Travel

Norway 2017

I have returned from an extraordinary weeklong stay in Norway. I went to connect with former students and to meet new ones!

This particular part of Norway is quite rainy. Even though it is summer time I had checked the weather reports. They had had a record of straight rainy days for the month of June. (versus August or another month!!!) So I assured them I would bring some sun! And we did have at least one most spectacular warm sunny day. I spent that day with a new tango friend. A fabulous Leading Lady herself, she invited me to her exciting place of work: Troldhaugen, the former home of pianist / composer, Edward Grieg. Amazing. I experienced a lunchtime concert with the fabulous pianist, Tor Espen Aspaas, who shared stories and quotes from Grieg’s life to accompany the 10 short pieces he played for us. I was so moved (yes, to tears!). After the concert, we sat and had coffee with him. What a most special treat! To discuss music in a beautiful setting, outside, it was amazing. And the day just kept getting better and better.

The tours through this small museum, composer hut, concert hall, and Grieg’s house include guides with musical talents! One minute there’s a 15 minute “About my favorite piece” segment where a lovely young tour guide sang to us her favorite Grieg piece accompanied by my lovely new friend on piano. She then explained the piece of music: the motifs, the structure, her thoughts around the piece. It was fantastic. Then later in the Grieg’s home tour, another lovely tour guide accompanied by one of Grieg’s Steinway pianos in the living room sang another song to the tour group!!! WHAT AN AMAZING PROGRAM! This to me was the epitome of a musical experience! It really brings Grieg to life! A Must do if you ever go to Norway for a visit.

We finished off this part of the day with a 360 view from the top of Grieg’s home on the widow’s walk where Grieg’s wife used to have her plants! This was a special treat, don’t expect that on your tour if you do go!!! The day would not have been complete without some tango on the gorgeous wood performance space in the concert hall!

After that luxurious experience, 30 hours of private lessons, and packed group class, I will add that my Tango soapbox about embrace continues. The emphasis for the dancers (of all levels really) was to bring awareness to the connection through their embraces. There’s a lot of 1 sided embraces in Europe and both sides of the body need to be engaged in our dancing.

The week ended with my first attendance at an Encuentro. Another word for 150 tango friends from all over gathered for a milonga all weekend, with strict rules of etiquette enforced. And I’ll leave that for another blog!

Off to Berlin! and enjoy the pictures!

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Lovely Portugal

Wow! my dear readers! I spent a lovely week in Portugal and am intoxicated by the experience so much so that I want to return!
There was some tango as most of my visits to places are created through tango connections, so this one was no different. And yet, so different!!!
Maybe it was the sunshine, maybe it was the delicious coffee (to this barely-ever-drinks-coffee person), maybe it was the hills and the streets, and the smell and the food and the friendly people? I just don’t know but it all left me buzzing for more.
I taught 2 lovely classes in Porto to generous and patient students.
I, who do not have a sweet tooth (no gluten or dairy for this lady), fell in love with Pudim S. Bernardo: like rays of sunshine they called to me – egg yolks and sugar – heaven, a total foodgasm! Who knew!!!
I danced at several milongas and met a colleague and tango organizer who had recommended a student to me in Arizona!! So the internet does work, Adam recommended me back in September 2006!!!! And we finally met and danced a few tandas!!!
I do have one tango reminder – don’t assume a position and dance from there, you are dynamic beings – let your embrace create your space, let your embrace determine your position!

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Body as Autobiography – Back in Europe

I have been back in Europe for about 3 weeks now. This has included a trip to Berlin to assist Graciela Gonzalez with her classes.

Grande Place Mons

Grande Place Mons

This time around I am staying in a sleepy town outside of Brussels called Mons. This will be my base for the next several months.

The visit with Graciela was again, one of great reminders:  1) how much force, effort does one really need to dance tango? and 2) the embrace and how do we embrace? bringing us back to the essence of tango.

It is so funny to me how much language gets in the way of the body. I have said this all through my teaching career and probably during my modern dance career too. How we each interpret information, as that information makes its’ way through our autobiography into the body, completely fascinates me. How someone says something, when someone says anything, we are interpreting all of it through a filter, our own autobiographical filters.

In Boston, before arriving to Europe, I had the joy of taking class again with some of my modern dancer friends with our teacher. Mons(Mind you, I can’t remember the last time I set foot in that studio, so it was a lot of things and most of all, wonderfully familiar.) As I spoke to him (dear teacher Marcus Schulkind) briefly after class about an aspect of the body and the leg’s movement backwards, he said something to the effect of “just take their leg and move it backwards, the physical movement will get them to understand.” YES!

There is a dance form in Bali where the passing on of the tradition is done through manipulation of the dancer’s body. The transmitter of the dance actually manipulates the dancer’s arms and legs for her to remember the “choreography”. This makes me also reflect on the origins of tango, there were no schools, it was just manipulation of bodies to transmit the information corporally.

After my weekend with Graciela, which is never only about me translating her classes but it is Graciela and Daniela in Berlinalways an intense revisit of the material of tango in my own body. And because I know that the body is also a “telling tool”, it reveals to me where I have been and where I am. That tension? That stuck place? That block? They are all revealing where I am in my current journey and it’s also affecting my dance. And so I learn, again!

I am excited to report that I will be teaching around! Next stop Portugal!
Please check my calendar for where I will be next and remember that the times on the calendar are stuck in USA Arizona time.

 

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Advice: Traveling for Tango

Traveling for Tango 

I recently received a message from a young colleague who was asking for some advice on becoming a traveling teacher and expectations on traveling for Tango.

I know some of you are experienced in traveling for tango and some are just starting out on the great adventure. Those of you who are my longtime students will come to understand all that goes into traveling for tango.

I have put together a list of things that I have learned that you might find helpful.Traveling Norway 2015

As most of you already know, Tango for me is about connecting with others, it is essentially about relationships, and when you decide to host someone or to ask to be hosted you are forging another level of relationship with someone and their community.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always as glamorous as it might seem. And again I can’t emphasize enough, that you want your experience to be win / win for all parties involved. It does not pay to burn bridges. And in this day of social media, word gets around FASTER than before!!!

So here’s how I go about it…and I know more experienced teachers might have things to add (so please feel free to comment).

1) THE INITIAL CONTACT  

It could be via email or Facebook, with an invitation to me or with me requesting to visit.
If I am making the initial contact I try not to put too much information in this message, and of course depending on whether I know them or not, I also include my website. If I have dates in mind I put those, if there is something special I want to do, I will include that. If a host contacts me first it might take several emails before I actually get all the information I need to make a decision. I use my experience from my Executive-to-the-CEO days for these introductions and requests, i.e: be polite, make it clear what I want, check my grammar, etc.

So

2) FROM CONTACT TO CONTRACT
Whether it be a formal contract or an informal email outlining my understanding and my expectations, this is a must.Train Station 2016

Things to consider

Obviously the goal is to teach, to work, to make money. For some it is also about networking and building relationships. Sometimes I have had to weigh the pros and cons. Will I make enough money or is it best that I go to build a new network. Is it more about networking or about working?

Your transportation – Plane, train, taxi, bus, car rental. Know what your transportation situation is and discuss these logistics with your hosts. This includes will you drive me around? Will I be taking the subway?
Your lodging – What kind of accommodations are you willing to have for the time you will be teaching. Do you need your own room? Are you happy with a couch? Again you don’t want any surprises about this.
Food – Is food included? A food stipend or not. Do you expect to get fed? And how often? When you are teaching? 3 meals or 1 meal ?? do you need access to a refrigerator or a kitchen?
Other important things – for another colleague of mine it is important for her to have her own bathroom, maybe you have allergies. I put it all in writing.
Space – Where am I teaching? I like to be clear about this expectation too. Is it in someone’s home? Does it have mirrors? Do I care? Is it a studio? I’ve taught in homes, studios, churches, cold places, warm places. All good to know. In most communities the studio rental is expensive but an obviously necessary overhead.
Price – such a sensitive subject for some cultures and not so much for others. (A whole other blog!)
I know several teachers that either work a 70/30 for a weekend of workshops after transportation and studio fees. OR others who request a flat fee. I have done both and again it always depends on the situation. However, I still try to have some very clear ideas and goals before I hit the ground running.
I found all this a challenge at first, not to sell myself short and yet wanting to break into a scene and the ultimate goal to be asked to return.
It is important to be clear on what you need – you can always negotiate. And also take into consideration the local climate and the exchange rates. I find it valuable to ask my host for price ranges on private lessons. This gives me an idea of the price ranges the community is used to. Some communities were all about private lessons and some communities, forget it. I was told by someone in one community that “our teachers here are so good that students just don’t pay for private lessons from any guest instructors no matter who they are!!”
And how do you want to get paid? Cash? Deposit to a bank? Do you need to make an invoice to the hosting organization?

3) COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE 

No one likes surprises! It is so important to communicate with your host/s, exchange phone numbers etc. When in doubt call or send a message.
For those who are hosts, remember that if a teacher is traveling a lot consider time zones and when they might be teaching. I don’t want to put a time on what appropriate response time is but depending on the urgency of the matter (and even that can be argued over!) let at least a day go by before assuming that the event is off or that they have cancelled on you.

4) GRATITUDE
You would be surprised at how many of these details are often overlooked by those who are hosting and therefore, I had to take charge of the conversation. And when I didn’t, and I didn’t get paid what I thought or didn’t even know what I was being paid, well, I couldn’t complain now could I? It is so important to protect ourselves as teachers, as artists, as servers to community.
And in turn it is so important for us, as artists, to be gracious. Because if you are not, you kill it for other artists.

During my stay in an unnamed european country, I was warned that if I stated that I was from one part of the world they would not be happy to receive me as they had had so many bad experiences with teachers from that particular region. I was shocked but then understood everyone’s hesitancy about hosting me.

There is a difference between being a diva and treating people well.

I recently heard a shockingly horrifying story from a colleague who was put up in a sparse apartment (including the visiting vermin, yes, rats!) with an empty refrigerator and was told to walk to the local convenient store at night alone for food. REALLY? I was so horrified by this story. I again ask that hosts take a look around and decide if they would want to be treated the way they are treating? And to the teachers on tour, make sure to bring your credit card along and be ready to use it if you need to. In this situation, the host was not willing to assist, or make things better, or move my colleague. My colleague took the matter into their hands and spent the night (awake) looking for a hotel and then moved.

So I leave you with my utmost amazing hostess experience…

My hostess did all my advertising for me, collected fees in advance from participants, communicated regularly with them via Facebook and I was able to see some of that communication and participate by adding my excitement to the event. She picked me up from the airport, took me grocery shopping, fed me as much food as I could possibly eat and then some. I had my own comfortable room and bathroom. She drove me to classes and to the milongas. I felt so comfortable there I slept amazingly! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! – you know who you are. Happy teacher Happy classes Happy community!

May all your travels be joyful and easy!!
If I forgot something I would love to hear from you….We can always help each other to make it easier and safe for all of us.

 

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Au Revoir Montreal Hello Private Lessons in Phoenix

Au Revoir Montreal! Hello Phoenix!
It is snowing on my last full day in Montreal. It appears that snow opened and closed my trip here. I met some wonderfully Longueil Class Canadawarm and enthusiastic people during my stay. It was such a pleasure to be here and to reconnect with some “old” bodies (!) and new ones!
During my travels, it is always fun to experience running into some of my mentors and teachers who have impacted my life in some way. Here in Montreal I ran into Tomas Howlin and Graciela Gonzalez.  I had an insightful conversation with Tomas and seeing Graciela always brings me great joy.
I so appreciate Tomas’ clarity of the bigger picture and how articulate he is in this expression. In discussing tango and realizing that there are fewer dancers now who were ever in touch with the old milonguer(os) (as); the idea that going to Buenos Aires and being able to get a glimpse of those “greats” dancing is basically gone. A lineage of people to be able to look up to or to emulate or to say, “aha, that’s where that came from”. And now, we ask, what is truth in tango? Is there really permanence at all? You can find all things on the internet, all truths, all ideas, opinions. Youtube shows us how it can all be done without really understanding or knowing or grasping a context for it all. How great on one hand that if you look up how to walk in tango or how to execute a certain move, you can probably find it, done and explained a variety of ways. No real experts, just a sea of voices, bodies. And what gets left behind? Well, probably the next person who outranks you in Google views and “thumbs”!Anca and Jean Sebastien
And Graciela continues to inspire me with her body intelligence in conveying tango in a most natural way, free of tension – THIS IS THE WAY TO BE! just sayin’!!!

I am off to Phoenix, Arizona, arriving on Thursday. Happy to be teaching in familiar places with some familiar faces! I have a week of activity and technique and dancing to share with you! Hope to see you first off at Mijana for the open class at Nostalgias Milonga.

I have set aside some time on Monday, December 12th for private lessons. If you are interested please contact me directly.
I have three 1 hour slots from 4pm – 7pm available. There is some other times available as well just send me a message. If it is to go over material from the weekend or to work on body alignment topics, I am here for you!!! As we all know one on one time can really make a difference in your dancing!

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