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Students of the Month – Doug and Esther Rove

by Lanny Udell

Alma del Tango Students of the MonthDancing tango since: Esther’s introduction to Argentine Tango was in 1998 when she saw the film,  The Tango Lesson. She was so intrigued, she started taking lessons. Doug’s interest came a little later, when on a flight home from Hawaii Esther asked him if he’d be willing to take tango lessons. He said, of course—even though he hadn’t done any type of dancing before.

Why tango:  “Once I got introduced to Argentine Tango I didn’t want to dance anything else,” says Esther. She especially likes the improvisational part. “Other dances don’t allow that much self-expression.”

Doug admits: “At first the music gave me a headache. And I found it frustrating that different teachers said different things. Now he enjoys the connection… with a partner, the music and others on the floor. “You have to be very much in the moment. It gets into your heart – it’s like nothing else,” he says.

Sneak a peek at Doug and Esther at La Práctica de San Anselmo at Alma del Tango

Sneak a peek at Doug and Esther at La Práctica de San Anselmo at Alma del Tango

Favorite part: Esther finds the community  very embracing. She also likes the complexity of the dance, and “the way I feel emotionally. I connected with it immediately.” For Doug, tango is always a unique experience – different dance floor, different partner, different music. “One thing that stays the same is establishing the connection and sharing the passion for the dance and one another. You can feel the passion going back and forth between the leader and follower.”

About Debbie & John:  “They are very giving…they really want to share a lot of what they know,” says Doug. Esther agrees, “We are very fortunate to have this in San Anselmo.”

Doug & Esther Rove with tango teacher Eduardo Saucedo

Maestro Eduardo Saucedo with Esther and Doug in BsAs

 

 

 

Anything else?  Doug and Esther have been to Buenos Aires twice.
Half-way through the first trip, Esther was very quiet. “I could see the wheels turning,” says Doug.  “She said, we’re coming back in April.” And they did. That time they took classes with Eduardo Saucedo, danced to a lot of live music and got to experience the culture. “Buenos Aires is like an acquired taste…but once you acquire it…you’re hooked,” both agreed.
They’re going back again next April, this time for a month.

Last word: “We have our tango fights,” they admit, “but we get over it. Tango helps us communicate better.”

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Student of the Month – MaryBeth Neill

by Lanny Udell

MaryBeth Neill in a big red hatDancing tango since:  MaryBeth discovered tango about 4 years ago.  “I went  to a class with a friend thinking I’d just observe,” she recalls.  But she brought shoes along…just in case.

Why tango:  The mystery of the dance intrigued her … trying to figure out what the instructors were doing and how they could move so smoothly when it was improvised.  How does the follower know what to do?  She had been going to Monroe Hall in Sonoma County for all kinds of dancing. Then one night the DJ played some tango music and her friend tried leading her in ochos, but she couldn’t figure out what to do.  That’s when she started taking classes to learn this mysterious dance.

Favorite part:  When asked this question MaryBeth recites a quote from Mirabai:MaryBeth Neill dances at a milongs

Tango is the union of beings, even if just for a moment. It is the breath that you take as one when the music lifts you out of the mundane and carries you to another realm.

She finds tango meditative, “there’s a stillness…it’s almost zen,” says MaryBeth. And then, of course, there are the shoes and the clothes. During a trip to Buenos Aires in 2012 she couldn’t resist those gorgeous Comme Il Faut shoes. “I bought 6 pairs,” she admits.

About Debbie & John: MaryBeth attends their Monday night Level 3 and 4 classes at Alma del Tango. “They’re amazing, I love their interaction,” she says.  In 2012, MaryBeth suffered a broken hip and was unable to dance for 8 months. When she’d healed, she took a private lesson with John to test the hip…”he was very gracious and helpful,” she says. “And Debbie is always so welcoming.  When she offers corrections she makes it very equal (leader and follower) because in tango, it’s about both of us.”

Anything else?  A nurse, MaryBeth confesses to doing the tango walk down the hospital hallways, and she’ll sneak in a few boleos in the nurse’s station when nobody’s watching. “I need 8 days a week so I can go to more milongas,” says the tanguera, “I have more clothes and shoes than there are milongas!”

Pedicure in Buenos Aires

Pampering her feet after dancing all day and all night in Buenos Aires

Tango dancer MaryBeth Neill with nurses in Havana, Cuba

MaryBeth visited a surgery center on a trip to Havana, Cuba in 2012

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Student of the Month – Larry Seeger

 

Alma del Tango Student of the Month Larry Seeger  by Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since: Larry’s tango adventure began about six years ago. After seeing Forever Tango, he was mesmerized.

Why tango:  A ballroom dancer all his life, Larry was intrigued by the intricacy of Argentine tango. “I wondered, how could I learn to do that?”  Then fate stepped in and Larry was invited to a book signing for   Hold Me Tight and Tango Me Home, by Maria Finn. At the event, Maria danced with David Caditz, and that fanned the flames of Larry’s desire to learn this dance. After some classes with David he discovered Tango Mango and began studying with various teachers in the Bay Area.

Favorite part: Larry has danced West Coast Swing for 10 years, and he finds similarities between the two. “Both beg for a lot of musicality, interpretation, flexibility and innovation,” he observes. “When I dance with someone and have a wow experience, it’s because we have a 3-way connection — lead/follow/music.” It’s not just the beat, Larry explains, it’s the mood. “There are surges of energy that the composer and musicians are communicating. As a dancing couple we feel that, and amplify it. When that happens, I get tearful…it’s incredibly emotional and beautiful.”

Tango dancer & sea captain Larry Seeger

Larry pursuing his two passions…sailing and dancing.

About Debbie & John: “They’re exceptional at teaching good technique…in fact, they’re driven by it,” says Larry. He also appreciates the way they approach you during class and practicas, offering feedback. “John is very tactful,” he says. “When he provides feedback he starts with the leader and almost always gives the follower some tips, too, so you don’t feel like one person is the problem.”

Larry also admires John and Debbie’s commitment to creating a tango community in Marin. “They had the vision and took the initiative to make it happen.”

Anything else?  Larry is passionate about becoming an exceptional tango dancer… exceptional enough so he doesn’t get turned down when he invites someone to dance.

Larry joined the Alma del Tango dancers for a performance at the San Rafael Rec Center

Larry partnered Lanny Udell in last fall’s Alma del Tango performance for the San Rafael Goldenaires

 

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Student of the Month – Allan Noxon

by Lanny Udell

Alma del Tango Student of the Month - Allan NoxonDancing tango since:  Allan has been dancing tango for about three years. He’d been dancing ballroom for several years and when he saw Argentine tango, he decided he wanted to “go there.”

Why tango:  Allan had danced when he was in his 20’s, but then tennis and golf became his passions and dancing went on the back burner. But when his tennis and golf skills began to wane, he rediscovered dancing. Allan finds tango a constant challenge.  “Every step is led,” he says, “so I have to concentrate on what I’m doing. It’s like a moving game a chess…you have to plan your next moves.”

Favorite part: “Because tango is danced in close quarters, it’s always changing and what you thought you were going to do is not necessarily what it ends up. It’s very challenging for the leader,” he says. Allan prefers rhythm over steps. “You can have rhythm without even taking a step,” he points out citing the check step as an example.

About Debbie & John: Allan found Debbie and John on Tango Mango and soon became a regular at Alma del Tango’s Wednesday classes, Friday practicas and milongas. “They are a great team and I love the fact that they make it real when they discuss what to teach … they have a good sense of humor.”  He has also taken private lessons with Debbie.  “She’s a wonderful teacher,” says Allan. “I tried other instructors but I liked her the best.  I can ask her to help me with something specific rather than having set course material.”

Anything else? Allan dances two to three nights a week. At least one of those nights is ballroom. He loves to dance tango to non-tango music, if he can find a partner who is willing. For Allan, an ideal night of dancing would be a combination of ballroom and tango. His favorite music is Nuevo …  he created a Gotan Project  channel on Pandora so he can listen anytime..

Last word: “I’m never going to give up tango in favor of ballroom, and vice versa,” says Allan. “To me it’s the joy of dancing, not necessarily the dance I’m doing.”

 

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Student of the Month – Sylvia Goodman

by Lanny Udell

Alma del Tango Student of the Month Sylvia GoodmanDancing tango since:  About 11 years ago, Sylvia’s then-boyfriend took her to Esalen for a workshop called “Tango is More Than a Dance.”  Though her boyfriend didn’t relate to the dance, Sylvia fell in love with it, and a few months later she joined the instructor on a trip to Buenos Aires…the first of many.

Why tango:  “Curiosity led me to the dance in the first place,” says Sylvia. “Tango is more than a dance, you bet it is. It’s a metaphor for life.”

Favorite part:  A therapist practicing Process Acupressure, Sylvia finds that her work in the world is a lot like tango. “It involves following the lead of the patient and listening carefully to what’s being said so I can follow and be connected. Tango helps me do that.”

She especially enjoys dancing with people she doesn’t know. “When you take that risk, sometimes it’s absolutely magical. You may never see them again, but you’ve had that connection.”

About Debbie & John:  “Debbie is doing something nobody else is doing. Her women’s technique class is crucial. And the student performances encourage one to challenge oneself.”

Sylvia Goodman in Tango Magic, Alma del Tango

Sylvia as a tango addict – In Tango Magic – The Spell is Cast

She also likes the structure of Debbie and John’s classes…”the way they build…there’s something for everyone,” she says. “Even if you start in the beginning class, by the end of the evening you’ve learned something more.” She also appreciates that they continue to hone their own skills, and applauds their efforts in turning the studio into a performance space. “They put in hours and hours to make it a welcoming, joyful, nurturing place for people of all levels,” she observes.

Anything else?  Sylvia has performed in several Alma del Tango student productions, including this year’s Tango Magic.  And, she took teacher training so she’d be able to teach her six granddaughters to dance tango if they were interested.  Her 6-month-old grandson is a leader in the making. When she babysits with him she turns on tango music and dances him around. “I want him to have it in his body,” says his tango grandmamma.

Last Word: Sylvia likes to lead as well as follow. “I don’t do fancy things,” she says. “It’s a lovely experience and has given me a greater appreciation of the difficulty of leading.”

Sylvia at La Milonga de San Anselmo

Sylvia is a regular at La Milonga de San Anselmo

 

 

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Student of the Month – Gary Febus

by Lanny Udell

Student of the Month Gary FebusDancing tango since: Gary and his wife, Laura, began taking tango lessons about 10 years ago when their ballroom dance teachers included tango in their classes. When the teachers left the Bay Area, Gary and Laura stopped dancing ballroom and started taking tango lessons at the Lake Merritt Dance Center.

Why tango:  “It’s definitely a commitment dance, “says Gary. “That’s why we didn’t get involved at first. It wasn’t like picking up foxtrot or waltz which you can do at a lesser level. People who get into tango aspire to be better.” According to Gary (and as we all know), “tango is a dance that will crowd out other dances.”

Gary and Laura, tango dancers

Gary and Laura

Favorite part: For Gary, it’s the emotional content, the close embrace and the salon style. “Tango has the corner on that.”  He also likes the community aspect of tango…not just a single community, but the fact that there are different crowds, different ages at various venues. And tango is something he and his wife can enjoy together…pretty much anywhere.

About Debbie & John: Gary has been taking private lessons with Debbie for about a year.  He wanted a female instructor to evaluate his dancing. “I’d been aware of Debbie for a few years, and had seen her perform,” he says. Gary and Laura have also taken Debbie and John’s Monday night couples class. “There’s nothing I don’t like about their teaching,” he says. “Debbie is a friendly, open person and she tries hard to solve your problem so you get what you want out of the dance.” What Gary wants is to be a better dancer, “and Debbie has helped me quite a bit.”

Anything else?  When they’re not dancing tango Gary and Laura are avid bike riders. They also play golf, water ski and enjoy sailing.

Last word: “Women and shoes – I never got it before, but I super get it with tango. My wife hadn’t worn high heels in a long time.  Now her closet is full of Comme Il Faut,” he says with a smile.

 

Gary and his pal, Teagan

Gary and his pal, Teagan

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Student of the Month – Cocco (Bella Monarch) Savelli

 

Cocco Savelli by Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since:   Bella wanted to start studying tango, and in January 2010 she received a flyer in the mail from College of Marin with Debbie and John pictured on the cover. It must have been fate.

Why tango:  “I fell in love with tango over 20 years ago when Forever Tango opened in San Francisco.  I went to every performance, and I was mesmerized.  I wanted to do that!” says Bella.  Four months after beginning classes, she started writing a show for stage that would involve telling the story through singing and tango.  She wanted to portray the characters and dance the show herself … so began the long-term commitment of learning tango.

Favorite part: “Everything! The dance…the shoes…the sensuality and passion of tango,” she gushes.  “At first glance tango seems to be about the flesh, but it has so many layers beyond that.”  As a singer,Bella is moved by the music. And she also loves the traditions, for example, the cabeceo. “I am constantly fascinated with how leaders and followers interact…how they lose their own identities on the dance floor and tango takes over, it’s very Zen.”

Alma del Tango's Halloween milonga

Bella as a French countess at Alma del Tango’s Halloween milonga

About Debbie & John:  For Bella, they are “the best role models I have… kind, genuine and so generous.”   She loves their commitment to each other, to the dance, and to creating a tango community.  “They are patient with students and very supportive,” she says.  “I also enjoy watching them teach and especially their ‘time outs’ with each other as they debate what or how to bring what’s next.”

Anything else?  Bella has participated in three Alma del Tango student productions. In Tango Tales she was a featured artist and sang three classic tango songs accompanied by the Russian pianist Ludmilla Morry.  She is also appearing in Alma del Tango’s new production, Tango Magic.

Most memorable moment: During Tango Tales, Bella got to know Alex and Karina Levin who also danced in the show. One night at a milonga, Alex asked her to dance, and she shyly said …no, thank you. He asked why?  She explained that she wanted to, badly, but “I am too scared…you are way too good for me!”  He said, “Don’t be silly, it’s just a conversation. I say something, you say something.  There is no wrong, no right. You absolutely can do it!”  With that, she gave him her hand.  “I have never danced like that in my life!  It was tango bliss. His genuine kindness, encouragement, gentleness and depth transcended the dance floor and captured my tango soul.”

Bella sailing the bay

When she’s not on the dance floor, Bella may be pursuing her other passion–sailing.

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Student of the Month – Chuck Isen

by Lanny Udell

Chuck Isen tango dancerDancing tango since:  A relative newcomer to tango, Chuck started taking classes and private lessons in the summer of 2013.

Why tango:  Chuck has been dancing since he started going to sock hops as a 12 year old. That’s when he learned the jitterbug, cha cha, swing and other popular dances. As an adult, he became a professional actor and studied jazz and ballet as part of his training.   In the late 70’s, Chuck began facilitating personal transformational workshops…and stopped dancing.

Now semi-retired, he’s decided to learn a dance he’d never studied before. “Tango has always intrigued me,” he says, “it’s a sensual dance, and it’s a challenge.”

Favorite part: Those moments when it flows. He enjoys “allowing the music to guide me around the floor.”

About Debbie & John: “They make tango fun, and they break it down so we are able to follow,” says Chuck. He also likes the way Debbie and John relate to each other. “Their relationship is right out there on the dance floor. It’s fun to watch them negotiate.”

What surprised him: “Because of my dance background, I didn’t expect it to take this long…it’s kind of a humbling experience,” he admits.

Chuck Isen in "I Hate Hamlet"

Chuck as the ghost of John Barrymore in the College of Marin production of “I Hate Hamlet”

When asked what he looks for in a follower Chuck says, “Someone who is better than I am and is willing to surrender to the process of following. And, someone who’s forgiving, and allows me to fumble.”

Anything else? At the end of December, Chuck went to the San Diego Tango Festival for a 5-day total immersion in tango. And, he’s considering going to CITA in March.

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Student of the Month – Edith Kaplan

by Lanny Udell

Edith Kaplan, Alma del Tango student of the month.Dancing tango since:  Edith took her first tango class in 2008. She had signed up for a flamenco class through College  of Marin. It was supposed to be four evenings but the teacher was ill for two weeks.  Itching to dance, Edith took another look at the COM program and saw Debbie and John pictured on the cover. That was it – her tango life was launched.

Why tango:  “After the second class I was enchanted and wanted to continue,” says Edith.  But after the session ended, there was a long break coming up. “I tried to figure out where else to take lessons, and I started going to beginner classes at various venues in San Francisco.”  Then Edith moved to Hawaii where she lived for the next three years.  Upon returning to the Bay Area, she continued her dancing with Debbie and John.

Edith dressed up for  Halloween at La  Milonga de San Anselmo 2012

Edith dressed up for the Halloween
milonga at Alma del Tango, 2012

Favorite part:  Edith is a creative person and she finds tango a very creative dance. “I like the connection with your partner and with the music … and the interpretation, which can be different every time,” she observes. “ It’s a beautiful dance for a woman, allowing her to express a female energy that’s not so possible in the outside world … of being strong and surrendering at the same time.”

About Debbie & John: “It’s a combination of their passion and ability to teach what they really love,” says the tanguera.  “They’ve built a community where it’s more than just coming together to dance, and with the performances we have a very strong connection.  I feel privileged to be part of this. I couldn’t be in a better place.”

MSA Oct-534

Edith dancing at the Halloween
Milonga de San Anselmo – 2012

Anything else? A graphic designer, Edith contributes her talents to many Alma del Tango projects. She designed the poster, program and other elements for Close Embrace. She also creates Debbie and John’s promotional pieces, and did the design work for Tango Con*Fusión’s Trading Places and last fall’s Piazzolla concert.

Edith will be performing the women’s choreo in our 2014 student production, Tango Magic. And, she is contemplating a trip to Buenos Aires in March.

IMG_1321

Edith with Debbie at Nora’s Tango Week Milonga 2012

Last word: When asked her secret for getting a dance at a crowded milonga, she grinned and said, “smile.”

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Student of the Month – Deborah Loft

by Lanny Udell

 

Deborah LoftDancing tango since: Seven years ago, Deborah was taking a ballroom dance class which included one unit on tango.

Why tango: She fell in love with the music and the moves and, in time, transitioned out of ballroom. “It took me a while to find a tango community and teachers,” she explains.

Favorite part: For Deborah, tango is unlike any other form of social dance because of the close embrace, the connection, the musicality, and the one-step-at-a-time nature of it.  She’s loved to dance since she was a little girl, although she’s had no formal training. “So it doesn’t surprise me that I’ve made a commitment to learn this dance as well as I can.”

About Debbie & John: “To an exceptional degree they create community, and that has all kinds of benefits which also show up in our dancing,” says Deborah. “We know each other, have patience and confidence in each other.” She also appreciates the way Debbie and John work together and continue to learn from the best teachers and bring it back to us. She appreciates Debbie’s strength, creativity and energy. “Since I take private lessons with her, I appreciate her strength as a leader.”

Anything else? Deborah has participated in all three Alma del Tango student productions. In All About Tango she performed a solo partnered in part by a man and in part by a woman.

Deborah Loft as Maurice Le Beau in Tango Tales

Deborah as Maurice LeBeau in Tango Tales, 2012

And in Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story, she played the role of the novelist on stage and as the recorded voice-over. She also danced in the finale and was the show’s costume coordinator.

Deborah Loft as the novelist in Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story

Deborah as the novelist in Close Embrace, 2013.

Tango fits perfectly into Deborah’s profession and passion as an art historian. But she also has another passion – opera. She rarely misses a performance at  the San Francisco Opera and travels to Europe to attend the great opera houses in Vienna, Salzburg and Paris.

Last word: In 2012, Deborah spent three weeks in Buenos Aires immersing herself in tango. She went for CITA, the annual international tango festival, then stayed on to study and dance with a local instructor who spoke no English. By the end of her stay, both her dancing and her Spanish were transformed!

 

Deborah at the SF Opera

Opening night at the San Francisco Opera

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