Archives by: daniela

Lovely Portugal

Wow! my dear readers! I spent a lovely week in Portugal and am intoxicated by the experience so much so that I want to return!
There was some tango as most of my visits to places are created through tango connections, so this one was no different. And yet, so different!!!
Maybe it was the sunshine, maybe it was the delicious coffee (to this barely-ever-drinks-coffee person), maybe it was the hills and the streets, and the smell and the food and the friendly people? I just don’t know but it all left me buzzing for more.
I taught 2 lovely classes in Porto to generous and patient students.
I, who do not have a sweet tooth (no gluten or dairy for this lady), fell in love with Pudim S. Bernardo: like rays of sunshine they called to me – egg yolks and sugar – heaven, a total foodgasm! Who knew!!!
I danced at several milongas and met a colleague and tango organizer who had recommended a student to me in Arizona!! So the internet does work, Adam recommended me back in September 2006!!!! And we finally met and danced a few tandas!!!
I do have one tango reminder – don’t assume a position and dance from there, you are dynamic beings – let your embrace create your space, let your embrace determine your position!

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Body as Autobiography – Back in Europe

I have been back in Europe for about 3 weeks now. This has included a trip to Berlin to assist Graciela Gonzalez with her classes.

Grande Place Mons

Grande Place Mons

This time around I am staying in a sleepy town outside of Brussels called Mons. This will be my base for the next several months.

The visit with Graciela was again, one of great reminders:  1) how much force, effort does one really need to dance tango? and 2) the embrace and how do we embrace? bringing us back to the essence of tango.

It is so funny to me how much language gets in the way of the body. I have said this all through my teaching career and probably during my modern dance career too. How we each interpret information, as that information makes its’ way through our autobiography into the body, completely fascinates me. How someone says something, when someone says anything, we are interpreting all of it through a filter, our own autobiographical filters.

In Boston, before arriving to Europe, I had the joy of taking class again with some of my modern dancer friends with our teacher. Mons(Mind you, I can’t remember the last time I set foot in that studio, so it was a lot of things and most of all, wonderfully familiar.) As I spoke to him (dear teacher Marcus Schulkind) briefly after class about an aspect of the body and the leg’s movement backwards, he said something to the effect of “just take their leg and move it backwards, the physical movement will get them to understand.” YES!

There is a dance form in Bali where the passing on of the tradition is done through manipulation of the dancer’s body. The transmitter of the dance actually manipulates the dancer’s arms and legs for her to remember the “choreography”. This makes me also reflect on the origins of tango, there were no schools, it was just manipulation of bodies to transmit the information corporally.

After my weekend with Graciela, which is never only about me translating her classes but it is Graciela and Daniela in Berlinalways an intense revisit of the material of tango in my own body. And because I know that the body is also a “telling tool”, it reveals to me where I have been and where I am. That tension? That stuck place? That block? They are all revealing where I am in my current journey and it’s also affecting my dance. And so I learn, again!

I am excited to report that I will be teaching around! Next stop Portugal!
Please check my calendar for where I will be next and remember that the times on the calendar are stuck in USA Arizona time.

 

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9 Suggestions for a Personally Improved Milonga Experience

An improved Milonga Experience you say? Ok, to be fair this blog will not be about my opinions on lighting or table seating arrangements, although I am sure I have opinions on that too, this is about YOU and how YOU can improve your own experience, or at least attempt to.

I hear so often (and have heard since I can remember) the diametrically opposed feelings of attending a milonga. I will addressPortland milonga the followers’ lament – the time spent dressing up, smelling good, really looking forward to the dance and the music. Then the apprehension from the mind chatter: will I get dances, will he like me, will I find “the one”, am I pretty enough? Am I good enough? Will I ever be like her? When? How many more classes?

And then comes the post-milonga chatter – why not me? Why her? Why not him? She’s so x? He’s so y? Maybe I’ll buy more shoes!

What if we could choose to change our milonga experience (obviously, if we were not having a good one)? Well, after a European tour of several hundred milongas with seas of women sitting down and then back in the US with the same dilemma, how are we going to change our experience? I suppose we could stop dancing – but I know for my soul and body, that’s not an option.

Can I really change my milonga experience?
I ventured more deeply into an understanding of energy and what I called, at the time, alternative thinkers, when I moved back to Arizona in 2003. With a strong link to Sedona, AZ where everyone is a mystic and seemingly blessed with endless happiness, my exposure came more intensely not only with a love interest but with a life coach.

If I am having a bad experience I am the common denominator, so how do I change it?Ladies sitting at milonga

So as I sat at another very large festival watching and wondering about the dynamics at play and being accosted occasionally by a negative rant from a female friend, then it came as no surprise that my reading of Dr. Wayne Dyer sparked these ideas.

  1. Before you even start to get dressed for the milonga, take a moment to assess your mood. How am I feeling right now? Happy? Apprehensive? Stressed? On a scale would it be a 10 = yepee I feel happy or close to a 6 or below. Don’t judge it or beat yourself up. Just assess it. Notice it.
  2. I vowed several years ago that I would not go dancing unless I was feeling really great. And I also vowed that when I felt content at a milonga and satisfied, I would give myself permission to leave. Whether it was after 1 tanda in 4 hours or 4 tandas in 2 hours, whatever it was, that when I was still happy and feeling satisfied I would leave and leave happy. But this still put the milonga in control of me, the milonga as the ruler of my mood and how I would feel for a few hours afterwards or days sometimes!!! So I worked on raising my mood anytime I felt a little down. We can change our mood by eating well, exercising, yoga, a little meditation, breathing, listening to music we love, dancing alone, affirmations. Whatever it takes. If you want to wear those cute shoes, dress, scarf, wear them if that makes you feel good. Recognize when there’s a shift in your mood to the negative and see if you can change it or at least release it.
  3. Intention – Have a clear intention. “I intend to feel great and to have great dances”. (And the clincher here is not to censor it afterwards with a buzz kill, ie: “I intend great dances unless that guy that smells badly who always asks me to dance asks me.”
  4. Take a sip of water! Sometimes hydrating helps to move energy and can change how you feel.
  5. Acceptance – Anytime a thought comes to you that judges another person, say to yourself, “I allow everyone their own experience”. And then be happy for them!
  6. And SMILE to your self! (breathe and relax!)
  7. And then smile more! And pay someone a compliment, “What a beautiful dress, what a nice tie, lovely earrings, I love your shoes”!  Last year in a European marathon I knew only a couple of people and I really was putting these ideas into action! There was a woman whose necklace I had noticed earlier in the evening and I found myself standing in front of her, and I told her I thought her necklace was lovely. She told me thank you and commented that women rarely compliment each other and how nice it was to receive a compliment. SO LADIES sincere compliments are nice!
  8. Practicality – On a practical note, get to know people, circulate in a room, figure out a way to meet people. Where are people congregating? Where are the exits and entrances to the dance floor? You have to do the work of meeting people or knowing people. Do the work pre-milonga, during the milonga and post milonga or take a class to meet people. This too will help your mood! I like to circulate, especially in a large room. Sometimes this is a hindrance, because a leader will say to me, “I saw you sitting over there and then I couldn’t find you!” BUT overall, taking a walk-about can let people see you, you get to see who is there, it allows me the time to assess the milonga as well.
  9. And finally (or maybe firstly) – don’t care what others think about you. It doesn’t matter because you can’t control that. What you think about you is all that matters. Wouldn’t you want to choose to be happy and want to stay that way? I would.

What do you do to have a great milonga experience?

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Engaging Tango Newbies Part 2 Interview

In part 1 of New Ways to Engage Tango Newbies I discussed how I thought Peer to Peer Learning really added an extra dimension to ASU Tango students’ learning. In this blog I interviewed colleague Mitra Martin, Co-Founder of Oxygen Tango, in Los Angeles for her ideas and explorations into peer to peer learning at Oxygen.Mitra Martin

What is peer to peer learning exactly?

Broadly speaking, peer-to-peer learning is when people learn from friends and peers instead of from formal teachers. It is a lot of fun and can lead to great friendships and a strong community, and create interesting new roles for those who are experts.

At Oxygen Tango, it started off  as a super simple buddy system where we paired up beginners with more experienced dancers while they were in the Tango Challenge (read about the Tango Challenge here). The buddies practiced with the beginners once a week, that was it.

 How do you see it working for a tango community?

I think learning from your peers has been part of tango forever! As I understand it, in the old times of tango, nobody went to “classes” and “workshops” — they learned tango informally, at home or at social clubs, from friends and family.
And today, everyone’s still kind of involved in “peer-to-peer learning” even though we don’t talk about it as such. Most of us have had the experience of learning a lot from someone who’s not “officially” a teacher. And, most teachers do all they can to ensure there are lots of more experienced dancers at classes and practicas to help out. What we’re trying to do is give those peer helpers just a tad bit more structure, so they know how best to help.

Tango’s a kinesthetic, interpersonal form and so the best way to learn it is directly from another body. That’s why beginners love learning directly from more experienced dancers – it’s so natural. And, intermediate dancers get a lot more confident and skillful when see that they can actually help others learn.

Your model really means changing students’ mind sets about how they are going to learn a dance. Most people looking for a dance class find a studio and expect a class with a teacher telling students what to do! Can you talk a little about this?

It’s definitely a paradigm shift! I’d say you have to see it to believe it, to really feel and experience it from the inside to understand the kind of value it creates.

I think lots of us have a love-hate relationship with group classes. On the one hand, it’s exciting to see and be close to an inspiring person, the expert teacher. There can be something fun about just being in their aura. On the other hand, practically speaking, they probably won’t be able to spend more than a minute or so working directly with you. Most of your learning is completely dependent on who you’re working with and how productive that is. I think by pairing people up intentionally, and giving them the right things to work on everyone wins.

What are the pluses and minuses as you see them?

Well, right now it’s still very new, very messy, very experimental. Students want to be confident that they’re learning the right things in the right way, and they might doubt what’s coming from a peer-helper vs a teacher. But what is gained in the form of stronger bonds between people who help one another and receive help, makes me inspired to keep forging ahead and working out the kinks.

What are the implications for those of use who are teachers or who teach tango as our professions?

I think we’re slowly going to see tango experts shift their focus from being rockstar teachers, to creating the rockstar curriculum that powers their community forward. I think they’ll also spend more time, bandwidth and creativity on training for peer-mentors. Training those up and coming dancers who really contribute a lot to building and growing the dancers in their community. I think it would be very rewarding for everyone and have amazing effects on a community if tango master teachers and experts shifted more focus to training these gems more regularly, in slightly more systematic and structured ways.

And, I think we’ll see more experts going deeper into crafting motivating milestones where community members can show and share their newfound skills and accomplishments and celebrate each other’s growth. Maybe there will be new kinds of talent shows, improv game competitions, creativity showcases, demo/feedback opportunities, fringe festivals, grad balls. I call these “Rigorous Scenarios” – a chance for a learner to and see/feel/experience how far they have come, with loving and supporting feedback/input from friends and experts. That would cultivate a whole new generation of energized and well-informed practica and learning lab hosts with a great foundation.

You can read more about Mitra’s Peer to Peer learning project and how to become involved at
http://www.mitramartin.com/peer-to-peer-learning-project/

Let us know your thoughts!

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New Ways to Engage Newbies in Tango Part I

Are there New(er) Ways to Engage Newbies in Tango? (This is a 2 part blog.)

As most of you know, who have been reading my blogs over the years, I had the privilege of teaching Argentine Tango at ASU for ASU Tango Club10 years. My students were beginners, first time dancers, first time tangueras/as. The setup was (a course for credit) twice per week for about 3 hours (after a few years the department made some changes and I lost 15 minutes!), and the class was a semester long course about 16 weeks.

In addition, I had experiences teaching beginners in community classes – bootcamps, weekend immersions, 4 week courses, 6 week courses etc. And I always found these experiences quite varied. Always, with the intention of building and growing the community searching for a perfect working formula.

I often thought the variable was time, that the length of time that I was able to spend with the ASU students made the difference in the learning of tango among these different setups but probably there was more to it.

The students also had a Club where they would enthusiastically host classes and events. There were no “adults” supervising, they were on their own and free to do what they wanted (as long as they were safe and didn’t deplete their budget!)

As time went on, and people would ask me about the success of the Club and the students at ASU I really wondered how it was so different. It was clear that not all students fell in love with tango but there was a core group of students who kept it alive year after year.

I began to conclude that tango had to be social first and foremost. (Obviously, right?) The students would hang out or do group activities and whether it included tango or not didn’t make any difference. They liked to hang out with each other. As a group they brightened any room, any milonga. This is why they became popular go-to kids for local festivals.

I know that communities have blamed the unfriendliness of the core dancers or the cliquish nature of tangueros for the diminishing size of certain communities. But if you think about it, that’s the point isn’t it? If you don’t like socializing why would you keep doing it? Some are more masochistic than others, some dancers have moved to other cities just for a nicer welcome.

BA tour Eating outIf we look at the roots of tango, I think it has always been social first. When you go to dance tango in Buenos Aires you go to a Social Club normally, not to a dance studio or a restaurant. People gather their friends together and sit together at a table with snacks and wine and laugh and share life stories for their typical Friday night out.

So maybe it is true that if dancers didn’t like the socializing that is what stopped them from sticking with tango. (click here to read Clay’s Tango Survey results or to take the survey Why I Quit Tango)

Reminds me of urban sociologist, Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place, where he discusses the importance of informal gathering places, not your home but that space where you meet up with friends, cafes, pubs, for example. Maybe dance halls qualifies.

EMPOWERING OTHERS BY SHARING

I think one of the reasons why the ASU tango program was successful in terms of students learning to dance tango and becoming the dancers that others sought after at festivals and local milongas was the mixture of the social aspect and the fact that they were empowered to help other dancers grow.

Is Tango experiencing a lull in its masses? is it more difficult to get waves of newbies interested? Possibly and I think part of the reason is the loss of its “sociability” but also because no one is empowered to bring along the “babies”. Traveling teachers come and go, local teachers either focus on those already who know how to dance and sometimes rarely focus on beginners, let alone on how to keep them. ASU About music class

I remember one summer I was invited to teach a Tango 101 course in DC (with Tango Mercurio) and at the end of the cycle of classes I invited them all to my home to eat, socialize and dance if they wanted. THEY LOVED THIS! Now whether they stayed dancing I am not sure but it was definitely spoken about as a great idea after I left.

Another underemphasized aspect of the ASU kids’ learning experience is not just the social aspect but their sharing of tango material. Tango 1 class was for the introduction – context, a bit of culture, they would learn about embrace, pivots, ochos, giros. They were also asked to attend Tango Club and 3 community milongas and write about their observations. In the Tango 2 course it was more like a laboratory – each semester with a different focus depending on what the students were interested in. I would create questions, projects, discussions for them to explore during class, also combining newer students with students who were more experienced. I strongly believe that a peer to peer learning environment encouraged in the classroom and in their Tango Club helped them to grow and to become curious and eager learners which they would eagerly explore and share in their Tango Club experiences.

Tango Club was an important factor in their growth and exploration as dancers. They were allowed to share whatever they wanted during that time. (For example; the more experienced dancers shared more complicated steps or patterns that they had seen on Youtube that they were enthusiastic about, or something they learned by attending a festival.) WITH ENTHUSIASM and EXCITEMENT!!!!

So is there a place for peer to peer learning outside of the academic setting?

How would it be designed? Shaped, marketed?

I reached out to Mitra Martin, Founder of Oxygen Tango LA for her ideas and explorations with peer to peer learning.
READ ABOUT IT in Part 2, next week.

In the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts! Please share them below.

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