When you first start learning Tango, it is very important to choose the right Teacher. Given how broad the dance of Tango is, it is not surprising to find that different Teachers use different methods in teaching, and ultimately each of them teaches you a slightly different thing. So picking the right one will make a big difference on whether you will like Tango and be successful in it, or whether you will struggle to understand what is it all about.
Luckily, there is a fine choice between Tango Teachers in Edinburgh. I will give brief descriptions about my experience with them, and, hopefully, this will make the choice of a Teacher slightly easier for you. Note that this post doesn’t aim to give a deep insight into their history and experience, it’s more about what can you expect from their classes.
First group of Teachers are our very own society teachers. The order I list them is arbitrary:
Toby Morris, or simply Toby, is a legendary teacher who teaches what Tango is supposed to feel like, rather than look like. Why instead of what. Lately these have been the most popular classes (though attendance varies highly depending on the time of the year), and that can be attributed to the fact that the atmosphere seems to be the most forgiving and laid back for the beginners. As is usual, the activities in the class consist of doing a sequence of steps, but there is a big focus on each single step of a sequence, and the question “why what is happening is happening?”. This may sometimes seem or be easy, but most of the things in Tango consist of small details, and Toby’s class is a good place to see, understand and appreciate them. And if you feel like you understand them, Toby will personally give you or show you something you don’t. Plenty of encouragement is included as well.
Another special thing about Toby’s classes is that the roles in couple change, so neither of the people in a couple is always a leader or a follower. This is very unusual for Tango classes, but it works out very well. For the leaders, it is very beneficial to be in a follower’s position in order to understand what the things they are trying to lead feel like. Even historically leaders in Tango first learned how to follow, and only then how to lead, and even though it was not out of choice, having a basic skill in following became a prerequisite for becoming a good leader. For the followers the advantage is lesser – a lot of them find leading the hardest part of Toby’s classes, but the experience of that does make them appreciate what leaders are doing a bit more, and ultimately it does improve the feeling of Tango between the people.
Other than classes, Toby has two weekly practicas happening mid-day. While in the class the whole group does the same exercise, in practica your activity is individual, and so is the feedback. And because attendance at a practica is usually a lot smaller than at a class, the individual attention, and subsequently growth, is plenty. Oh, and it’s free.
Brian & Julieta are other Teachers who have been teaching in University for a long time (though members of the couple change throughout the years). The focus in the class is towards technique and a complete sequence of steps. In comparison to Toby, the teaching style is a lot more didactic and the steps are usually fancier, so if that is your cup of tea – go ahead. The pacing in the class is perfect and explanations are in-depth. Because the class is more technical, the level of your dance is very important. The level of classes change throughout semesters, it varies from complete beginners to intermediates, and it is a very good idea to go to the class which is suited to your skill level. The level of skill is often measured and advertised in the time you have danced (months, years), however that is often not a very accurate measure of skill. It is far better to evaluate yourself by looking whether you are struggling to keep up with what teachers in a class of certain level want from you, or not. If you do struggle – remember that you are often keeping your partner down, and ultimately you may stop the whole class.
The two classes taught in central area are what people often pick from. My advice is to go to both, as they are perfectly complementary. If you’d imagine Tango as a book, Toby will teach you how to write and why should you write, while Brian & Julieta will teach you the words you will be using. Contrarily, people who go only to Toby’s classes sometimes find themselves not having wide enough vocabulary for improvisation and fancy steps in social dance, and those who go only to Brian & Julieta’s classes sometimes end up knowing what the steps are, but they lack little details and essence behind them.
For people outside central area, Sarah Morris is a newly recruited teacher who has classes in the Kings Buildings. She has been teaching in Edinburgh for many years now, and has her own classes outside the University too. Her teaching style is very well-rounded, with plenty of explanations about the technical side of Tango and the reasons behind it. She is also a good source of some unconventional steps and improvisation skills. The classes she teaches in the University are often smaller, which is good for getting some personal attention and advice, and for those looking for extra classes, her classes outside the University is a good choice when it comes to quality and price. Information about them can be found on Facebook.
For Teachers outside the University, these Teachers are usually preferred among students:
Jenny & Ricardo are professional dancers and Tango Teachers. They are one of the best, if not the best, Tango dancers in UK, and their classes are extremely high level. During the class you are likely to discover a new muscle in your body, one you never thought you had. Also, what is not less important, their classes are a lot of fun.
The Teachers have various classes and Tango events during the week, but they quite often clash with University’s classes. They currently have the only supervised evening practica happening in Edinburgh. It is happening on Mondays, and the whole evening – workshop, technique session (short class focused on training technical skills) and practica – is a good deal for students. It lasts 4 hours, you are taught new steps and then get personal advice, and, while it is considerably pricier than University classes, it is reasonably priced given the amount of dancing you get. Information about teachers, classes and prices can be found on their website.
The last Teacher on the list is Jessie. She is slightly mythical teacher, as she currently doesn’t have regular classes – she only has irregular workshops happening, existence of which is often spread through notices in Milongas or a word-of-mouth. The classes, when she does have them, are often happening in several week blocks, which means you need to sign up and turn up there every week. Both workshops and classes are on the pricey side, however, the classes and workshops are very small (only several couples at a time), the amount of personal attention is huge and personal expertise of the teacher is of a very high level. If you can attend at least one of her classes, my personal advice is – do. She also sometimes substitutes regular teachers in University, however as far as experience in the class goes, classes in University are usually far bigger than her personal classes, so, consequently, personal attention is lesser.
Finally, when choosing a Teacher, a good advice is to watch them dance. They will teach Tango the way they dance, and, by looking at them dance, you can see whether that is the style of Tango you want to learn, and whether that is the Tango you want to dance. The final advice, while you’re still in first steps of improving your Tango, is to try all the teachers possible – whichever place you are, go and try out a local Tango Teacher. Or if you’re staying in Edinburgh, try out visiting Teachers. All the Teachers listed here are of a high level, and, while trying other Teachers, you will inevitably stumble upon some you don’t like, and learn what makes a Teacher good or bad. And, most importantly, each of them will teach you something slightly different.