Thursday, June 07, 2007

Group Class issue

I was having a discussion the other day about group classes, and their pros and cons. One of the biggest issues in our community is that people tend to overestimate their level of skill/competence/ability, so often I have shown up for an intermediate class, unsure if I am actually up to the level of the class, only to realize that half the class are actually beginners. There were many times when I would seek out the instructor before class began to ask them if they thought I was up to the level of the class. I would often get a bemused look, and they would usually dance a song with me and tell me that I was fine to stay. The fact that there are often people out of their league in class tends to be frustrating, not only for those in the class, but I am sure also for the instructors.

There was one solution to this issue that I brought up during the discussion, when Ney Melo and Jennifer Brat were here teaching classes they addressed this very issue. They were teaching an intermediate milonga class, however most of the dancers that showed up for the class were at a beginner level. They came up with a brilliant solution, in my mind anyway, they taught to the basic level and then they pulled aside the more advanced dancers aside and taught them a higher level of what they just taught. It was great. everyone learned from the class and went away happy.

I am not sure if this is common practice, it is the only time in my limited experience that this was utilized by instructors to address the disparity in levels amongst the class. I would be curious to hear from others if they have come across this in other class with other instructors. It seems to me to be a great solution, and there have been a few classes that I have taken where I wished that the instructors had done this.

What do you think about this? Any other solutions to this issue that you have experienced?


Anonymous said...

Hey Debbi.. I've been reading your blog for a while.. and today I had the big surprise to read that you've been in Montreal! I'm from there, and by the way Tangueria is the school I go to!
I noticed both things as well at this school:
1) beginner students come to all levels: just cause they took beginner class they think they belong in intermediate.
(I wonder if that's why Tangueria doesn't even pretend to offer Advanced level.. it stops at intermediate.. very insightful of Paul and Laura I find...)
2) The teachers do adapt to each student's level.. They usually show the theme of the class in the beginning and then adapt it to each couple.

And yeah, Paul is divine as a dancer, passionate as a teacher and very good DJ... he's been into tango for a while now.. most of the teachers of Montreal discovered tango through him...

Debbi said...

Thank you so much! :-D
I adore Montreal and can not wait to go back in July for the festival.
I am glad to hear that the teachers tend to adapt to the different levels of the students in your experience. I find that is the best solution.
Somehow I am not surprised that Paul is one of the tango mentors of Montreal... I hope to dance with him again when I come back up.

La Tanguera said...


Hi--well, I've seen teachers actually do three other things, apart from a teacher who did the break of the group that you describe:

1. A tough pre-screening. This is usually for classes at master level when top star teachers from Argentina are coming to town--they'd ask the dancers registering to say for how long they've been dancing, and pretty much demonstrate their knowledge (in writing) so that they can be filtered out. This of course never works perfectly.

2. Trial period: I've seen teachers who ask their students to warm up just before the class and then ask directly those students who look off whether they'd really like to stay for the class, suggesting that they will cover something truly advanced. This works a bit better, but few teachers dare...

3. Published requirements: They let people know of the "requirements": say, the advanced is more than 3 years of dancing, the intermediate between 1-3, etc. This is the most popular, but the least effective...

In general, teachers often don't like to come across as aggressive, and I've rarely seen enforcing and kicking anyone from the class. I have the impression that the "breaking up the group" sometimes works better than other times, because at the end it divides the time of the teachers between two parallel classes, and each of the groups can always end up arguing that the teachers did not spend enough time with *their* specific group. And in the end, you could also argue that the minute spent with the group that does not belong (and lack of attention to the group who does) is in the detriment of those who had the true level of the class...

I guess this is something that is not easy to solve, unfortunately...

Ruth said...

Just stumbled across your blog... Interesting post, on a topic I've found frustrating as well. I signed up for all intermediate classes at the Yale Tango Festival, only to find myself dancing with many beginner leads. One way I've dealt with the issue when a class turns out to be at a lower level than it was published as is to just switch and lead myself. Of course, you have to be interested in leading, but I find it less frustrating to lead people at a lower level than to follow people at a lower level.