Another humorous story by guest writer Tanguera Escondida:
Situations In Which Followers Should Be Paid To Go To Group Classes
I recently decided to take a group class with one of my favorite instructors in the Bay area. I love his focus on the basics, his salon tango embrace, the way he walks around the dance floor, adjusting shoulders here, a stomach there, feet there. He’s precise and funny, eccentric and a little wild-eyed. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s handsome. For the purposes of this short story, we will call him Bonzai.
My best classes with this instructor have been when I could stay with my partner, not rotating. That way, I have someone to practice the complicated moves with, whom I trust to correct me constructively, who knows how I dance and what I might be doing wrong as we learn these new steps. Well, when we showed up to class, we made the painful decision to rotate, as leaders FAR outnumbered the followers. It was the social thing to do.
My heart dropped as I looked around the dance floor. There was a guy so wobbly he walked around like a hobbled horse, a guy who thinks he is God’s Gift to tango, a short dude I didn’t recognize, a super-friendly, complete beginner, and one of Bonzai’s students who I actually enjoyed dancing with. Okay, I thought, there’s at least a couple guys here I like to dance with. Two out of maybe eight.
Turned out, dancing with the guys I actually like to dance with came few and far between. The followers of the class were instructed to allow two or more leaders to “take turns” with her, so I had to entertain many different leaders, and hardly ever landed with my two preferred dancers. I felt like a “tango whore”, being used, over and over and over again, so these guys could learn how to lead. There was nothing in it for me. Nothing at all.
Then came my turn to dance with God’s Gift to Tango. He could be a pleasant man if his ego wasn’t the size of Texas. When Bonzai first showed the sequence, he muttered, “Easy. I do that all the time.” To which Bonazi looked at him and said, “Well, you could be a real instructor in Buenos Aires, then.” People snickered, but God’s Gift just smiled smugly, unaware that he was completely out of line. (SIDENOTE: When people say tango is easy, or a particular move is easy, I completely disregard them. NOTHING in tango is easy and you’re kidding yourself if you think it is.)
If that experience wasn’t torture enough, then came my turn to dance with Hobbled Horse. In my unprofessional opinion, this dancer should take five years of beginning classes and walking before attempting any of Bonzai’s sequences. He is a frightened sort, the one who stutters and glances around nervously, the whites of his eyes showing. He took me in a very nervous embrace and attempted to do the sequence. It sucked. It was so very wrong I couldn’t even handle it. So, when he messed up, I would attempt do my part correctly. I know I had a lot of work to do on the sequence, but couldn’t really focus on myself when my leader didn’t even know how to lead it.
He glanced up into my eyes, his face turned away shyly. “Thanks so much! You really saved the day. I’m glad at least someone knows this sequence”. What I wanted to say, but didn’t, in an effort to be social was, “I am not here to save your butt. I am not here to teach. I don’t even know how to teach or think I’m even remotely qualified for it. I’m here to learn.” Instead, I smiled at him sweetly and let him jerk me around in a haphazard version of the sequence. Over and over and over again.
Toward the end of the class, I was simply fed up. All I had wanted was to practice the sequence, about 10,000 times with a good partner. I would have actually been happy just improving my posture and walk. I don’t need a sequence in tango, I need the basics. And so does everyone else. Instead, I was tortured. Simply tortured. And then I had to hand over 35 bucks.
Since this experience, I have talked to several followers who had recent, painful experiences. One woman told me, after a $25 dollar class, that she couldn’t even bear to dance with the leaders there, that she got nothing out of the workshop. Another follower friend of mine told me the same thing, about a different group class. After hearing these stories and going through my own experiences, I’ve come to the conclusion that most group classes are aimed at leaders.
Even though this is my favorite instructor, I can’t attend his classes in San Francisco, unless I can stay with my partner, or unless I get the class for free or at a reduced rate to be a taxi dancer for the bad leaders. I’d rather pay him for a private lesson than go through that experience again.
For now, I’ll limit my group classes to ladies technique, where I can just focus on my own form and dancing, and not worry about the men. At least in a milonga I get a choice as to with whom I want to dance with. Not so in group classes. So, goodbye, torturous lesson. I won’t be seeing you anytime soon.
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