although most suggestions or "constructive" comments made by men are (I hope) made with the best of intentions, you have pointed out something I don't believe most men realize. That is, it can be irritating to be constantly told by different men how to do something especially if the comments are unsolicited. There is a discussion of "advice giving" in the Dance Etiquette section of TangoScene. Men, it might be worth a read through.

"Man-handling" or "bullying" as you put it, is clearly just plain uncalled for and poor form. You might refrain from dancing with the "bullies". Maybe they will get the message.

If male dancers see you dance with a well-respected good leader with whom you are able to do the moves, it may occur to the other male dancers that just possibly the "problems" are not entirely yours.

I hope you will persevere,

Dear Editor,
I just checked out your site - It will be a great resource to those such as myslf who are aspiring tango dancers. I introduced myself to you at the Monte Christo on Friday...I particularly liked your etiquette section.

I see occasional breaches of these rules, and I am sure your guidelines will increase the level of awareness. I have another suggestion, though it concerns group classes rather than milongas. A situation that I often find uncomfortable is when the leaders are in a row but certain of them (usually the same ones !!!) position themselves towards the center of the row and to the front.

This gives them a ringside view of the instructor but obstructs the view of those behind and to the side. The ideal formation here is a row that is curved out towards the edges. It would also be good practice if the instructor alternated his postion so that the back row had a chance to be the "front" row. Few instructors (Gary is an exception) are alert to this logistical problem. It would be good to raise the awareness level of this problem!

I plan on being a regular on the "circuit" and look forward to seeing you there,
Center Row

Dear Center Row,
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You make a good point and I am sure others have similar feelings about this issue. I have taken many dance classes (jazz, ballroom, western, salsa, tango...) over the past years and the straight-line multiple row method seems to be the universal and best one. In most dance classes there are usually more students than space, many more students than instructors, and varying degrees of student experience--not the best teaching arrangement.

Your suggestion concerning a concave formation doesn't work well because of the collisions near the focal point with forward moving steps. Alternating rows sometimes works. But usually you end up in the back row just when you need to see what's going on up front. If the space is large enough, some instructors have the students form a line-of-dance circle around them. This doesn't work so well either because half of the class is turned 180 degrees the wrong way and the instructor tends to keep turning around to really confuse the issue. There are other variations on these formations, but the bottom line is that in a many-to-one teaching situation, the multi-row approach is about as good as it gets.

Here's a suggestion: get to class early and get in the front row directly behind the instructor. Don't be shy. Then hope there are no row changes and the instructor doesn't move around much. Many times the good students are right behind the instructor. If you cannot get a front row, try to get behind a more experienced student. Don't be shy about asking questions or for help. When you are first starting out, it is more critical to be up front. You don't want to pick up bad habits by copying other beginning student's mistakes or by guessing at what is being taught. When you become more experienced, being in a back row won't be as difficult as at first.

Another alternative to really speed up your learning time is to take a few private lessons early in your beginning dance experience. Many times this method is cheaper and faster in the long run. In any case, it is certainly a more direct method of acquiring dance skills. You are also less likely to have to unlearn a bad habit. With private lessons you should get very attentive guidance and detailed instruction. Also always try to find out the reason why an instructor prefers one technique or movement over another. If they give you the "... because that's the way it's done..." type of an answer, you might want to try someone else. Shop around, ask friends about their experiences.

We are very fortunate to live in the area where there is such an active dance community, a good dance scene, and many good local dance instructors. We also get a constant flow of Tango Masters passing through. Take full advantage of these opportunities. This is an Argentine Tango dance paradise.

Finally, keep in mind that Argentine Tango is a nontrivial dance to learn. It takes time, patience and persistence. Good luck.
See you on the dance floor,