Giving Feedback

Below are two experiences that I'd like to share, though half a dozen more easily came to mind upon reflection:

Several years ago, I went to a workshop being taught by one of my favorite instructors. There were several more leaders than followers and so we traded roles when possible. Another student took it upon himself to condescend to me for the entire time we were partnered, repeatedly attempting to teach me as we worked. After several minutes of critiques and corrections, I stepped away from him and said as graciously I could muster, "I came to learn from the maestro, not you." I never danced with him again and still think of him to this day whenever I witness corrections being made from student to student.

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During my trip to Las Vegas, I took part in a workshop and a partner asked me to offer my opinions on why a step wasn't working for her. I demurred and recommended that we call the teacher over to take a look at the figure. She looked at me in disbelief, "You're a teacher, aren't you?!"

"Yes, but I am not the teacher of this workshop." When I take class, I am a student like everyone else in the room. To presume otherwise would be an insult to the instructor.

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I've had several students of both roles describe negative experiences where they were corrected or criticized by their partner. Unfortunately, this is a widespread practice in the tango community and one that needs to change if we are to make the community more welcoming.

1. Do not give unsolicited feedback in any context. Feel free to ask for feedback, but do not proffer it without being asked for it. Recognize that many people do not necessarily come to class to improve their dancing, but as an outlet and a means of socializing.
2. Look to your own dancing first- center comments about the dancing around your own experience  ("I didn't understand that lead" rather than "You didn't lead that properly").
3. Recognize that learning tango is difficult enough without receiving conflicting information. Acknowledge that what you might have to say to them might not be what they're prepared to hear or work on. A new dancer struggling with their axis doesn't need to have their collection criticized.

In Class:
As stated above, not everyone comes to class with the intention of learning, but even if someone is coming to class, remember that they did not come to class to learn from you. It is not only distracting to the other students in class, but disrespectful to the teacher. Imagine deciding to lecture another student during a foreign language course while the teacher is at the head of the room.

In a Practica:
While practicas are typically intended to be practice sessions, many practicas are treated as "practilongas" with a greater emphasis placed on socializing than technical work. Understand which kind you are attending. To continue the language learning metaphor- think of two different language study groups: One is an informal gathering of friends who practice a foreign language over coffee while the other gathers at the local library with textbooks on hand.

In a Milonga:
Milongas are for social dancing, not instruction. It is highly insulting to critique someone's dancing while they are out trying to enjoy themselves. If the dancing is that bad, that is why we are allowed to thank our partners and leave the floor, no explanations needed. Critiquing someone's dancing on the milonga floor would be about as egregious as correcting the grammar of a dinner date.