184days since
the next technique class

192days since
absolute beginners' drop-in class

Learning Tango

We all learn in different ways and are often shaped by our own history when it comes to assimilating something new. Sometimes during the learning process we hang on to preconceptions and ideas which hinder our own progress. To get the most out of your tango classes there are several things you have to know:

1. Tango is a physical activity
If you have ever done any martial arts and had an outspoken teacher you will remember being told that if you don't have the time to practice at least twice a week you can forget about ever progressing. Sadly, there is some truth in that. If you only dance 1h a week during class and never stay to practice - or never come to practice on another day - you will have a hard time getting better - in fact you will find in most cases that when you come back to class the next week you will have forgotten what happened the week before. The more often you revisit what you have learned the quicker you will be able to do it.
Often, beginners feel that they torture their dance partners when they practice. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. Maybe your dance partner tortures you. Maybe it doesn't matter...we are all not so great when we practice something we cannot yet do, and that's quite alright. Repetition and thoughtful practice will make things better in no time.

2. Taking lots of classes doesn't necessarily mean you get better faster

You only get better faster if you are able to assimilate the material you are being offered in class (and when the teaching is good) - in order to assimilate you need to practice. So, if you can increase your practice time then taking more classes with good teachers might make you better faster. If you can't invest more time to practice, extra classes might just be a waste of money!

3. Taking classes above your level doesn't necessarily mean you learn faster
In recent years some social scientists have attempted to understand why many people greatly overestimate their level of expertise in areas in which they are unskilled. This particular bias has come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Maybe it is this effect which leads many tango beginners to conclude that it is a good idea to do classes which are way beyond their level - or maybe it is because they think that dancing with more experienced dancers makes their learning experience better and makes them progress faster. There are several problems with this theory:
  • Whilst the beginner might have a better time learning with the more experienced person, the more experienced dancer has a worse time learning with the less skilled person. We know that, because that's what we're subsequently being told.
  • The beginner might feel that they can dance better, but it might in fact just be the better dancer they practice with who makes up for the beginner's shortcomings.
  • The teachers have to spend more time trying to help the beginner cope with the class, and less time helping the more experienced dancers progress.
  • Because it is impossible for the teachers in a group class to spend the time bringing somebody up to level it means that important areas of basic technique pass the beginner by.
  • Often the teachers assume a certain level of skill and don't specifically go into basic techniques because they expect the dancers to know. That can leave a beginner trying to just muddle along - which will often make them dance worse rather than better.
With that in mind, think twice before you enroll for a class or course which is above your skill level. You are more likely to progress faster if you stick to first things first, and you will learn things which are good and useful. If you don't believe that, do an experiment and sign up for one of the lower-level classes during the workshop weekends which we organize at regular intervals. You will generally find that at least half of the people taking the class will be advanced dancers who have come to understand how necessary a solid technical understanding is.

....to be continued