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March 16, 2011


A fair go

Many blogs and commenters on blogs often dish out criticisms of touring tango teachers for being only interested in our (collectively: all tango “consumers”) money, and nothing else. However, I feel that we must not forget that these people are also professionals who derive a living from their talents/skills that they have acquired hopefully through years of practice and dedication. I have personally had the fortune to interact with quite a few teachers (both internationally renowned and lesser known, and either took classes with or organised workshops for) who have a genuine love for tango and a keen interest to help develop the community they have been invited to. As for the few whose interests are purely financial, well, as long as they conduct themselves professionally during classes, I have no issues with that at all.

With this long introduction, it really pains me then to hear about another travelling tango teacher screwed by an organiser he trusted. In “Business of tango”, I alluded to the fact that even though financial transactions are involved – hence the use of the word “business” – it’s really down to trust and management of human relationships: trust between organiser and teacher, and similarly a trust between the organiser and the workshop participants. In this case, a touring tango teacher pays for his own airfare to arrive in a country he has been to before. However, instead of being applauded for his good will by the organiser, this particular teacher has been slapped with one charge after another, in return for some basic email publicity!? To paraphrase someone who has been in a similar predicament, it’s akin to being “a peasant forced to work to put a bowl of rice on the table”!

While I don’t advocate hero-worshiping, obviously many of the touring tango teachers have something special to offer, and deserve at the very least our respect. Imagine this, a tango teacher shows up at no cost to the organiser, and who can only help to enhance the organiser’s reputation and venue. This sounds like an ideal profit making venture, no? 🙂 In return, the teacher receives his just rewards for his efforts. Now, instead of fully capitalising on the situation, a working relationship has been irrevocably damaged. Well, it really boggles the mind how far one can be removed from reality…

* A “fair go” is a term commonly used in Australia to mean “a reasonable opportunity to do something”, in case you missed the point of the tile. 😉

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  1. Mar 17 2011

    The youth of Argentina have never seen a bright future for themselves. Tango offers them a future and a way out of the country, so many jump on the tango bandwagon. Who can blame them? Win a championship title and you get invitations to teach and perform around the world. It’s their mealticket out of a less than promising future.

    These young dancers learn one important thing — give your audience what they want to buy. That means social dancing has to take a back seat to performance tango. That’s where the money is because it keeps people in classes for years. Many start dancing late in life and need lots of private lessons. They have disposable income and will pay to take classes so they can say they have studied with so-and-so from Argentina.

    These days, unfortunately, anyone who flashes an Argentine passport and says they teach tango can be hired on the spot — no questions asked.

    YouTube and Facebook are making everyone into instant stars. Many resumes are fiction and never checked for references. Organizers have to be alert.

    Dollars and Euros last longer than pesos in Argentina.

  2. Mar 17 2011

    Thanks for your comments. I am reasonably familiar with your views on the flood of teachers unleashed on the world at large. While there is some truth (especially the point concerning Argentinian passport, because I know of cases where the so-called maestros actually learnt tango later in life and outside of Argentina!) to what you are saying, there are also teachers out there who don’t put social tango on the back seat as you put it. Organisers, if they have any slight interest the development of their tango communities, need to do their homework and figure out how things should/can be shaped and invite where necessary the right instructors.

    However, that’s a rather long discussion best conducted elsewhere. Here I am simply venting my frustration at organisers who betray the trust of teachers they enlisted and indirectly the tango dancers they are trying to profit from.

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