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Frequently students have trouble determining which level of tango dancer they are and what class is most appropriate for them. As a result, they often attend classes too advanced.
Some of the basic reasons are:
- Students overestimate their ability and mistakenly believe no one in class will notice.
- Students mistakenly believe that they will learn faster.
- Students think that more advanced dancers only need to learn advanced patterns.
- Students want to only dance with “better” dancers.
The problem is, students who do this fail to realize that:
- It hinders the instructors from completing their class objectives.
- It frustrates and angers the students who have met the criteria and now have to struggle with students who have jumped their level of expertise.
- It decreases the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the class.
What level tango dancer you are depends on many factors including:
- Number of years you’ve been dancing tango.
- Whether you are a leader or follower--learning to lead usually takes longer then learning to follow.
- Quantity and quality of classes and workshops you’ve taken.
- Quality and the focus of teachers you’ve studied with--e.g., learning and dancing “close embrace” is quite different then “open embrace”.
- How long and how often you practice.
- Who you dance and practice with.
- Natural ability.
- Other dance experience.
Thus it is difficult to write a precise guideline to determine each student’s exact level of tango expertise. However, with the intent of providing some guidance, and for the purpose of making each participant’s experience in their tango classes optimal, I offer the following broad guideline of minimum criteria.
Record your vote above and then give us your thoughts, ideas, experiences and input regarding this issue in the comment sections below. ( To include your profile picture in the "Leave a Reply" section, click on gravitar. To see results of earlier polls, go to Clay's Polls.)
The following is Clay's suggested guidelines for determining your tango level. Comments are welcome below.
You are an "Absolute Beginner" and should only go to Beginner Classes if you have had zero experience in dancing authentic Argentine tango. This is true no matter how much general dance experience you have had—even if you are a grand champion ballroom dancer.
You are a "Beginner Plus" student and should still only go to Beginner Classes if you have been dancing Argentine tango for less than 1 year--i.e., about 200 hours of practice, lessons and dancing.
You are ready to START intermediate classes only AFTER dancing Argentine tango for 1-5 years (approximate 200-1000 hours of practice, lessons and dancing) and only AFTER you have mastered the following:
Can hear and stay on the beat of traditional Argentine tango as well as vals and milonga.
Understand the difference between open and close embrace and can comfortably dance in both.
If you are a leader, you can maintain line of dance and wait for the follower to complete her step before leading another.
If you are a follower, you can collect and wait for the lead.
You understand the concept of parallel and crossed feet and can lead or follow from one to the other.
You can correctly and consistently execute the following steps solo and lead or follow a partner in time to the music while maintaining your own axis and balance:
o marking time
o walking forward and backward
o side steps
o check left turn
o back ocho
o forward ocho
You are ready to START Advanced Tango Classes if you have been dancing Argentine tango for 5 or more years (more than 1000 hours of practice, lessons and dancing) and only AFTER you have mastered the following:
All of the steps and criteria listed above for Intermediate Tangoueros.
Have the ability to lead/follow in close embrace from the chest only.
Can dance comfortably in parallel or crossed feet to either side of your partner.
Can interpret the musicality of tango, vals and milonga—dancing to the beat as well as the melody.
Can also correctly and consistently execute the following steps solo and with a partner in time to the music while maintaining your own axis and balance:
o ocho cortados
I have been dancing for a year and eight months now, I still feel that I am between a beginner plus and intermediate level. Looking forward to going to an event in Kenya. It will be the second tango festival that I will be attending. I found the replies above, to be educative and interesting
I agree I have been taking classes since 2012 I stopped for two years and got back into it. The summer of 2014 I started off attending milongas started getting feed backs and rejections from people now the same folks that rejected me and said I need to sharping up my dance are affraid of me. I been taking non stop classes attending practice hours drop in on a few parties and even a free class. I even been a follower. I hate to say this but everyone makes this dance so elitish and shun you away from learning. People disappear go to secret places to dance and their attitude becomes elitish. Some people are never told about places to come dance with others its all secrets and snobbish.
There is the saying that when a famous teacher comes to town, the beginners take the intermediate class, the intermediates the advanced. And the advanced dancers, they take the beginning class. Because they want the best instructor possible, for the basics.
Great conversation! When instructors are brought to our communities there is pressure to attend in order to cover costs. In spite of instructors indicating the level of the classes, the pressure remains when the community is small. As a follower, it is frustrating to be in an intermediate or advanced class if the majority of leaders can’t get the material and followers can’t practice what is being taught. Sometimes I have felt that followers should be charged half or leaders should pay for us in those circumstances!! All in a perfect world, right? The other issue in a smaller community is that it seems pointless for followers to take classes on more advanced material if the leaders can’t learn it and therefore won’t use it in their dancing. Followers won’t have an opportunity to use those steps anyways! I have opted to dance and take classes in different communities and this increase my chances of a better learning experience, and focus on improving my technique rather than learning new sequences of steps. I appreciate dancers who are open to give and receive comments and don’t feel criticized, rather take it as collaborative learning. We all benefit in the end. Tango on!!
I agree with comments above that instructors have a responsibility to communicate requirements and specifics to the students. Instructors need courage to do this, just likes it takes courage to learn and put oneself out into uncomfortable situations (like a tango class), feeling unsure even though believing in themselves and the teacher (even lying to oneself to get there). It is a challenge we all have: to read our partners correctly and take their feedback. Leaving the decision up to a pass or fail test is a bit of a cop out. Have the discussion. Show them the guidelines. Of course this is a challenge for instructors who haven’t met the guidelines themselves. (Sadly they won’t be reading this).
Also, guidelines don’t change if you don’t have the number of hours available in your community. In fact, dancers should be even more humbled in front of them. I come from a community filled with expert beginners. One word compensates for the other, but it is a real pain. Hard and painful, written by one who loves a soft embrace full of pleasure.
I am an intermediate Argentine Tango dancer (2-3 years) but have hired my instructor to do Advanced Couples workshops with me (no partner rotation) and I felt that went well. I actually learned more than I learned in the intermediate classes, but did not have to feel like I was holding back another more experienced student. I still get a different angle and viewpoint than I would have in a regular private lesson so it is worthwhile to me to spend the money on this, though I know that’s not for everyone. I have also partnered with another dancer who begged me to partner with them in an advanced couples class, despite my assertions that I am an intermediate dancer, and it went quite well. Therefore, I feel maybe there should be a third option on the poll, for scenarios such as this. Ie, if you take a couples class (no rotation) and the person you are dancing with is aware ahead of time that they might or might not need to do some babysitting, and if that person is okay with that, then I think that is workable as well. (Provided you are not so far in over your head that even the class instructor is going to be distracted, of course.)
There might be a use in adopting the British distinction of Beginning, IMPROVING, Intermediate, and advanced. Improving know enough to attend a milonga, but not enough to navigate when it gets crowded.
In our community there are only two kinds of dancers: beginners and teachers. We all want to help, and only of few make a nuisance of it. But it can be overdone, and those few who overdo it overdo it in classes, practicas, milongas, and sometimes while putting on their shoes. It is the instructors’ job to misinform the learners, not everyone’s. The rest of us should be sparing in our advice.
Whatever level you think you are subtract one and go to that class.
How about instead of a “test” give voluntary evaluations? Encourage students to ask the teacher, “where do you think I am?” Students need to challenge themselves but not overwhelm themselves.