Reflections on Tango

Geneva to Istanbul

On the road again from Geneva to Istanbul.

I attended a marathon in Geneva and stopped in Zurich and have one day in Berlin.Perce Oreille Marathon Geneva

I most recently learned that if you approach a leader and tell them that you would like to dance with them it is assumed that you are at a lower level! how about that… So many of these marathons are really hard to get dances with dancers you don’t know already. So how else will a girl meet new dancers?? I did try approaching the apple slices at a recent marathon and asked the gentleman in question (who I had noticed not only at this marathon but elsewhere too.. ) if he’d like to finish the tanda. That seemed to work out ok and I had a nice end of the tanda and another one! And he actually smiled.

Speaking of smiling – what a concept sometimes. I had heard this before that Americans smile too much or the smile is interpreted as fake. Well, in contrast I can see why! I also learned that women do not pay compliments to one another. I commented on one woman’s beautiful haircut, she giggled and thanked me. And another woman had on a lovely necklace and I said so, she was the one who remarked that women don’t pay compliments to each other. I said I enjoyed receiving them so why not give them out! Ah yes, the culture differences continue!

I had the most surprisingly remarkable dances with 2 leads from France. Turns out that one of them was a contemporary dancer – NO WONDER! He was tall (not difficult) and so integrated in his body and his embrace – how refreshing! Simple in his dancing and lovely in his musical interpretations! I was so surprised….. and so happy! The second was from the same city and he had spent some time really immersed in Buenos Aires. His integration wasn’t at clear but he was musical, he was energetic, really Genevareally lovely to dance with.

I spent another week in Zurich where it was sunny and warm for 2 days and then winter returned with rain and cold temperatures. I enjoyed more delicious chocolate from my favorite Chocolatier MAX. I went to 3 milongas and mingled with Argentines and Australians, Greeks, Chileans, Germans! I had several fantastic tandas with a young Australian doctor. I was able to share some Restorative Exercise and some Ladies Technique while there and sparked some more interest in what I love doing – Helping you to change your life!

I wanted to also stress that although from the outside we see and love embellishments (ladies decorations), that they are not generated as a leg somewhere “out there”, apart from the body. That leg that is generating a decoration, is inspired by the music, yes, but also from its connection to the standing leg/pierna de base. The decorations come from a clear understanding of the technique of tango, it all ties back to this. Just like the arms in the embrace aren’t separate parts but connected to your torso/back. You create a lot of tension when you are working these appendages separately than supported by your whole.

I have a one day turnover and I’m off to Istanbul. I am excited to be sharing a 3 x 3 as we are calling it. 3 main themes (walking, Train to Zurichsacadas, boleos) and immersing in them for 3 hours (not all at once!) I will also be doing 3 hours of Ladies Technique and 3 hours of Restorative Exercise. It is an action packed several weeks. My partner for this event is Irfan from TangoJean who I met in 2008 and his lovely partner Begum.

I feel like I need to say something profound on how dance can help and impact people’s lives, that it advocates for peace inherently but I have none really… I can only hope that as I share ideas about being aligned within oneself and that those who share time with me will recognize the strength and confidence that they can bring to any situation by understanding more about themselves.

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Spring is on its way – Really!

Really, I have seen proof that Spring is on its way – the colorful flowers that are peeking through the damp earth here in Berlin. Even though I am still evidence that spring cominglayered in many clothes and my boots!

Time flies, I can’t believe I have been back in Berlin for a month and a half now. It has been nice to return and have people recognize and inquire about my latest travels!
I have taught a bit and been called upon to substitute for teachers who are traveling or who were sick. That has been great. My speaking German is still, well, non existent, but I have been venturing forth to add random vocabulary words into my conversations with people. If my students thought my made up words were funny you should see the look on the faces of people who aren’t used to me changing languages on them and I am not making up words, yet, or I don’t think I am!

I spent a nice week in England, the only annoyance was the Ryanair check in. Funny how they don’t catch certain people with clearly larger luggages for their carry on and yet, I was the lucky soul this time. I think they just need to lie about the measurements for what they accept, by making it smaller than the measuring crate they ask you to put your bag into. I did measure my bags… Anyway, I spent 2 days in London on both ends of my weekend in Norwich. What a crowded city and I don’t hear much english as I wander around the streets!! The weather was lovely, my hosts were amazing as always. The classes in Norwich were filled with enthusiastic dancers and what a great honor it is when other teachers come to your classes. I think it so important for dancers to see that their teachers can continue to learn too and can ask great questions in the process!
The fun part continues as I receive emails from those dancers about how much they loved the classes.

I am now back in Berlin where there is plenty of dancing still to be had and a weekend mini festival/ marathon happens this coming weekend. And a couple of my favorite dancers are due to arrive !! Yeppeee!!!

April will send me out of Berlin for most of the month. I am off to Geneva to a marathon and then will travel to Zurich for a few days. Then I have a current plan to be teaching in Istanbul. Don’t panic. We will see what happens in the coming weeks. The plan is for more than 14 hours of classes with my friend, Irfan from TangoJean. If you scroll youtube back to 2008 you might see some dark video of us dancing together then!!! If all goes well, (and I am off to Istanbul as planned) it will be great to see how we dance now.

In this current time of craziness in the world I think it is so important to be positive and to do that you love. So keep dancing my friends or take a walk in the sunshine and smell the flowers!

In peace and tango

Pictures from Norwich where our venture into the cathedral presented us with the sounds of a choir singing a private mass, we couldn’t see them but their beautiful voices filled the whole cathedral with celestial, blissful, melodious sounds. When I think of majestic and meditative I think of that sound in that place. It was so wonderful to pause and sit in a pew and just listen.

 

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Genoa to Berlin

From Genoa To Torino to Berlin – By Train!!!

I am 1 week back in Berlin and it feels great – even though the chilly weather has greeted me, there has been a mix of sun, clouds, rain, drizzle – it’s Berlin, right? I have to say Torino and Genoa were especially mild, if not warm in comparison!
Genoa to Berlin you say?
I took a very very very long crazy train ride from Torino, to Milan, to Verona, to Munich, to Berlin – alone, with my 2 heavy suitcases and a backpack – why do they seem to get heavier? It definitely was a romantic idea but since I traveled mostly at night, being at the Verona train station at midnight was, well, creepy!! It was about 19 hours total!! (and no – not cheaper, I could have flown probably for less!) So I did that.. don’t have to repeat!
But let’s back up:
I went to a marathon in Genoa, Italy. What a cool port city! The best way I can describe it, is that industrialization and globalization merely pushed a little here and there to create streets for cars…. wandering around was the best and I got to do this with a Belgian tango dancer architect friend!!! So we gladly walked into buildings and aaahed and ooohed at beautiful things!!! On one main street alone I think there were 42 grand palaces, and the street itself is declared a UNESCO Heritage Site! Really fun!
And of course the iconic Lanterna, the renaissance lighthouse of Genoa built in 1543, which we missed going into due to strange hours and our strange tango hours!!!

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I had lovely food in Genoa and some nice dancing! There were 2 venues for the Milongas. One was much better served for catching dances the other was too narrow for cabaceo and somehow smoking was happening on the enclosed terrace where ladies heels would fall into the gaps in the floor boards! So you were either on the smoky terrace to catch a breath (not really) or a drink, and watch the floor so you wouldn’t get stuck in the floor boards OR in the dance space where there wasn’t much moving room unless you were sitting on a chair on the sidelines sweating or dancing! Being with Italians is always fun but more often then not I felt like I had crashed a wedding or a large party that I was not invited to! And I had been told that Italians play their music LOUDLY! and this is true. Deafeningly loud!
I stopped briefly in Nijmegen for dancing the day after I arrived (another, what was I thinking move, sitting in a car for another 6 hours!!!) I say briefly because between my catching naps whenever I could and dancing, the Sunday car ride back to Berlin came really fast! I mention the volume of the music because in Nijmegen I felt like the music was so soft, that it made me wonder if I had lost some hearing while dancing in Italy! One of my dearest college students came up with a Tango Emergency Kit that he would carry to milongas and boy, I wonder if he had ear plugs in there… I could have used them! Maybe now I will keep some in my bag!
So now back in Berlin, I am happy to be living where I am, a fantastic neighborhood (designed with my foodie needs in mind!), a really lovely german flatmate and the other flatmate is traveling! I hope I will be able to stay a bit without having to move around as much as I had the last time I was here.
I am teaching a 4 week course entitled The Big Four with Raimund about the top 4 tango orchestras and ideas on how to dance to them differently. I have also started sharing Restorative Exercise again to my small group of ladies who enjoyed and benefited from it the first time around. Now to spread the word more widely….
It has been nice to go to milongas and have dancers recognize me and welcome me back! That was kind of a lovely surprise. I have some upcoming adventures in England again and hopefully in Istanbul. And another tango marathon in Geneva!
If you miss me and miss my words remember there’s the Tango Workbook and I have also been doing Skype sessions with some students – a nice way to get some tune ups!!!

As always – keep dancing and happy!

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My Milonga Tips for Those Who Don’t Get It

My Milonga tips, the dance and music, not the place, for those who have a hard time getting it.

The dance, milonga, seems to elude people. You either love it, somehow plod through it, or avoid it all together. Which is a SHAME! Recently one of my fun dancers, a lead, asked me to teach him milonga. What? Why? “Because I just don’t get it”, he said. No wonder we never danced it before, we always seemed to dance the romantic tandas.

I mention this because I perceive tango and dancers in 2 categories: rhythmic or melodic. Not that we can’t be both but in general my experience (and remember my experience has been mostly with beginners at the university) is that people tend to lean towards one or the other. They might actually favor one over the other too, and it is reflected in their learning as well. Maybe not a great example but I love romantic tandas; I grew up listening to classical music and playing classical piano to become a concert pianist. Rommel (my former partner) grew up on salsas and cumbias, these are close to his heart and he manages to find rhythmic parts to even the most melodic of tangos!

My belief is that we can all hear music but some sounds resonate more than others. I often notice this in my classes as well. I have been known to change orchestras based on how I perceive a student moving. I had a student who couldn’t figure out a Di Sarli but managed well with Canaro!

So let’s get back to my friend who can’t find his milonga!

Because we had to establish a baseline for understanding I told him I’d start him off like I do my beginners so we would have a foundation and a shared language.

Firstly, I create some soft rules, for as we know rules are meant to be broken (sometimes)! They are: no using “la cruzada”, only use parallel system, remember that milonga is happy, and follows be ready to move. I find this allows the student to focus on finding the music and their “milonga-body”.

After establishing this the mind can relax a bit and I we continue:

1) Listening and putting music in the body. I play some Canaro milongas and I encourage students to find, what I call the stepping or marching rhythm or beats and we walk to these.

2) Finding the “milonga-body”. How the body is – a certain tone in the body to start with (since most beginners lack body awareness I find that hips and ribs and shoulders and knees can be moving all over the place) in order to arrive on the beat in this “milonga-body”, which has to feel different than their tango body. The body can’t be too lax at this stage because your body will be delayed in arriving on the beat of the music. In order to find this “milonga-body” I asked my friend to soften his knees (which means bend them) and imagine stepping with his whole foot.

3) The accent is down into the floor, if you straighten your knees you will tend to move out of the floor and look like you are bouncing.

The above outline comes first. Repeated to several different milongas and worked on alone.

The next phase is that I use “la milonga basico” or a variation of “la baldosa” step as a an anchor. I normally have introduced parts of this step in my tango classes so the form looks familiar and I now have them repeat the step to the music with a partner. I use parts of this pattern to launch into other combinations of steps and later into traspie.

Remember, I am just getting students jump started into their milonga and to not fear it. Also, when I taught semesterly at the University I spent about 6 hours on milonga and then would play milongas in subsequent classes as refreshers and practices.

So tell me, what has worked for you as a student or a teacher? Any of my former students feel free to comment as well.

(dedicated to NC – enjoy your milonga training until we dance again!)

Here are 2 videos of milongas: by Dany El Flaco Garcia y Luna Palacios en Buenos Aires and the other Maximiliano Cristiani y Jesica Arfenoni

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Art, Architecture, Cinema, Oh My!

Still in Torino, I have had an amazing week filled with Art, Architecture, Cinema, Music, Dance! A Creatively Full Week!

I had the luxury of going to see the Matisse (and some of his contemporaries) exhibit here in Torino  “Matisse e il suo tempo”, at the Palazzo Chiablese.Laura and I at Matisse

I was so inspired afterwards. I am reminded how creativity is not static and how wonderful that as artists our art has the opportunity to change, expand and evolve with time, practice, experience, and who we hang around with, our models, our inspirations all influence us. And dance too reveals our autobiography.
From Matisse’s contemporaries, his move through Fauvism and Cubism, to his adventures in still lifes to his timeless cut outs, his magnificence as an artist is seen. This exhibit truly demonstrated his influence on art and culture and really how it transcends time.
I invite all of you to get to a museum!
As not just a dancer but seeing myself as an artist, my dance has changed and evolved over time too. How I dance now is a total of all my experiences up until this point, and “the why” I dance now is different than why I danced 10 years ago. I think the changes are important to notice. It’s inspiring to see how some of the dancers I admired in the late 1990’s have changed and grown. As performers, we dare to put ourselves “out there” to be seen, and to be accepted or not. I was so inspired to see the Matisse exhibition and to see his growth and change as an artist. It’s a good reminder!

Also this week I went to the spectacular Museo Nazionale del CinemaNational Museum of Cinema

Housed in the fabulous Mole Antonelliana tower, you must pace yourself on an exciting historical adventure of how cinema began, with interactive displays and so much to see! 3 hours later my mind was reeling but I was so impressed. Being an amateur photographer when I was younger and a HUGE film fan, seeing the intricacies and details of some pre-cinema and photography artifacts was fantastic. It served as a lens into our culture as well – Our desire not just to tell stories, but to share the world from the earliest days and to document everything from war to every day life, and then for photography and film to become a means of self-expression and exploration.
Another inspirational day!

Yes, I have danced tango but there’s so much to do here. Wandering the streets surrounded by the most amazing architecture means there is never a dull moment. I have been to my cousin’s Jazz Accapella rehearsal, taken a class in Piemontese Folklore dancing, started a tour into the world of chocolate, and THIS WEEK, I will go to the 2nd largest Egyptian Musem and to the Museum of Human Anatomy before heading off to Genoa!

Staircase at Palazzo Madama

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