The How-to for Choosing a Teacher
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.
Research the local teachers: I'm not just talking about asking around - because sometimes that yields good results and sometimes not. You have to do both. Do your homework. How long has this teacher been teaching Argentine tango? How about dancing tango? From which teachers or tango maestros did they learn? Do they go to workshops and festivals themselves? Do they bring in visiting teachers? There is no strict guideline of how many years a teacher has been teaching to be good - or how often (or even if) they go to Buenos Aires, or that sort of thing. What's important is that the information is readily available and/or their comfortable answering your questions - in detail.
Watch them dance at milongas: Do you like how they dance? Does it appear that their partners like it? Are they respectful? Do they even go to milongas? If they go to other milongas do they interact with the community or only visit with/dance with students from their own classes, or only go to their own milongas?
Observe their involvement in their community: This is extra-big-double-hugely important to me. Teachers build the community. Whether we like it or not, they create dancers and communities in their own image. Are they active with other teachers/dancers/festivals/charities? Do they make an effort to collaborate with other teachers and organizers when scheduling events to avoid conflicts. (This isn't always possible, but it is a sign of good will.) Do they focus on building tango in their community as well as their own business? In other words, do they give tango a good name or do they only promote their studio and classes?
Context: Are they teaching not just the dance, but the music? Do they give background of the styles, the culture, the environment of the tango? It's possible to learn tango without knowing about the history. But I do think it is a huge disservice to students to teach something as rich as tango outside of the context in which it was born. Is what's being taught appropriate to lead (or follow) in a milonga?
Class Content: This is something you'll have to find out from other students or simply observe in a class.
Do the teachers educate their students about:
- different styles of tango (salon, milonguero, nuevo etc.),
- floor craft,
- milonga codes (codigos),
- musicality in tango, vals, milonga and different orchestras through the tango decades,
Do they emphasize connection, musicality, authentic leading/following rather than memorizing patterns and steps?
Milonga traditions: If they host milongas, do they follow milongo structure with tandas, cortinas, etc.