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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Bettina Maria brings her exciting new collection to Alma del Tango

Bettina Maria tango fashionsMini Fashion Show Friday, July 18
We’re excited to welcome Bettina Maria to the studio with a showing of her latest tango fashions during La Practica de San Anselmo.
Inspired by the style, the music and dance of the Argentine Tango, she creates one-of-a-kind designs for sophisticated tango dancers everywhere. Her goal is to make you feel stylish, well dressed, playful, feminine and sexy! Since her clothes are made specifically for tango they move well and look fantastic on the body.

Bettina Maria, a Berliner, studied fashion design in San Francisco and worked in high fashion on the west coast for 15 years.  After seeing Forever Tango, she decided to immerse herself in the culture and spent three years living, studying and breathing tango in Buenos Aires.

Inspired by the creative energy of the city and its many fabulous dancers, as well by her own engagement and training in the dance, she Bettina Maria backless tango dresschanneled the many colorful impressions and emotions into her own art … and the collection “MODAS DE TANGO” was born.

“Each piece is individually made with love for detail, with love for Tango, with love for beauty,” says Bettina.

Modeling her fashions Friday evening will be: Debbie Goodwin, Gisela Green, Keiko Kikuta, Olivia Levitt, Lisette Perelle, Dottye Rinefort, Mila Salazar and Bettina herself.  Fashion show will begin at 8:45. Don’t miss this exciting event and the opportunity to purchase an original from the designer!

PS–Bettina Maria’s fashions will be soon available at Alma del Tango on an on-going basis.
Sexy tango pants by Bettina MariaFloral print tango dress by Bettina Maria

 

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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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Alma del Tango Celebrates Bay Area Dance Week with free events

Free performance of Tango Magic – The Spell is Cast
plus, free introductory Argentine Tango classTango Magic - the spell is cast

To coincide with the Bay Area celebration of National Dance Week,
April 25 – May 4, Alma del Tango will open its San Anselmo studio
to dance lovers on May 4 with a free performance of their student
production, Tango Magic –The Spell is Cast.  The show, featuring
intermediate/advanced students from the Marin tango community
along with guest artists, debuted in February 2014.

Tango Magic explores the magical moments of the dance … that unspoken connection between partners, the music and the movement. Conceived and directed by Debbie Goodwin with choreography by Ms. Goodwin and Rose Vierling; script by Lanny Udell and Jonathan Cutler.

Where:  Alma del Tango, 167 Tunstead Ave., San Anselmo, 94960
When:  Sunday, May 4, 2 p.m. – Sold out!
Tickets: Reserve here
Limited seating: only 50 tickets available.

A second performance will take place at 3:30 p.m. with tickets at $25 and $20. Proceeds will benefit Alma del Tango, a Marin-based non-profit dedicated to encouraging artistic expression and the development of community through Argentine Tango.
Purchase tickets here

Free class – Introduction to Argentine Tango

Rose Vierling, Alma del Tango instructor

Rose Vierling & David Caditz in Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story

Enter the captivating world of the Argentine Tango. In this introductory class with instructor Rose Vierling of Alma del Tango Studio, you will begin to learn to move like a tanguero(a); to embrace and walk the Argentine way; and to navigate the social dance floor. You’ll even practice the particularities of Argentine Tango etiquette. Partners are welcome, but not necessary. Please wear leather or suede sole shoes.

Where: Alma del Tango, 167 Tunstead Ave., San Anselmo, 94960
When: Tuesday, April 29, 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Admission: Free
Register here

Click here for a full schedule of Alma del Tango classes and events.

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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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Tango performance at La Loggia gets rave review

Alma del Tango's Debbie Goodwin & John Campbell

Alma del Tango’s Debbie Goodwin & John Campbell

The second Tuesday of every month is Alma del Tango night at La Loggia in San Anselmo.

Tangueros come to dance, and diners thrill to the music and special performance by Alma del Tango’s Debbie Goodwin and John Campbell, or guest dancers.

On Tuesday, January 14, Debbie and John electrified the crowd.  Tango student Deborah Loft was in the audience that night and writes: “Congratulations on an especially fine performance at La Loggia. I thought you both reached a new level, and from the applause, I could tell that everyone else thought so, too.”

She went on to say, “I was thinking about what made it so special. I realized one element was that you chose to dance to a non-tango piece—When I’m 64 — and that besides the whimsy and unconventionality which opened up new possibilities, the song was in English (and well-known), so that we could see you responding to the ‘text’ (as we opera-goers say).”

La Loggia Vinoteca and Cafe is Italian-inspired but features local wines and delectables.  For these special evenings of tango, they also offer Argentine wines.

Tango at La Loggia in San Anselmo

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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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