Learning Tango

Tango Hangover

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8 week Argentine Tango 1.5 course at Plaza de Anaya call (480) 894-8777

Tango Experience teachers and board

After an action packed tango week comes the tango hangover.

The ASU Tango Experience was a step up from last year’s festival. Although I was thoroughly immersed in assisting classes and being on time it was so wonderful to watch as students took their dancing challenges head on.

I realize for this entry that I have so much to write about: the festival experience, my time with Graciela Gonzalez, the classes, the milongas, etc.  And even though I am Faculty Adviser to the tango club and only really supposed to be advising, I was asked to jump in and help in several aspects of the planning and execution of the event.

I also think it’s important for people to understand that bringing instructors to teach is an expensive endeavor. The teachers all have fees for their time investment as well as their travel and lodging expenses. ASU Tango Club applies for support to fund venues and a few other miscellaneous items but it’s the support from attendees that actually make it possible. And because it’s a student run organization they are learning valuable life skills: communication, delegation, organization, handling budgets, etc.

Having Graciela Gonzalez stay with me for a week and working as her translator in classes gave me a renewed appreciation for our dance. The intricacies, the nuances, the explanations for styles, the embrace, the walk, where vocabulary comes from, why do we dance the way we do? It is pretty amusing to speculate that at some point in time milongueros just did what they did, they danced!

Until my next encounter with her, I am left with exercises and reminders – not just dance reminders but life reminders. The notiTango Festival Classon of using the whole foot in the dance is one that I am so happy to have heard her say as I have been leaning in this direction with my teaching and so to hear her say it was a relief! Although she has let go of her famous “fountain” image for followers I really appreciated the idea of a fixed point for both the follower and leader – an intention that helps to suspend us 50% up and 50% grounded. She had mentioned that an ideal room would be one that would allow us to hang suspended from the ceiling, with our legs dangling towards the floor. A lot of what I heard from her this weekend addresses an issue that I think is a current trend, posture and alignment. I think this will continue to be a hot topic since many of us spend so much of our time sitting down in chairs that don’t serve us posturally.

She mentioned that she had an obsession with hands this weekend. She kept reminding me to touch her when we were demonstrating, that somehow my touch was too light, that I wasn’t really touching, holding her. You can hold your own body up and hold your own arms up and still touch and connect through the hands with your partner. She reminded us that our hands help us to to balance as well.

Graciela, Jaimes & Christa

Graciela, Jaimes & Christa

Graciela also reminded me that I have to be on my own, working on my dance, in my body. We can’t blame someone else for our bad dancing or our disconnection from the dance or our partner. A good one right? And all I could think about was, where did I go? Have I gotten lost in the mentality of “I have to do more to get better” when all I really need to do is be me and enjoy dancing? This is a tricky one for me, as I was a trained dancer and an only child – I have always felt comfortable on my own. I took class and trained my body – and I was responsible for it and I knew that! So how did Tango become different in my mind? I guess it’s just a simple reminder that I am me and you are who you are and if we dance honestly without wanting to change the other it will be great!

One of the last questions I asked Graciela was “is it supposed to just feel easy?” and she opened her eyes widely and cracked a smile, nodding her head, and said, “yes”.

Now you know why there’s a tango hangover. Graciela changed my dancing when I first met her and she continues to do so. I am grateful for her insights into the dance, its people, and feel that her images are clear and easy to assimilate. Anyone who takes class with her is always impressed.

Thanks to all who shared the festival with us. Keep dancing…

 

 

 

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Tango Coaching

This weekend Rommel and I were in Flagstaff and Sedona teaching. We had a wonderful time as always. I enjoy just how friendly everyone is and how willing they are to share their experiences and their eagerness to learn.

As a part of the weekend we conducted a 3 hour coaching session in Sedona for  5 couples. We were told ahead of time that what their core group needed and wanted was some very specific guidance and some 1 on 1 time for corrections.

Rommel and I created a 3 hour session for them beginning with simple bare bones exercises and some revealing connection exercises then building to each couple picking the 1 thing in their dancing that they would like to address in front of the group. “What’s your beef?” We framed this session by asking the couples to show and to keep the language as factual as possible as we all know that there is always 2 truths, 1 for each person.

We were able to dig deeply and to address each couple’s “annoyance”. These range of “annoyances” I feel are very common in tango: the molinete, the embrace, back ochos, working on the closed side of the embrace, and stopping the follower where and when the leader wants to!

Do any of these ring true for you in your dancing?Sculpture of Embrace

For this courageous and hard working group, we were able to hone in on the leaders right arm, the “bucket handle”, the “regulator”, the “fence”, the “gate keeper”… all the affectionate words that we have given to this particular part of the embrace. We spent some time speaking about the relationship of the elbow in connecting to the follower in the embrace. Remember that if the leader raises that right elbow there is now more space for the follower to creep into and if that elbow is positioned more to the side of the body or even more towards the back of the body, the follower will be hanging out there too. This side of the embrace usually forms based on comfort, the shape and how comfortable the follower is when she is in the embrace, also how much tension is in the leaders pecs probably also plays a part. Correcting it also seems to be very challenging and practically unique to each couple. How much tension does there need to be in this side of the embrace was also addressed. As the nicknames suggest, there needs to be enough tone in that side to assist in keeping the follower where the leader would like her to be and within range, meaning with relationship to the leaders body.

I do not want to get into a discussion about the wide varieties of leads through this leaders right arm but there does need to be clear information transmitted through that appendage!

Working with this group also put all the tiny details of creating back ochos into a spotlight! And as we know there is cause and effect at play, all those things you learn in a lesson go out the window for the follower if she is struggling with her embrace or connection to her leader in those back ochos. Understanding the relationship of the leader to the follower in the timing of the ochos definitely helps the mechanics of the movement. The relationship of the followers pivot to the leader, the relationship of the leaders step to the followers as well. It is a constant informational circuit between leader and follower. Giving and receiving and giving information throughout the dance.

I am looking forward to more tango coaching sessions in the near future. Let me know if you and your partner would like to be a part of the next coaching session.

Thanks to those dancers in Sedona – keep dancing!

And for those of you who will be in town – come join me and a new batch of dancers on February 4th from 11am – 1pm for the First Practica at Plaza de Anaya World Fusion Studio in Tempe. Rommel and I will be there to answer questions and to assist in your practice.
Plaza de Anaya is located at 524 W Broadway Rd Suite 107, Tempe AZ 85282
Practica fee $7

 

 

 

 

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New Year, New Students

Classes have begun!

What an amazing week! ASU started their classes and I had 60 NEWBIES – all of them new to Argentine Tango in my Tango 1 class. They are an enthusiastic bunch and eager to learn. Even with just 2 classes they have reminded me about the importance of our “tango walking body”. How do I walk? and What am I carrying around at the moment? Can I find my axis and stack myself up for my Tango Walk?

I have around 22 students in my Tango 2 class and they immediately grasped onto some more advanced walking concepts and have totally impressed me!

My Interlingua class is really small and intimate (comparatively). The vibe is so different from my big classes. It’s refreshing to be able to answer individual questions from everyone and to feel that I am able to help each one of them on a personal level.

Tonight was my first class at Plaza de Anaya. This is pretty much the first time that I have stepped into a studio setup to teach. It is a studio with a really nice comfortable feeling and to my delight we had an amazing group of 40 students there! It was an eclectic mix of dancers asking magnificently detailed questions, musicians, people coming from work, etc. We laughed quite a bit! The energy was festive and joyous.

Already into the 2nd week of 2012 I am easily reminded why I love to teach. And in turn I remind you all that it’s a courageous thing to start something new. And always that first step, that first class is sometimes the most difficult.  So CONGRATULATIONS to all the new courageous people I have met this week in their beginning Tango Journey.

Reminders:

ASU Tango Festival is less than 7 weeks away!!!!  Register now for a fantastic weekend of Argentine Tango Instruction and Dancing and at unbelievable price.
http://tangofest.events.asu.edu/node/18

Talented instructors handpicked for this event – Jaimes and Christa will be here from Seattle, La Maestra Graciela Gonzalez will be here from Buenos Aires, and Tomas Howlin will be in from Montreal.
DJ’ing the milongas will be Mike McCarrel (Portland, OR), Michelle McRuiz (Albuquerque, NM), Shorey Myers (San Francisco, CA), and ASU’s very own, Acacia Crouch.
A weekend not to miss!

There is still time to register for Semester Long courses:

Paradise Valley Community College
NEW INTERMEDIATE Argentine Tango
Begins 01/26/2012- 05/03/2012
Thursdays 7:45pm – 9:35pm
DAN125AE #38688

Scottsdale Community College
Beginner Argentine Tango

Begins 01/24/ 2012 – 05/11/2012
Tuesdays 7:15pm – 9:15pm
DAN125AE #36054

AND

Rommel Oramas and I will be in Flagstaff and Sedona on January 21 & 22.

Keep dancing…

daniela

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2012 to Begin Something New!

“January is the gyms’ favorite month”. I heard this quote yet again and thought about all those people making New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight or to start something new. Have you decided to do something new?

Dancing usually falls into this category. “I wanted to try something new” is why some begin their journey into Argentine Tango. And I get very excited in the New Year to welcome new people to Argentine Tango and its benefits.

We have all heard of the benefits of dancing or of any exercise for that matter:  increase flexibility, movement lubricates the joints, endurance, coordination, strength, burns calories, stimulates the brain, oxygenates the blood, allows for self-expression, increases self-esteem, and helps with social skills. (I really like this chart on the benefits of dancing – http://www.nrde.org/benefitsofdance.html)

For many people I have seen Argentine Tango completely transform their lives through these benefits and most specifically through the actualization of a sense of belonging, their sense of community.

I have seen many dancers transform from being very shy people to finally having an outlet for expression in their lives. Some have gone from being not very popular in their work or every day life to very popular in their tango circles.

I think the Argentine Tango community in general is a research project for a “Group Dynamics” seminar but for the sake of this post I wanted to comment on the sense of belonging that I have felt over the years.

I was born with the travel bug. I love to travel and when I couldn’t because I was so focused on my dancer career, I dreamed about it and watched the travel channels and bought travel magazines. I eventually have been able to take many tango vacations – making contacts with tango people in many other countries to connect and share in their community for a visit. I know many people who do this but my world of travel was very different before I found tango. The idea of going anywhere in the world and having people to share tango with was amazing and fantastic to me. Technology has subsequently made this idea even more accessible. We can connect through Facebook or through other “social platforms” with friends we have met and their friends and find milongas all over and people who will be at that milonga when you arrive…. FASCINATING really!  And what this has also allowed is a way to connect through others joys and sorrows as well.

In the last few months, since October, Tango has lost 3 young tango dancers who have been a part of my extended tango family. And the news was relayed through the internet through Facebook. And the impact of the loss is felt in waves as people share their stories and their sorrow for all the Facebook world to see.

We are a community – a Tango Tribe, if you will, filled with a diverse group of people. We sometimes connect and other times don’t,  we have good dances, like having a great day, and we have not so good dances, like having a bad day. Either way, whatever kind of day it is remember that the community is actually quite small. These 3 young lives remind me of the preciousness of life and of the connections we make every day – on the dance floor and off the dance floor. I am reminded to be a gracious person. And that the benefit of having such a large interconnected tango family is to be able to share what we have in a positive way.

Remember why you love to dance and why you love to share it with others. Be grateful and thankful to the community that shares in your self-expression.

In Memory of Anne Sophie, Pablo, Andrea for all that you shared and gave to our collective community.

 

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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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