Teacher Condescension

rant . . .

When I'm in a class, or in particular a private lesson, I make a conscious effort to be open to criticism. It's a little bit my Buddhist learning, but it's really a whole lot more about economics. I am paying to learn. Getting defensive wastes time and money. That said, I am also aware that every teacher says something different - often contradicting what the last teacher said. The best advice I received regarding that all-to-common phenomenon, is that the teacher of the class is correct at least for the duration of lesson. After that, you have to decide what works for your body, your situation, and your comfort. So for the duration of the class or lesson, I try very hard to give the benefit of the doubt.

So let me repeat (mostly for my own benefit) that I try very, very hard to stay open to criticism. I may not always welcome it with the grace that I would like, but I do try to be a receptive student. I can take a teacher being abrupt, or abrasive - even short tempered (to a point).

What I don't handle well is condescension directed at an entire group of dancers based on style preference. At one class I was informed that "close embrace" or "milonguero" style tango is only done in the Buenos Aires' "lower class" milongas simply because they tend to be more crowded. Lower class milongas? Do you mean like Niño Bien, or Salon Canning, or Porteno y Bailarin, or Los Consagrados, or maybe Cachirulo (which wasn't crowded at all in this video.) In the days before YouTube, maybe you could get away with saying something like that - but now I can simply search for myself and see video of dozens of milongas all over Buenos Aires. What I see is close embrace danced practically everywhere.

And even when overt comments aren't made, the attitude is still there. The attitude of close embrace dancers dance that way because they aren't good/skilled/creative enough to dance any other way. For the record, I don't accept that open embrace or nuevo dancers are insensitive or disprespectful either. Generalizations on both sides do no good. If there is an action or specific behavior that needs to be addressed, then address that behavior and leave the personal jibes out of it.

Anyway, I'm sorry to get so ranty about this topic. It's been building up a little while.

/rant

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The two styles don't mix on the same dance floor. Some 'nuevo' dancers left a milonga recently after about an hour,because the floor was 'too crowded.' This milonga was advertised as a traditional one,both the music played,and the way of dancing,so why did they go? In Buenos Aires,you can choose between the two different milongas,trad,or nuevo,then everyone is happy.Wishing you that(traditional) 'perfect tango'.

Frances R said...

I do not believe it was the matter of attitude, of style preference or opinion. The person(s) in question displayed total ignorance on the very subject they were attempting to teach.
I guess people in some tango communities are too kind (or too innocent?) since they agree to tolerate such "tango instructors". Sincerely hope you are not the only (or the last) one who called them on the nonsense they are trying to sell, Mari.

Mari Johnson said...

@Anon - Unrelated, but your experience reminded me of it. My teacher, my teacher's teacher, another student and I were having a small practice session on an *enormous* dance studio floor. There was one other couple on the floor dancing ballroom tango. My teacher and I were standing still in the embrace, changing weight, when the ballroom couple ran into us. We were near the middle of the floor, as I said - standing still! The leader of the other couple huffed and said, "There is simply no room to practice!" o_O

Mari Johnson said...

@Frances - I believe you're right - in this case I think it's a lack of experience being disquised as style snobbery. I don't know if other dancers have spoken up - they didn't in the class I was in, but then the comment was made to my partner and me directly so I don't know who else over heard it.

Christine--RHP said...

I'm still amazed the further I journey into this tango experience, at just how many folks are 'experts' on what is real, what is authentic, why it is so, why soandso is incorrect or inauthentic, etc, etc, ad nauseum. sheesh...
it's putting a damper on things for sure...

jantango said...

I wouldn't be surprised if the comment came from someone who has never been to Buenos Aires.

Mari Johnson said...

Jantango - actually the teacher in question is from Buenos Aires. Which makes it all the more annoying. He has also danced in the milongas there - though which milongas, I can only speculate.

AlexTangoFuego said...

I could say something, but I won't. (grin)

Keno said...

I have studied with many teachers, and some want to be a teacher/or I make money at this teacher. From other dance experience one great master told me to find the teachers you gel or fit with. Each has a style or perspective and each has an opinion. I have danced in Buenos Aires at the milonga's you mentioned. These milonga's are places where allot of teachers hang out to pick up new students. The teachers that come to the US either are worth spending the money on learning from, or are not worth it. When I hear a teacher say things like that I just smile and say thank you for sharing. I will probably elect not to study with them again. I look at the Old dancers on you tube and other great dancers and notice that there are many styles of Tango, you just have to make Tango your own style. Bottom line - Respect for all who wish to dance or teach Tango. - You have to have it to enjoy.
Thanks for your incite.

Stephanie said...

First of all, in Buenos Aires in most all milongas are crowded all the time,(in comparison to most in US, anyhow) and it doesn't matter your "class". That being said, yes there are some younger milongas where the style is looser and more "nuevo" But even so, there is not much room, unless its 10:30pm or 5am or sometimes in the dead of winter.
The teacher clearly has no idea of what is going on there NOW. "Nuevo" if that is what we are calling it doesn't not need to be big and open all the time , though admittedly it is more fun the more room you have Even in BsAs no, matter what the "style" of a milonga, most people dance as the floor demands. Those that don't are usually utterly ignorant tourists or showboating locals.

Frances R said...

I believe it is a good idea to ask a teacher from Buenos Aires which milongas he usually goes to, and which milongas in his opinion has the best level of dancing. One can learn a lot about a person that way. Note if he can name the milonga organizers, whether his favorite hang out is traditional, nuevo, or "tourist central". :)