Do tango teachers dance with their students at the milongas?
Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Well, yes and no. I can’t speak for all instructors, of course, so I will only speak for myself. Yes, I dance with some of my students at the milongas; indeed some have become my favorite dance partners (after all, I trained them, so if I don’t like the way they dance, then I have only myself to blame, yes?)
On the other hand, I can also say that, no, I don’t dance with my students at the milongas (in class, yes, certainly, that is different). Students have to earn the right, so to speak, to dance with an accomplished dancer at a milonga. I’ve heard that in some ballroom dances, the instructors are expected to dance with their students. The thinking goes that each student should get at least one good dance, and so the teachers must dance at least one song with each student to ensure that they’ve had at least one good dance for the night, etc. And while I can understand that from the viewpoint of the studio (and I applaud the stamina of the teachers), I would never require that of the instructors at my studio—and would never accept that requirement myself.
For one thing, the tango is intensely personal. It is a close and connected dance, and one should never feel obligated to dance with anyone. Like other intimate activities, it should always be voluntary and mutually desired. For another, I cannot imagine a more unsatisfying dance than if someone were merely dancing with me to fulfill an obligation. No, I want my partners to want to dance with me, and vice versa. No pity dances. So, yes, it might take some students years to get to the point where instructors want to dance with them, but doesn’t that make the achievement more valuable because it was not easily won? And, ultimately, dear leaders, you know that when I dance with you, it is because I truly want to and not because I feel some sort of obligation. That has to mean more in the long run … true, some of you may not stay in tango long enough to enjoy that privilege. Then, like Elizabeth Bennett, whose “good opinion [was] rarely bestowed and, therefore, more worth the earning,” it should make those who do earn the privilege feel the dance and the connection that much sweeter for the rarity of it …