Reflections on Tango

Maestra Time with Graciela González

What a fabulous couple of weekends – Maestra Time!
Graciela González is on tour through Europe and I was lucky enough to catch her! I had the great fortune to spend 2 short weekends with my most influential teacher, Mi Maestra, Graciela González. (Who is Graciela? see below for a little bio or just google her!!) And for the record whenever I am with her, I always meet great people and sometimes magical things happen!

I was first in Hamburg where we had planned to meet to be her assistant and to translate her classes (into English, my German has hardly improved!) It was a great weekend. I really enjoyed the company of my generous host, the organizers, and getting to know some of the other invited teachers of the weekend event. These included Luis Bruni, Fabrizio Nunnari, Ramiro Gigliotti, and Ariadna Naveira and Fernando Sanchez.

I have had the privilege of translating her Technique classes before, have been with her in Buenos Aires several times, and had her in my home in AZ, and each time I find that even after studying notes that I have taken voraciously of her classes, something new and old strike me again as important. Her desire to refine the language and create new exercises to help explain her concepts make each visit with her and each class a new rich exploration into the world of tango technique.

In Hamburg I was hosted by a very special person who also hosted one of the Living Room Milongas. What is that you say? Actually quite a fun idea. Imagine several living rooms open for milongas and in advanced you and 19 other people are told to go to certain addresses – living rooms, between certain hours. And you will travel to 3 or 4 living rooms over the span of an evening. Cool! You get about 1.5 hours at each living room. The DJ is set up in one of the living rooms and is playing over the internet to the other living rooms!!! Such a fun way to meet people too. Volker, my host, commented that he was greeted by more people at the regular weekend milongas, than usual, and he suspected because he was recognized as one of the Living Room hosts. AND I suspected because those Living Room attendees all had a chance to connect on some level with the host, whether a greeting at the door or a dance!! It was very fun to experience. Some of the dancers brought small gifts to the host – like flowers or chocolate!!! Really nice! The host in turn provided wine, water, Apfelschorle (apple juice spritzer!) and some snacks!Notre Dame with La Leona

I had not planned to go to Paris, but the next stop on Graciela’s tour was Luis Bruni’s, La Tanguedia, she asked me to come and from Berlin I was able to sneak away on a Sunday to Wednesday, in between teaching gigs.

So here are some of the highlights from both weekends:

Partaking in the course taught by Ramiro and Graciela in Hamburg, which spoke about differences between dancers of the epoca. It was a class comprised of stories and video and movement. It included stories of Carmencita Calderon who died at 100 (who I remember seeing at a milonga in Buenos Aires before her passing), of Pupy (Graciela’s partner), and several others. There were also videos to demonstrate how the dancers vary in their dance. As this class ended the other teachers in the weekend were there working on the material that was presented. I was high on life, as was Graciela when we talked later. Being with other dancers who I admire and respect, working on these embodiments of the old milongueros was fantastic.

Exploring movement and certain common figures in tango from the perspective of different old milongueros as passed on by Graciela and Ramiro, really grounded my theory that body type makes a difference in our dance. How we move is greatly influenced by our physicality, how tall we are, our weight, etc.

Graciela Gonzalez CertificateIn Paris, I assisted more classes with Graciela and participated in a pedagogical group with some younger dancers who I again, greatly admire in tango. We explored different ways to execute movements with the flavors of some of the old milongueros, clarifying technique along the way, clarifying lead and follow and it was delicious!

Finally, Graciela honored me with a certificate allowing me to implement her method in my tango classes. “Método Graciela González”. Wow! Truly an honor to be recognized by her and a part of a small group of most talented dancers who have worked with her for even much longer than I have. Muchisimas Gracias!

WHO IS GRACIELA? La Leona Del Tango?

She is the most famous women techniques teacher as she was the first to create a specialized course for female dancers. She began to dance in 1988, her teachers were the legends of tango: Pupy Castello, Pepito Avellaneda, Antonio Todaro, Juan Bruno. Graciela worked with Pupy for more than 20 years and imparts his tango secrets in her courses! In 1977, she gathered the first group of tango teachers, Grupo Graciela González, to help promote and popularize Argentine Tango and her teaching methods

Read more

Videos with Irfan Yüksel

Below are 2 videos with Irfan from Istanbul. They are improvised performances.

So fun to see Irfan and me dance and compare it to our video from 2008. He chose the music and we did not rehearse to them prior. We did learn a lot about each other through teaching together, putting together the classes with ideas from both of our years of experiences and shared toolboxes.

Coming from a dance background, where most of the time you are preparing for performances or looking to perform your own work or another’s choreography or possibly even an improvisational score, the skill of improvising a tango is still a work in progress for me. I am always questioning the role of performance in this genre and the role of the experience of the medium: live or video. I know I have experienced a live viewing of a dance and have been moved to emotions only to re-experience it on video, to show someone how great it was, for example, only to think, “hmm – not so great here”! I worked with a choreographer in my contemporary dance years who obsessively recorded every rehearsal. In the end, I found her work looked so great on video and yet, I was never moved by seeing the dancers perform live….

In short,  in the role of performance you have the perspective of the performer and of the audience. In a solo performance the artist, the dancer, has some control over the desired outcome. In group choreographies, the choreographer trusts the dancers to produce a vision. In tango, as we know, the trust is in your partner and your experience, with the music, your body, your partner.

But is there any responsibility to your audience?

I think there always is, and have always felt this way. As one of my brilliant students once said that he hoped in a performance that the dancers would show you something new, something that you, as the audience, hadn’t seen before. And this is not always in terms of figures, or patterns for, as we all know, they have all been done before. But the surprises, the act of being moved, is usually found in the musical interpretations, or the expression of the idea or content, and in tango, the connection, the understanding between the 2 people.

For me this year of opportunity has also been an exploration in performance. I feel that I have had very little experience with performing tango, and it has been a privilege and joy thus far performing with varied talented personas and having these new embodied experiences.

For me the question is, can I express myself and my love of the music, with any partner, and show my audience something transcendent, selfless? Can I move those who watch? I strive for this….

And I leave you with these:

Read more

All Comes From Love – Istanbul Part 2

All Come From LoveHerşey Aşk’tan – All Comes from Love. The name of a shop near Galata Tower. The symbol is lovely and of course, I have earrings!

I really enjoyed my visit in Istanbul. And now that I am back in Berlin I miss certain aspects.
It helped that the weather was sunny and warm-ish and that I could see the sea almost anywhere I looked.

I went to several milongas and found that possibly due to the many different studio locations’ sizes, that the milongas were small and not as packed as I would have assumed them to be. But I found some nice dancers at each milonga and even managed to dance with several new dancers at each. It seemed that each milonga I went to had a different set of people attending. Only a couple of times did I see the same, one or two people a couple of nights in a row. Interesting.

I was so happy to share Restorative Exercise with a handful of eager and attentive students. What a great thing to see bodies change and make sense of the information quickly.
Teaching Ladies Technique is always fun for me and I couldn’t believe that 3 hours of it was too short!!! The biggest thing I notice time and again is the stopping of momentum on pivots.
I don’t think you can have energy efficient pivots if you don’t fully understand where your body is.

Some more highlights included of course the visit to the Spice Bazaar. Zeynep had interviewed Ucuzcular - Stall 51one of the stall owners for her documentary and highly recommended I go to stall 51 – Ucuzcular. What a wonderful highlight. The owner, Bilge, gave me a tasting of several of the spice concoctions: delicious flavors and scents filled my head! A creamy garlicky powder to add to sauces or dips. A spicy but delicate mix for a rub. A chef’s delight for sure. A must visit if you ever go to Istanbul.

Sharing Raki and Balik – an anisette like beverage that really does go well with fish (balik).

Irfan and I performed and I still don’t have the videos of that! So that will have to be a surprise at a later date.

I ate my way through several turkish lira of my favorite dried mulberries (dut) and cashews. And the day before I left, cherries showed up on the market stalls! Absolute heaven for me!

I received such wonderful feedback from the students I taught. I really can’t imagine doing anything but teaching!

Here I share more lovely pictures from my visit.

I am in Berlin for most of the month of May. I am looking forward to substitute teaching at TangoLoft again for several Saturdays (see my calendar for the schedule). Also, I will be heading to Hamburg to see Graciela Gonzalez. She is part of a Festivalito there and I can’t wait to see her and take class with her again and I will be translating for her as well. It will be my first time in Hamburg.

Some of you have missed me so much that we have had the opportunity to skype and do some lessons and body alignment work that way. SO let me know if you are interested.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

 

Read more
« Previous PageNext Page »