Reflections on Tango

Your Cultural Translator

Don’t look at me as just a teacher but as your personal cultural translator.

During my recent stay in Boston I took a workshop with a music anthropologist at ARTANGO in Brighton, MA, hosted by Fernanda Ghi y Guillermo Merlo (highly respected dancers and teachers, who are now based here). 60 students were in attendance and it was a mixture of lecture and movement workshop. I wanted to share some of my take-aways from the evening.

The style of tango dance will conform to the music. Or as I have interpreted it, that the dance is dictated by the music (like in other dance forms). I had heard this before and it was such an “a-ha”moment for me and my understanding of the dance that I was glad to hear it again. The idea is that these orchestras of the Golden Age, the 1940’s, each had their sound. So why would you dance the same way to each of them? You probably would have had your favorite orchestra (and maybe you do already) and you would have been expected to dance a certain way to that orchestra. For example, if the orchestra was more melodically driven or if it was more rhythmic (think Carlos Di Sarli vs Juan D’Arienzo) you would dance differently to them.  So as teachers teach what they know this is usually heavily influenced by the sound they prefer. I love Carlos Di Sarli and enjoy accentuating long steps. Someone who enjoys a Juan D’Arienzo will be more rhythmic and possibly more sharp in their steps. You will often hear me speak of the “flavor”of the sound, ie: is the sound like smooth vanilla ice cream or does it have chunky chips and nuts in it?

So the lecture I attended, focused on discussing several aspects of music but most specifically the melody. The idea that the melody and the singers in the orchestras will incite circular and round movement. This idea of circular movements, in general, slows the pace down versus linear movements that are on the main pulse or what we dancers refer to as the strong down beats or bass line. This strong metric pulse is what propels the body and is what teachers and beginner students tend to stress and dance to (usually).

However, “fluid motions can be destroyed by these strong accents” as these regular beats propel the dancers (to move at a predictable pace), the melodies allow dancers to go “deep inside the soul”and “incite reflection and nostalgia”.

In reflecting upon these ideas it was brought up that in order to be able to really allow for the music to enrapture you, we have to be vulnerable. And Argentine Tango is about vulnerability. And culturally, in the US, we avoid this. As we avoid eye contact and touching (for the most part) we do not like to be vulnerable, let alone with a stranger. And yet I am sure an aspect of this is what captivates so many of us to choose this dance.

And with this disconnect culturally, there is a need for “Cultural Ambassadors”or “Cultural Translators”. Someone who recognizes and understands the differences and can explain and build a bridge to create understanding.

Lots of food for thought, don’t you think?

Thanks to Dr. Alfred Minetti, and Fernanda y Guillermo for a great lecture.

 

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In the Beginning – A very good place to start

Rommel DancingBeing a newbie in anything can be scary. But just like with most things if you want to learn it, you will, and if you want to do it, you will.

Let’s talk about intention.
I find that if someone is trying something out for someone else than the journey will be very challenging. I sometimes meet a student who desperately wants to connect with their life partner, who happens to be obsessed with tango. Or in being a good partner and eager to please, the partner obliges. But rarely, rarely does this journey go as well as either partner expected.

Speaking of Expectations, they often have a lot to do with this, too.

Sometimes I find that a new student will say, “my partner does it, so how hard can this be?” I think, it is harder to learn with this attitude.

Learning anything new is a process.
And a process that takes time. And no one can determine how long that process will take. I do know that if you ethusiastically take 3 hours of tango class/week and practice 1 -2 hours in that same week that you will be able to navigate a dance floor and a decent embrace in 16 weeks. I see it all the time. BUT if this same student is not enthusiastic and trying to learn the same way you memorize vocabulary from flashcards, then, the point of tango is being missed.

As a trained teacher and dancer, I struggle with students who “want it now”. And well, I can easily give you a bunch of patterns that will make you look like you’re dancing NOW but I know that you will not be happy with the end results and neither will the partners you find on the dance floor.

So my advice is to 1)question your motives? Why do you want to learn this dance? and Do you have a demanding partner or time frame?
2) Ask around, find a teacher that works for you. There are plenty of teachers who claim to teach Argentine Tango, but I encourage you to take the time to question what they do, where they learned and from whom. What is their experience?
3) And finally, decide what you want to do. Do you want to socialize? And become a social dancer? Do you want to do competition? Would you rather learn a host of ballroom dances? Or what about performance or stage tango?

Answers to these questions will also help to shape your plan and make you a better informed student.

New Beginner classes starting in July.
Look forward to Date Nights and Beginner Bootcamps!

 

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Day 3 – US Argentine Tango Semi-Finals

Day 3: the Semi-Finals. We were in round 3 and remained #101. We had 3 lovely songs to perform to by the following orchestras: Di Sarli, Troilo and Pugliese. There were 25 total couples that were pared down to 16 couples that will go to the finals tomorrow.

We made it! Keiko did my hair a little differently again tonight and I chose different earrings but kept the same blue dress. I think our dancing went well but could have been better. I was tired today. I am looking forward to a good night’s sleep and spending some time preparing again tomorrow.

Here are the videos of our songs and a short clip with the announcement of our moving on to the Finals tomorrow.

Hair by Keiko Day 3Keiko and Daniela Day 3With Jesica Arfenoni

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Day 1 of US Salon Competition 2014

Rommel Oramas and I are back in San Francisco for the US Tango Salon Competition. This is our 4th Rommel 101year and we are excited to be here. The Marriott where the event is held is always friendly and comfortable.
We also enjoy coming because we see tango friends that we see every year, so it’s a tango reunion of sorts.
This year there are 43 couples competing in Tango Salon! That’s great!
There are 100 couples participating overall this year – there are 14 couples in the Stage Category and they also have additional categories this year for Senior Salon and for Group Choreography.
We are number 101 this year. And the first 2 nights we will dance in Round 4 – the 4th and last group to dance.
I decided this year to have my hair done by a fabulous hairdresser, Keiko of Kabuki Hair and Skin, here in San Francisco. She was amazing. I received so many compliments on my hair

.Updo Day 1
Blue Dress
Day 1 R & D

They did not eliminate anyone after this 1st round, which means everyone continues tomorrow.

This year Rommel and I prepared and practiced a lot. We are feeling confident and hopeful that the judges will see us as champions, finally, this year!

This year the competition will not be streamed live. So I will try my best to give updates, share pictures and video.

Day 1 Round 4 videos

See you tomorrow!

 

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All the Weekend Activities with Maxi & Jesica!

Maxi & Jess 4Maxi and Jesica have been enjoying the sunshine and have been busy with private lessons but all the rest starts tomorrow. There are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of them while they are here with us.

1) THURSDAY night an all levels class with Maxi & Jesica 7:30pm – 8:30pm at Mijana Restaurant $15.

2) FRIDAY – SUNDAY Workshops at SNAP in BOND HALL 4425 N. Granite Reef Rd. Scottsdale, AZ 85251

CHOICES

A. Any single workshop $40
B. Any two workshops $80 and includes the Saturday milonga
C. Whole workshop $360 for a couple (or 2 people) or $200 for a single person (includes milonga)

3) SATURDAY CHAMPIONS MILONGA
8:30pm – 1am $15  (Performances by Maxi & Jesica)

AND
4) TUESDAY with Jesica
Join me in a Ladies Technique class with Jesica from 7pm – 8:15pm on Tuesday March 11th at SNAP (in the studio).  $15. Bring your heels.

The spots for privates on the weekend are full but during the week there are spots available. Contact Rommel directly to schedule: 928-301-5215

HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEKEND! Maxi Jess 1
We are so happy and honored to have them here and look forward to growing our dancing with you this weekend.

Daniela

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