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August 31, 2009

Full circle

For many years, and probably unlike many fledgling communities around the world, the Tango community in Singapore suffered from a systematic problem: there were no high-calibre local instructors. This was natural as everyone who was dancing in Singapore at the time started in the same boat – from scratch! The local scene was essentially at the mercy of visiting teachers who travelled to Singapore at their own expenses(!), and who furthermore taught a variety of styles and levels which were sometimes incompatible from one instructor to the next. See, for example, this list of Tango teachers who had given short workshops in Singapore over the years. Suffice it to say that there was quite a variety of styles.

While some teachers returned regularly to Singapore there were usually long gaps between visits. It was not really until 2006, when IXI Danza and Tango Oriental undertook considerable financial risks to hire specific teachers and started organising workshops on a larger scale compared to previous years, that there was some consistency in the quality of instructions. Unsurprisingly, since that time there has been a mini-boom in the local Tango scene, as evidenced by the number of regular milongas and local instructors. Due to a number of intensive workshops by the same overseas teachers, the level of dancing has also improved dramatically over the past three years.

Now, it seems, another problem presents itself.

Compared to those “formative years” when many of us was desperate for any teacher to pass through Singapore, now it is almost taken for granted that overseas instructors will be available and we are once again spoilt for choices. Aside from the organisers needing to remain prudent in who they invite, the onus is also on the students (new or old) to be mindful of the following: the ability to recognise core techniques versus style. By “core techniques”, I mean the fundamentals which apply regardless of embrace, school, while “style” which is layered on top of that, say, (a list of marketing terms of your choice), milonguero, Villa Urquiza, etc. It is important to at least be aware of the difference between the two or confusion will reign…

Well, hopefully the local instructors as well as the more senior people in the community can step up and fill this important role too…

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