The problem of Beginners in Tango

How do you keep beginners interested in tango? How do you encourage those who have done a beginners course (usually 6 to 8 weeks) to stay on in tango and move up to the next level - or at the very least to attend a few milongas? Does putting on a graduation give them the confidence to continue? I have just got off the phone to one of Sydney's leading tango teachers and this was the gist of our conversation.
The attrition rate in tango dancers in the first few months is high. I don't think this is peculiar to tango. I am a passionate yogi as well and I hear yoga teachers saying the same thing. I did belly dancing for a couple of terms then I dropped out - is this a clue? How do you keep students coming to class? You can of course charge them upfront for a course - this is pretty basic, most people do this. But this doesn't ensure they will stay.
Yoga and belly dancing are solitary pursuits, i.e. you don't need a partner. You don't need a partner in tango either, but it helps to have someone to practise with - and the over-supply of women at most milongas puts quite a few women off. Unless you are looking for a partner I think this is sad because there are so many interesting people at tango that I will sometimes talk more than I dance! Is it because it is more difficult to dance Argentine tango than just about any other dance? because every dance is different, and there are infinite combinations of figures and steps?
what do you think? Are some teachers better than others at keeping students and if so is it because they are better teachers - or better marketers - or both? Is there anything we can do to encourage these people who were attracted to tango because they wanted to dance to the music to stay on? Love to hear

Comments

Joy in Motion said…
I believe that people are drawn to the dance for different reasons. If the teacher can perceive each individual’s interest and approach and find a way to dial in to that, both through their own teaching and by providing further resources and options, students are more likely to stay. This means the teacher should be versatile and have a good understanding of different personality types and learning styles as well as of the music, partner dynamics, technique, movement, mind-body connection, community, etc. Not every teacher is versatile that way and I think that is okay as long as they can identify which areas they are weak in and be able to point a student in the right direction if they can’t provide something the student is looking for.

The dynamics of a community make a big difference, and a teacher can go a long way in discouraging gossip, modeling welcoming behavior towards beginners, encouraging appreciation of the many different aspects of the dance (diversity) while still providing direction, etc. But I also think the teacher can only do so much. Sometimes a community just isn’t a good fit for someone. I also think that the attrition rate you talk about is extremely common like you said and that there isn’t necessarily anything bad or unnatural about it. There are many activities that I have tried and enjoyed but just haven’t felt drawn in enough to keep doing it. There’s nothing wrong with someone trying it out or just coming on occasion and not wanting to do anything further with it. Of course we wonder why they wouldn’t want to because we feel so strongly about the dance. But some people just don’t connect that deeply with it, and others just aren’t in the place in their life where they can or want to commit to it at that level.

Just my thoughts. Very good question. I’d look forward to hearing comments from others, too :)
yoshi said…
Presumably there are two major reasons.

1.Tango culture
In the community where the tango culture exists, people start to
listen to the tango even when they are in their mothers wombs.
Later some of them will be the tango lovers. And some of them will start to play tango, sing tango, compose tango or dance tango. Those who dance tango may stay dancing tango rest of their lives.
In a milonga in Sydney, occasionally live music were performed. I asked my casual
partner her opinion. She said "I don't listen to the music while I am dancing".
In another occasion, I asked "Do you like D'Arienzo?", "??????What is darienso???".
It is impossible to keep those dancers dancing tango who do not love tango.

2.Basic steps
Traditional teachers such as Juan Carlos Copes, Gloria/Eduard or Carlos Copello, teach traditional basics i.e. 8 step salida, ochos, giros first of all. Then every body can dance with the same common technic.
In Sydney, teachers, except a pair of teachers as far as I know, do not teach those basics. Consequently the students from different teachers are
difficult to dance together. And also without correct basics the
students take more time to develop their skill and drop out.

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