The Tango market problem


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Professionals in Tango

A few weeks ago we started discussing with a couple of friends the question of who can be considered a Tango professional. The problem is that usually in most professions one needs some kind of education and most probably certification in order to actually work in a profession. In Tango there is no specific curriculum, and there are no exams and certificates like for example university degrees. So in such a market without well-defined rules of entry who is considered a Tango professional?

A few days later we discussed the question with a teacher from the community in Thessaloniki. The answer he provided was pretty much what I also had in mind. If there is no degree then in order to be considered a professional you should somehow make money out of it. It may be teaching, performing, DJing, organizing events, etc. All these people who make money out of a Tango related activity can be considered professionals. Now it could be that your whole income is from such activities or only a part of it but this only changed that you may be a part-time or full-time professional, but you are still a professional. The rest of the post will only focus on the teachers’ part of the professionals.

Rating professionals

In a usual professional market where people provide services (like Tango teachers), there is always a kind of rating for the professionals and their businesses. A new professional can have a good reputation or rating because of his degree, the University they studied, etc. As professionals acquire experience, their rating is more attached to the results they provide and the quality of their service.

All these ratings are based mainly on specific expectations that the clients have from the professionals. When you go to a doctor you expect a diagnosis and a therapy. When you go to a German language teacher you expect to learn and be able to speak and write German. Based on the results and your experience you can drive conclusions and say if the professional was a good or a bad one and what were their strengths and weaknesses. These ratings form a reputation for a professional and this is probably reflected in the performance of their business, their prices, etc. The key element is that there are always clear and specific criteria based on expected results. The customers of the market know exactly what they look for.

Tango customers expectations

Now let’s try to apply this logic in the Tango teachers market. Let’s try to rate the different teachers based on their results. What are the customers’ expectations in this case? Learn to dance Tango. Here starts the problem. What does “dance Tango” mean? If you ask this question you will get thousands of different opinions and definitions. If you ask people outside of Tango then the answers might be (and most probably will be) totally different from what an experienced dancer would say. Even between dancers, some might have stage dancing in mind and others social dancing. This alone creates chaos in the expectations of customers. Not to mention that customers would often change radically expectations and therefore ratings for professionals during their Tango journey.

Where does all this leave us? Can we rate Tango teachers like any other professional out there? Can we say who is a good Tango teacher? The question can be answered when the customers have clear expectations. But is this the case? Do we even know why we start Tango? Is it the same reason why we continue and stick with it? What are our expectations and values in the beginning and what are they after 3 or 4 years? And then again how much influence do our teachers have in these expectations?

That is why it is difficult to rate Tango teachers as professionals. The expectations are so vague, hidden, constantly changing, and many times contradictory between different groups in the market. So since the customers don’t have clear specific stable expectations, there is no way and there will never be one to say who is a good or a bad teacher in Tango. It’s all a trial and error process.

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango

Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is talking about a toy market. The subject of the song is in a different direction but it still talks about a market and any kind of market is the same. It has many options… good… medium… bad… all of them have a place in the market. When you know what to look for… you know what to buy.

What about you? Did you know what kind of “toy” to look for when you entered Tango? Did you find it? Do you still look for the same kind of “toy” or have your expectations changed? Let me know with a comment below, an email, or a PM on Facebook… oh… and if you liked it… don’t forget to share it with your friends.


5 responses to “The Tango market problem”

  1. Andreas Maier Avatar

    The difference between a teacher and a professional dancer tis obvious. Every person that has a methodology to transfer knowledge – and this knowledge is accepted as common sense by his/her students, is a teacher.
    A professional dancer might not necessarily be a teacher as they might luck the methodology to transfer knowledge.
    A “teacher” will give you knowledge, but himself might not be a fabulous dancer, but has the knowledge on what is regarded “right” and can stimulate others to do things correctly – technically speaking.
    I have seen great show dancers, with no capabilities in teaching, I have also seen beginners who caught one thing and then transferred this knowledge to others correctly.
    I agree up to some extent that making money is important in any profession, I disagree in Tango on that.
    In our community we have fabulous teachers, who do not make money, they are great, but do it for the love to Tango.
    Doing something for money kills the love…. They say…..

    1. chris.kourou Avatar

      I totally agree with the distinction between teachers and professional dancers. I was using the term tango professionals in general to include anyone who has some kind of income from Tango. Like a DJ .. or an organiser etc. I just focused on teachers as a part of this group.
      However I totally agree that a teacher is one that will pass on knowledge on you (with money in exchange or not). I am really glad to hear that there are still people in communities that teach for free. To be honest I never came across such teachers so far
      The question though remains. Was your expectations of dancing Tango the same when you started with what it is now? Maybe if you had a background from other social dances you knew (more or less) what to expect. But for the majority of people who enter tango and stick with it… I think they end up discovering something totally different from their initial expectation. At least this is what happened to me.

      1. Andreas Maier Avatar

        I do frankly originate from Ballroom, with a proper dance education and switched over to Tango due to insufficient offerings in other social dances at the location I am currently. We are neighbors Chris! Καλισπέρα από την Βουλγαρία.
        As to the question of if expectations changed? Yes, they adopted. It was a bit of a journey adjusting the ballroom posture (or better said getting rid of it), but now I ended up being a bit of a fanatic…. Playing even with the idea to start teaching. Again, not for the money, but the fun of passing on something beautiful!

        1. chris.kourou Avatar

          Καλησπέρα Andreas… from Frankfurt! I am a bit away from our neighborhood at the moment but still very glad to meet you!
          Your Tango journey is a very interesting one and a very differnt from mine.
          For me the biggest change in expectations came after I started realizing what does it mean to dance with someone else (someone you don’t even know) especially in close embrace. My idea of tango before sarting was what you see in shows like “Dancing with the stars”. I didn’t know what a milonga is and what dancing socially (under this condition) means. I mean… yes… I have been many times to Bouzoukia in Greece, danced a lot of times traditional Greek dances, Zeimpekiko and Tsiftetli and I even tried some latin dances before. I could never imagine the intimacy, the connection and the feeling you get when you dance in close embrace with someone else. So for me, it all started just as another physical activity… something like going to the gym. The more I learned the more I relaized that my idea and perception of Tango as a nice physical excercise is just the surface of it. There is so much more in it. There is a whole culture behind it and whole personal emotional journey one can have in this process. I only had a similar emotional experience when dancing Zeimpekiko… but as you know this dance is danced alone. When you add the second person in the equation things get much more complicated, fascinating, exciting and interesting.

  2. Andi “El Adios” Avatar

    I know Chris. The difference is in where you grow up. I grew up in Germany in the 70s. When we were 12 we went for the first Ballroom lessons in a local dance studio…. I guess it is part of the „Western “ culture to know how to dance in “closer” embrace than any of the Greek dances. And yes, I lived in Athens for years and learnt all of them, inclusive Zeibeikiko and Tsifteteli 🙂
    Tango is always a special case, Ballroom or Argentine versions are special…
    The el Abrazo in Argentine Tango is what makes the difference. Caressing the followers back into fluent motion.
    I might say that my expectation has not really changed over time, but my stimulation to feeling has. – and still is. It all becomes more intense, lesson over lesson and Milonga after Milonga.
    Now in my 50s – I have just one wish – when time comes – like all great Tangueros – just die on the dancefloor….. 🙂 LOL

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