[For current class offerings, please see the Classes & Registration page.]
Teaching Tango is different from teaching other dance forms for several reasons (maybe a later version of this page will list all of those!). Over years of learning from masters and seeing what I found most effective, and then in teaching and observing what's most effective, I have derived a teaching philosophy and style, which I will try to explain under the following two headings:
[This section reflects my own experiences but you will find most of these widely accepted by the best dancers and teachers. I would recommend that students anywhere consider this list of criteria, regardless of where or from whom they are learning. The absence of one or more of these does not, of course, automatically disqualify a teacher, but students should go in "with their eyes open." These are the same criteria I use in determining which Argentine masters to study with.]
How do they dance? Do you like the way they look when they dance? Would you aspire to look that way? Are they enjoying themselves? Certainly having a good repertoire of figures and a good vocabulary of elements is part of being a good dancer, but a good dancer will use them sparingly to keep interest, and not just have a sequence of one step after another while the hapless partner tries to keep up! As the best dancers in Buenos Aires say, "It's not so much what you do, but how you do it!"
How do they connect to their partner? Do they seem connected to their partner so they are dancing and moving as one? Is the partner comfortable in his or her arms? Are they able to adapt to the level of the partner?
How do they connect to the music? Are they interpreting the music, and improvising to it? Are they even dancing in time to the music?! Does their style vary and adapt to reflect the moods of the large range in styles of Tango music?
Do they navigate well? A good dancer needs to be able to navigate well on a crowded floor and a good teacher will teach floorcraft and the techniques, figures and elements needed to manage the space on a dance floor and dance with consideration to others. See if your teacher teaches movement along line of dance, how to avoid bumping into others (and how to avoid being bumped into, or having your partner bumped into, by less aware dancers).
Is their material useful? Complicated and technically challenging combinations may be fun to watch and even interesting to learn. But if it cannot easily be followed by someone who doesn't know it specifically, or is a hazard on a crowded floor, or is a figure for exhibition or stage dancing, it is less useful. (These are fun to learn and fun to teach, and a little of it can add interest to a class, but if most of the class constitutes this type of material, it may not leave you with very much that can be adapted to the social dance floor.)
How much Tango training have they had and by whom? Partially because of the scarcity of teachers with experience, a number of places have teachers who have only recently learned Tango themselves. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, as it does expose a greater number of people to Tango, as long as the students recognize the limitations of the instruction they can get this way. Ask the question! "How much training and by whom?" The Argentine masters (and being Argentine does not automatically make you a master!) are the acknowledged top teachers in the world. If you can learn from them you should—if not, you should at least try to find teachers who have had intensive training by them.
How much continuing Tango education do they receive (and from whom)? Tango is one of those disciplines where you never stop learning. Even the top teachers in the world take coaching from the legendary masters, so look for a teacher who recognizes that Tango learning never stops. Teachers who don't make the investment in themselves will plateau or stagnate. Learning from top teachers and travelling to Argentina is admittedly not inexpensive, but a necessary investment for the serious teacher.
How regularly do they go to Buenos Aires? Any Tango dancer who visits Buenos Aires to dance Tango more than casually will tell you that his Tango dancing changed dramatically (and for the better) after these trips. The level of immersion into high-quality teaching and dancing (and just general Tango culture) one gets in Buenos Aires cannot be replicated anywhere else. Not everyone can take several trips to Buenos Aires, but at least see if your teacher has done so.
What are their teaching personalities and dynamics in a group class? Do they make the material accessible to students at different levels who absorb material at different rates? Are they attentive to the class dynamics, changing partners frequently and making sure no one is left out? Do they adapt the teaching style to the size of the class (too much individual attention in a large class can deprive the rest of the class of instruction time, while too little individual attention in a small class squanders the benefits of a small group)? Are they respectful of students? Do they have a good teaching dynamic?
Do they give feedback and correction? Tango cannot be learned from a videotape since the dynamics of the movement and connection of two bodies requires feedback and correction. Teaching in small classes is one way to achieve this; in addition, the teacher must spend time observing and even dancing with each student during the class, since most elements in Tango have a "feeling" to them that goes far beyond just its visual appearance.
Perhaps most importantly ... Are their classes fun?? You won't learn much of anything if you're not enjoying the process!
Think there should be additional criteria or disagree with one of these? Submit your comment or suggestion on the Ask Shahrukh page, or if you prefer send a private e-mail to email@example.com.
The "Tango Workshop" has been well established in Tango communities worldwide as an effective intensive means for learning and refining Tango. This comprises 3-4 classes per day of 1 to 1½ hours each over 1 or 2 weekend days. The classes follow a logical progression of level and technical elements, so that in each set of workshops there are several accessible to beginners, several of interest to advanced dancers, and several (usually all) appropriate for intermediate level dancers.
I discovered the joys (and, I was told, my talent) of teaching Tango to children quite by accident, when Center Stage Dance Academy in Haverhill, Massachusetts was looking for a Tango teacher for their youth master class of kids between 10-18 years. There are special challenges in teaching children (keeping their interest, keeping the class lively and fun and even in picking "cool music") but there are special rewards as well (they learn quickly and are not afraid of trying new things).
If you have a children or youth group who would like to learn Tango, please contact me for more information and to work out the details.
"I really enjoyed working with you and the kids think you are very special. I must tell you that looking at them from the side of the stage really gave me chills. You taught them so well. I truly wish that I could do Tango again with the same kids [but several are graduating this year]. Can you imagine what you could do with them if you had them another year?" - Tina Davis, owner of Center Stage Dance Academy, following their sold-out performance for the academy. See more testimonials ...
In addition to my own classes (see Classes & Registration) and private lessons, I can also customize a class for your group, or a workshop series (several hours in one day, or over several days). The setting can vary from your own private group of friends to a "mob" of 300 people to a workshop for motivated Tango dancers (obviously the objectives and teaching style will vary significantly between these extremes).
Group Rates (arrangements made by group organizer)
"No-risk" arrangements possible under certain circumstances such as newly developing Tango communities, or for non-profit groups. Pro bono engagements also considered for charitable or non-profit groups. Please call Shahrukh at 617-877-5666 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your needs or for more information on the type of classes that can be arranged. Special Teaching+DJ or Teaching+Performance workshop pricing packages also available.
Private Rates (individual or couple)
$60/hour at my studio (Harvard Square area, Cambridge) for an individual or a couple. Semi-private classes with two couples are $80/hour at my studio. (Prices for other locations by arrangement.)
Shahrukh has been teaching Tango regularly since 1997. As founder of the Tango Society of Boston and one of the primary teachers at its weekly Milongas (and one of the only teachers in the early years), Shahrukh has introduced Argentine Tango to hundreds of people in the Boston area. He now spends over 2 months each year in Buenos Aires and is strongly influenced by the style of dancing in the Milongas of Buenos Aires.
A list of selected recent classes and workshops by Shahrukh, and Tango Festivals at which he has taught, includes:
Unsolicited comments and testimonials by many of the principals or students from the above classes or workshops can be found at the Testimonials page.
All Tango-related services presented by Shahrukh Merchant are done so on behalf of The Tango Foundation, Inc. Copyright 2003-2004 The Tango Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.