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, June 27, 2008

The Fun Conundrum

When I moved to Mexico in 2001, I missed dancing. In Los Angeles dance was always a part of my life since the age of three, and in the four years before my big move, I had been dancing tango almost every night.

I had thought there would be tango or at the very least folklore in San Miguel de Allende, but even in Mexico City where I went on 4 hour bus trips to attend milongas, tango was more stagey than social. And I quickly learned that the only non-professionals who danced folklore in Mexico were kids. I even tried Sweat Your Prayers on Sunday mornings to no avail.

So I found flamenco with Angela Garcia, La Yerbabuena, who danced in local cafes with her troupe. We were a class of ten women; I and a yoga teacher were the only gringas. One week we had a guest teacher from Spain, and I couldn't sleep at night remembering the excitement of the Bulerias rhythms and his soulful singing.

Naturally when I moved to Buenos Aires in 2004, I sought out a flamenco teacher right away, and took private and class lessons with her for two years. But the classes became harder and harder and definitely less fun. I was exhausted after every class. My feet, ankles, knees and arms all were affected, and thus so was my tango. I finished out 2006 and danced in the recital, but then I quit.

When I was in L.A. this past April, my son Jason showed me the video he had taken when he visited me in San Miguel in 2003. He had filmed my flamenco class dancing Las Sevillanas.

I was amazed to see my dancing in Jason's video, because it was so much better than I danced here two years later. And I got to thinking about why. And how it relates to what I'm doing now: teaching tango. In my life I've taught ballet, bellydance, salsa, and even, in the '90s, country and western line dancing, and I remember that my classes were always fun for me, as well as for the students.

The flamenco classes in Mexico were above all fun! We laughed and kidded and gossiped, and socialized at other times, but we worked hard in class. The classes gave me energy, didn't suck it out of me.

I thought my Argentine teacher here was a good dancer, but only later realized that the classes were just pure drudgery. She was so serious. I kept plugging away as flamenco was on my list of things I wanted to do in my life. Only once or twice did it cross my mind to search for a different teacher but I never did, comfortable in my groove of taking the bus to Almagro twice a week and working on the same rhythms over and over again.

When adults study dance for self-improvement, as opposed to young people who want to be professional, the whole thing must be enjoyable, not torture. Classes should be fun. Practicing should be fun. Learning should be a pleasure as well as improvement.

I made a mistake not to realize this sooner. The problem wasn't flamenco, it was the teacher. And the same holds true in tango. If your classes aren't working for you, if you're not progressing, if you're not having fun, find another teacher, not another dance.


NYC Tango Pilgrim said...


It is great point: find another teacher, not another dance.

Elizabeth said...

Wow, Cherie, you have a way of writing just what I need to hear at exactly the time I need it!
Drudgery...we have had enough of that. I will keep your thought "learning should be a pleasure as well as improvement" in mind. No reason we can't still work hard and become better, while enjoying it, no? Thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

With very few exceptions for "duty", everything we do should be fun :-)

Excellent post as usual, Cherie.

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