Performances

Welcome 2012!

2011 was an interesting year in my tango journey, as I guess they always are!

A highlight is always the new students that I meet and watching them dance! Some students move on and some get hooked! Some even return from long distances. I was very fortunate this year to be a part of 180 new students at ASU’s tango journey and to be a part of ASU’s first tango festival. I marveled at the creativity, ingenuity, and steadfastness of those who made that festival a first!

I traveled to several new cities making new friends, sharing more tango, bonding with some furry pals, and even re-connected with old friends at my high school reunion.

To challenge myself is to grow and sometimes it can change even my strong opinion about things. 2011 did just that with my first tango competition with my partner, Rommel Oramas, placing 5th. (read about it here.) Thank you Rommel for all the fun performances and festivals we have experienced together.

Thank you 2011 for the great dances and the new shoes! Thanks to all of you who have been a part of my growth as a teacher, a dancer, organizer, consultant, and a human being.

2012 is sure to bring new surprises, new challenges and new students!

May 2012 bring you all much happiness, abundance, compassion, success, love, and peace.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Videos of Meng and Daniela in Sedona

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Performing Socially versus Performing

A few weekends ago now,  ASU Argentine Tango Club hosted their annual fall tango retreat. They invited Meng Wang (pronounced “mung”) as a guest instructor and we all went to Sedona for a weekend of tango fun! It is a great way for the ASU students to immerse themselves into the dance and also to get to know the tango community in a different context.

I was along for the ride and to assist Meng in the classes. And I performed with him, not just once but several times over the weekend. I even was exposed to a little Meng choreography!

This brought up a few tango questions that I have yet to address and they pertain to performing.

It appears that there are several levels of performing in the tango world: socially at a milonga as an informal demonstration, performing at a festival could be improvised or choreographed and then tango for stage. I have always thought and this has been discussed amongst my colleagues that performances by tango couples at a festival is sometimes arbitrary or even boring! Some festivals don’t have any performances and some have MANY performances! I think it is a part of my job as a tango teacher, advocate, coach, educator to perform. My dance background was really about performing and choreographing so how is that different in tango. Well, here’s the glitch. Some dancers are better teachers than performers and visa versa. I personally think that there should be some ‘coaching’ for those teachers who are “obliged” or asked to perform often at milongas or during festivals. And who sets the bar for what makes us “like” or enjoy a performance?

We can argue a few points. From my theatre and dance background I have learned certain criteria for “better” choreography and better performing, better positions of the body relative to the audience (ie: no crotch shots or butts to an audience), also positions of a performance space in relation to the audience (ie: drama happens in the center). There is also the point about how to “bring in” the audience to a dance form that looks a little strange from the outside. I mean, there are 2 people dancing usually very close (as some of my students observe) and they don’t look at each other. They sometimes intertwine their legs sometimes they move fast or slowly. Sometimes there is dramatic tension through the movement itself and sometimes it just looks like you’re watching something intimate through a window, like a peeping tom. I think dancers don’t always know any of this. But again I ask the question – what makes 1 couple interesting to watch perform and the other look like just another improvised tango performance at a festival?

I think choreography sometimes helps some of these situations. A couple can plan certain movements in advance to certain parts of the music to bring in a sense of tension or release or playfulness. Maybe a couple who practices a lot together helps with this and if they are choreographing they must be dancing and practicing a lot together! Maybe the dancers’ relationship to the music? Maybe just technique? Maybe a combination of all of these elements. And I will let this idea sit with you.

I post here several videos of Meng and I performing at the milongas of the Retreat weekend. They are improvised. He and I practiced a little bit. He showed me a little bit of choreography. He had a plan! And my goal was to dance with him as beautifully and comfortably as possible!

Due to technical difficulties – the following post includes videos of Meng Wang and I performing at Relics Restaurant in Sedona, AZ

 

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El Mundial

It has been a week since the closing of the Mundial de Tango in Buenos Aires. This year marked the 9th World Argentine Tango Competition in Buenos Aires. Only 9 of them so far which doesn’t surprise me considering the majority of those people who started tango around the same time I did are self-proclaimed dedicated social dancers. The thought of Argentine Tango as a competition was and still is poo-pooed by many of us. “it’s a social dance!” we all cry in protest. And this was me too, until this year, which is why I am now very interested in the Mundial.

Let us look at some statistics to really begin to appreciate the growing scale of interest in the competition.

The competition has 2 categories: SALON and ESCENARIO. (Salon or Stage Tango.)

The Ministry of Culture estimated half a million people participated in some way in over 150 events during the two week festival. (The estimate for 2010 was 350,000.)

All events were free.

More than 500 artists performed.

492 couples competed and came from 26 countries.

The Winners: In the category of Tango Salón, Diego Julián Benavídez Hernández y Natasha Agudelo Arboleda (Colombia) and in the category of Tango Escenario, Max Van de Voorde y Solange Acosta (Ciudad de Buenos Aires).

It was estimated that out of all those people who gained entrance to the performances that 86% were from the US; 12% from Brazil; 7% from each Germany, France, Mexico, Colombia and Japan; 6% from Venezuela and Chile; 5% from Spain: 4% from Uruguay; and 3% from Canada.

The remaining 14% were Argentines!

It is a very exciting time to be part of the world of Argentine Tango. Especially when the 3rd place winners in Tango Salon are tango friends, Brian Nguyen and Yuliana Basmajyan – currently residing in Los Angeles. They were the winners of the 1st Buenos Aires government sanctioned US competition that took place in April this year in San Francisco. Great dancing Brian and Yuliana! Congratulations!

Brian and Yuliana

http://www.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/cultura/noticias/?modulo=ver&idioma=es&item_id=3&contenido_id=58520

http://www.buenosaires.gov.ar/areas/cultura/noticias/?modulo=ver&item_id=3&contenido_id=58193&idioma=es

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1st USA Tango Competition in San Francisco, CA

I never thought I would be here talking about my experience at a Tango Competition.  I have poo-pooed the thought of competing in Argentine Tango for all of my tango career – until now.  I have been a strong advocate in promoting the dance form as a social dance, as a folk dance, not as a competitive sport!  or so I thought that was what it meant.

So Rommel Oramas asked me to join him as his partner in this Tango Competition.  At first I was furious and continued kicking and screaming for the most part for many  months until I did obviously, eventually, give in.  It was just something I didn’t think I wanted to do and didn’t want all those people who knew me as a social dancer to think I had crossed over to some other side! 

April 21 – 24, 2011 was the first officially sanctioned Tango Competition in the USA, Sanctioned by the Office of Festivals and Central Events of the MRamada, Rommel and Brianinistry of Culture of the Government of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. 

There were 25 couples who registered for the Tango Salon part of the competition – this included Rommel and myself. 

Tango Salon has a few key rules:

1) The Couple, once formed, may not be separated while the music plays. This means that they may not be break the embrace, considered as the tango dance position.

2) For the position to be considered correct, the body of one of the members of the couple must be contained all the time by the arm of the other member. It is understood that, in certain figures, this may be flexible; but not throughout the duration of the dance.

3) All movements must be made within the space allowed by the embrace between the members of the couple.

4) The Jury will take into account the couple’s musicality and walking style as fundamental to the score.

5) Within these parameters, the couple may carry out all the popular figures, including barridas (sweeps), sacadas al piso (drawn to the floor), enrosques (twists), etc. All other figures typical of stage tango such as ganchos (hooks), saltos (jumps) and trepadas (climbs) are completely excluded.

6) Couples, as in a dance hall, must constantly move counterclockwise, and may not stay in the same point of the choreographic space as this would obstruct the movement of the other dancers in the dance floor.

7) None of the members of the couple may lift his/her legs beyond the line of the knees.

And we were off and running!
Upon our arrival we were given a number that became our number for the duration of the event – #3. We were placed in a group – Number 1 – and on the first night danced with 5 other couples to 3 songs chosen ahead of time and told to us while we were on the dance floor. 

Each night started off with the Stage Tango Dancers doing their performances and then when they were done they continued with the Tango Salon category.  Each night Rommel and I were couple #3 and danced in the first group!  Each night we kept passing! 

Saturday night was a grueling night when after all the groups went they asked set up another group for a tie-breaker without telling any of use who the tie was for.  Rommel and I and another beautiful couple were in this tie-breaking round.  We had to dance to 2 songs. 

We passed!

There were 12 couples in the final round on Sunday.  12 of us past to this last round.  And this was an exciting time – 2 groups of 6.  Again in Group 1.  It was a “tanda” of 3 songs that were great for dancing, we knew the orquestas and we liked them. 

We didn’t get 1st, 2nd, or 3rd but it was an extraordinary experience.  Most of the couples were from California, there was 1 couple from Boston and 1 from New York. 

We found out from the judges that we came in 5th.  And I was complimented on my feet! 

Overall, I am glad to say I did it.  I feel well-equipped to talk about competition from new stand point. 

I did try to do some research on Tango Competitions because I remember when I started to dance tango – they didn’t exist, not that I had heard of.  And I did find out that 2010 was only the 8th time doing it in Buenos Aires – and this is the “world cup” or the World Championships – http://www.tangobuenosaires.gov.ar/campeonato10/web/en/tango/festival_mundial.html

I know the organizers of this festival and championships are looking forward to doing it again and having it grow and I am sure there will be more sanctioned championships throughout the world. 

The experience has added to my Tango experiences.  I can see myself training future competitors.  And I think the competition adds a dimension to the dance form that was completely unexpected – which is – to show others musicality, grace, endurance, beauty, connection, understanding of the dance form in the tradition of line of dance, respect for the floor and the other dancers – and all this can be done without having to be a show tango dancer. 

See 2 of our 3 dances in the 1st round of the final day of competition:

http://youtu.be/hRsCC4JwlXE
 

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