Which San Francisco Tango Teacher is Better

Igor Polk, 2003 May 15

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- How to be a good Tango Student to get most out of Lessons



Well, I have my own preferences but I can not possibly tell about it to you. You have to find it out yourself. Here you can find all information about all of tango in Bay Area. What I can do, I can give you some advice how to pick up a teacher.

First of all, there are things which are personal like location, time, how big or beautiful is the place and so on. All this is of least importance. Forget about them if you want to dance tango well. [ 2008: Now times are different. When I learned, I travel from Hayward where I live, to Fremont where I worked, then to San Francisco for classes and milongas, then home to Hayward. Every day ! Now people hardly will travel from SF to Palo Alto for classes. But the rule stays the same. Want to learn real tango? Forget about travel inconveiences. ]

Second. You have to watch how the teacher conducts a lesson and dances. If the teacher does not explain how to lead and follow, which is something internal, invisible, but just tells what step is after what, this teacher is clearly not suitable. Watch the teacher dancing. Does he/she dances during milonga at all, or sits in the corner? Well, not all good teachers dance, but they should dance sometimes, a good Argentine Tango teacher must be a good dancer. Not all flashy show dancers are real good Argentine Tango dancers. Again, the dance is internal and for a beginner is very difficult to recognize the real skill. Are people ego to dance with the teacher? Are people happy after dancing with the teacher? Do they smile after the dance?

Third. Teaching is an art itself. Not all good dancers are able to convey what they know and build up a useful lesson. So here my advice is to take lessons with as many teachers as you can to compare.

How did I learn dancing myself? I took a lot of lessons. Then I bought a whole bunch of tapes and studied them and tried new stuff at milongas right away dancing like crazy 5 night a week. [ 2008:You can not buy these tapes any more] In the following year I continued to take classes, but I've already had in mind what I was looking for. Mostly I have learned from my dancing partners and watching other dancers, and even more from my own cultural perception of what tango is.

Tango had global influence starting with the beginning of the 20th century which made imprints in books, movies, music, and memories of people. Now tango is still an artifact of the past. Being interested in history and literature I have had quite a thick layer of tango in my mind before I met tango dancers in San Francisco. But I have met a first tango teacher 20 years ago, a friend of my family. It was a woman from Belarus who was a Russian guerrilla spy during 2nd World War. She danced tango in occupied Minsk. Then she was taken by Germans to France to work in a camp. She fled, met her French friends, and there in France she danced more tango in 1944-1947. It is her image, with which I subconsciously check everything I learn and deduct about tango.

Most important in studying Argentine Tango is to dance. Dance, dance, dance ! Try something new little by little, improvise. Change something slightly. Variate. Explore. Gently. If you do that everything will come itself, naturally, when time comes, when you have built up necessary basement and skill. This is most important. Always try to dance your best, give your partner pleasure of dancing. Watch what she/he likes. Be a teacher of yourself, which you ultimately are. And good luck to find a really good teacher ! It worth looking for. At steak is incredible amount of your time and, well, money.

2008 September 1. It is a long time since I wrote this article. Now I am teaching myself for almost 3 years. What can I say about it now ?

Tango is a very complex dancing culture, not just a dance, comprising of numerous styles. Every recognizable dancer has his uniqueness, and that is considered to be a plus. There are very few things tango dancers agree upon. There are no programs or good records of tango technique and figures. Generally speaking, tango art is lost in history, and on one hand that gives a lot of creative freedom of interpretation, and on the other hand gives a lot of freedom to less-experienced-teachers, even those who are not able to find their way on the regular dancing floor. Creative people are trying to preserve, re-create, and re-new tango. Others are promoting their view of tango which they were able to reach. All that makes the choice of choosing a teacher crucial for your success. Then we come to a question:

Who is the best teacher? The one who knows how to dance tango. It is first and most important. Then it comes the ability to teach. It is second. And this is it.

But how to find who knows tango? Here is a way: ask directly, "Do you know Tango well?", "Why I should take classes from you and not from other 40-something Bay Area teachers, not from the visiting teachers coming here every week?". And then judge the answer. It is the first filter. Your good common sense is important because, then, you should check the ability to teach. It is expensive, it is only possible when you come to the lessons for several month. Yes, it takes time to learn tango. But with someone you will learn it, and with others - never. Can you see the difference? Forget about those who say that they can teach you in a month or so. A year, that is about right. Two years is closer. So, come to the lessons, and check your progress. This is it.

And there are some others who might tell you: "There is no need to take classes, you can do some simple steps on the dance floor and have fun". You know what, I am still taking classes continuously. Tango is a highly elaborate dance, so I believe participating in classes is important. There are a lot of interesting surprises waiting for you even in the simplest approach to the dance.

What you should not take in account ? How the school is close to you. Driving for an hour to learn from a Master should be the least of your worries.

See you on the dance floor !

2010 September 17

I came to this conclusion: a better man-teacher is the one who has a lot of women. Why? He is dancing with his women and they are concentrating around him. He is the best for them! That is the teacher to learn from, dear men-dancers ! How about women, is this teacher good for them? Yes, this man-teacher is the best for them. They will learn little from a woman teacher. Only a man, a maestro dancer, can tell them what he expects. Only he has the experience of dancing with the best and poor ladies of all sorts and sizes, and give a correct advice for everyone. A woman-teacher never will be able to know all these details.

You would say, what about men-students? Is he good for them? Of course, because learning from him they became better dancers, leaders, and that attracts even more women, since there are more women coming to dance classes than men. More women at a class than men that is what I mean.

Shortly: the best tango teacher for men and women is a man who has a lot of women at his class.


if you are a man and came to the class where there are a lot of women and a teacher is a man - this is the place for you. Not because there are a lot of women around, but because this teacher knows how to lead them in a good dance and you might learn from him ( might not..)

If you are a woman and came to the class where there are a lot of women and a teacher is a man - stay ! Here you will know everything you need to become the best woman-dancer !

If you are a woman and came to the class where there are a lot of men - do not stay ! Go away and find another kind of teacher ! If the teacher is a man - He does not attract women - it means he does not know how to dance. If a teacher is a woman - these men are attracted to the personal beauty of that teacher - you will get nothing neither from this teacher nor from these men.

"Are you implying that only a man can be a good Argentine tango teacher?", Well, it looks like...

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My name is Igor Polk. I dance Argentine tango in San Francisco.

Copyright©2003-2006 Igor Polk
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