Finding a teacher ... how much do pedigrees matter?

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by pygmalion, Mar 23, 2013.

  1. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    After a fair amount of googling, I've found a listing of AT instructors who teach within a reasonable drive of me. All offer group and private lessons (and in any case,
    I think that the group versus private question is a separate issue that belongs in a separate thread, so others after me can find the information they need.) They are also of both genders, although all claim to lead and follow. But again, I think sex of the instructor is a separate (but interesting) topic.

    Here are a couple of biographies (with identifying information redacted to protect the innocent.)






    Okay. So here are the questions. How much difference does it make whom your teacher studied with? For an absolute beginner, such as myself, do pedigrees really matter? How much should that type of thing weigh, when selecting an instructor? etc.

    Please discuss while I watch. ;) :D
  2. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    It might give an indication of what they know, or how they dance. It might not.

    I would think you should pick a teacher that you feel some affinity for, whether for classes or privates.

    I suggest you should be guided by your own thoughts and feelings, more than those of others.

    It's not like buying a car, that you'll be stuck with for a while. If you decide your teacher is not working out after a week or a month, just go to someone else.
    B. Reguise and Subliminal like this.
  3. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    1) Very little difference, IMO. First of all, you can never be sure what "studied with" really means. Was it as an observer in a masterclass or as a participant, who received direct feedback from the instructor?; was it in a group class, and how many of them were there?; was it in private lessons, and how many of them over how many months/years?.

    2) Pedigrees might matter, but are hard to verify, and they probably aren't all that important when it gets down to teaching. Even if someone studied with a tango "god" (what ever that means) or two DOES NOT mean they themselves know how to teach!

    A beginner needs good teaching. It took my wife and I a long time to get rid of the many bad habits we acquired from our first teacher. As a former guitar teacher, I always found it more challenging to teach beginners than advanced students. Beginners are a more or less an open slate (depending on related experience, and ego...); there's a tremendous responsibility to set the student up right, technically and musically (dancing is the same). If you have an opportunity to observe these teachers at a milonga and/or their students and talk with them (if you can figure who they are) you will be in a better position to judge. As AndaBien said, if a teacher doesn't seem right after a reasonable time, go somewhere else.

    Between the two choices you listed, I have a hard time taking the second seriously - too many names (and most are "performers"). No one needs to travel to BsAs frequently to "catch up on the latest tango trends", and choreographing shows and performing is not a pedigree a social dancer should look for in a teacher. Quite the opposite, IMHO. BTW, I'm not too thrilled with #1 either...:)

    Glad to see you are (almost) ready to start down the AT road!
    B. Reguise likes this.
  4. LKSO

    LKSO Active Member

    I have to second the name dropping problem; they are all performers! However, I googled T#1 and, (HAHA!) found that he mentions the exact same names as his influences! So T#1 just has a better written bio. You're probably stuck in the same boat no matter which teacher you choose.

    A video of them dancing would be a much better indicator to the kind of dancing they do and whether or not it is appropriate for the dance floor. (There is a reason why certain teachers forbid video recording of their teaching and dancing.)

    I've looked at T#1's syllabus and it has indicated to me that he is not the kind of teacher I would want because that is not the kind of dancing I want to do.

    And T#2 appear to teach her students stage tango as well. There's a picture of her beginning students celebrating their stage performance. And another picture where she is leading by taking a step backwards. These also indicate to me that it's not the kind of dancing I want to do.
  5. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    I'll stick my neck out, and say that probably the best instruction, for most beginners, can be found from a local teacher who is actively involved in the local social dancing scene as an event organiser and not just as a teacher. When they are not organising their own events, they are regularly attending, and dancing, at the events of the other groups in the area. They dance and teach. If they only perform and teach, be wary.

    That might be unfair to one or two decent teachers, but as a rule of thumb, it can serve quite well.
  6. Subliminal

    Subliminal Well-Known Member

    Meh, pedigree can tell you something about the teacher, but it's not the be-all-end-all. I wouldn't buy into the fallacy that just because someone studied under a stage dancer or does performance tango means they can't teach social dance. There are a few teachers I know who do both, and their students are just fine.

    Hmm. That having been said, it looks like teacher #2 really is more performance oriented, she is emphasizing her performance creds quite a bit. Can't really tell until you see her dance on the social floor... but yeah...

    Teacher #1 seems a little more social oriented. His syllabus is simple, but that's enough to get you started.

    Really, I'd see if you can attend a group class held by both of them, see if you like their teaching style. And maybe take a private from both if you get serious. Get to know people from the community, see who they like.
  7. B. Reguise

    B. Reguise New Member

    "If it's on the web, it must be true." :rolleyes:

    Experience tells me that bios are like resumes - nuggets of truth buried in marketing hype.
  8. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member


    A secondary issue with such stuff is that it is going to be of no value to anyone. If you are a beginner, it is meaningless. You might as well choose several names from a BsAs telephone directory, or just make it up: "Studied extensively under Lidio Fasoli and Juan Polito". If you are experienced enough not to be taken in by that, then you probably already know, by reputation, something about most of the teachers in your area, and that reputation is more important than their bio. Visiting teachers can be more difficult, but looking at them perform on YouTube is only going to tell you how they perform: it won't help at all to know whether they can teach, or whether their teaching style will suit your learning style. Again, reputation counts for a lot, but don't rely on the organiser's recommendation: they will almost invariably recommend that you book onto the workshops they are organising ...
  9. LadyLeader

    LadyLeader Member

    It is like all new food when travelling!

    Go around and take a bite of what seems interesting and when you are learning on the way, you will spot your favorites sooner and more precisely. I think it is better to do things, test different options than wait for a correct start. If you find a favorite stick to that!

    A person who will stay a long time in tango milieu will need to relearn things. There will be changes in styles, way of doing things in that style, you maybe need to relearn something to make it more suitable for your body and so on.
  10. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    T#1 pros: -male (4 female beginners), -musician, -other dances;
    T#1 conts: -no designated body work concept (as f.i. Alexander, Pilates..)

    T#2 pros: -female (4 advanced followers, or male beginners);

    Today (ok five years ago) the best body work and technique concept got Dana Frigoli the second best stems from Naviera. Try to find one of their students as teachers. This advice is absolutely independent of any specific sub style you want to focus on later.
  11. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Thanks everyone! Actually, I was using those bios only as examples. The list of teachers in this area in quite a bit longer.

    To be honest, I was the opposite of impressed by bio #2 because I'm suspicious of all the name-dropping. No offense to her, I'm just suspicious of name-dropping in general. Not that I recognized the names or anything. I just thought there were too many of them. :D

    I just wondered how much weight, if any, all those "I've studied with [blah]" claims carry. From the sound of it here, the names might be a better way to eliminate unwanted influences than to establish teachers that have the skills you seek. What does "I studied under [blah]" really mean anyway?

    This is great feedback and I really appreciate it.

    I wonder if a better approach for me right now might be to work in concentric circles from where I live and find the teachers with acceptable (not necessarily stellar) creds, and take group lessons until I find somebody that I like. After all, the closer the teacher/more convenient the lessons, the more I'll be able to take. The world's best teacher a three-hour drive away might be less useful to me at this point, than an okay teacher who's around the corner. *shrug*
  12. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    To be honest, this is the bio that appealed to me most. It's for a couple that teaches nearby.



    That's it. "Come dance with me. You will know who I am."
  13. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    From that bio, I have a clear idea of how she likes to dance. Whether she would teach that style, or teach it well, I don't know.

    Your idea of dancing in concentric circles is perfect. Start with what is easiest for you. Why not? Then expand as you develop a more clear idea of what you are looking for in tango, and in tango teachers.

    Edited: Maybe I misread those quotations, but there is a distinct stylistic similarity in all those teachers.
  14. tangobro

    tangobro Active Member

    This.

    plus a teacher who has been influenced by Carlos Gavito and Nito & Elba (social dancers who because of a combination of being in the right place at the right time & knowing the right people, were selected to perform) might match my personal stylistic preferences.

    I would caution against teachers whose bio matched #1,
    Teacher #1 studies and performs ballet, jazz and hip-hop and other social and folk dances and brings this wealth of knowledge to his instruction.

    because many such teachers use the movement vocabulary of other dances to teach Argentine Tango movements. Not "WRONG" but different.

    I do consider pedigree in evaluating a teacher because it tells what styles of dance & forms of dancing they value. Tells absoulutely nothing about how effective they are as teachers or how well they embody or transmit those values.
  15. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    That bugged me as well, as well as did the fact that he taught at a ballroom studio and a university ballroom program.

    No offense to ballroom, but I don't think the two are particularly well-related skill sets. So I'm not sure why you would put ballroom on a tango resume.
  16. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    That teacher might be really good, but all the wrong signals are present in his resumé.
  17. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    Yup.
  18. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    They carry none except the information that you´ve got to do with a young keen dancer who knows she´s good but still got no credible reputations, so far. Later in her career she will replace all these names by certain shows and international performances. All these blah blahs doesn´t matter here anyway, but also doesn´t bother. The information I get out of her bio: learned from the bottom up, may consider herself too good for grinding in beginner classes.
  19. UKDancer

    UKDancer Well-Known Member

    There are many transferrable skills, but I'm presupposing dancing at a high level. You should be able to take that for granted in an instructor, but caveat emptor.
  20. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    Sure. Dancers cross train in all sorts of things -- martial arts, yoga, other forms of dance, etc. There are LOTS of transferable skills. Heck. I hope that my years of dance and music study will help with tango.

    But two things. One. For those transferable skills to help, you have to be able to see outside the box you were originally trained in. Meaning, for example, the worst ballroom teacher I ever had was the ex ballet dancer who never learned to adjust his footwork properly. Almost everything he did in ballroom had too much turnout. There were some things that transferred beautifully (arm stylng, spins,to a lesser degree posture) but he had messy, messy feet for ballroom.

    This tango teacher might be very good.

    What bothered me more was the heavy emphasis on ballroom in the resume. To me, either he didn't know tango culture well enough to know that ballroom might be unwelcome (red flag,) or he thought that his potential clientele be would be too ignorant to question his credentials (bigger red flag.)

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