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.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Feeling the Tango
When I first journeyed to Buenos Aires to dance in 1997, tango tourism was fairly new. Still, a lot of the local men I danced with handed me hastily made up cards declaring themselves, Profesor de Tango.
I collected those cards as a joke--not that I didn't need classes in those days, but from the absurdity of every Juan, Ricardo y Horacio being great tango teachers. I knew that even then.
In a weird way, it's flattering to older foreign women to have so many men begging you to call. Also you get more attention at the milongas during the time the "profesores" are trying to whip up some business by dancing with prospective students.
I did take a couple of group classes years ago with men I met in the milonga because I liked them and how they danced and I wanted to show my support. It was obvious that they were living hand to mouth. And I did learn something--about tango.
Teachers immediately have a personal advantage over their students: the advantage of power and perceived knowledge. It's been forever thus. How many students have fallen in love with their teachers? (Me too, but in my case it was my French teacher.) And in tango it's even easier because of all the body contact. But if a teacher--like a psychologist or doctor--uses that power in trying to seduce, he or she is really taking unfair advantage. (In fact, in the U.S. there have been law suits over this; not brought by the families of underaged students, but by mature adults. Students of all ages and both sexes are vulnerable.)
It's not only the wannabes who try to seduce their paying students, but many well-known big name traveling tango superstars are infamous for more than dancing. They probably seduce because they easily can. But if they do so while taking money from a student who wants to improve his tango, shame on them.
To be honest, sometimes the tango student wants to be seduced. A sexy good-looking teacher attracts students for lots of reasons, one being the desire to be embraced by the teacher for the length of a private lesson. But a truly professional instructor will not mix the personal with the professional during the class.
Recently it came to my attention that an old milonguero friend of mine tried to cop a feel during a private lesson with a foreign woman. (Age is no security that this won't happen.) I'm sure it wasn't the first time, and I know that he isn't the only one who does that. Because I've known this person for many years and always thought of him highly, I am very dismayed, and just so sorry and disappointed in his behavior. I gave him more credit. It just goes to show that sometimes people aren't what they should be.
It's up to the student, unfortunately, to set the limits of student/teacher "affection," whereas it should be the professional who takes care to act "professionally."
Painting by Aline Bureau.