Student of the Month ~ Laura Gish

by Lanny Udell

Tango Student of the Month Laura Gish

Dancing tango since: Laura is celebrating one year of immersing herself in Argentine tango. She had dabbled in classes before but didn’t find them satisfying. Then she met Wade Spital (a regular at Alma del Tango) at a party and he pointed her in the right direction.

Why tango: “I had been interested in Argentine tango for several years,” says Laura. “The essence of it intrigued me.” She loved the theatrical expression of tango, and the romanticism. “When I saw it performed I said, oh, I want to do that.”

Back story: As a child, Laura felt shut out from artistic expression, discouraged by her mother who was a performer. To deal with her feelings, she turned to horses. “They were my stability, they taught me everything,” she says. She bought her own horse when she was 11 years old. Shoeing horses became Laura’s passion. If she couldn’t dance, she’d do, what was for her, the next best thing.

Favorite part: “Learning tango has been an interesting journey. I’ve always picked things up quickly but tango stopped me in my tracks,” admits Laura. When she found that she had chosen the most challenging dance, she realized that she had to live in the moment. “It put me in touch with my emotional side and I accepted that I’m on a lifelong journey.”

Lady’s Tango Week in Buenos Aires

Student of the Month Laura and Veronica take a selfie

Laura and Veronica ready for the milonga

Unexpectedly, the trip brought up a lot of emotional issues for Laura–it was a very expensive therapy session, she says. At first she wanted to flee, but she stayed and pushed through her fears. “It was a big shift for me,” says the tanguera. “When I came back I felt I had the strength to be in my own shoes.”

Laura with Barbara Henry at Lady’s Tango Week


About Debbie & John:

When I started coming to Alma del Tango, I felt at home. I felt that this is the soul of tango and it’s where I want to be.

With Debbie and John, you don’t feel that it begins and ends with them,” Laura explains. “They’ve built a community and it’s very comfortable.” In addition to the Wednesday night classes, Laura has taken some privates with John. “That’s helped boost me,” she says.

Last word: “Now I feel like I’m at the beginning. I have no expectations. I’ve arrived at a place where I can let it flow without a preconceived notion of what I should be doing. Now I’m just going to enjoy myself.”

Alma del Tango student Laura Gish and her dog Stewart

Laura and her pal Stewart at Alma del Tango

Alma del Tango student Laura Gish

Laura and taxi dancer in BsAs

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Tango Con*Fusión premieres Sex, Women & Tango at SFIAF, May 26-28

Tango Con*Fusion dancers

Tango Con*Fusion, the all women dance company, challenges the iconic images of gender roles in Argentine Tango in this boundary-breaking dance production. Directed by Debbie Goodwin, and choreographed by Debbie & cast members, the show will be presented at the San Francisco International Arts Festival at the Southside Theater in Fort Mason.

Should feminists dance tango? That’s just one of the provocative questions this exciting dance production  seeks to answer.

The mere mention of Argentine Tango conjures up the iconic image of the macho-male and hyper-feminine woman of Argentine Tango. Yet many feminists dance Tango socially and professionally. How can this be reconciled?

Sex, Women & Tango explores this issue and more, such as body image, street harassment (the piropo, or cat call), same-sex couples and social and economic equality.

Says Goodwin:

Debbie Goodwin, director/choreographer of Sex, Women & Tango

Debbie Goodwin, director

“Because of the current political climate and the objectifying
attitude toward women, Tango*Confusión is delving deeper into women’s issues. Being an all-woman dance company, I felt we needed to make our voices heard, to create something in this art form where we can bring these subjects up.”

Meet the cast of Sex, Women & Tango

The Tango Con*Fusión dancers include Mira Barakat, Christy Cote, Michele Richards, Mila Salazar, Rose Vierling, Pier Voulkos and Jasmine Worrell.

Guest artist Marcelo Molina

Also featured are International artist, Marcelo Molina of Buenos Aires, Argentina;  Jonas Aquino, Daniel Peters and Casey Young.

Scott O’Day is featured on guitar.

 Joining Debbie Goodwin on the Creative Team are Daniel Peters and Pier Voulkos

Order tickets now !

Performances are Friday, May 26, 9:30 pm; Saturday, May 27, 7 pm; Sunday May 28, 5:30 pm.

General Admission $25; Children under 18 $12.50 (PG – not suitable for young children)
Box office: www.sfiaf.org/tango_con_fusion
Southside Theater, Fort Mason Center
Phone: 415-399-9554

Sex, Women & Tango is sponsored by Alma del Tango

For more information: tangoconfusion.com 

 

 

 

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New at Alma del Tango – Essentrics® Stretch and Tone Classes

Taught by Jasmine Worrell

Are tight muscles messing up your molinete? Does lower back pain put “ouch” in your ochos?  

Then come stretch, strengthen and find relief at Alma del Tango’s Essentrics® Stretch and Tone class every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30-5:30 p.m.  Jasmine Worrell, an Essentrics apprentice instructor, will gently guide you through a series of exercises designed to prevent and relieve pain. Jasmine is also Alma del Tango’s Swing Dance teacher and a member of Tango Con*Fusión Dance Company.

Apprentice instructor Jasmine Worrell demonstrates an Essentrics stretch

Apprentice instructor Jasmine Worrell demonstrates an Essentrics stretch.

 

What is Essentrics?

Essentrics is a full body workout that rapidly changes the shape of your body through a dynamic combination of strengthening and stretching. These exercises develop lean, strong, flexible muscles, and you’ll quickly notice changes in your posture.

“This style of stretch is flowing, not static,” says Jasmine, “and it’s not aerobic; it’s much calmer. It feels good as you’re releasing tension.” No equipment is used in the class, except for a mat (bring your own), and a diverse playlist accompanies each routine.

After experiencing debilitating shoulder and arm pain a few years back, and getting no relief from traditional medical intervention, Debbie Goodwin came across this program and wanted to offer it to her students and others. She says:

“Essentrics fits in beautifully with the dance classes we offer at Alma Del Tango. It has given me relief from my pain and has helped create a stronger and more flexible body that allows me to manage my strenuous schedule of dancing and teaching.”

Not for dancers only

Essentrics is ideal for all fitness levels. Whether you’re a tango dancer or not, you’ll benefit from the exercises that rebalance the body, prevent and treat injuries, and unlock tight joints.

 “I love all things stretchy,” says Jasmine. “In tango, things get tight—women are in heels, muscles and joints are challenged. Exercises that loosen up your hips and increase flexibility will make you a better dancer.”

Learn more about our Essentrics class

 

 

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Polish Your Tango Skills with USA Tango Champion Marcelo Molina

Argentine Tango performer, teacher,choreographer Marcelo Molina Guest artist during March

We are excited to welcome Marcelo Molina to Alma del Tango from March 1 –  20. While Debbie and John are on their annual immersion in Buenos Aires, Alma del Tango students will have the opportunity to study with the elegant Argentine Tango USA Stage Champion of 2011 & 2013. Marcelo will teach all Level 1 – Level 4 classes, focusing on Classic Turns with Sacadas, Enrosques and Embellishments. 

Debbie and John will be back to dance for you at La Milonga de San Anselmo on March 24, to the live music of Seth Asarnow y su Sexteto Tipico. Rose Vierling will continue to teach Tango Conditioning classes on Saturdays.

Becoming a Tango Champion

Marcelo is a Tango performer, choreographer and instructor with over 15 years of experience. Born and raised in Córdoba, Argentina, he began his dance studies in 1997 with a company called “Sangre Latina.” While in the company, he studied several types of dance including Caribbean rhythms, folklore, Latin-American and Argentine Tango. Over time, his passion for tango took hold and never let go.  

“I never thought I would be a professional dancer,” says Marcelo. In fact, as a child he trained to become a soccer player, but eventually he gave up on that dream. He went to see a friend who was dancing in a show with Sangre Latina, “and I fell in love,” he reminisces. “I decided I wanted to dance with them.”  He tried out for the company and was accepted. At the time Marcelo was studying to be a PE teacher and he considered dancing a hobby.

“Tango started intriguing me more and more. When I left the company I knew I was going to devote my career to tango.” 

Marcelo has performed in various countries including Cuba and Italy, as well as across Argentina, in a show called “Viaje por El Mundo,” and later in “Tango on Broadway” with the renowned singer and bandoneon player, Ruben Juarez

He has resided in Fresno, California since 2011 where he teaches and brings tango culture to the local community.  From his home base he travels to the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Denver and other large cities to teach and perform.

Marcelo has also appeared with “Tango del Cielo,” a unique group led by the harp player, Anna Maria Mendieta. They were invited to perform with the Ukiah Symphony.

Marcelo Molina and Johana Copes dance at Alma del Tango in Marin

Marcelo partners Johana Copes at La Milonga de San Anselmo

Says Debbie: At our Milonga last September, Marcelo stepped in at the last moment to partner Johana Copes when her regular partner was unable to get a visa. He was such a joy as he taught a masterful class at Alma del Tango, and I knew we would want to invite him back to teach again. When John and I were thinking who should teach our regular classes as we go on our annual trip to Buenos Aires, he was first on our list!

What he wants students to take from his class

“What I try to put on my students’ memory is the concept, not steps. I want them to keep in mind what they have to do when they create any step. If I can give them critical thinking, start the engine for them to grow, that’s my reward,” says the maestro. “I hope they are willing to know me, I’m sure I can help them in one way or another.”

Book a private with Marcelo     

Take advantage of Marcelo’s time at Alma del Tango to schedule a private with him. You can speak to him at class,  call him at 559-360-9824 or email marcebmolina@hotmail.com to secure your time.

Learn more about Marcelo at www.marcelomolinatango.com

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Student of the Month ~ Randy Cook

by Lanny Udell

Randy is a familiar face at Alma del Tango’s advanced classes and milongas in San Anselmo.

Randy Cook Student of the Month A tanguero since 2001, he started to study Spanish and that led him to salsa. But when he saw some tango dancers perform in a 4th of July parade in Sonoma Plaza, he switched to tango. “Salsa is fun, but tango has depth,” says Randy. He began taking classes with Alisa Adams & Alejandro Oyuela at the Sonoma Community Center.

Why tango:  “I love the music, for listening as well as for dancing,” he says, citing the melting pot of sounds that infuse tango music. “There are classical elements, traces of Italian opera, Spanish music, the African influence and, of course, Carlos Gardel, the greatest tango singer, was born in France.”

On his first trip to Buenos Aires (he’s been 7 times!) Randy found that his training hadn’t prepared him to dance in the crowded milongas. There was no room for fancy patterns on the packed dance floors. So, at first our tanguero sat at a table,  watched the dancers and talked to people – a good way to learn, he says.

During his many trips to Argentina he studied with a variety of masters including Mimi Santapa, a highly respected teacher who focused on leaders, and Carlos Costes, a protégé of Juan Carlos Copes. Eventually he learned to navigate the crowded dance floors.

Randy Cook dances at Alma del Tango milonga

Randy Cook dances at a milonga at Alma del Tango

In the Bay Area, Randy has studied with a variety of instructors including Gary Weinberg and Lisette Perelle, Christopher Nassapoulous and Caroline Peattie, Felipe Martinez, and currently, Debbie and John.  “They’re excellent teachers,” he comments.

Learning to follow

In his private lessons with Debbie, Randy is learning to follow because, “I enjoy sitting back and letting someone else do the driving so I can ‘enjoy the scenery.’  Also, knowing how to follow will help me be a better leader by understanding what it’s like to stand on the other side.”

Randy explains: “The follower has more input than many realize. That makes it more of an exchange. The more receptive the leader is, the more the dance is a shared experience. Her energy, what she makes of your lead, becomes a conversation, not a monologue.”

Suggestions for dancing at a milonga

“You don’t need to be an advanced dancer to dance well at a milonga,” advises Randy.  “It’s best to keep it simple, stay in your lane, listen to the music, and hold your partner with a soft and comfortable embrace. Remember that the two of you are also dancing with everyone else in the room, so your job is to harmonize.”

Writer/producer of a tango show

Poster for show at Sonoma County librariesLast year Randy was invited by the Sonoma County Library and Friends of the Library to create a tango performance told through story and dance. He adapted a short story from an Argentine anthology, translated it, and staged it with two couples in the lead roles, with Randy as the storyteller.  Featured dancers included Pam Shreve, Jan Lok, Mirin Lew, Gerry Forcier, Dach Ver and Michael Farmer. The show was performed in five libraries to enthusiastic audiences.

Cast members, tango show at Sonoma County libraries

Cast members Pam Shreve, Randy Cook, Dach Ver and Jan Lok

Randy’s most magical tango experience

“While dancing with a portena in Buenos Aires, the orchestra was playing and she was singing the words in my ears.”

 

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Student of the Month ~ Marty Benson

by Lanny Udell

Alma del Tango Student of the Month Marty BensonDancing tango since:  Marty has been dancing most of his life, primarily swing dance. For him, dancing brings together two of his passions—sports (movement) and music. He had taken some tango classes years ago and came back to it about 14 months ago.

Back story: In May 2012, Marty was blindsided by a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. He became paralyzed and was hospitalized for six months, undergoing aggressive treatment. Told he might not walk again, Marty was determined to get through this ordeal and stayed focused on his desire to get back on the dance floor and the ski slopes. After his release from the hospital, he began rehab in early 2013.

“Dance is good therapy,” says Marty. “I still have issues with balance but tango helps.”

Debbie Goodwin agrees:  “Studies have shown Argentine Tango to be therapeutic for all types of physical and emotional conditions. Its multifaceted movement stimulates the brain, improving coordination and balance.”

Never expecting this level of recovery, Marty’s neurologist didn’t think he’d dance or ski again.

Why tango:  For Marty, tango is the most communicative dance between two partners. “There is room for interpretation, you can really work within the structure of the music,” he explains.

About Debbie & John: Marty heard about Alma del Tango while taking swing dance classes at another Marin venue. He attends the Level 1 and 2 tango classes on Wednesday nights.  “Debbie and John break down the patterns very well, in an understandable fashion. Their interactions are fun…they don’t always agree but they work it out in the class.”

He also likes the building itself.  “It’s fun to go there…it’s like a clubhouse with friends to dance with. It furthers the sense of community of Alma Del Tango.”

Anything else?  Marty is the proud owner of a 1978 Cadillac Eldorado.  “1978 was the last year of the really big Caddies – America’s luxury car,” he explains. “In 1979 they began downsizing.  The ’78 still had the full-sized “three body trunk.  It’s like a ship, you don’t drive it you pilot it.”

Last word: Marty’s ultimate ambition is to dance the swango – a fusion of swing and tango. (See examples on YouTube)

Tango dancer Marty Benson with his 1978 Cadillac Eldorado

Marty Benson and his 1978 Cadillac Eldorado with “three body trunk”

 

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NEW! Alma del Tango Dancers

Calling all Dancers – Here is your chance to perform!

CloseEmbrace_PensaloBienGroup1_byAlliNovak2013The new Alma Del Tango Dancers is a fantastic opportunity to grow as a tango dancer,  connect to the larger tango community and have a lot of fun performing!

Rose Vierling is teaching a fully choreographed group tango routine which will be performed at La Milonga de San Anselmo at Alma del Tango on  Jan. 27, 2017.

This group is open to all tango dancers, of all levels.  There will be challenges for more advanced dancers and room for dancers just starting out.

You do not need a partner but you are encouraged to find someone you enjoy working with.

Rehearsals are Sundays 4-5:15pm starting Oct. 23rd at Alma Del Tango; 167 Tunstead Avenue,  San Anselmo, CA.

Rehearsal dates:

Oct. 23, 30
Nov. 6, 13, 20 (no rehearsal -27)
Dec. 4, 11, 18 (no rehearsal -25)
Jan. 8, 15, 22 (no rehearsal – 1st)
Plus rehearsal/dress rehearsal TBA

Performance Jan. 27th at La Milonga de San Anselmo
plus possible other venues!

 

 

Package is $455/person includes:

12 Choreography classes
12 Group classes (any weekly group classes offered at ADT)
Group Photo Shoot with on-site Stylist (date TBD)
Video of Performance
2 tickets to the milonga to give to your family and friends

If you have any questions or would like to sign-up please e-mail Rose at: rose_vierling@yahoo.com.

 

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Student of the Month ~ Veronica Chavarria

Alma del Tango Student of the Month Veronica Chavarriaby Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since:  A relative newcomer to tango, Veronica has been dancing for about a year. In January 2015, while surfing the net she came across a Groupon for tango classes at Alma del Tango. She bought it but didn’t use it until six months later.

Why tango:  A native of Nicaragua, Veronica was exposed to Argentine tango as a young child. She has vivid memories of her grandmother who, each year, threw herself a birthday party. At midnight, all the guests took their shoes off, put a Carlos Gardel album on the record player and danced on the tile floors til the wee hours. That powerful memory has stayed with Veronica and she found herself drawn back to the dance.

Favorite part: “I love the community, the people,” says Veronica. After she had started classes at Alma del Tango she went with a friend to another venue, “but it wasn’t the same. Debbie and John have the recipe,” she says. “Alma del Tango is my happy place.”

What surprised her the most: “You mean other than it being so darn hard?” she laughs. “I had always been in control, as a single mother and in a big corporate job. In tango, I learned that I don’t always have to be in control.  Debbie said, you have to let go…just follow.”

About Debbie and John: Veronica sees them as a really happy couple, “they’re very real which makes them stand out from other couples and makes them more approachable,” she says.  “People can go up to them and ask for help.”

Anything else? Veronica hopes to go to Lady’s Tango Festival in Buenos Aires next March and combine it with a visit to her parents and grandmother who moved back to Nicaragua six years ago.

Last word: Before she felt confident enough to dance at milongas, Veronica decided to volunteer at Alma del Tango and she joined the kitchen crew. “That’s where the fun is! I love it.”

Veronica Chavarria with Maestro Eduardo Saucedo at Alma del Tango in Marin

Veronica enjoys a private lesson with guest artist Eduardo Saucedo

 

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New swing dance classes rock Alma del Tango

The sound of swing dance music is not what you expect to hear at Alma del Tango in Marin. But now on Tuesday nights, you can learn East Coast Swing and Lindy Hop with instructor Jasmine Worrell. The high energy class which started on July 5th had everyone smiling, those who have danced swing before and those who were total newbies.

Why swing dance at the tango studio?

Swing dance classes at Alma del Tango in Marin

Swing Dance with Jasmine Worrell at Alma del Tango

It’s a natural fit, actually. Jasmine, who is dancing with Tango Con*Fusion in their new season, is a long-time swing dancer and teacher.  “I have a wonderful relationship with Alma del Tango,” she says. “I love everything about it and wanted to do more with that community.”

What some Alma del Tango dancers may not know is that Debbie Goodwin had been a swing dance teacher before tango entered her life. She created the highly successful “Rugcutter” dance program in Auburn, California which focused on teen-agers. Her classes in social swing, performance skills, jazz technique and choreography for vocal performers were extremely popular.

Come swing with us!

All levels are welcome. In Week 1 you’ll learn the basics and over the course of four weeks you’ll learn three to four new patterns. You’ll be dancing before you know it!

Swing dance class at Alma del Tango in San Anselmo

Learning East Coast swing at Jasmine’s class

“Swing is a totally different energy, it’s more casual,” says Jasmine.  “Tango is moodier, more serious. It brings a different relationship.”  Lindy is a little more challenging, explains Jasmine. “The follower is circling around the leader, while in East Coast Swing, you mirror your partner.”

Private lessons available
Want to go more in depth? Jasmine offers private lessons before or after class to review material and help you advance faster.  Speak to her about scheduling a private or semi private.

Starting soon, Alma del Tango will include a few sets of swing music during our monthly Milonga. And, watch for news of a monthly swing dance at the studio!

Learn more about Swing classes at Alma del Tango

Meet Jasmine Worrell

“Jasmine’s swing dance class is so much fun! She’s a terrific teacher, breaks it down for each
student to make sure they are comfortable with the pattern before moving on. Everyone had a
smile on their face.”
-Lanny Udell

 

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Student of the Month – Susan Thompson

by Lanny Udell

Susan Thompson, Alma del Tango Student of the MonthDancing tango since:  Dance has always been part of Susan’s life—she studied ballet, jazz and tap in high school and college. A little over two years ago, she discovered Argentine tango.

Why tango:  After seeing Forever Tango, she was inspired to learn the dance. She had lost the three most important men in her life within a few years–her life partner of 17 years, her brother and her father. “I needed to return to my art to heal after all of this loss,” says Susan. “Dance is my creative expression in the world and tango exemplifies it.”

Favorite part: “It’s all about the connection. The other thing I like is you can play dress up. It’s part of the creativity for me.”

What surprised her the most? “How difficult it is!” After a challenging musicality class she called her mom almost in tears, “I’m flunking tango!” Susan had come face to face with her inner critic. I had to learn to silence that voice and just connect with my partner. It rears its head now and then, but I’ve quieted it to a whisper,” she says.

About Debbie & John:  When she decided to study tango, Susan wanted a local studio and found Alma del Tango on the internet.  “Debbie and John are fabulous teachers,” she says. “They know the technique so well and break it down in a way I can relate to easily.  Debbie translates it into non-dancer language so it’s easy to understand at my level.”

Deborah Loft, Debbie Goodwin and Susan Thompson at the Alma del Tango Holiday Gala

Deborah Loft, Debbie Goodwin and Susan Thompson at the Alma del Tango Holiday Gala

She likes dancing with John because “he’s an excellent leader, and he makes me feel beautiful.”

Anything else?  Susan has taken classes with visiting teachers, including Eduardo Saucedo. “He took me to another level of confidence by helping me break down some of the basics so I had a better idea of what I was doing,” she explains.

Susan danced in last year’s Alma del Tango student production, Moment to Moment. “I made myself do it,” she says. “My inner critic said, no, you’re gonna flunk again, but I refused to listen.”

Last word: 
“Tango is a lifelong journey, you never get to the destination,” says Susan. In September, the journey is leading her to tango in Paris, and she’s happy to follow.

Susan Thompson & cast of Moment to Moment, 2015 Alma del Tango student production

Susan and cast members of Moment to Moment, December 2015

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