The struggle is real for teaching tango

The tango Wānaka group rehearse at Sousa Jefferson’s house.

'Tango arrived in Wānaka 10 years ago, when the first teacher moved here. She taught other dance styles besides tango, including flamenco. But, like many people, she moved on and once she left, her loyal disciples never abandoned their passion. Stella Senior and Andreas Penckwitt briefly took the teaching mantle but they too left. 

Wānaka Tango has now been looking for a tango teacher for five years, with no luck other than temporary mentors every now and then. Despite so many immigrants in Wānaka, particularly from Argentina, the group says the struggle is real. Nevertheless, the stubborn students kept practicing through peer learning —  learning from each other through a video library. 

Since the couple quit teaching in town five years ago, Sousa Jefferson has run the group, looking after other learners and offering her place as a venue for the practica. “We always welcome new students and we do our best to help them to learn tango. We have regular teachers coming over for short periods, but it would be great to have a long-term teacher. Last winter we were quite lucky to have a tango teacher from Belgium for eight weeks. Stella will come back in March or April for a few classes. Once or twice a year two very good teachers from Christchurch, an Argentinian and a Kiwi, professional dancer, come over and give us lessons. There is also a group in Queenstown, we regularly get together and dance,” explained Jefferson.

The local tango group is not restricted to Wānaka — they often travel all over New Zealand to participate in a wide range of tango events. “We take videos at these events, so when we come back to Wānaka, we can practice the steps thanks to our video library. We are organising a trip all together now to the New Zealand Tango Festival that will be held in Wellington in July. We will be learning from a lot of international teachers there. Sometimes we also drive to Christchurch, Dunedin and Nelson for other tango events,” she added. 

Jefferson highlights the informal social gathering nature of the practica. “At my home locals come to engage with each other and learn together. We do not charge fees. Everybody can come and dance. People don’t have to feel stopped by coming if they haven’t got any partner! They can come alone because everybody dances with everybody. If someone is interested, I would suggest checking the Wānana tango page on Facebook, where it is possible to find further information about when and where we meet,” concluded Jefferson. 


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