Travel

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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Creating Community or Disintegrating Community

Crowded MilongaThe ins and outs of the milonga community is a subject for much discussion. As I have ventured in and out of many communities throughout this year of travel, I still ponder the question on how to create community or how we contribute to disintegrating community.

Interestingly enough, just last week, Buenos Aires milonga organizers and dancers joined a large outdoor demonstration, that consequently turned into a milonga. They were protesting the closure of milongas due to the rising costs of the building owners’ overhead: electricity, gas, general maintenance costs. The AOM – Associacion de Organizadores de Milongas  got together to create a legislation that would help owners of the buildings and organizers to work together so that the milongas would not have to close – after all, these establishments are hosting an intangible world heritage event. On this day it didn’t matter which milonga you normally attended or didn’t attend, everyone was joined by a common cause: keeping the milongas alive and kicking in Buenos Aires. All the milongas, organizers and dancers alike, found themselves joined together for this purpose.

I bring this up maybe as a contrast to what happens in so many cities: milongas compete with other milongas and there sprouts hard feelings, etc. Or even within a milonga people are competing for attention and feeling inclusive or exclusive (invited or uninvited, friendly or unfriendly).

Possibly a positive way to look at this, is that it is normal and healthy for communities to be varied. There will always be cliques (after all you have known your friends for years!), there will always be the loners (and some people like to be loners), there will be people ok sitting with new people, and some ok sitting alone. And it is all ok.

As I continued to reflect upon all of this by comparing my great experiences with my not so great experiences, I thought there might be a “less painful” transition to entering communities.

The Steps

I recall a British TV series I watched several years ago, Teachers. In one particular episode the lead character, a high school teacher, is questioning how a new teacher is entering their after school drinking social group, he is a little miffed that she didn’t actually follow the proper steps.

He outlines them as thus:

Initiation
Apprenticeship
Acceptance
Inclusion

I think each of these words are understandable without needing too much of an explanation (a person initiates into a group usually through another person or through common activity, they are taken under that initiators wing, the group accepts them, and they are now included) so let’s look at how the model might apply to the tango community.

Initiation

How you are initiated into a community and into the milonga might be the key to feeling successful and to the reason for staying or for leaving the tango community. If a teacher brings students to the milonga and invites them to sit at a table together, this helps the initiated to feel less awkward and more welcome.

I think we forget, as those who have experienced or learned Argentine Tango outside of the culture, that Tango is first and foremost social. It is about the community. Tango is (although not exclusively) a Friday night with friends in Buenos Aires. So I think it is difficult to extract Tango from its culture even when we bring along all the codes! I suggest if you are going to a new community alone, email the organizers ahead of time, find someone in that new community to introduce yourself to, then meet them at the milonga, and get invited to sit with them. And then smile and have a good time. Facebook is great for this, as so many communities have their own Tango pages now.

Apprenticeship

It is a bit hard to imagine that there is an apprenticeship phase in entering a community regardless of your years of dancing but maybe look at it like this, if you have some “new tango friends” at a milonga they help you during this phase. You see who they dance with and who they don’t. You get to decide who you might like to dance with or not, and, without a doubt, they will let you know some of the ins and outs of that community (call it gossip or not!). And hopefully, they will also introduce you to some of their friends and favorite dancers. Thus your apprenticeship, until you get on your own feet!

Acceptance and Inclusion

I have combined these two phases. It is hard to say if there is a predetermined time frame for when one is accepted or feels accepted. I also know communities where dancers never feel accepted, and they therefore stop attending milongas and often stop attending classes too. Therefore, clearly, they do not feel included.

The acceptance phase is quite personal and community – based. You might feel accepted by some but not by others. If you have the luxury of choosing among different milongas, then you can find yourself accepted and feeling included at one and maybe not at another milonga. I have found that sometimes even the same dancers who might dance with me in one milonga, might not, in another milonga (ie: Wednesday night in one location versus Friday night in another location). So I feel accepted and included in one milonga and variable in the other! And my desire to go dancing on Friday night is incredibly lower unless, I know people who say to me, “come, we will be there!”

I had an experience, where I had already been in Berlin for 6 months, and one of the leaders, who I saw everywhere (we clearly liked the same milongas), finally asked me to dance. His first words were, “you’re still here!!” AHH – he discovered I was going to be part of the bigger community, not just here for the weekend!!! And then subsequently, his small group of friends, all took me for a tanda afterwards. And now a year later, he rarely asks me to dance although we still pretty much attend all the same milongas. One of his friends asks me to dance sometimes and there you have it! BUT I do feel accepted and included in the milongas that I enjoy attending regularly. Otherwise, I wouldn’t go, right?

So maybe not a perfect model. And in the TV show, the young teacher who was missing the steps, found herself included anyway!

And you?

What about you? Were you initiated into your community? Have you initiated another into your community?? If so you will probably not have an inclusive/exclusive issues! Do you find yourself feeling accepted and included?

Would be interested in hearing your thoughts. And I know many of you have a lot to say on this topic too!!!!

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The Answer is in the Hands

Sometimes we think that it’s all about the feet and what the feet are doing, but sometimes the answer is in the hands.Plouarzel France

I left Berlin about 18 days ago to finally visit my friend in Brittany, France who I had not seen in a LONG time. So long in fact, that her youngest, who is now 10, wasn’t born yet!!! I flew to Paris and stayed a few days dancing and then off I went! With a few adventures along the way, of course! Including a few nights in Brussels with day trips to Leuven, Antwerp and Brugge.

Prior to my departure I contacted 2 tango associations in the town of Brest, telling them that I would be coming though. And to my delight and surprise, I received a message from a lovely young woman, Stephanie, introducing herself and asking if I’d like to teach with her during her normally scheduled courses. OF COURWith Stephanie at ElaboSE!!!! I had the pleasure of teaching with her both in Brest and then again in Rennes. We had much fun and we had a lovely connection, I hope that she and I will collaborate again in the future.

My dear friend literally lives on the western coast of France, walking distance to the “western most point in France”. And the sun did not shine for more than 1 hour during my whole visit, but the landscape was dramatically beautiful, changing all the time from clouds to dense fog to rain, sometimes in short time spans. Although I did not dare to swim, there were plenty of people who still ventured to! One Sunday evening, she invited 10 of her friends to try some tango so we had a great class with the view of the ocean behind us and snacked after the class was over! They asked lots of questions about the music and etiquette – they all loved it!!!Class in Rennes at Elabo

I also wanted to highlight that I used to live in Rennes, France for my one year of study abroad, almost 26 years ago!!! I had not been back since, but being back in Brittany, I was reminded of all the creative things that are happening there (and in France): Fêtes de la Musique, Dance and live performances of all kinds, etc. I even taught in a functioning artists squat in Rennes with Stephanie called Elaboratoire. I met a modern day “town crier”/ actor / clown / troubadour, who is in charge of street performances. And what a great space to create!

During my return to Paris a couple who will be competing both in the European Tango Championships this weekend and again in the Mundial asked me to coach them – give them some feedback and fine tune some details.  They won the French division of the Stage Competition and they are lovely dancers. I was so enthusiastic about this prospect as I had seen them perform and found their work creative and lovely!

From my years as choreographer and dancer in the “modern dance” or “contemporary” dance world, I am very interested in transitions, how do you get from one movement to another, or sometimes one shape in the body to another. Very often talented dancers have beautiful “moves”! And as you watch it looks like you are watching one shape or one move and then another and then another and the focus turns away from the beautiful moves to the effort to get to those pretty shapes! I have found that one solution to this issue is to find something in the body that links the shapes. In the case of Irene and Patrice the solution for them was to bringing attention to their hands: to put their attention to really touch and find each other in the more difficult and fast movements. Which of course reminds me of my work with Graciela, always encouraging us to use our hands, to really touch each other. Our 2 hours together was spent with other details in preparation for their performances. It was so brilliant for me to have this time with them. I LOVE WORKING WITH TRAINED DANCERS TOO!!!!

They are at the European Championships this weekend and I send them big hugs and kisses as they will shine beautifully, I’m sure. I found it interesting that even (or maybe not even in Stage Tango) but also in Stage Tango, the Russian dancers pose “a threat”! This was the scene for the Mundial too when I was last there… Interesting! As Patrice and Irene mentioned that they were ready this year for those Russian dancers and the competition they bring!

I am spending this birthday weekend in Amsterdam and will be back in Berlin this week for the start of the Summer course I am teaching at one of the studios and for my visa renewal/extension appointment.

Not a day goes by that I do not express my gratitude to my parents and all of the lovely people who are helping me make this journey through tango in Europe and of course, self-discovery. Thank you Thank you Thank you

Here are some additional cool pics!!!

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Some Announcements

There are some brief announcements I’d like to share, nothing earth shattering to report, yet!

I spent a little more than a month substitute teaching at a studio in Berlin. I was lucky to have some German friends to help with translation as needed. We covered all sorts of topics including: milonga, boleos, paradas. We also did some general technique and dancing in small spaces close together! It was a lovely opportunity to continue to meet more dancers in Berlin. Although classes were small I think this was nice for them!
Plouarzel
I have some spare time again with no teaching happening in Berlin so I thought I’d take the time to visit with friends both in France and in Belgium. I am happy to reunite with a friend I met during my year abroad in Rennes many many years ago now. She has a lovely family of 3 with her husband and lives with this marvelous view from her home on the Brittany coast.

I was contacted by 2 lovely women to teach some classes in Brest and am looking forward to that this evening and on Thursday!

I will then be back in Paris for a few days and then off to Brussels for more friend time and tango networking.
The weather has been mostly rainy, the sun came out just long enough for me to take a walk along the coast and capture that picture! I will be back in Berlin in mid-July and happy to be teaching with Raimund Schlie again in the Summer program at Mala Junta studio Berlin.

Sharon at MijanasAnd Phoenix students/dancers, if you haven’t heard already, Sharon Alworth, is teaching Tango on Thursday nights prior to Milonga Mijana. She has a fun approach to teaching tango and is aiming to make Mijana a friendly milonga to attend! She often teaches with my former student, Bob Zeller, so go and enjoy their enthusiasm!

More pictures coming! In the meantime, thanks as always for following my blog!

 

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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

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