A quote from Gavito

As I go into a session of teaching my Thursday nighters what I learned from Tete Rusconi a long time ago in Buenos Aires, I have been thinking about what I learned from Tete. He was an awful teacher, but a great dancer. I put up with direct insults on a weekly basis to learn from him, and learned tons. He didn't like the fact that I was leading in his class, but he respected me for sticking with it. Years later, when he saw me in Portland, he grinned from ear to ear, crossed the floor to say hello, and asked me to dance twice. That made up for a lot!

I wish I had given Gavito's teaching more of a chance and learned from him as well.  As a newbie tango dancer at a California dance festival, I walked out of a group lesson with him because of his treatment of the class. I knew he was famous, but felt frustrated as a teacher, that someone teaching me could be such a jerk. If I had gone to his classes in Buenos Aires, not expected him to be a good teacher, but understood I could learn to dance by watching him (as I did from Tete), perhaps I would have seen beyond the attitude, and would have more of his experience in my dance.

I saw him dance in the milongas in Buenos Aires a bit. Mostly, he sat with his friends and a drink, getting up to dance once in a while. I liked his intensity and the seriousness with which he took his tango, but I didn't get to know him at all.

My relationship with Gavito has been forged by a student who hasn't even been to Buenos Aires, and started dancing long after Gavito passed away. One day, he walked into his lesson and said, "I know who I want to dance like: Gavito!" and proceeded to inundate me with videos. We worked on Gavito's moves and styling in his lessons. One day, he dropped by my house and handed me a book. "Read it," he said, and left. It was Ricardo Plazaola's book, I Wanted To Dance: Carlos Gavito: Life, passion and tango.

It's a quick read. Mostly, it is a biography that wanders around Gavito's life, interspersed with interview quotes. Here is the one that struck me as a great followup to last week's blog posting:

You spend many years learning technique, learning to do everything well, everything perfectly...Many years...But afterwards, when you do everything perfectly, you have to become less perfect, you have to 'mess up' your style. You have to give it your own personal touch. That's when your tango becomes your own, the tango that you feel like a fist in your stomach. something that rips you from the inside that maes you cry...There are tangos that make me cry And for that. how long does it take? A year? Two? Ten? Many years. For some people it takes a lifetime. (p. 122)

What do you think?





Tango: practical vs. ideal (or, Why I teach Naughty Toddler)

One of my students felt frustrated when her dance partner returned after several months off. She practiced diligently during that time, and brought her dancing up to a good, solid level. However, she told me that, after dancing with me for a few months, she felt upset that her technique didn't feel as good with her partner, who is an intermediate leader. Why couldn't she dance as well as with me? Several other students have also commented that, "It's no use working on good technique when, on the dance floor, I never need it!"

So why do we work on having perfect technique? What about focusing on how to deal with dancing with real people, who do not dance perfectly?

Why work on ideal technique?

Yes, it's true that a "perfect" tanda only happens once every few years for me. Most of the time, I dance with beginner and intermediate students, who don't yet have the level of dance that would allow me to dance without effort. HOWEVER, when that unforgettable tanda happens, I want to have the chops to give back what I'm receiving from my partner. I work almost every day at my technique, after 20 years of tango, for those in-body experiences.

As your own technique gets better, you can maintain it under less-than-ideal circumstances. This gives you a better dance with someone than you would have with poor technique. I assume that, when I am dancing with a dancer at a lower level, one of my jobs is to my partner have a better dance experience. How? By dancing my absolute best technique. At Portland Tango Marathon, a long-time friend told me that I made him "look good" on the dance floor. Yes! That should be a given.

Why work on problem-solving, save-your-butt moves?

For me, I think a dancer needs to study both good technique and survival plans in order to dance well and to enjoy social dancing. I try to balance my classes so that we alternate working on ideal technique, flow/energy games, and what I call "Naughty Toddler," a game I made up while teaching at the University of Oregon about ten years ago.

Naughty Toddler is game where the dancers take turns NOT following and NOT leading. The partner needs to adjust in different ways to have a successful dance. This game is about getting out of your head, and into your natural body, letting your dance happen in spite of yourself; finding the flow of the dance.

I originally made up this game so that followers would give more energy to the leaders: how many of us have started tango dancing like robots, scared to do anything "wrong" that the leader didn't ask us to do? I have found that the game also helps leaders: it gives them real-life practice in dealing with unexpected situations. If you can survive Naughty Toddler, you can survive the dance floor!

The rules for naughty follower:

  • Don't follow!
  • Try to get your leader to run into other people/the wall/get flustered
  • Pretend you aren't dancing with someone else! Do your worst imitation of what you see on YouTube if you are out of ideas
  • Play!

What does the leader need to do?

  • Just like when working with a toddler, it's easier to cut off access to the forbidden space instead of saying no; don't wrestle, find a way to reduce the follower's momentum to zero, and re-take the lead.
  • Gentle hands: use your body position to block/redirect the follower. The hands for are preventing accidents if nothing else works.
  • Keep breathing and don't freak out: this is how it feels when you are a beginning lead all the time!!

The rules for naughty leader:

  • Don't lead!
  • Just dance around doing your own thing
  • It is still your job to navigate: make sure you don't run into anyone
  • Don't worry about whether the follower gets what you are doing

What does the follower need to do?

  • Hold onto the leader's shoulders
  • Stay in front of them
  • Don't worry about what foot to use, just stay upright

Naughty Leader helps followers get practice in how to stay on balance and dance as well as possible, even when there is no clear lead. It also helps leaders understand that they can allow themselves to NOT make a plan, and still have a dance.

Not everyone likes Naughty Toddler

If you are teacher, be aware that not everyone likes Naughty Toddler. Some of my elderly students sit down for the game, unless they have a trusted partner. It scares them because they are afraid of falling down. Another student refuses to play the game (although I hope she will eventually try it) because "it just doesn't do it for me" as a perfectionist: it pushes ALL of her buttons. She was shocked when I correctly guessed her motives for avoiding it. As a perfectionist myself, I know how useful this game has been for me as a dancer. Those who are very structured find the exercise emotionally uncomfortable. As a teacher, I am all about coaxing people out of their comfort zone into a stronger dance.

Bringing the ideal and practical together

The aim of working perfect technique and Naughty Toddler/energy games in tandem, is to create a vibrant, energized, joyous dance with good technique. Without energy, the dance is academic and cold. Without technique, it is lacking elegance and power. Put the two together, and ....you've got what I think tango ought to me.

Now go out there and dance!



A few more thoughts from "The Art of Learning"

I found a few more tidbits of information in The Art of Learning that are very useful for tango dancers, even though Josh Waitzkin is discussing chess and tai chi.


Subtle is good!

...players tend to get attached to fancy techniques and fail to recognize that subtle internalization and refinement is much more important than the quantity of what is learned. (The Art of Learning, 123)

If I could be paid for each time someone complains to me, "But this is subtle," I would be rich! Tango IS subtle, with a deep body awareness needed to achieve mastery. Dancing on Monday night, I found a zone where I was aware of how all of my muscles and my frame fit together, and I could feel the interplay of muscles, of my balance, of my partner's musicality, on a deeper level than usual. I have come to enjoy little, tiny elements of the dance; the subtlety of tango.


Waiting: finding the white space in the poetry that is tango

Not only do we have to be good at waiting, we have to love it. Because waiting is not waiting, it is life. (The Art of Learning, 186-7)

This is what tango is about: finding the pauses, enjoying the waiting, being in the zone in quiet moments. If you try to live for the exciting moments only, for the big, flashy moves, you have missed the heart of tango. In the waiting, you find yourself and your partner.


Create a routine to make dancing less stressful

To have success in crunch time, you need to integrate certain healthy patterns into your day-to-day life so that they are completely natural to you when the pressure is on. (The Art of Learning, 187)

Although there is no one quote about this that works for tango, I really like Waitzkin's creation of a routine that helps focus, calm and prepare a person for something stressful. A LOT of people tell me that they find going out dancing so stressful and anxiety-provoking that they prefer to just come to lessons and dance with me! Now, while that is flattering on one hand, it means that they are working really hard and not getting to play with tango.

If going dancing brings out all of your negative self-talk ("I can't dance; maybe I should just quit!") or your fear of not having a good time ("No good dancers are going to notice me, and I will probably just have a bad evening!") or trigger pet peeves ("I hate it when people keep dancing with bad floorcraft! Why are they getting in my way and ruining my evening?"), then you are setting yourself up to have a negative experience. Dancing should be fun! Socializing should be fun! Dancing should feed your life, not suck it dry.

What calms you down? Build a routine of a few short activities that you enjoy, and help set yourself up to succeed and enjoy the evening. Here's what I like to do:

  1. Shower.
  2. Pick out a nice outfit.
  3. Do 15 minutes of stretching.
  4. Spin or knit for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Go dancing.

Make a routine out of things you already like to do, and the positive feelings you have about those activities, will transfer to the dancing.

Build a short-cut relaxation routine

After you have developed a good routine that helps you prepare for dancing, you can make a shorter version to work for times when you don't have an hour or more to prepare to dance. What if a friend calls and says, "Hey! I'm going to the milonga in twenty minutes! Let's go!" Do you want to refuse because you need an hour to kick into gear?

Think about gradually shortening your routine so that is still relaxes and prepares you, but only takes a few minutes. This is also helpful for those nights when you start to lose your cool part of the way through the milonga: a difficult partner, a bad collision, or just seeing someone you don't want to see across the floor. Maybe going out of the room, doing a stretch, rinsing your face, and getting a drink of water will clear your mind; but only if you have developed a short-hand version that you know works. Part of the reason it is effective, is that you have practiced it, and wired your body to relax when you go through your ritual.

Once a simple inhalation can trigger a state of tremendous alertness, our moment-to-moment awareness becomes blissful, like that of someone half-blind who puts on glasses for the first time. We see more as we walk down the street. The everyday becomes exquisitely beautiful. The motion of boredom becomes alien and absurd as we naturally soak in the lovely subtleties of the 'banal'. (The Art of Learning, 197)


An aside from me

This is not from the book, but from a therapist who specializes in treating anxiety. If you are stressed out about dancing tango, go dancing. If you are nervous or anxious, avoiding going will simply cause more anxiety. Just go. If you show up, sit down, change your shoes and chat with people at your table, you have succeeded in getting to the milonga! Dance one or two tandas before fleeing. Next week, stay one more tanda. Add a tanda a week. As you meet more people, you will have more folks to dance with you, and you will feel more at home. Pick a table and sit at the same place each week. Become part of the community, and feel how that helps you feel less nervous about the dancing! And listen to the tiny moments that create joy.

Las Naifas Matinee Milonga

Luisa Zini and I would like to invite you to our monthly event: Las Naifas Matinee Milonga. We have talked about having a milonga together for a long time. We both love the atmosphere of milongas in Buenos Aires, where you can get a glass of wine, a snack, chat with your friends, AND dance. We wanted to recreate that atmosphere here in Portland.

Las Naifas started last month. About 70 people filled the space. It felt more like a party than anything else: people circulated, chatted, laughed, ate snacks--and danced. Jerry Wallach kept the music coming, and the dance floor never cleared. In fact, we ran almost a half hour late because no one wanted to go home!

I teach the beginner's lesson, and I call it "survival tango" class. In 45 minutes, we work on how to move with good energy, avoid collisions with other dancers in the space, get connected with a partner, and let your body move. I make sure everyone knows the basic rules for a milonga: how to enter the dance space safely, how to ask for dances, how long you dance with one person, etc. It was great to see completely new dancers come for the 5:30 PM lesson and stay and DANCE! Even at 9 PM, they were still there, on the dance floor.

I invite YOU to join us Friday, March 27th at 5:30 PM for the lesson at the Treasury Ballroom, 326 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205 (downstairs in the U.S. Bank building). The snacks and drinks are catered by F & B Catering, and were FABULOUS last month. Join us on Facebook for the last minute details or to find out more about this wonderful community of people. Bring your friends and meet new friends!



El escondido: our folk dance finale!

Sole Avila was in charge for this last dance, as I have only danced it a few times. What a fabulous job she did! Thank you, Sole, for sharing your expertise with us and your dances! This whole series of lessons would have never happened if you had not come to my October chacarera class and asked, "When is the next one?"

Dance Chart

As usual, the chart makes more sense after learning the dance :-)

Dance videos

Video one: a nice performance, with the escondido starting at about 3:30.

Video two: a bit fancier footwork for you men.

Video three: a classic escondido tune and nice video, even though you can't see their feet all the time. I like it that they are having so much fun!

Video four: nice and clear, with no one in the way!


Music for dancing


Los Manseros Santiagueños- El Escondido

Escondido del amanecer - Los hermanos Toledo

Peteco Carabajal - Escondido en la alabanza starts at 39:48: If you look below the video part, each song on the album can be reached via the clickable list. VERY useful! Plus, I really love his music.

Escondido - Que siga el baile is accompanied by a very cute video of kids dancing.




Zamba is the most complex dance that we tackled. Somehow, its timing is a lot harder than chacarera, chamame and escondido. Also, Sole and I were taught different variants of this dance, so it has been hard for us to teach "one" way to do it :-)

When you add that both of us learned to dance it to the music, changing directions when the music said to do so, you can see how hard it was for both of us to learn to count it for the rest of you! Also, if you go online, you will find SO many different ways to teach it/dance it, that in the end, we are trying to teach all of you to hear the music and dance the way we learned. We know this is driving those of you who like to have a concrete plan, totally crazy. We continue to try to figure out an easier way to count.

Dance chart


Dance videos

Video one: an older couple with a very dignified, pretty zamba

Video two: my tango teachers dancing a zamba. Oscar was a national malambo champion, so his folk dancing is really something!

Video three: I love this song!! It is Los Manseros Santiagueños playing El Amoroso


Music for dancing zamba

  • Al jardín de la república (this video is the magical Mercedes Sosa, but we danced to Los Fronterizos)
  •  Paisajes de Catamarca (Los Chalchaleros)
  • Viene Clareando (Los Chalchaleros)--OK, OK, I like the Chalchaleros!
  • Perfume de Carnaval (Peteco Carabajal and others)
  • Pongale por las hileras (Los Travadores de Cuyo)--video
  • El Amoroso (Los Manseros Santiagueños)
  •  Zamba para no morir (Hernán Figueroa Reyes)

  • Cartas de amor que se queman--cute video

  • La añera (the legendary Atahualpa Yupanqui)

And, again, I will add Sole's favorites later on.

Tango mindfulness III: games for exploration, contd.

More games and exercises to tune into tango

Last post, I detailed the games that I use to teach how to tune into your own body and to your partner. In tango, we also need to tune into the whole group of people dancing for maximum enjoyment, as well as to the space and the music.

Tuning into the whole group

One of the things I remember from when I was doing my fieldwork in Buenos Aires for my thesis, was the description one older man gave me of dancing "in the old times" (pre-1990s). He said that there used to be very few crashes on the dance floor. If you watched the dancers, everyone seemed to be in the same flow, dancing together. He added that he didn't see that happening anymore, as new dancers were too focused on themselves.

I was struck by what he said, and constructed some exercises aimed at improving the awareness of the group and of the space around the dancers.

1. Blindfold tango: Just as you can feel that you are near someone or something when you have your eyes closed, you can tune into the group dancing without using your eyes. BOTH dancers in each couple close their eyes or are blindfolded. Using the breathing exercises we worked on before, the couple tunes into each other, and then starts to dance around the room in SLOW MOTION with very soft bodies so that if they collide with another couple, no one will get injured. The point of this exercise is to get both leaders and followers tuned into all the people in the room and the space in the room.

2. Solo-couple: I use this drill more than any other drill, as it helps develop navigation skills as well as tuning-in skills. When I call "Solo!" everyone walks around the room, to the music. I encourage people to walk the "wrong" direction, through the middle of the group, etc., to mix up the dancers. When I call "Couple!" everyone grabs the nearest person, and starts dancing WITHOUT pausing (grab & go). When the movement gets caught or clogged behind someone, I yell "Solo!" again and we repeat.


Tuning into the space

When I dance in a new space, I really pay attention to the shape of the space and how it affects the dancers. For example, El Beso in Buenos Aires is famous for that awful pillar that creates a traffic jam each time you go around the floor. Folks who are used to dancing there usually manage the space, but visitors take awhile to adjust their dance. Here in Portland, there are several spaces used for practicas and milongas with pillars that make dance flow problematic. In other spaces, the tables are set up in such a way as to intrude on the dance space; while other spaces feel easy to navigate.

Although space management is not just a beginner problem, I use this exercise mostly with beginners and intermediates. I recently used it in my advanced class for the first time, and saw a marked improvement in the quality of dance in a small space, so I will probably use it more in the future.

1. Full space: First, I let everyone dance using the whole room. When we are learning new moves, this is how I usually use the space, so everyone knows how big the room is.

2. 1/2 room: Then, I divide the room with furniture or a human wall, and make everyone do "solo-couple" in this new space.

3. 1/4 room: Gradually, I move the "wall" to create smaller and smaller spaces, each time doing "solo-couple" at least once so that all the dancers adjust to the amount of space they have. I stop squeezing the dance space when people start freaking out (not breathing, tightening their bodies, etc.) unless we are near a festival time, when I use this to accustom the dancers to how it will feeling dancing at the festival.


Tuning into the music

For dancers who grew up with rock 'n roll (or more modern versions of North American music), playing with tango music can seem confusing. Several of my students tell me that dancing milonga and vals are easier because they encourage simply dancing to the beat.

However, in order to fully explore tango music, the dancer needs to listen to more than just the beat of the music. Here are some exercises that I have designed to play with the music and get more out of a tanda.

1. Speed drill: sloooooow, pauses, half-time, regular (tiempo), fast (contratiempo)

Most dancers like one or two speeds of movement, but tango can have many different flavors within the dance. By practicing all of the possibilities, dancers can add a flavor or two to their movement, making their dance musically richer (BTW, I do NOT suggest doing this academically while dancing to be "interesting" but rather a way to access deeper listening skills to the partner and the music).

In class, we practice each way of moving to the music, one at a time, before combing them:

  • Almost all dancers can find the tiempo, or regular beat. Those who cannot, can often cheat off of the nearby dancers visually, and more or less move to the rhythm of the dance.
  • Dancing contratiempo, using syncopation, takes a bit more work. While most dancers can understand the concept of dividing the regular beat into two (or in vals, three) parts, many dancers struggle to remain elegant while dancing faster.
  • Many tangos of the rhythmic era function well when danced using just these two ideas. Indeed, this is how most of my students prefer to dance, avoiding the pitfalls of the pausa (pause) :-)
  • Alternating moving and pausing (half-time), or incorporating pauses into the dance, provides a challenge for many dancers. Foremost, if you are not dancing on-balance, pausing is very difficult. Also there is the question of "how long do I pause here?" for folks who don't hear phrasing in the music easily.
  • Adding pauses into the dance, and emphasizing them in the romantic tango music, really brings out a richness that is lost without those pauses.
  • Slow-motion dancing does not fit all tango music, but I like using it when the music is dramatic, or the melody line is slow and drawn-out. I encourage slow-motion dancing as a way to experience the widest range of possibilities for expression in the dance.

2. What's your favorite flavor?

Identify your favorite speed to use for dancing tango, and gradually add more layers of timing. Most dancers understand that more choices means richer dancing, but need some help identifying what they are using, and what could be added.

3. Repeat, repeat, repeat: same music three times:

We danced best when we love the tango (or the vals or the milonga) that we are dancing. Finding the soul of a particular tune can be easy or difficult, depending on our level of natural musicality and/or our level of musical training.

First, we listen to the song while NOT dancing. Then, we listen to the song while dancing solo (What adorno would I do? When? Where are the pauses? Where are the "fast" parts--if there are fast parts? Does this song make me dance slo-mo? etc.). Last, we dance the same song, but with a partner.

Three times through won't make that song yours, but it's a good start!

4. Find the adornos and pauses

What I do to work on my own adornos, is to put a song on and dance around my living room, practicing my adornos, and seeing what occurs to my body for each song. I try not to make any plan, but simply practice using adornos to a particular piece of music.

In a class, I have the entire class, men and women, dance around solo, interacting with the other dancers by playing with adornos (and not talking!). Then we dance again, trying to play more, cut loose, and improvise.

Tango mindfulness II: games for exploration

Teaching mindfulness in tango

First, let's get our definitions straight: mind·ful·ness (mīndfəlnəs/) noun, 1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

Over the years, I have developed a lot of games and exercises aimed at becoming aware of your own body, your partner's body, your surroundings, and the music. Some I have stolen from teachers; others I have created from a mixture of ideas from various people; and some have popped, fully formed into my head. I use one to three of the drills in a lesson, eventually covering all of them. Each group of students has slightly different needs, so I choose the activities that are most needed by that particular group of students. Here are short descriptions of each one.

Tuning into your body

1. Breath: With eyes closed, standing still on both feet, breathe slowly in and out 3-4 times, focusing on how the lungs and ribs expand and contract. Variation: while breathing, stretch arms out and up on intake; arms out and down on exhale, to encourage movement in the ribcage.

2. Energy: With eyes closed, stand on both feet. When you breathe in, imagine drawing the breath up out of the ground, through all four corners of the feet, up your legs, up your torso, and into your lungs. Exhale reversing the path, and imagine using your exhale to push a magnet away from under your feet/the floor.

3. Axis: Visualize how your body is stacked up, from the feet up. Depending on what we are working on, I will either work through the entire exercise, or just focus on one or two of these points, drawing a figure on the whiteboard for the visual learners to focus on:

  • arch of the foot is the base; 50-50 weight on ball of foot and heel
  • knees are soft, micro-bent (unlocked but not low); a bit forward of feet
  • hips are back compared to feet, using the hip joint to tip to a good angle for balance
  • pelvic floor lifts torso on top of legs, to stack pelvis over arches
  • back is in natural curves, long and stretchy
  • deep abdominal muscles have tone, allowing for fuller breaths
  • ribcage is balanced over hips, a bit further forward to counterbalance
  • head is floating, balanced over arches of feet


Tuning into your partner

1. Force fields: I always work on breath and axis solo before doing this exercise, as it takes the solo body and tunes it into the partnership:

  • Facing your partner, stand so that you are in each other's personal space, but not touching.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Breathe, pulling the breath up from the soles of your feet into your lungs, and exhaling back down through your feet (or up through the top of your head)
  • Imagine your favorite color, and as you exhale, send laser beams of that color straight out your feet, THROUGH your partner and to the opposite wall.
  • [Give time for 3-4 breaths before going to next body part]
  • Each time a new body part is added, make a longer rectangle of energy that goes through your partner, to the other wall:
  1. knees
  2. hips
  3. belly button (makes people laugh and breathe)
  4. pelvis
  5. solar plexus
  6. ribcage
  7. collar bones
  8. shoulder blades
  9. full body
  • Now, move in slowly until you are touching the front of your partner, and get into the embrace.
  • Breathe together.
  • On each exhale, step side.
  • On each inhale, find your balance.

2. Breathing together/Darth Vader breathing: I designed this exercise when I taught at the University of Oregon. The students had a lot of fun playing it ("Luke, use the boleo, hooooooo") but older adults will also play it. The point of the drill is to have the partners breathe audibly and at the same time, matching their breath. I prefer to do this in practice hold, as it is a bit too weird even for me to have someone do this right in my ear.

3. Slow motion: Slow motion dancing is difficult because it requires good balance and breathing, but dancing with your partner in slow motion is an exercise in helping each other breathe and balance, and helps the couple tune into each other. At first, I need to remind everyone to slow down every 20-30 seconds, but eventually, the whole group starts to dance slowly, experimenting with whatever moves they know at their level.


And there's more!

Next week, I'll go over how to tune into the group, the space and the music for even more tuned-in, mindful tango!



Building stronger technique in the tango community (teaching to the weak spots)

Trying new things as a teacher

I have taught Argentine tango since 1996, and taught in Portland, Oregon since 2008. During that time, I have addressed many issues that arose in my community's dance technique. Each time I have focused on something that seems lacking in our dance, that weak spot has either disappeared, or at the very least, started to improve.

I began to teach my Body Dynamics class two years ago.  I realized that we needed to focus more on technique, and less on combinations, if we wanted to have a better level of dancing in Portland. With stretching and drills--instead of combinations--that class has helped my students arrive at a higher level of dance, faster than their peers, no matter what level of my other classes they attend.

I have hesitated to expand my new style of teaching into my other classes because I was afraid that folks would say, "But that's not how a tango class is supposed to be!" However, I cannot ignore how much faster the Body Dynamics students improve. Even if this is not the "traditional" way to teach tango, I need to push my comfort envelope as a teacher, and apply what I've learned the past few years to my classes.

I find it difficult to find enough time to revamp all of my lesson plans! Somehow, teaching 25 hours a week and being a mom of a child who needs an alternative school, medical visits, occupational therapy, a personal trainer for social skills, etc. does not leave a lot of time to plan. However, my new session that is starting this week (and early next week for my more advanced classes) will be a bit different.


The plan

What is changing:

  • a bit of stretching and focusing on the body in each class, not just in Body Dynamics
  • a small chunk of drills for each class, so that the combinations work better
  • more focus on musicality: THIS is our community's weak spot at the present
  • finding more energy in each step of the dance/combination by using the body correctly
  • improving connection between partners, so that each part of the dance feels better
  • dancing more vals and milonga in my classes; we need more practice in these dances
  • working on making space for adornos and pauses in the dance; more dialogue between partners

I am practicing each day myself, and reviewing videos of my personal lessons from Oscar and Georgina. If my students see how hard I am working, I think they will feel empowered to work hard, too. After all, with Argentine tango, you will never get bored, because you can never dance perfectly: there is always more you can learn/practice/do in the dance. For me, that is why I am still doing this dance.


Class descriptions

Top Ten Tango Moves (Fundamentals)

I don't have a dedicated "beginner" tango class because we ALL need to work on our tango fundamentals. My class usually has some complete beginners, as well as intermediates reviewing, and folks learning "the other role" who already are advanced at leading or following. Class is at the Om (14 NE 10th in Portland) on Thursdays at 7 PM.

This class covers (depending on the level of the folks who show up):

  • basic anatomy info for dancing tango
  • easy warmup exercises to make learning work better
  • walking
  • walking to the cross in parallel and crossed systems
  • walk variants for more/less space
  • 1-3 versions of ocho cortado (linear, lateral, circular)
  • front ochos
  • back ochos
  • turns to the right and left
  • basic paradas
  • tango, vals and milonga musicality basics
  • axis, posture, balance
  • using "the marca" (chest, arm, hand) to lead clearly
  • adornos and pausas for the follower to play
  • navigation and dancing in small spaces, right from the beginning
  • cultural info (tandas, cabeceo practice, etc.) to help navigate going out dancing


Next 10 Tango Moves

This class is aimed at intermediate dancers, and is more fluid in content.  Most people who take it have danced at least six months, up to about three years. However, some folks have danced for many years, but like to take a class Thursdays before the milonga that is a block away. Class is at the Om (14 NE 10th, Portland) at 8 PM on Thursdays.

The plan for the next few months:

  • warming up the body quickly to improve dancing
  • improving mental focus for the dance and for learning
  • Romantic tango musicality and moves
  • vals focus (we did milonga last year, but not vals)
  • turns: new entrances and exits
  • calesitas
  • boleos
  • pauses and adornos to make the dance more dramatic/express the music better
  • front & back ochos (and new variants)
  • basic quebradas & enrosques for turns and deep ochos
  • pivot and turn work for followers
  • understanding syncopation better, and using it :-)
  • creating your own combinations from what you know: personalizing your tango


Take It To The Next Level (advanced, minimum 2+ years dancing)

My advanced class is a one-room schoolhouse, with dancers who have done Argentine tango for anywhere between two and ten years. Many of them have come to me from other styles of tango, and are re-learning/polishing/adjusting their dance, as well as moving up to an advanced level. This class has an extremely varied range of topics during the course of the year. Luckily, many people take Body Dynamics for the hour before class, so many are already warmed up by the time class starts (Mondays at 8 PM at the Om, 14 NE 10th in Portland).

Most of what I teach in my advanced class comes out of Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas' repertoire, as they have been my main teachers since 2000. However, I also draw on Chicho Frumboli's teacher training classes for tango; Omar Vega's milonga traspie classes; and Tete Rusconi's vals classes, all of which I took in Buenos Aires over the years.

For the next chunk of time, here is the plan:

  • light warmup, using the music for the day (different orchestras, different moods)
  • musicality: vals, milonga and tango (romantic and rhythmic styles), and different "flavors" of tango
  • leading technique: working on using "the marca" well, in order to have a broader range of material that works
  • following technique: adornos, deep pivots for turns, boleos, etc., fabulous turns, you name it!
  • exploring personal style: using the moves we work on to put together your own combinations, rather than just getting out on the dance floor and copying what I taught that week
  • a new combination every week that focuses on the theme of the six-week session (I have a chunk of turns from Oscar and Georgina with quebradas, enrosques, lapices for the leaders; combos with pauses and adorno space for the followers; gorgeous moves for vals and tango; and probably playing with volcadas, although that may be in the New Year, depending on how fast we get through material...
  • putting more sensuous, dynamic energy into the dance, so that EVERY step rocks: moving like a panther, like a lion
  • more input from students about what topics we cover, as this is more of a master class with folks working on different aspects of a move, depending on level


Body Dynamics

Body Dynamics is not changing: this class is designed the way I would like to have ALL of my tango levels! Class is Mondays at 7 PM at the Om, 14 NE 10th in Portland.  Here is the current setup:

  • 20 minutes of stretching
  • 20 minutes of basic drills for balance, posture, pivoting, energy
  • 20 minutes of targeted work on specific moves that will be used in my intermediate and advanced classes during the six-week session
  • lots of peer coaching and working one-on-one, but not in designated lead-follow couples, so women get to know the other women and men get to know the other men: community-building!
  • mix of traditional and alternative music

Hope to see some of you there!




Om Studio tango class schedule

I teach all my group classes at the Om Studio, 14 NE 10th Ave. (between Burnside and Couch). Here's what's going on:

Body Dynamics (7 PM Mondays, mostly intermediates and advanced dancers)

Body Dynamics is a class that trains the body for Argentine Tango. We spend about twenty minutes doing tango-specific stretches for the body to warm up and gain flexibility. Then, we spend about twenty minutes on drills and exercises that strengthen the body and prepare for dancing with a partner. Usually, we work on walk, turn and pivot technique, and then move into drills for the movements I am teaching that week in my 8 PM Monday and 8 PM Thursday classes. After that, we work in pairs (sometimes leader-follower, sometimes not) to use the skills we've been learning.

Dress to stretch and lie on the floor! Please bring socks AND your dance shoes. Although most of the dancers in the class are intermediate and advanced students, there are always beginners taking the class who want to start tango with the best technique possible.


Take it to the next level (8 PM Mondays, advanced only)

My advanced class learns a challenging combination each week. We focus on connecting steps, making smooth transitions, dancing musically, and polishing each piece of the combination so that it looks better and feels better for the couple. This class encourages using the class material to improvise and find new vocabulary or combinations for social dancing. Most of the material I teach is from my teachers Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas, with my other teachers' work surfacing from time to time.

No partner necessary. I expect that participants already have a knowledge of the vocabulary of tango, in order to gain the most benefit from the class. I suggest three years of experience in general, but many of my students are ready for this class in 1.5-2 years of dancing.


Top 10 Tango Moves (7 PM Thursdays, beginners and intermediates)

Most of us have had a teacher who tells us that most dancers in Buenos Aires have only a few moves, but they do them VERY well. This class is designed to do just that: examine in deep detail ten moves that I think all tango dancers should know how to do well. Although the content shifts as I work on meeting the needs of my current group of students, this class usually covers:

  • walking Buenos Aires style (caminata, circulo, etc.)
  • right and left turns
  • walking to the cross in parallel and crossed systems
  • lateral ocho cortado
  • circular ocho cortado
  • traveling turns
  • 180-degree turns (walking turns)
  • forward ochos
  • traveling back ochos
  • pausas and adornos
  • the embrace, energy and connection
  • introduction to milonga, tango and tango vals music
  • cultural information and tango vocabulary to make dancing tango easier

I teach this class as a mix of beginners and intermediates because it helps the beginners learn faster, and challenges the intermediates to REALLY get the material down in order to dance well with anyone. Most people take this at least twice before moving on to the Next 10 class.


Next 10 Tango Moves (8 PM Thursdays, intermediates and advanced intermediates)

The Next 10 Tango Moves class takes students who are moving on from the Next 10 class, and introduces them to new material each week. I cycle through the year, so that very little material is repeated more than once; many people take this class for a year or more before tackling the Monday night advanced class.

At least once a year, I offer a milonga class for one ten-week session. At least once a year, I offer a tango vals class. For the rest of the sessions, we tackle tango vocabulary:

  • sacadas
  • paradas & pasadas
  • ganchos
  • boleos
  • drags
  • leg wraps
  • turn variations
  • enrosques, quebradas and other fancy leader moves
  • adornos and other follower technique to make the dance look/feel good
  • using crossed system
  • playing with the "outside partner" moves of tango
  • traspie variations
  • musicality, energy and connection
  • etc.

There is a level for everyone at the Om! Also, I teach private lessons for those who would like to work in more detail, learn material faster(or slower!), or who would like to work intensively with one specific partner. Many of my students take both private and group lessons.

Sessions are six weeks long and cost $60 (or $90 for both classes). Drop in rates are $12/class for all classes. Come try it out!

Beginner's Mind Practica (6 PM Thursdays)

Practicing is not only for beginners: it is important to continue practicing at all levels, in order to constantly improve. The Beginner's Mind practica was started to create a friendly, helpful space for beginners to get out and dance socially, before heading out to milongas. However, many regulars are intermediate and advanced intermediate dancers. The rule is: no feedback unless the person wants it. That's the only rule. When someone new comes, I make it a point to introduce them to the regulars, who dance with the new folks. Every few songs, I steal the new person and introduce them to someone new. This is a friendly group who will dance with any level of dancer: we are community builders! We WANT you to start/keep dancing tango! After a few weeks, most dancers feel comfortable enough for me to stop helping them get partners. I am available to answer questions and help throughout the practica. Cost: by donation.

New Monday class sessions start April 9th at the Om

Body Dynamics, 7 PM Mondays

Body Dynamics is my hardcore tango technique class. We do stretches that I learned from Georgina Vargas that are specific to tango. Then, we do drills to improve footwork, balance, pivoting, contrabody use, adornos, etc. After that, we work on a particular step, picking it apart and finding all the pertinent details--and then we work some more! The first session I offered this class, it was almost completely female in attendance, but last week, we reached a new record: more men than women! After all, everyone wants to dance a dynamic tango, don't they?

The most rewarding part of teaching this class, is to see my students rapidly improve in both flexibility and technique. One student told me that he had recently danced for two hours without pain. Before taking the class for the past five weeks, he had considered stopping dancing because of pain levels. Another student told me that, suddenly, much more advanced dancers have been inviting her to dance. Another student, on his second six-week session, is now able to do almost all the stretches without modifications; he no longer needs to sit on pillows to make up for lack of hamstring stretch. Each week, I look around and feel amazed at the quick progress I see around me.

Why am I teaching a tango class where people lie on the floor and stretch? When I went to Buenos Aires in November, Georgina Vargas convinced me to try her stretches. I was skeptical, and I wanted to get on with my tango lessons, but I have found that Georgina's ideas are usually right, so I got down to work. On the nights that I stretched before dancing, I had about 1.5 hours more of good technique out on the dance floor, compared to the nights I didn't stretch. That was too much of a different to ignore; as usual, Georgie was right! When I stretched before my private lesson, I got a lot more work done in less time because my body was ready for it. I decided to teach her stretches and drills in a separate class, incorporating my anatomy studies and other dance training in as well.

Topics for the next session

This next session, we will work on dancing at various speeds, as well as dancing different sizes of steps. Milonga requires you to move very efficiently in small spaces, with very little time to make those steps look elegant. How you you ornament in milonga? How do you dance well in small steps, without losing your style? Come find out.

I often find that by studying opposites, we arrive at a better understanding of both things. Therefore, the other focus this session will be on taking BIG steps. How do you dance in close embrace (or open) in a lithe, sensual, elastic manner? Training your body to dance well with big steps also allows you to have better technique with regular steps, while encouraging your to develop better muscular strength and control.

I promise, promise, promise that we will include adornos, large and small; for leaders and followers. This past session, I had hoped to get to them, but all the great work we did on off- and on-axis moves/preparation took up all the time.

Om Movement Studio is located at 14 NE 10th Ave., between Burnside and Couch. It is one block from Norse Hall, and right off the bus line. There is limited bike parking. Class is $60/6 weeks, or $12 drop in. If taken in conjunction with the 8 PM Advanced class, the price is both classes for $90.


Take it to the next level: Advanced class at 8 PM

I started this class in order to share the technique of Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas with the Portland community, but it has expanded to include other bits of technique I've studied as well since 1995 when I started dancing tango.

After you've danced tango for a while, you are ready to really dig in and deepen your understanding of the dance. You want all that hard work to show in an elastic, powerful, panther-like way. In this class, I encourage you to bite off chunks of new vocabulary, new technique, new ways of moving--and meld it into your own style. I hope that, when class is over, each week you will have something new to take to the dance floor with you; something that makes your dance have an edge.

The main focus definitely is body-based technique. My motto is, "No pain, no pain." Tango is not supposed to be painful! The technique I teach works on finding balance and movement efficiently, so that energy is available for moving dynamically. Feet shouldn't hurt; backs should not feel tight; the body should feel balanced and supple to dance your best. There are many styles of tango, but I have chosen the one that I believe is best for the body AND the most elegant because of that.

Topics for this session

This past session, we have worked on shared-axis turns, colgadas and volcadas. Although we will come back to that work, this next session will have a different focus: advanced work in milonga and vals. I have been teaching milonga and vals classes in my lower-level classes, but it's been a while since we've tackled them in the advanced class.

Each week, we'll work on a combination that challenges technique and musicality; we will make sure we can do it in the line-of-dance, and then we'll pick it apart and modify it with each dancer's own dance vocabulary and style. In other words, I'd like everyone to walk out of this class with a better understanding of both dances, but with their own way of dancing.

This class will build on the technique work of the 7 PM class, and I urge you to consider taking both classes to get the most out of your own technique. However, it is not a prerequisite, and I know some of you are adverse to stretching :-)

Class is $60/6 weeks, or $90/both 7 and 8 PM classes. Drop in is $12/class. Om Movement Studio is located at 14 NE 10th Ave., between Burnside and Couch. It is one block from Norse Hall, and right off the bus line. There is limited bike parking.



New Monday night sessions start 2/27


Both the Body Dynamics class and the Advanced class start new sessions the Monday after Valentango. There is NO CLASS 2/20: we are all too tired to learn after a festival :-)

7 PM: Body Dynamics

This class focuses on learning stellar technique to add more ENERGY and feeling into your dance. My style is body-based, working towards efficient use of the core to reduce wear and tear on the rest of the body. In each session, we look at how the body is built to move, and then work on using it the right way in tango.

This session, we will be preparing the body to move off-axis for colgadas, volcadas, etc. We will focus on using the core, the stretch of the body and leg strength (protecting the back), and also on freeing up a leg to combine boleos, etc., with these moves.

Also, we will work on being able to dance beautifully in small spaces.  Dancing small is hard to do with power and energy, but it is possible!

Designed for intermediate and advanced dancers, or beginners with dance background.

8 PM: Advanced class

Come challenge yourself!  Make your dance flow better; add sensuousness, balance, connection, musicality, adornos--take it to the next level! 

This session, the advanced class will focus on appropriate-for-the-social-dance-floor colgadas, volcadas, single axis turns, and playing with the axis. Each week, we will do a new combination, concentrating on dynamics, musicality and connection.

For dancers with at least three years tango experience, or instructor's permission. No partner necessary. You may work with a partner you bring to class, or trade partners.

$60/6 week session for one class. Special: sign up for both for $90! Drop in is $12/class.

Monday night class announcement

I am offering a new class, starting Monday, January 9th. The class will focus on learning stellar technique to add more ENERGY and feeling into your dance. A lot of us are looking for a way to take our dance up a notch so that we enjoy it more, and I have designed this class to help you achieve that goal. Although a lot of the material I bring to the class comes from my teachers, Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas, you can apply it to any style of tango and get more pizzazz.

This session, we are working on anything that turns or pivots, for both leader and follower technique. Make your turns purr, your boleos sizzle, and your pivots snap, followers! Leaders: get those hips in gear for enrosques, quebradas, preparations for drags and sacadas, etc. Designed for intermediate and advanced dancers, or beginners with dance background.

Bring clothes that allow you to move, stretch on the floor, etc. We will do a quick warmup at the beginning of class, move on to drills and exercises, and end with putting it into the dance. You may bring a partner and work only with them, or come and switch around, switch roles, whatever works for you.

Class starts 1/9. 6 week session for $60, or $12 drop in.
Special for January-February: sign up for this session, and get the 8 PM advanced session for 1/2 price!

This class covers topics that the dancers choose on the first day of the session, combined with work from Oscar and Georgina Mandagaran's technique. Each week, we will focus on 1-2 combinations of steps. We will learn/review any steps that dancers need, and then play with putting the steps together in different ways. We also work on how to make the combination work best with varied music (tango, vals, milonga). For dancers with at least three years tango experience, or instructor's permission. You may work with a partner you bring to class, or trade partners.

Class starts 1/9. 6 week session for $60, or $12 drop in.

Next classes start next week (and yes, there is class this week!)

Thursday classes start again on January 5th:

6 PM Beginner's Mind Practica:
Our practica is friendly, with no feedback unless you want it. If you are a beginner, I can introduce to other folks, answer questions, dance with you, etc. If you are not a beginner, I invite you to either come practice for yourself, or come and dance with beginners to give back to the community. Remember how nice some people were when you started? Be one of those nice I-dance-with-beginner types ;-) The practica is by donation.

7 PM Top Ten Moves:
Ten fundamental moves in ten weeks. In Argentina, many people only know this many (or fewer!) moves, but they do them REALLY well. This class is for beginners to learn the basics AND for more advanced dancers to polish those moves and build musicality and navigational skills (for the followers, this is the time to practice making each step exquisite). This is also a perfect opportunity if you already know one role, and want to learn the other. $80 for 10 weeks, or $12 drop in.

8 PM Musicality and the Next Ten Moves:
This session, we will focus moves that are sweet in both tango and vals (since we just did milonga last session). This class is for intermediates and advanced intermediate dancers. For each new move, we will put it into the dance, connect it to what you already know, and make it work on the dance floor. For followers, we will practice adornos (ornaments) and ways to make feet beautiful. Musically, we will work on putting moves together to make you partner drop at your feet with the beauty of your dance :-) $80 for 10 weeks, or $12 drop in.

There will also be Monday classes, which will be a six-week session; more to follow!

New classes starting!

The next session of classes starts 3/31 and 4/4 @ the Om Studio, 14 NE 10th Ave. in Portland:

  • Beginners: 6 PM Thursdays (3/31)
  • Intermediate: 7 PM Thursdays (3/31)
  • Advanced intermediate: 8 PM Thursdays (3/31)
  • Advanced: 8 PM Mondays (4/4)

The cost is $60/6 weeks, or $12 drop in per person.


Tango Fundamentals

The 6 PM class is a class for beginners, or anyone who would like their dance to look more like Buenos Aires style tango. We work on technique for walking, turning, changing directions, pausing (adornos, too), as well as a few other basic steps, depending on the speed the class works at. My classes are a bit different than run-of-the-mill tango classes: we play games with music, energy, balance, etc., that allow you to gain an understanding of tango very quickly. I encourage correct body alignment and use of the body structurally to find your tango. I also think that improvisation, energy and fun should be a part of every person's tango, right from the first class.  If you need survival skills for the dance floor, this is the right level for you!


Creating the Magic

The 7 PM class is a class for continuing to develop an elegant, strong dance. I introduce new figures gradually, focusing on traditional, close embrace movement that can immediately be transferred from class to the dance floor. Again, balance, breath, embrace and musicality are ways to approach new movement, not just "fancy parts" to add in after the step is memorized :-)  When you walk out of class, you will be able to use what you learn right away on the dance floor. 


Taking it to the next level

The 8 PM class is focuses on musicality, improvisation, elegance--making the dance your own.  Often, we work on similar moves to the 7 PM class, but add details that challenge a more advanced dancer.  Musically, I alternate six weeks of moves that work well in vals/tango with moves that work well in milonga/tango (yes, many are good for all three :-)). If you already know moves, but want to look/feel better on the dance floor, this would be a great class for you.


Tango Alchemy

The Monday night advanced class is for dancers who have either already taken my other three levels, or who have reached an advanced level already and would like to polish their technique, learn new figures to enhance the dance, and build musicality. If you are not sure that you have a high-enough level for this class, please bring a partner along so that you can work at a slower pace, if needed. :-) This is a "one-room-schoolhouse" kind of class, with a wide range of dancers.  You should have three years or more experience for this class.


Classes are NOT just for people learning to lead!

Dance classes are not just "for the guys" or for folks who want to lead. In every class, I devote part of the class to technique for following. As my teacher Georgina Vargas says, "You have no excuse for looking bad on the dance floor, no matter how poorly you are being led." Please come to the appropriate level of class for your skill level; if you have danced for a while, but have not worked on styling with me, I request that you attend a lower level for at least a few weeks and learn the basics of the technique, or take a few private lessons before jumping in to do advanced moves.

See you in class!

New classes start this week! Argentine tango and more . . .

All classes are six weeks long. All start THIS week, but are drop-in.

Couple Dance 101

Would you like to ease into couple dancing? This class will teach you how to: lead/follow, identify the music, move with a partner, and help you "survive" on the dance floor.  It will give you a taste of several dances--salsa, swing, rumba, waltz, tango, etc.--to help you decide what dance(s) are for you. Come learn to feel comfortable dancing with partners!

  • Tuesdays 7:30-8:30
  • Krakow Cafe, 3990 N. Interstate (they have coffee, food and beer!)
  • No experience needed, no partner necessary
  • $60/6 wks, $12 drop-in (summer special: $100/couple)

Milonga traspie and Tango vals: musicality, flow and improvisation

This class is designed for intermediate and advanced dancers who want to improve their milonga and vals. We will do new patterns each week, but the main focus of the class is to make your dances feel magical to your partners through improved musicality, technique and style.

  • Wednesdays 8:15-9:15 (and then let's walk over to Norse Hall to practice!)
  • Om Studio, 14 NE 10th (between Burnside and Couch)
  • No partner needed
  • $60/6 wks or $12 drop-in
  • Warm up for Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas' visit the last week in August! They will be teaching vals and milonga classes, so get ready!

Tango Fundamentals: connection, energy and play

This class is designed for beginning students and for continuing students who want to focus on the fundamentals of Argentine tango. We will do new patterns each week, but the main focus of the class is to make your body into a tango-dancing piece of poetry! Breath, posture, balance, axis--attention to the fundamentals brings a connection to the music and to your partner that raise your dance above the ordinary. We'll play tango games to make your dance fun and improvisatory, right from the first hour.

  • Thursdays, 6-7 PM
  • Om Studio, 14 NE 10th (between Burnside and Couch)
  • No partner needed
  • $60/6 wks or $12 drop-in
  • Warm up for Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas' visit the last week in August! They will be teaching classes for all levels, including the basics; get ready!

Continuing Tango: creating magic through dance

This class is designed for continuing intermediate and advanced intermediate students who want to build a powerful, sensuous and elegant Argentine tango. We will do new patterns each week, but the main focus of the class is to find the magic of YOUR dance. Each week, you'll walk out of class with more confidence and beauty in your tango, ready to spread YOUR magic on the dance floor.

  • Thursdays, 7-8 PM
  • Om Studio, 14 NE 10th (between Burnside and Couch)
  • No partner needed
  • $60/6 wks or $12 drop-in
  • Warm up for Oscar Mandagaran and Georgina Vargas' visit the last week in August! They will be teaching classes on lead and follow technique for intermediate and advanced dancers, so get ready!

Questions?  Call me at 541.914.4812 and I'll see you in class!

New classes start this week!

Tango I: Introduction to Argentine Tango (Thursdays, 6-7 PM, Om Studio, 14 NE 10th, between Burnside and Couch)

If you are a complete beginner, or a dancer reviewing your basics, this is the class for you! Each week, we'll cover new material and integrate it into your dance, so you can take it out on the dance floor immediately. We'll cover walking, turning, ochos, going to the cross; the embrace; navigation; improvisation; and musicality.

I teach a body-based tango which looks for efficient, balanced movement to allow you to find your own style. Fun, improvisatory, sensual, exciting: tango! No partner needed.

$60/6 weeks, or $12 drop in (summer special: pay for both six-week sessions at once for $100--save $20)

Tango 2: Advanced Beginners/Beginning Intermediates (Thursdays, 7-8 PM, Om Studio, 14 NE 10th, between Burnside and Couch)

Designed for folks who have already completed Tango I (at least once, I suggest 2-3 times), this class introduces new moves each week to gradually build an elegant, powerful dance. Want to improve your technique for following? We'll do adornos, boleos, ganchos, etc. Want to improve your leading? We'll do fun combinations that increase your confidence on the the dance floor and make you look good, too!

As usual, I focus on the body: balance, breath, alignment--the true tango fundamentals--to make tango work for YOUR body. Navigation, the embrace, musicality and connection/energy with your partner are integral parts to each class. Come connect with tango!

$60/6 weeks, or $12 drop in (summer special: pay for both six-week sessions at once for $100--save $20)

Milonga traspie: all levels (Wednesdays, 8:15-9:15 PM, Om Studio, 14 NE 10th, between Burnside and Couch)

Come learn new milonga moves that work to traditional and alternative music, and then head over to Norse Hall to practice them! We're one block from the milonga, so plan on making an evening of it!

Milonga traspie is a grooving, syncopated, WOW! dance. We'll work on the fundamentals of the dance, as well as harder patterns to incorporate into your existing milonga. We'll focus on musicality and making the dance reflect the musical playfulness of milonga. We'll also learn to adjust to various embraces, styles of music and partners so that you can lead/follow ANYBODY.

Note: This class is aimed at intermediate and advanced dancers. Beginners: you are welcome, but please bring a partner so that you can work at your own pace.

$60/6 weeks, or $12 drop in (summer special: pay for both six-week sessions at once for $100--save $20)

Not offered this session: Tango 3, 4 & 5; tango vals; musicality class. 

Private lessons available during the day Monday-Wednesday; and Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Call 541.914.4812 to schedule, or email ewartluf@gmail.com.

The duende of tango

I think of "duende" as the "passion" or "soul" of something.  Merriam-Webster defines it as "the power to attract through personal magnetism and charm."

What is it that attracts people to tango, and then holds them in tango's embrace?

I don't think it's the steps of tango, or the music, although I am hooked on both myself. I think it is tango's demand that both the leader and the follower must interact with another person's energy and spirit, in order to dance well. To dance tango, you need to take an emotional risk and open yourself to another soul.

Beginner's mind

What made me think of this was a joyous, laughing beginner who tore up the floor last night at my lesson.   When I fired up my Naughty Toddler exercise, he flew around the dance floor with a more experienced follower, and led her in moves that I KNOW he does not know. He put his entire heart and soul into that dance, and it was breathtaking. 

Now, tango is not a solo dance, so you need a partner willing to risk all as well. Last night, a quiet, sweet follower turned up the volume, met this beginner's energy, and did the best dance I've ever seen her do in a year of dancing. She looked phenomenal; she took risks I've never seen her take, and it paid off.

It looked FUN! It had passion, it had groove, it had soul; for a moment, the duende of tango peeped out.

Maintaining beginner's mind

All of the tango beginners who showed up quickly got the idea that the shared energy counted more than perfection of steps. As we explored, the more shy dancers started to play, smile, risk more, and began to dance with energy, with spirit, with soul.

More experienced tango dancers were less sure. I saw the skeptical looks exchanged by the "experienced" dancers (something along the lines of "I think she must be nuts" as far as I can read facial expressions). A teacher is telling us that it doesn't matter how well we do the steps?!?!

Some of those dancers did not walk on the dance floor with an open mind. When I left, they were practicing dance moves--without any spark of connection. Well, you can't change anyone's mind except your own :-)

One more experienced dancer took the challenge. Over the course of a few dances, I watched tentatively try out "misbehaving" as a follower. She started to smile. Her dance improved, but it was not easy for her. I honor her for daring to step out of her comfort zone.

My job as a teacher

I used to think that teaching perfection in each step was my primary job as a teacher. After twenty-four years of teaching dance, I no longer believe that. In the past two or three years, I have come to realize that I needed to relearn how to teach, in order to serve my students better.

My job is to release joy, confidence and pleasure into the world; to facilitate personal fulfillment.  For some people, that does mean reaching perfection in a dance style, and I am happy to share my expertise (and my anal retentive nature!).

However, for most of my students, I find that their goal is NOT perfection. They have different goals: find a boy/girlfriend; spend time in our unconnected lives to touch other humans; to express themselves to music; to build balance and flexibility in order to dance into old age; etc. For all of them, they seek those magical moments during a song where two energies meet and two souls touch. Perfect dancing should be perfect connection. Tango entices because it offers an opportunity to reach that perfect connection every dance.

That is what I try to teach. Ask me about the Tiger Growling exercise sometime! Or, come to the Eclectic Dance at Norse Hall on Saturday night (lesson 7:30) and experience it for yourself!