Teaching Tango

Classes in May

I will be substitute teaching at TangoLoft Berlin in May while Lilia and Jens Christian are away.

The Classes in May schedule looks like this:

Saturday 7, Mai  – 1800 – 1900 Introduction / Beginners
1900 – 2000 – Open Level Course
2000 – 2100 Practica
Wednesday 11, Mai  – 1900 – 2030 Advanced
2030 – 2200 Intermediate
Wednesday 18, Mai – 1900 – 2030 Advanced
2030 – 2200 Intermediate
Saturday 21, Mai  -1800 – 1900 Introduction / Beginners
1900 – 2000 – Open Level Course
2000 – 2100 Practica
Wednesday 25, Mai  – 1900 – 2030 Advanced
2030 – 2200 Intermediate
Saturday 28, Mai  -1800 – 1900 Introduction / Beginners
1900 – 2000 – Open Level Course
2000 – 2100 Practica
Monday 30, Mai  – 1900 – 2030 Intermediate
2030 – 2200 Beginners

Course fees for tango lessons in TangoloftDaniela Teaching Classes in May

Individual lessons: 10, – / reduced 8.
10 value card (10 times): 80, –
Practica 5, – including the milonga: 9, –

Classes will be conducted in English and when possible I will have a German speaking assistant to help me with translation.

Any questions please or private lesson bookings, send me a message or also find me on FB @accesstango

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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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TeaHazPetraJózsef and KrisztiánThe TribeThe Tribe 2

On the Road Again – Bye Budapest! Hello Switzerland!

And yes I am on the road again!
Bye bye Budapest! Hello Switzerland!

5 weeks have passed in Budapest. And this post is probably the least about tango!
I had quite some adventures in the end! Like: Having tea in a very eclectic TeaHaz called Zold Teknós (something TeaHazabout turtles!)– decorated with actual teepees and native American paraphernalia. It was a maze of a place, and I can imagine many teenagers escaping here for a quick make-out session in one of the teepees or in a quiet corner behind a giant totem pole! There were over 173 kinds of tea to choose from! Black tea, white teas, red teas, green teas, herbal, etc… Really yummy!

The most fun part about going to this teahouse was the lovely person who suggested it and accompanied me. Her name is Kitty Kiss! What a great name!!! Although Kiss is a popular last name in Hungary I love her name! And she’s a really super nice person too! She has pretty blue eyes and is from outside Budapest. She too is gluten and dairy free so she was immensely helpful in guiding me to some places I had not discovered yet in Budapest.

I acquired a dedicated private student, who with a Russian temperament struggled to clean his tango but also torn by his love for “all the cool moves” he knew. He spent a lot of time quoting other teachers, “X told me to do it this way”, “Y taught me this”, “Z said never do…..” – and I just kept encouraging him to understand the nature of what he was doing – essentially giving him an intensive dose of technique. My desire as a teacher is never to criticize another teacher so I tried to remain calm and as politically correct as I could. I think some things get lost in translation and sometimes, short cuts in teaching are easier than explaining things. I also think that often times the student hears only what they are capable of hearing in that moment.
My unsolicited advice to any young teacher is to get dance students moving – their bodies know… the brain gets in the way….
As for a student learning – my advice is to find teachers you resonate with, ask other students about their experiences with teachers, educate yourself. Often times beautiful performers do not make good teachers. I experienced this first hand in the modern dance world first. I would admire a beautiful dancer – their technique, agility, stage presence – and then I would take a class with them and wonder where that confident person went. In this case, often times professional dancers have trained not to be teachers but to be beautiful dancers on stage in front of an audience as an instrument of a choreographer. And they do that very well. And sometimes they don’t really want to teach either.

I digress. My last weeks in Budapest had some of my students take me to a “Ruin Pub”. Exactly what it sounds like my friends! A dilapidated building being used as a bar. Fascinating places! I actually went to 2! Although my Hungarian is still at pretty close to 4 words (including thank you, nice, and a very useful (not really) mild swear word), and many of my students’ English was limited, we managed to laugh a lot. The recurring joke was that there were 50 words to express almost anything in Hungarian. With 40+ letters in their alphabet and all kinds of sounds that even my years of French è, é, û, couldn’t help me with!

I rode the 4/6 tram almost every day and the stop before mine made me laugh every time. “Tekeshektekesik” – was basically what I heard! How could so many consonants together make a word or sentence? But it was the name of the station along with the announcement of the next stop.

And I really had some more firsts! I tried my first Hungarian stuffed cabbage, which was too rich for me, but I did taste it! Thanks to Viktor!  and I finally went to a spa and hung out in pools of different temperatures, to 3 kinds of saunas until I became a prune. The main bath in the spa called the “Turkish bath” was a common pool more or less circular in size with a dome like ceiling, the water was a perfect temperature, the design of the room was so that all the talking sort of merged into one muffled sound but yet quite loud. And those who are dying to know, this wasn’t like a german spa for all those blogs/stories you have read, so swim suits were required!

It is the time for the Christmas Markets everywhere I go and I also had my first roasted chestnut! How did I manage not to have roasted chestnuts before this? The smell wafted from every corner and one of my students bought some for me to try!

The final fun for me in Budapest was performing with my lovely host – Bela. He has been out of town all week so we did not practice at all. I was nervous about this but a lot of our students were at the milonga and the minute Bela and I started dancing I recalled our playful nature. Bela is so good at listening that even when something goes amiss he knows exactly where I am and we both recoup! As I watched the video of our performance, sometimes the recuperating doesn’t quite show through! But I prefer a dance filled with joy from both partners in this case.

I send a quick thank you to the lovely Budapest tribe that made me feel welcome and helped me out a lot during my stay: Bela, Kitty, Krisztian, Zsolt, Viktor, Petra, Robby, Joszef, Arbi, Zsofi, Kata, Judith, Katrine, Ildi and Laszlo from Costa Coffee for making me laugh!

So I am now in Switzerland doing a little exploring, of the area and of the milongas.

Some of you may be asking “what’s your plan?” And I am sorry to report, I still don’t know…. I am on trains and planes and seeing places I never thought I would see, meeting some really interesting people, also seeing how much we are alike… our dramas, our sorrows, our desires….

I am also beginning to see a bit of what is “American cultural identity” – or how they are perceived by some.

I was told by an older student in Budapest, in translation, “you are so free, so individual, you don’t follow”. This was hard for me to grasp at the time as he stared at me with his big blue eyes, I asked him if he thought it was a cultural thing? He said maybe but also individual, that women in Hungary follow. Then recently I was talking to a Swiss born young person who was saying that they wanted to start teaching something specifically in tango, and I said, “just do it”. And he commented that this was an American thing not a Swiss thing. The Swiss way is to study and wish and want and never really do. Interesting perceptions.

I also think it is a bit American or part of American to be positive or maybe that it’s not so uncommon to be able to say in America, be positive or think positively and be ok with it. The pounds of negativity or maybe I should say Kilos that I have had to wade through has been difficult. I think the language barrier has helped a lot! But still, everyone has demons they wrestle with but for how long? And when can you just exorcise them, make a decision and move into your life?

Even though I am surrounded by Christmas markets and music in malls I have sort of forgotten it is Christmas time. I wish all of you a wonderful holiday. I hope that you find peace and enjoy being with family and friends at this time. More adventures for 2016.

I leave you with the videos of Bela and my performances. There will be another more professional version on youtube and Facebook soon….

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What I Remember by Patrice Davison

During my years at ASU I was really really blessed with so many creative and talented students. I’ve read poems written about tango, short stories, photographs taken inspired by tango, paintings made, illustrations, buildings designed for tango, boardgames for tango, songs written and played, you name it! All these things were presented as part of the Tango course and submitted for a grade. Tango clearly inspiring the young! I have also been lucky that some of them keep in touch, and on occasion I will get a message or see their lives on Facebook. (Those who follow me on Facebook may have seen some of the comments they post.)

Although this assignment wasn’t submitted as part of a grade, I was so moved by how intensely and clearly she captured her tango journey that I asked her if I could share it on my blog.

So with Patrice’s permission and initials used instead of names of others, I give you a beautiful write up of what Patrice calls What I Remember:

Looking back at this year (2014), I thought I should write my What I Remember About Tango. But half the problem is I don’t know how to translate it for you guys. Tango is its own culture, its own vernacular, its own celebrities, its own family drama.

How do I explain how long it takes to walk, to extend, to stay on your own axis? How hard it is to listen to someone else and translate that in your own body? To understand your body, the spiral in your core, the lengthening of your spine. To know the music so completely that you stop at the end of the song whether you’ve heard that specific one before or not.

How do I express the joy of dancing the perfect tanda with A to live music in Albuquerque? The first time E cracked a boleo on me and I felt it spiral down my spine and through my leg and foot? The shock and amazement of G leading me into a seamless volcada after hours and days and months of trying to strengthen my core and trust enough to make it happen? The joy of following every tiny movement T makes in a milonga tanda and not missing a single traspie? The humor behind the tanda with D in Albuquerque and why I couldn’t stop laughing? The jump some random guy led me in San Francisco? Finally fulfilling my dream of Chacarera on the beach?

Patrice and Juana 2013How do I impart what amazing people I’ve taken classes with and how I have grown so much from them? Chicho and Juana, Martin and Maurizio, Maxi and Jessica are some of the best in the world, the most influential, and the most creative. And yet the names can mean nothing to you.

It would take hours to explain, pages of definitions, and still, when you aren’t in it, you can’t understand the obsession. How it feels like a drug; the need to dance constantly, to dance with “your” leaders, the high highs and the low lows. Not saying that there isn’t mediocrity, there is. Trying to teach the new generation as you were taught only a short year and a half ago. Knowing exactly what someone is going to do before they even lead it on you because of repetition. And a hundred meaningless tandas in between that one amazing one of the night.

All I can tell you is that it has consumed me and changed me and I can’t live without it. Sometimes I wonder how I got here. If it was B in my African Dance class telling me about tango, or the first day of class when T told me I was a natural, or Daniela and her brilliant teaching, or finally, feeling how great it felt to dance with T, or A at Comic-Con telling me I had to take tango two, or him asking me to take the Chicho and Juana workshop with him. I think it was all those things and none of them. The one thing I distinctly remember is standing in my bathroom one night after a practica, my feet feeling like they wouldn’t stop moving, and being unable to imagine not having tango in my life. This was before I had tango friends, before I had traveled, or done any of the amazing things that have since defined me as a dancer. I simply knew deep down that I had to continue. Now, after tears, frustration, sweat, anger, joy, laughter, and friendship, I wouldn’t change that decision for the world.

Patrice is now in the Peace Corps in Ecuador and she has actually shared tango with some fans in Quito! She hopes she’ll make it to Buenos Aires before her time there is up!

Daniela and Patrice 2014

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Reflecting on Competition

It’s that time of year again and I couldn’t resist peaking on Facebook to see how the US Tango Competition went this year. And to see how some students of mine had faired. It is an interesting place to be after participating four years in a row, to be a voyeur so far away!

Also interesting to have discussions here in Germany with my friend, Stefan, who can speak about competition from the perspective of the ballroom world. He says that even though there is a European Tango Salon Championship and several subsidiaries throughout Europe, that Tango competition has just not caught on in Germany (although I did meet the champions from last year, last year!) It was only about four years ago that he had heard of Tango Salon competitions. He says that the teachers do not promote this here. Our conversation continued with him expressing his thoughts that competition is a good thing. He reflected on his own experiences in competition where the process, the rehearsals, the journey, were the best parts, not the actual competition. The actual competition happens so fast. It is so quick that sometimes that really isn’t what you remember most! Competition is a good thing for people and it helps them grow. The common sentiment has been – tango is for passion and for socializing not for competition. And I understand this, having had this same sentiment.

It appears that Shaun Rosenberg in his Blog, 10 Reasons Why Competition Is A Good Thing agrees with Stefan (and Rommel Oramas, former partner for Salon Championships). He presents some good arguments for competition, beginning with how it promotes growth, creativity, helps to advance civilization, how it teaches us by making us want to win the next time, it promotes taking chances, makes us goal oriented. I know that these are all the reasons why Rommel chose to compete and why he competition 2014continues to pursuit this passion. “Everyone needs to have some passion to live and some passion to win”, says Rosenberg. Competition is good in business, we see it all the time, why do you think there are more products and sometimes better than before products – think Apple!

I don’t think it’s for everyone, but I do think it helps to improve the level and quality of one’s own dancing and the level of dancing overall. Everyone needs someone to admire. It helps to promote Tango to new audiences, and can help to excite those who might feel like giving themselves a goal in their dancing. For me, I still cannot stress enough how much my understanding of the dance has expanded. I feel like I had a narrow vision of the dance and struggled to convey certain aspects of it to my students. I know my training has made me a better teacher. And what I love to do is contextualize the understanding of the dance and now I can. Congrats to those who braved the competition and DID it this year!

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