Tangovilla Wuppertal

Tangovilla Wuppertal

I think I have finally caught up on sleep. And in between have been enjoying the lush tangovilla flag green of my environs. I have been so well taken care of here at the Tangovilla by my hosts, Stefan and Ralph.

I met Stefan at a tango teacher training session a few years ago. We were paired together on the first day and even though he struggled with english I encouraged him to proceed confidently. That was the beginning of our friendship. When I told him that I wanted to come to Europe, he immediately invited me to his home, the Tangovilla.

I had the pleasure of teaching class to several of his students. He helped me now with the language and the classes were wonderful. I was so happy to hear that his students enjoyed them. I had been a little bit  worried about the cultural differences and cultural perceptions of Americans, or cultural expectations, but clearly this group trusted their teacher, Stefan and the students learned and had a good time. As you might have heard me say, “I have such good students” and even here, this applied!

I have been to a couple of milongas since I have been here and so far, I have to say, that they have similar problems to those we have at our milongas in the States. Can you guess? Lots of sitting women at the milongas! I do have to say that this area has a milonga every night and the numbers of dancers in attendance was great to see. I was told that many of the dancers were away for long weekends and yet, I saw the milongas as being well attended.

This weekend was a tango marathon and we stopped by to check it out. It reminded me of a hot and sweaty milonga in Buenos Aires in the middle of summer. It appears that even though the marathon brings in quite a few people, this isn’t enough to encourage the owners of the restaurant to use/fix/whatever, the air conditioning. WOW – that was 1 hot sweaty place. I did have the pleasure of dancing with the current, 2014 Champion of Tango Salon for Germany. He is Mexican, living in Hamburg!!!  We had a lovely tanda, thank you Alonso Alvarez! He will be off to the European Championship and then to Buenos Aires for the Mundial.

AND speaking of Mundials – this weekend begins the World Soccer Cup. There are flags hanging and bars advertising. Clearly Germany is getting ready! And so am I.

Keep dancing! You can find pictures on Facebook!


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Your Cultural Translator

Don’t look at me as just a teacher but as your personal cultural translator.

During my recent stay in Boston I took a workshop with a music anthropologist at ARTANGO in Brighton, MA, hosted by Fernanda Ghi y Guillermo Merlo (highly respected dancers and teachers, who are now based here). 60 students were in attendance and it was a mixture of lecture and movement workshop. I wanted to share some of my take-aways from the evening.

The style of tango dance will conform to the music. Or as I have interpreted it, that the dance is dictated by the music (like in other dance forms). I had heard this before and it was such an “a-ha”moment for me and my understanding of the dance that I was glad to hear it again. The idea is that these orchestras of the Golden Age, the 1940’s, each had their sound. So why would you dance the same way to each of them? You probably would have had your favorite orchestra (and maybe you do already) and you would have been expected to dance a certain way to that orchestra. For example, if the orchestra was more melodically driven or if it was more rhythmic (think Carlos Di Sarli vs Juan D’Arienzo) you would dance differently to them.  So as teachers teach what they know this is usually heavily influenced by the sound they prefer. I love Carlos Di Sarli and enjoy accentuating long steps. Someone who enjoys a Juan D’Arienzo will be more rhythmic and possibly more sharp in their steps. You will often hear me speak of the “flavor”of the sound, ie: is the sound like smooth vanilla ice cream or does it have chunky chips and nuts in it?

So the lecture I attended, focused on discussing several aspects of music but most specifically the melody. The idea that the melody and the singers in the orchestras will incite circular and round movement. This idea of circular movements, in general, slows the pace down versus linear movements that are on the main pulse or what we dancers refer to as the strong down beats or bass line. This strong metric pulse is what propels the body and is what teachers and beginner students tend to stress and dance to (usually).

However, “fluid motions can be destroyed by these strong accents” as these regular beats propel the dancers (to move at a predictable pace), the melodies allow dancers to go “deep inside the soul”and “incite reflection and nostalgia”.

In reflecting upon these ideas it was brought up that in order to be able to really allow for the music to enrapture you, we have to be vulnerable. And Argentine Tango is about vulnerability. And culturally, in the US, we avoid this. As we avoid eye contact and touching (for the most part) we do not like to be vulnerable, let alone with a stranger. And yet I am sure an aspect of this is what captivates so many of us to choose this dance.

And with this disconnect culturally, there is a need for “Cultural Ambassadors”or “Cultural Translators”. Someone who recognizes and understands the differences and can explain and build a bridge to create understanding.

Lots of food for thought, don’t you think?

Thanks to Dr. Alfred Minetti, and Fernanda y Guillermo for a great lecture.


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In the Beginning – A very good place to start

Rommel DancingBeing a newbie in anything can be scary. But just like with most things if you want to learn it, you will, and if you want to do it, you will.

Let’s talk about intention.
I find that if someone is trying something out for someone else than the journey will be very challenging. I sometimes meet a student who desperately wants to connect with their life partner, who happens to be obsessed with tango. Or in being a good partner and eager to please, the partner obliges. But rarely, rarely does this journey go as well as either partner expected.

Speaking of Expectations, they often have a lot to do with this, too.

Sometimes I find that a new student will say, “my partner does it, so how hard can this be?” I think, it is harder to learn with this attitude.

Learning anything new is a process.
And a process that takes time. And no one can determine how long that process will take. I do know that if you ethusiastically take 3 hours of tango class/week and practice 1 -2 hours in that same week that you will be able to navigate a dance floor and a decent embrace in 16 weeks. I see it all the time. BUT if this same student is not enthusiastic and trying to learn the same way you memorize vocabulary from flashcards, then, the point of tango is being missed.

As a trained teacher and dancer, I struggle with students who “want it now”. And well, I can easily give you a bunch of patterns that will make you look like you’re dancing NOW but I know that you will not be happy with the end results and neither will the partners you find on the dance floor.

So my advice is to 1)question your motives? Why do you want to learn this dance? and Do you have a demanding partner or time frame?
2) Ask around, find a teacher that works for you. There are plenty of teachers who claim to teach Argentine Tango, but I encourage you to take the time to question what they do, where they learned and from whom. What is their experience?
3) And finally, decide what you want to do. Do you want to socialize? And become a social dancer? Do you want to do competition? Would you rather learn a host of ballroom dances? Or what about performance or stage tango?

Answers to these questions will also help to shape your plan and make you a better informed student.

New Beginner classes starting in July.
Look forward to Date Nights and Beginner Bootcamps!


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Day 4 – THE FINALS – US Argentine Tango Competition 2014

This has been quite a journey, most definitely another adventure in my life. 4 years ago Rommel and I came to dance at the first US Tango Salon Competition in SF sanctioned by the Ministry of Culture of Buenos Aires. We did not train, we did not practice, I was not happy about it and definitely conflicted. I did not do my hair or wear anything extra ordinary, just black. There were maybe 20 or 25 couples. I think we came in 5th…. We then began to investigate further into this style, this genre. Each year I never thought I would do it again but Rommel kept his desire alive. He really wanted this journey and it turned out to be a great way to improve both of our dancing and both of our understanding of the dance form in a much deeper way. We took classes with many different teachers, all of whom we are most deeply thankful for their time and expertise, most influential being Maximiliano and Jesica who believed in us and pushed us in ways I did not think possible. But I wanted to also thank those teachers who worked with us in the last 4 years from the beginning of this journey: mi maestra, Graciela Gonzalez; Santiago Croce and Amy Lincoln; Los Totis Virginia y Christian Marquez; Brian Nguyen and Yuliana Basmajian; Andres Bravo y Carolina Jaurena; and Diego Ortega y Aldana for being so inspiring. There are also a handful of milongueros who we were honored to study with in Buenos Aires in 2012. I have been able to see how each of these teachers were perfect for us at the time. Each contributing to our foundation of relearning this dance.

I took my first Argentine Tango class as a proclaimed modern dancer and choreographer in 1998 and if then, you had told me I would be here now I would have probably laughed, there is no way I would have believed you.

Thank you Rommel Oramas for this tremendous journey and for these amazing experiences at the finals of the US Argentine Tango Salon Championships 2011 – 2014.
We came in 5th out of 16 couples in the finals. Here are the videos. AND YES, our many fans were astounded and shocked that we did not make the top 3. Several of the judges commented on how lovely our dancing was. We had a woman run up to us after and tell us how moved she was by our presence entering the floor and our dancing. Hey – maybe this is all about the fans and not about winning…. thanks everyone for your support!
(PS – same dress, same number #101, different hair and different earrings!!!)

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Day 3 – US Argentine Tango Semi-Finals

Day 3: the Semi-Finals. We were in round 3 and remained #101. We had 3 lovely songs to perform to by the following orchestras: Di Sarli, Troilo and Pugliese. There were 25 total couples that were pared down to 16 couples that will go to the finals tomorrow.

We made it! Keiko did my hair a little differently again tonight and I chose different earrings but kept the same blue dress. I think our dancing went well but could have been better. I was tired today. I am looking forward to a good night’s sleep and spending some time preparing again tomorrow.

Here are the videos of our songs and a short clip with the announcement of our moving on to the Finals tomorrow.

Hair by Keiko Day 3Keiko and Daniela Day 3With Jesica Arfenoni

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