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So you want to be a tango teacher - The organic approach...

01 Feb 2012 10:41 AM | Homer G Ladas (Administrator)
Sometimes Cristina and I are asked how we've become full-time tango teachers by folks interested in doing the same.  Here's our advice:

Initial Comments:  Our advice is geared towards folks who wish to become social dance teachers not performers.  There is nothing wrong with pursuing the performance track (from our observations - it's very difficult in it's own way but can also be very rewarding).  In many cases there's a little of each tied into the other (teaching vs. performing).  Some of the most successful full-time tango professionals are good at both.  However, it's important to make an honest assessment of you what you want to do in your tango life so you can guide your developing down the road you wish to take (maybe it's a combination of both?).  Note that being a tango teacher also usually involves helping your tango community grow.  It requires a little more 'reaching out' and 'community efforts' that you may or may not be interesting in exploring.  Are you still interested in teaching tango full-time?  If so, you can start preparing a plan that will allow you to transition into a situation where you can support yourself financially and still keep your tango ideals in-tack.

In essence:  The act of teaching will help you decide if you want to keep teaching or not.  If you don't start teaching you'll never learn how to teach (tango).  Also, teach with an open heart, open mind, and open door.  When you don't know the answer, refer your students in the right direction so that they can find their "highest level of tango intelligence".  Do not try to "keep" students under your guidance.  By letting them go free to explore the tango world around them they will be stronger members of the tango scene at-large (better social dancers) and often times refer other students back to you.

Main Advice:  Start teaching (or assisting other teachers) as soon as possible but hold onto your day job as long as possible.  Do it for free for as long as you can.  Travel as much as possible to other tango events, take as many classes as you can, including privates, study with as many different teachers as you can, and practice with as many different partners as is practical.  This process will allow you to network in an organic way while developing your skills for the future.  People you meet will be your future employers, partners, students, or at least be able to give you a great reference.  Above all, dance, dance, dance...

The more you put into this initial time frame the more solid you will be at the end.  Try not to skip any steps in the learning process.  At some point you may start getting paid but not enough to do it full-time.  During this semi-professional time-period ask yourself again and again:

What do you want out of life?  What your current reasons are for dancing tango (your balance of social vs. performance interests, etc).  What are your tango ideals (on dancing, performing, teaching, community, the future of tango, family, friends, children, lifestyle, etc)?  Have they solidified yet?  Will they be compromised if you become a full-time tango professional?  When you can answer most of these questions then you will most likely be on the right road for yourself.  

Hugs, and many happy tangos, Homer & Cristina ;)
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