Art, Architecture, Cinema, Oh My!

Still in Torino, I have had an amazing week filled with Art, Architecture, Cinema, Music, Dance! A Creatively Full Week!

I had the luxury of going to see the Matisse (and some of his contemporaries) exhibit here in Torino  “Matisse e il suo tempo”, at the Palazzo Chiablese.Laura and I at Matisse

I was so inspired afterwards. I am reminded how creativity is not static and how wonderful that as artists our art has the opportunity to change, expand and evolve with time, practice, experience, and who we hang around with, our models, our inspirations all influence us. And dance too reveals our autobiography.
From Matisse’s contemporaries, his move through Fauvism and Cubism, to his adventures in still lifes to his timeless cut outs, his magnificence as an artist is seen. This exhibit truly demonstrated his influence on art and culture and really how it transcends time.
I invite all of you to get to a museum!
As not just a dancer but seeing myself as an artist, my dance has changed and evolved over time too. How I dance now is a total of all my experiences up until this point, and “the why” I dance now is different than why I danced 10 years ago. I think the changes are important to notice. It’s inspiring to see how some of the dancers I admired in the late 1990’s have changed and grown. As performers, we dare to put ourselves “out there” to be seen, and to be accepted or not. I was so inspired to see the Matisse exhibition and to see his growth and change as an artist. It’s a good reminder!

Also this week I went to the spectacular Museo Nazionale del CinemaNational Museum of Cinema

Housed in the fabulous Mole Antonelliana tower, you must pace yourself on an exciting historical adventure of how cinema began, with interactive displays and so much to see! 3 hours later my mind was reeling but I was so impressed. Being an amateur photographer when I was younger and a HUGE film fan, seeing the intricacies and details of some pre-cinema and photography artifacts was fantastic. It served as a lens into our culture as well – Our desire not just to tell stories, but to share the world from the earliest days and to document everything from war to every day life, and then for photography and film to become a means of self-expression and exploration.
Another inspirational day!

Yes, I have danced tango but there’s so much to do here. Wandering the streets surrounded by the most amazing architecture means there is never a dull moment. I have been to my cousin’s Jazz Accapella rehearsal, taken a class in Piemontese Folklore dancing, started a tour into the world of chocolate, and THIS WEEK, I will go to the 2nd largest Egyptian Musem and to the Museum of Human Anatomy before heading off to Genoa!

Staircase at Palazzo Madama

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Happy New Year 2016!

Happy New Year to you!

I just spent the last few days in Karslruhe, Germany at a small intimate Encuentro. And I did run into people that I knew!!Karlsruhe Which is becoming a fun surprise for me! I spent a lovely time connecting also with new dancers. It seems that a visit to Belgium is definitely in the cards.

I had my first adventure in a Hostel, since probably 1989 when I studied in France and toodled around France and Italy with fellow students staying in hostels. Let us just say, I seem to never have a dull moment! or maybe it’s just perfect content for a future book!

The visit to this event was very last minute and I jumped on the hostel bandwagon after the Airbnb booking I thought I had showed me that I needed to reconfirm with a code that I didn’t receive in time. Ironically, on the site I found a 3 night deal for the hostel right next to the train station in Karlsruhe, as long as it was a room for 4 people. Well, I arrived to an empty clean room and thought, yeppeee!!! But that was too soon to rejoice. I returned to my room at 2am after the milonga. As I got off the elevator on the 5th floor I heard quite a bit of moaning and thought, wow, some people are enjoying their evening. As I approached the door to my room, I thought, “O! my gosh! They are in my room! and then I thought, is this my room?” I hesitated a moment and backtracked to the elevator and thought, yes, this is my room. So I went in! Poor young things! Faster than a cartoon character someone dashed into the bathroom, which I hadn’t realized until she popped out of the bathroom several minutes later in a t-shirt, “hallo”! As we all: she, her poor young boyfriend, and I all acted like nothing happened, she crawled back into the twin bed with him as I proceeded to get ready for bed… No words were exchanged. They spoke in German to each other and said nothing to me. They left in the morning. Another couple came the next day and I saw them and mentioned to the young man that I would be back in the early hours of the morning so any activity should be conducted before hand! They were quiet and managed to sleep through my early AM arrival. And on my last night, an older gentleman came in with a lot of plastic bags. In the evening as I prepared for the milonga and to check out the next morning, he, in tank top and black tight boxer shorts, proceeded to make several smelly sandwiches in the room, then crawled into bed with his ipad and headphones to watch a movie and all those sandwiches – of which he ate and proceeded to put the crumbs on the floor behind him!! I returned to the room around 4am and as I opened the door was accosted by the smell of smelly feet, sauerkraut, sweaty man odor, cheese, and I don’t know what! Although cold outside, I opened the window! wow, that was a hard quick nap to endure! I checked out in the morning, danced all day and took the train back to Switzerland! Needless to say, I slept through most of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day! I did feel a little silly, being here in Europe with SO many great options for New Year’s Eve! Oh Well, I will plan better for next year!

I am off again to Zurich for a couple of days of dancing and sight seeing, then back to Bern and then off to Italy! Then back to Berlin in February!

I have had a lot of time to reflect over 2015. This journey has given me a lot of nice surprises and can really be called an adventure. I have found that I can’t be upset for long, or sad for too long, or angry for too long or anything! Just grateful for all that I am experiencing, even when it is difficult, or seemingly difficult.

I posted the following on New Year’s Eve on Facebook for those who did not see it and I share it with you.

I wrote to my maestra: “Nunca pensé que el tango me salvaría de inmensa soledad”. (“I never thought that tango would save me from immense loneliness”.)
2015 was an unexpected journey for me: of meeting new people, being in new places and self-discovery…. and it still continues…
I have never really needed to ‘rely’ on other people and it’s a skill I never really learned.. until this year. I am so so grateful to everyone who has helped me out this year – and in countless ways – from an act of kindness, to shared conversation, to finding places to live! The list of YOU is truly endless.. and I’m very grateful to my parents for their continued support. As a dancer my whole life I Know that dance can change people’s life and tango completely changed the course of mine, HOWEVER, I had NO idea the depth to which I would come to rely on Tango to help me as well….
I wish everyone a truly wonderful, prosperous, and joyful 2016. May it bring you all that you desire and need most.
I will see you passionately on the dance floor somewhere soon! And thank you for your support!

Happy New Year! Feliz Año Nuevo! Joyeux Nouvelle Année! etc….

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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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Belgian Marathon and Videos in Budapest

Belgium PierA Belgian Marathon and 3 Performance Videos from Budapest

I just returned from a lovely weekend in Belgium at a marathon on the coast on a Pier in Blackenberge. A rather small marathon (as they usually are) with about 200 in attendance.The dancing level was quite mixed but I think this is the way these marathons are for the most part. I have been told of marathons where the level of dancing is quite high. I wonder what that would be like!!!!

I also had the opportunity to have a quick snapshot tour of Brugge. Oh My Loveliness! This is a place I must return to. It was quaint and romantic and filled with roaming tourists but otherwise, there was splendid and beautiful buildings to look at and cobble stoned streets to wander through and the canals…  and of course, chocolate. We arrived on the bus arranged by the organizers of the weekend marathon and immediately the smell of sugar and chocolate filled our heads!

I ran into some friends from other marathons and places in Europe, such as Daniela and Anya from Berlin and Agi from Poland (living in England). And I made some new friends, starting with my lovely Italian roommate, Irene. This marathon had many Italians in attendance and I enjoyed hanging out with them and laughing a lot! My Italian-ness feeling very at home listening to them talk and laugh!  I had some great tandas of course! And fantastic food. What a spread! These marathons really often have lovely food – so far, anyway. I have been told that some of them do not have splendid food. This El AbrazodelMar was another fun marathon for me! I am glad I picked it. Not sure why I did but I did and it was a great interruption to the rhythm in Budapest.

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As the holidays are fast approaching, decorations and markets are everywhere. I actually really love to see the lights. Budapest has street light decorations and a vast outdoor market. You can get mulled wine everywhere! Brugge was decorated too! I love the lights! I was in a shopping mall close to me here in Budapest and heard American Christmas music playing and had to laugh out loud! Almost made me cringe a little too!

I had the opportunity to perform at a Saturday milonga in Budapest after I shared some tango to a room full of quiet locals! I have posted the 3 songs here. János and I did not practice at all prior to this performance – so it truly is an improvisation! (And I apologize if you have seen multiple versions as I completely switched 2 letters of János’ last name and had to re-edit the video! I will really remember his last name now!)

I will be in Budapest until December 18th and then I will be off again…..


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Bergen and Oslo Norway

Made it to Bergen and Oslo Norway safely. I arrived (stressed) after a long journey of cancelled and delayed flights. I really am astonished that I made it to Bergen, Norway, where I attended the 8th Annual Bergen Tango Marathon, with about 200 other people! I guess that the Tango Goddesses were on my side, they wanted me to be here!

I arrived on a nice day, not too cold, maybe about 60 F which didn’t last. It rained most of the rest of the time here. The landscape is gorgeous in Bergen and as one of the ladies from Technique class said, “Bergen would be paradise if it wasn’t for all the rain”! I might agree if I had seen more of it. So a return visit might be in order and several umbrellas and super duper rain gear. Although it seems like the locals are accustomed to being wet. I was bundled up AND wet and there were many locals (clearly) wandering in jeans and sneakers! I was cold for them!

I really enjoyed the marathon. I had met one of the organizer, Birger at a marathon in Berlin. He did everything in his power to convince me to come to Bergen. (He clearly is very persuasive, and truly one of the kindest people I know to date.) I was lucky to have a lovely hostess, Ellen, although we didn’t see much of each other, she was handling several aspects of the kitchen management for the marathon. She was very organized and efficient. I would hire for a project manager any day! Again in these events, I run into familiar faces and also meet new ones.

Those who know me and know my classes, will appreciate hearing that I exposed a (special) dancer to the stick, also known as the shopping cart exercise. This great exercise thanks to Graciela Gonzalez always clarifies issues and it did once again! Thank you J for letting me share it with you. It is always so nice to share the simple aspects of tango with dancers: technique, simple social movements, that make all the difference in the world. And when a dancer loves to receive them and their dance clearly changes, my heart is filled with so much joy, love, too, for this dance and the gifts it has given me and the gifts I can share. Thank you for being open! (D too)

The lovely surprise was to see 3 of my favorite Berliners there. Suzanne, Alex and Carola – we had several good laughs. It really made me very aware of what I do miss of Berlin right now, many of the lovely people I met during those initial 6 months this year. I will go back, it is just uncertain when. I did receive news that I was not accepted as a teaching partner at one of the studios but will be doing a course of some kind in the New Year! In the meantime I toodle around and see where I land next!

I am now spending the weekend in Oslo, where the sun has greeted me! I am visiting a woman with whom I went to school in France! (A very long time ago!) We have not seen each other since. I remember saying, however, that I would like to visit her in Norway one day and never thought the day would come! There was no tango in the cards but I am very much enjoying the much needed rest and visiting with Marianne after such a long time. She and her husband are great hosts! I am so grateful for the time with them.

I am really enjoying meeting people and connecting with them. I hear so many times that there are many tango teachers who are not very friendly. I do not understand this. And I have seen it myself. What does it take to be nice to people? Nothing! I love meeting people! It is very much a high for me. But I have been told more than once that “I am so nice”! And I didn’t understand but now I am beginning to put it together. Attitude is everything. And I really have met some wonderful people, this weekend included.

Pictures of Bergen:

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Pictures of Oslo, a really lovely city!

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See you in Budapest.

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