Posts Tagged: Teaching Tango

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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This Weekend starts TONITE!

Reminders:Yepee!

I am teaching the class at Milonga Mijana tonight (1290 N Scottsdale Rd, Tempe, AZ) Class begins @ 7:30pm – 8:30pm $10 and then Stay for the Milonga 8:30pm – 12:00am $5

ALSO

Friday night there will be a house milonga chez moi! At The Solana Tango Room!
Dancing starts @ 7:30pm – 12:00am. BYOB $5.

Come dancing this weekend!

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Women’s Tango Retreat and the Pelvis

So many things have been happening as of late and I’m trying to catch up with my blogging. There was my father’s 70th surprise party (and he was surprised!) and Thanksgiving, came and went, grading papers (its the end of semester again) and now I’m off to Breitenbush Hot Spring Retreat Center in the mountains of Oregon to teach a workshop.

I was asked to teach a “playshop” for this women- in- tango retreat. After much thought as to what to share with a group of women who know both leading and following roles I decided upon an exploration of a center of driving force in our lives, our pelvis.

The pelvis and tango? Think about it – where do those legs that take you walking originate from? and what about that torso?

 

 

The bones of the pelvis.

 

 

Can you identify this as being a part of your body?

It has been my experience, both as a modern dancer and in my studies of Mindful Movement (SM), that even an awareness of some of the boney landmarks of the pelvis can improve posture and mobility. Much of my modern dance training was around an awareness of the connection of my sits bones (ischial tuberosities) to the floor and from my coccyx (tail bone) to my head.

My playshop this weekend will be centered around an awareness of the bones of the pelvis and how that awareness can help in our leading and our following.

I presume most of you are sitting down reading this. Let’s try a little exploration. First, uncross those legs. Place both feet on the floor (or change chairs so you can). Can you feel your sits bones on your chair? If you can feel them place one hand at your pubic bone and the other hand on the lower small of your back, at your sacrum. Now, just imagine breathing into both of your hands. Take about 5 deep breaths here or more.

Then get up and go for a little walk. Notice anything?

Sometimes just from feeling the sits bones on the chair the spine straightens out. With time and awareness the legs often find their place in their sockets which allow for greater mobility. The awareness of the dimensionality of the pelvis reminds me that I am not just the front of my body in 1 dimension and that I bring all of me when I move through life – front and back!

I tie this back to tango not just for posture and for walking but also because I have often heard teachers refer to “the hips”. Hmm – where are your hips? What are the hips? I just looked it up – it appears that the “hips” cover a lot of area  – the butt, the top of the legs… to me, who loves details, I want more specificity. Some teachers refer to it meaning the leg joint – the iliofemoral joint and they ask us to walk or to turn with more flexion in this joint. What if you don’t have a lot of movement there in the first place? Could be a challenging movement to find.

I know that followers are also exploring their roles more through the use of their “hips”. This begins a whole new subject for me relating to the planes of movement of the pelvis. 1 is dropping the pelvis – which I believe throws the spine out of whack and influences the leaders connection to the legs and pelvis and has begun to change the embrace in many ways. And the other is the rotation of the legs in the pelvis – which sometimes causes more pelvic tilt anteriorly (which looks like sway back or sticking out the butt).

The body is a fascinating thing, isn’t it? These are just thoughts about the pelvis in dancing. Remember that we are all built differently and I think any dance form invites you to discover who you really are and to share that with the world.

Let me know if you have any discoveries and I’ll share mine when I return.

(Thanks to Gray’s Anatomy and Wikipedia for the image of the pelvis.)

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Ladies! Please stand up!

Why is your butt sticking out so far behind you? Have we decided to embrace the caricature of tango? Your lumbar spine is so curved that I have lower back pain for you. Are you being taught this way?

I have a really hard time believing that other female followers are teaching followers to stick their butts out, compromising their lumbar spines and thus the affect is that their bellies now hang over their own toes. If there is a loss of integrity in the core muscles, this posture compromises the spine and the knees and the ankles and ultimately, I believe, the connection.

So I am not asking that followers keep their stomach muscles tightened for an entire milonga! But I am asking that we take some time to remember that there are 2 of you in this beautiful dance and the only one responsible for you is you. Before you jump on me about lead and follow and what the roles in tango are, let us get back to this dynamic posture question.

Posture in tango is a dynamic entity. It is made up of the embrace, the followers’ commitment to a standing leg and a free leg, and her commitment to her partner and to moving/dancing. Within this dynamic posture, even before the 1st step, many things are happening. For example: Do I know my partner? Have we danced before? Is he distracting because he is handsome, smells good, looks like a good dancer and finally asked me? Is he smelly? Am I unsure about my decision to dance with him?

I think as a social dancer we must wipe the slate and focus on the task at hand – dancing and making a connection. And I realize that there isn’t always 1 way to problem solve if things aren’t feeling comfortable. BUT I do believe it is my responsibility (as it is the male or leader) to be the best follower I know how.

Here’s my personal checklist from all my years of dancing (not just tango). The checklist is a partial inventory of images I use to focus myself when dancing. It is heavily influenced by my training with Mindful Movement Master, Pam Matt and Tango Maestra, Graciela Gonzalez, who I am always grateful to for having helped me change my dancing and keep me growing in the dance. A word about the images – let the images do you! That’s all they are – images – so let your imagination enjoy them, your body will do the rest.

1. Zip up!
I picture zipping up an imaginary zipper from my pubic bone to sternum. Graciela speaks of 2 centers – 1 below the belly button and the other around the sternum and keeping them equidistant from each other.

2. Up the front and down the back!
Just following the zipper image in the front there is an equal image in the back. Allow the tailbone to lengthen to the floor, as if there was a little weight attached to it. This image has been effective for followers who complain about lower back pain. This image is not about tucking the pelvis; it is about working with your proper body to attain proper length in the muscles.

3. Bigger than you are!
Imagine yourself as being taller and wider than you are. Command your presence through your width and your height.

4. Fountaining!
I often invent new words when I am teaching; fountaining is 1 of them! Imagine that you have a fountain sprouting out of the top or crown of the head and it shoots over your partner’s head. If this image doesn’t work think about dropping your chin and elongating the back of your neck.

5. Encircle the embrace.
Imagine that you are a encircling your partner with the embrace. After all tango is circular!

I have seen much success with these images and I believe they need a class to further explain them and embrace the questions that arise from working with them. I hope that Followers in this dance feel supported and STAND UP for themselves in a graceful and elegant way.

For more information or advice on being a Follower contact me: daniela@accesstango.com
 

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Upcoming Workshops for August 2011!

I have set up some interesting workshops for August.

In designing the workshops I had a few goals in mind:  continue to promote tango, encourage the continued study of the dance form, focus on technique and challenge  9141522copythose dancers who have been dancing or studying for awhile!

In order to continue to promote tango we are offering a fun casual evening Introduction to Argentine Tango course which I have named: Date Night an Introduction to Argentine Tango. This will be a course for those wanting to check out the dance form, like dipping your toe into the pool before diving in. Rommel and I will be teaching some fundamentals of the Argentine Tango as a social dance.  You can bring a date or a friend or come solo. There will be a Free Raffle so tell your friends.

Friday August 19th and Friday August 26 for Date Night!
7:00pm – 9:00pm $15 per person or $25 per couple includes a free raffle and snacks.

After attending Date Night consider coming back for the BEGINNER’S WORKSHOP on Saturday, August 27 – 12:00pm – 2:00pm. This workshop will be a continuation from the Intro and will add more tools to your tango toolbox to practice.
$20 per person or $35 per couple

And for those who are no stranger to the dance we have a short 2 hour Momo Danielas shoes 2 4 2011FOLLOWER’S TECHNIQUE class. I know the struggles of the follower role in this dance so let’s build some tools and some understanding of how the beautiful body is to function on the dance floor with any lead. Class includes a warm-up and exercises for creating pretty feet and balanced posture.  Wear comfortable clothes and bring soft shoes, practice shoes or even socks. 

Saturday, August 20 – 2:00pm – 4:00pm for FOLLOWER’S TECHNIQUE
$20 per person

On Sunday, August 21st and Sunday August 28th Rommel and I will be sharing some fun ADVANCED COMBINATIONS for the Social Dance Floor from 12:00pm – 2:00pm.
$20 per person or $35 per couple per class

Pre-Registration is always appreciated – call 602-743-8560 or email: daniela@accesstango.com

In Summary – Workshops in August hosted by accesstango taught by Daniela Borgialli and Rommel Oramas

Friday, August 19 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm DATE NIGHT an Introduction to Argentine Tango. Including FREE Raffle
Saturday, August 20 – 2:00pm – 4:00pm FOLLOWER’S TECHNIQUE: Improve your dancing and get answers to those questions about balance, posture and clarify any unclear feedback that you have received.
Sunday, August 21 – 12:00pm – 2:00pm ADVANCED COMBINATIONS for the TANGO SALON with Rommel Oramas and Daniela Borgialli
Friday, August 26 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm DATE NIGHT an Introduction to Argentine Tango. Including FREE Raffle
Saturday, August 27 – 12:00pm – 2:00pm BEGINNER’S WORKSHOP
Sunday, August 28 – 12:00pm – 2:00pm ADVANCED COMBINATIONS for the TANGO SALON with Rommel Oramas and Daniela Borgialli

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