Reflections on Tango

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:

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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.

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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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