(Reposting my article series from Tango Connections.)
Disclaimer - I am not claiming to be an expert about anything. This article is the result of several conversations with students and teachers in my own tango community and other communities around the US, and the world. This advice is subjective, most likely biased and certainly incomplete.
With that in mind, fire when ready . . .
How do you choose a tango teacher?
This question is almost a permanent topic on dance forums, blogs and certainly Tango-L's newsgroup. It seems simple enough when someone approaches you at a milonga, or some other social occasion, and asks, "Who's the best teacher in the area." But of course it isn't nearly that simple. There are ways to find the best teacher for you - at this time. Beyond that, it's an impossible question to answer for someone else - though some people may try, usually with a great deal of bias.
So where do you start? Know yourself.
First, ask yourself why you want to dance and why you want to dance tango.
Be honest because it's going to show as soon as you start dancing with someone. If you're telling everyone (including yourself) that you want to dance to appreciate the culture and history of Argentina and you're really out to pick up women, it's going to be painfully obvious to everyone. It really is okay to start tango because it's sexy and increases your attractiveness to the opposite sex. (According to the Sydney Morning Herald, dancing apparently does lead to sex: http://www.smh.com.au/news/science/its-true-dancing-does-lead-to-sex/2005/12/22/1135032135891.html ... .)
It's also okay to start because the music speaks to you, or because you just need exercise that isn't boring. There are as many reasons to start tango as people who dance it. We can make broad generalizations about categories - but it's really up to you.
Also realize that those goals are likely to change as you begin your tango life.
Part of the reason I started tango was because I wanted to feel strong, beautiful and graceful - things I felt profoundly lacking in myself. In three months, maybe less, my goals changed. Not because my goals were suddenly met, but because tango made me, and many other people, recognize that we were strong and beautiful and graceful when we got here. We just needed to remember.
(Also check out "The Beginner's Questionnaire" on Ms. Hedgehog's blog...good in evaluating teachers... http://mshedgehog.blogspot.com/2008/10/beginners-questionnaire.html - thx Alex for the link.)