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[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:

Also see:

What to Look for in a Tango Teacher

[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 shouldif 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 tango@shahrukhmerchant.com.

My Teaching Philosophy and Style

[For more information about Shahrukh's teaching background, and comments by current and former students, please also see the Biography and Testimonials pages.]

  1. Teaching of Social Tango in the Buenos Aires Style
    Students and teachers alike often enjoy the "flashy" figures in Tango, but them sometimes fall into the trap of learning (or teaching) "steps" without a context to put them in, nor the technique to do it properly. My emphasis is on Tango appropriate for the social dance floor (don't worry—there is plenty there to impress your friends with, especially if you do it right and don't create a hazard to other dancers in the process!). The dance style I focus on is the Buenos Aires "close embrace" standard social style (sometimes confusingly called "milonguero style"). While this is a little more difficult, it allows for greater subtlety in lead and follow and a better feeling of connection to ones partner. Students who learn this style find it much easier to adapt to other styles (e.g., more open styles) than vice versa.
  2. Emphasis on Fun but with High Expectations of Students
    Learning is a 2-way street, so you will be nurtured but not babied. You will be encouraged, but not falsely so. But you will have fun no matter what!
  3. Emphasis on Elements and Their Combinations
    You will not be taught sequences of steps, but rather taught the fundamentals of the individual elements and taught to do them well and combine them to create a larger repertoire of steps and figures. Of course, figures and steps will be used to illustrate these elements and give you something to fall back on. But we will focus on teaching you the language of Tango and improving your vocabulary and grammar, so that you can make your own sentences, rather than teaching you pre-fabricated sentences to recite.
  4. Small Group Classes for Effective Learning
    While I do teach under contract or for demonstration purposes to large groups, my own classes focus on small groups (4-6 men and 4-6 women) where individual attention is possible. A lot of Tango has to do with the connection with your partner, and this can be properly learned only with individual attention. It also makes it easier to adapt the class so that more advanced dancers can learn an advanced version of a figure or element, while less advanced dancers can concurrently focus on perfecting their technique.
  5. Partners Changed Frequently
    Tango is a social dance and you will be dancing with many people. You also learn better by seeing how it feels with many people. Hence, there are frequent partner changes during the class. (If you wish to take the class with someone you intend to practice with a lot outside of class, you may change back to that person at every other partner change, and hence still dance over half the class with your regular partner while retaining the benefits of trying it with others—the best of both worlds.)

Tango Workshops Worldwide

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.

Tango for Children and Youth

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 ...

Teaching Services and Prices

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)

  • Local (within 15 minutes drive of Harvard Square, Cambridge). $100/hour
  • Regional (within 15-60 minutes). $125/hour
  • Extended (more than 60 minutes travel time). By prior arrangement and depending on number of total hours.

"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 tango@shahrukhmerchant.com 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.)

Teaching Experience

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:

  • Second Boston Tango Festival, Boston, Massachusetts. Invited teaching faculty member and performer at one of the largest Tango festivals in North America (and the only one in the New England), teaching and performing with Carina Losano of Buenos Aires. 15-19 Jun, 2005.
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina. Instructor (assisted by Roxana Suarez of Buenos Aires) at private event with about 30 students (mostly from Argentina). May 2005.
  • Patagonia Tango Festival, Bariloche, Argentina. Invited instructor, interpreter and DJ (Shahrukh is the only non-Argentine to be on the faculty of a major Tango festival in Argentina). 29 Apr-2 May, 2005.
  • First Boston Tango Festival, Boston, Massachusetts. Invited teaching faculty member and performer at one of the largest Tango festivals in North America (and the only one in the New England), which also included six well-known teachers from Argentina. 23-27 Jun, 2004.
  • Taj Exotica, Goa (award-winning 5-star resort hotel, Thomas Cook's Best Winter Long Haul Hotel 2003, Hotel of the Year 2003), Argentine Tango Special Guest Instructor, Dec 2003
  • Boston-Area Group Classes, Shahrukh's own popular group classes in Tango, Milonguero-Style Tango, Milonga con traspie and Vals, held when he is not traveling to Buenos Aires: Oct 2003, Feb 2004, May 2004, Sep 2004, July 2005. (Some classes were filled within 2 days of their being announced!)
  • Center Stage Dance Academy, Argentine Tango Instructor for young adult weekly master classes for Argentine Tango recitals at sold-out performance in Haverhill, Massachusetts and at the First Boston Tango Festival, Sep 2003-Jun 2004.
  • Tango Society of Boston, Frequent guest instructor at their weekly classes, 1997-present
  • MIT Ballroom Dance Club, Featured Argentina Tango Instructor, numerous workshops 1999-2004.
  • K&S Dance, Featured Instructor, Newton, Massachusetts, Oct 2003
  • Cambridge Community Chorus' Guest Tango Instructor at Reception for Oscar-Winning Composer Luis Bacalov (celebrating the premier of his work Misa Tango—he also composed original Tangos for Robert Duvall's Assassination Tango), Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 2002
  • Waterfire Providence, Argentine Tango Night Featured Teachers (300+ students), Providence, Rhode Island, July 2000, June 2001
  • SuperShag Dance Complex, Featured Argentine Tango Instructor for the Tango Night Inaugural, Jan 2002.
  • Miscellaneous classes at community events, e.g., Cambridge Riverfest, Border's Bookstore

Unsolicited comments and testimonials by many of the principals or students from the above classes or workshops can be found at the Testimonials page.

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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.