Posts Tagged: Graciela Gonzalez

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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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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All Comes From Love – Istanbul Part 2

All Come From LoveHerşey Aşk’tan – All Comes from Love. The name of a shop near Galata Tower. The symbol is lovely and of course, I have earrings!

I really enjoyed my visit in Istanbul. And now that I am back in Berlin I miss certain aspects.
It helped that the weather was sunny and warm-ish and that I could see the sea almost anywhere I looked.

I went to several milongas and found that possibly due to the many different studio locations’ sizes, that the milongas were small and not as packed as I would have assumed them to be. But I found some nice dancers at each milonga and even managed to dance with several new dancers at each. It seemed that each milonga I went to had a different set of people attending. Only a couple of times did I see the same, one or two people a couple of nights in a row. Interesting.

I was so happy to share Restorative Exercise with a handful of eager and attentive students. What a great thing to see bodies change and make sense of the information quickly.
Teaching Ladies Technique is always fun for me and I couldn’t believe that 3 hours of it was too short!!! The biggest thing I notice time and again is the stopping of momentum on pivots.
I don’t think you can have energy efficient pivots if you don’t fully understand where your body is.

Some more highlights included of course the visit to the Spice Bazaar. Zeynep had interviewed Ucuzcular - Stall 51one of the stall owners for her documentary and highly recommended I go to stall 51 – Ucuzcular. What a wonderful highlight. The owner, Bilge, gave me a tasting of several of the spice concoctions: delicious flavors and scents filled my head! A creamy garlicky powder to add to sauces or dips. A spicy but delicate mix for a rub. A chef’s delight for sure. A must visit if you ever go to Istanbul.

Sharing Raki and Balik – an anisette like beverage that really does go well with fish (balik).

Irfan and I performed and I still don’t have the videos of that! So that will have to be a surprise at a later date.

I ate my way through several turkish lira of my favorite dried mulberries (dut) and cashews. And the day before I left, cherries showed up on the market stalls! Absolute heaven for me!

I received such wonderful feedback from the students I taught. I really can’t imagine doing anything but teaching!

Here I share more lovely pictures from my visit.

I am in Berlin for most of the month of May. I am looking forward to substitute teaching at TangoLoft again for several Saturdays (see my calendar for the schedule). Also, I will be heading to Hamburg to see Graciela Gonzalez. She is part of a Festivalito there and I can’t wait to see her and take class with her again and I will be translating for her as well. It will be my first time in Hamburg.

Some of you have missed me so much that we have had the opportunity to skype and do some lessons and body alignment work that way. SO let me know if you are interested.

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Embracing Connection

Embracing is your connection!

A Chilean living in Amsterdam, A Norwegian, an Argentine living in Nice, A Portuguese and me, an American living in Berlin all dancing tango in the same place! This is only one of my European experiences …..and it reminded me of this email message from a dear student who asks:

Would you consider discussing strategies for facilitating forming connection with tango partners within the short span of a typical tanda? I was dancing recently with a leader who made this observation: “You’re like me, it takes a while for you to relax and connect with your partner.”
Often, I feel like I’m just figuring it out when the tanda ends and I have to start the process all over! Is this normal? Does it improve over time, or?

I love this email. And here’s my answer:

I bring all my tools with me that I have learned up until now on how to be a follower. And I think the most important one is to embrace honestly and really embrace. I immediately hear my dear Maestra, Graciela Gonzalez’s voice in my head, ENTREGARSE. The woman has to give herself over to the leader, by really placing trust from that first embrace.

During my recent visit to Budapest I was conversing with one of their lovely local teachers, Bela Barabas, and he said, I like how you really fit into my embrace. The idea that he embraces me and I situate myself with him. Versus, a static idea of how I will embrace him. (or entering into the embrace the same way with everyone.)

I have some physical things I do to attempt to find that connection from the very first moment. I start inside my body first – I imagine my legs deeply rooted into the floor and from the floor I create an imaginary circle up to my arms that are reaching into the embrace and both sides of my back in the embrace reach, as if they could reach completely around my partner, and they connect into the embrace with him, I continue my circle of energy above and around him as I grow a little taller diagonally but still maintain my grounded-ness into the floor. My circle is transmitting information to my partner about where my legs are and that I am ready. I might inhale into my back space, as I call it – I inhale and allow my back to fill his embrace, his container that he has provided for me. I am meeting my partner where he is. And I give him opportunity to find me where I am.

It all is in the embrace 🙂 So Embrace!


To sign up for a private lesson please go to this google doc link click here


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What Tango do you do? Bag the Labels and Make it Delicious!

The labels conversation is back again!
It appears that my tango class to modern music brought up some good questions from experienced dancers and newbies.
I want to start this blog by saying Frazzled femalethere is ONE tango that will be heavily influenced by your community(ies); those you dance with most; the teachers you study with; the music you enjoy (rhythmic vs melodic); and if you travel to other festivals or communities.
The labels you might hear or see are marketing labels for students. In Buenos Aires the labels are used to capture tourists. The older milongueros are not hung up on labels they merely do what they do, dance tango! And the way they share information is through demonstration not necessarily through explanation! You just dance!
Even the new Argentines learning in Buenos Aires become tourists.  If they grew up with the music, if they are just learning, they too become a tourist to find a teacher to teach them tango. As I have said before the labels don’t get you far. In reality in the US they don’t bring in new dancers and the ones who have been dancing merely seek those teachers and dancers who they most like or identify with, to dance with or take classes from.
I have to say from my years of teaching at the University and growing new tango babies every year, I do believe that there is a fundamental ground work that has to be laid for a tanguero/a to find their way, regardless of the style, label conversation. I believe, as Graciela Gonzalez says, that there is technique that is fundamental to all tango dancing.
I remember a famous Argentine tango dancer sharing a story that a student had asked her to dance in a milonga and he started by asking her what style she danced. Surprised, she responded that she danced Tango. I suppose what doesn’t quite come across in this recount is that she didn’t understand what else they could possibly be doing at a milonga. Style was not the question for her. It never is, really. We must remember that tango is about the connection you have with your partner; that partner in that moment to that music.
So before you worry about what style you may or may not be doing, go for the connection and BE present with your partner, you only have that moment, those 3 minutes, so make them delicious.

See previous blogs here Labels Labels Everywhere Part 1 and Part 2.

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