After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Tango Classes--You Get What You Pay For?

Here is a recent discussion on the Tango-L regarding where to take tango lessons in Buenos Aires:

Tanguera writes:

I am leaving very soon to B.A., Feb.5 and desperately need names and addresses for great tango teachers
(intermediate level) for private lessons.

I know the top name teachers but they are getting top
prices in B.A. as well.

If anyone knows of good teachers, for private lessons,
would so appreciate this information.

Someone once mentioned to me of a school where private
lessons with very good teachers run around $10-15 US.

I don't know where this is or if this is still the
case, but if so, PLEASE ADVISE ASAP.
Thanks so much.

Dani answers:

$10-15 US...???!!!
Just to say that in this life, generally, you get what you pay for. Watch out.
What "very good teacher" (in anything) will charge peanuts for their wealth of
knowledge and experience?

If someone charges you $2, take it that they value themselves and their
'expertise' at $2...
So-o-o-o-, either:
i. they perhaps know they're not very good, and are insecure and embarrassed
about charging a suitable amount. Watch out!
ii. Perhaps they're fantastic and charge so little because they have some kind
of a social conscience. Hmmm...
iii. They've read this posting and have learned that basic human nature dictates
that people believe - deep down - that they get what they pay for. i.e. If you
pay more, you get better goods (in this case, tango instruction). However, 'it
ain't necessarily so' (cue for a song...).

However, similarly, you can get a crap dancer and/or teacher who charges a lot
because that's what they value themselves at... i.e. they have an inflated view
of their ability. Watch out!

Tanguera, go with reputation. Reputation from independent sources speaks for
itself. Paying for a lot of lessons from (let's say) 'lesser-able' teachers
would most likely work out as a false-economy. One lesson at £100 from a great
private teacher could be worth considerably more than countless lessons from a
numpty teacher...
the latter from whom you may have either learned nothing or
indeed bad technique and perhaps have spent £1000 over a course of lessons.

Private tango lessons? Great, but believe me it's worth paying for the best
possible instruction.

And Megan replies:

y, let's not forget that $15 USD is the approximate equivalent of
$45 in Argentina. Of course there are hot (and not so hot) shots who
charge US prices even when they are teaching in B'aires. But the
"very good teachers" may be exactly that (or not), and simply
charging local rates even to tourists. Bless 'em!

And here's my 2 centavos:

Whoo boy, I imagine you are getting a million responses to this one, am I right?

The thing is, everyone is a tango teacher here in Buenos Aires. As a newby to the milongas, every guy you dance with will hand you a card that says, "Profesor."

The problem is that you need to already be a good dancer to see who is a good teacher. For that reason,
unscrupulous men (and a few women, too) try to take advantage of the tango tourist and their dollars.

As for prices, those people who have traveled outside the country to teach at tango festivals or perform in tango shows are the most popular, because their names are known, and they are also the most expensive. But what people don't always realize is that in a group class with someone like that, you never get to dance, or even touch, the famous teacher. He uses teaching assistants, if you are lucky, or you just have to make the best of it with some dweeb student who knows less than you do.

Another point is these people usually teach stage tango or choreography and figures. This will do you absolutely no good at the milongas.

The milongueros who teach elegance, music, improvisation, connection to your partner, the embrace, aren't famous and don't teach in the fancy schools. You have to look for them. Their prices are less than the world-famous couples. A private with me and Ruben Aybar, for example, is the standard price: $50 US for 90 minutes.

If you take a private with someone for $15 US--well, take just one and you'll see. But don't forget to try a good teacher as well to see the difference.

If you're not sure what style you want to learn, remember that most of the milongas here are estilo milonguero.

The very BEST way to find a teacher you like, is to ask people whose dancing you admire who their teacher was.

Good luck. And if you'd like to sit with us at our table in Club Espanol or Los Consegrados, Ruben can start you out with a tango. Anyway, it'd be fun to meet you at a milonga.
Un beso,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's not hard to guess that Suzanne is looking for price not quality in privates. First, she considers herself an intermediate dancer by US standards, but has no idea that she'll start at the beginning with any teacher. Her panic to find answers quickly means she won't take time to investigate the matter when she arrives in BsAs. We test drive a car before we buy, but who will test drive a tango teacher before paying for a lesson. If they're teaching in BsAs, they must be good, so many assume. If the price is right, why not?

Janis Kenyon
8 years in BsAs