Student of the Month – David Platt

David Platt, Alma del Tango Student of the Monthby Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since:  David took his first tango lesson in March 2014. He had been dancing Latin dances for six months when a friend suggested he take a tango lesson to learn about lead and follow.  He was living in Taiwan at the time and his friend took him to a milonga and showed him how to walk. He decided then and there to take tango lessons.

Why tango:  “You can do it wherever you go,” says David, who likes to travel.  So far he has danced in Taipei, Bali, California, “and I’m working my way up to Buenos Aires,” he says.

The back story: Prior to 2013, David had never danced.  He decided to join a friend in some lessons because “I wanted to do something I wasn’t good at, something that would improve my connection to my body.” He started with salsa and bachata before discovering tango.

Favorite part: An amateur musician, David appreciates the ability to interpret the music in an improvisational way in tango. He also enjoys the intimacy and exchange of the embrace.” I like the conversation that goes on within the embrace.  It’s ephemeral and intimate at the same time,” he says. David is working on expanding his tango vocabulary to make the dance more interesting for the follower.

About Debbie & John: David found Alma del Tango on Tango Mango and joined Debbie and John’s Wednesday classes.  “I am really impressed with them. I admire how much they care and how hard they work,” he says. “It shows in the quality of their performance productions, in the variety of subjects they teach, and the level of organization.”

Anything else?  In addition to his new-found passion for dancing, David is a wine maker. Alma del Tango Student of the Month, David Platt, with wine bottle
His wine label is Canzona – a term for a genre of Renaissance music.  (The motif on the label shows a grape in the form of a note.) He produces small lots of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon which you might have enjoyed at recent Alma del Tango events.

Close up of Cazano wine label

David’s 2006 Cazano Merlot

He is also developing an app that teaches people to dance.

Last word:  “I don’t know if I qualify as a dancer yet—but I love it.”

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Student of the Month — Maria Perez

by Lanny Udell

Maria Perez, Alma del Tango Student of the MonthDancing tango since: When it comes to dance, Maria has done it all. As a child, she studied ballet, tap and jazz, and she was on her high school’s jazz team. While in college, she became an exotic dancer to help pay her tuition. Now, some eight years later she still performs. Tango came into her life nearly two years ago.

Why tango: “I’ve been a dancer my whole life and when I saw tango I said oooh, I want to do that. It’s so beautiful and passionate,” says Maria.

Favorite part: Maria says tango is the most challenging dance she’s ever had to learn. Why? For one thing, she doesn’t like to follow, she likes to be in charge of the dance. Also, “there are very slight nuances in the cues, and subtleties which I’m learning. It’s more specific in the details than most dances,” she explains. “I’m glad nobody told me before I started that this dance was the hardest to learn or I might not have tried it.”

About Debbie & John: Maria is impressed by Debbie and John’s incredible arrangement in marriage and work. She sees their different skill sets–Debbie is the driver and John is very analytical. “I so enjoy watching them bring their dynamics to the dance floor and to their teaching. Their love for each other comes through in their dancing.”

What surprised her about tango: “I didn’t know we shouldn’t make eye contact. That surprised me but I appreciate it now,” she observes.

Alma del Tango student Maria Perez and her dog.

Maria and her pooch

Anything else? In addition to her career as an exotic dancer she has a degree in dog psychology and owns a dog walking and training business. She is also a Reiki practitioner.

Last Word: Maria is partnering with Sergio Orvalles in Alma del Tango’s December 4th student performance of Moment to Moment. Be sure to reserve your tickets!

Exotic dancer, tango dancer

Maria, exotic dancer

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Student of the Month – Nicole Tolson

Alma del Tango Student of the Month Nicole Tolson by Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since:  Nicole has been dancing tango for less than six months, and she loves it! At 15 years old, she’s Alma del Tango’s youngest student.

Why tango:  Nicole and her uncle Chalmer took a basic ballroom dance class together which included a segment on Argentine Tango. Now, “tango is my second favorite dance ever,” she says. Her first favorite? East Coast swing. Nicole’s family is very musically involved, they all play instruments and enjoy dancing.  Chalmer comes to all the classes with her.

Favorite part:  “I like the fun, social part of it,” says Nicole. “It’s like a family or a small community.” She finds tango a bit more challenging than other dances. “Anything can happen, it’s like a bunch of scattered pieces that you can put together.” She also likes that “as a follower you get to decode what the leader’s doing, and add your own thing to it. That works better with my personality.”

About Debbie & John: When Nicole first met them, she thought they were like hippies. “They talked about the energy and flow, and then I realized it’s the only way to describe it.” She dances more with John and finds him “very smooth.”

Anything else?  Nicole is a sophomore at Drake High where she is on the co-ed wrestling team and participates in track events. She’s been a runner since elementary school and started doing the long jump in middle school. Her friends think it’s cool that she dances tango. (So do we.)

Nicole-100mm hurdles-cropped

Last word: “Tango speaks for itself,” says Nicole. “I’ve made friends and even though they’re adults, it isn’t awkward.”

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Call for Social Tango Dancers

Be the dancer you dream to be….
join us for an opportunity for artist expression through tango!

Tango – Moment by Moment
Alma del Tango’s
Intensive Couples Seminar, Student Production & Gala!

(Sept 1st-Dec 4th, 2015)

This year we are doing this differently! On the night of December 4th, instead of offering a traditional student show, Alma del Tango is throwing a GALA! After an hour of beautiful tango performances by our students, we will open up the floor and invite all attendees and students to join in a Milonga to live music!


Friday, December 4th, 2015
7pm-8pm – “Tango- Moment by Moment”
Improvisational Group Performance/Show
8pm-11pm – Gala Milonga – Live Music



Milonga Classes & EventsThis program is designed to help you and your partner express your personalities through tango. You will learn how to take the structural elements, steps, navigation & musical theory taught in classes and turn them into your own tango dance expression that is uniquely YOU! We guide you from an analytical mindset into one of intuition and emotion. Whatever your level in tango, this program will help you experience more joy and freedom in your social dance. 

This is a twelve week personalized focused program open to dancers at Level 2, 3, 4 and above. You and your dance partner will see and feel and a significant improvement in your dancing!

Debbie and John are a treasure in the Marin tango community! Their commitment and generosity as teachers is deeply heartfelt. Their love, passion and dedication to the art of tango is inspirational and contagious!  Their teaching style is fun and playful! Participating in their student production is an absolute blast! Through my participation in their student production, All About Tango, my dancing and technique improved immensely. The experience got me out dancing several times a week and connected with the local tango community. I definitely recommend studying with them, attending their various tango events, and participating in their student production! – Kat Sun

Quick Links: Program Description-How it works / What will I need to do? / Plan into your Fall Schedule /Optional Choreographed Practice Routine-Performance / Package Deals

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Student of the Month: Francia Cifuentes

by Lanny Udell


Student of the Month Francia Cifuentes, Alma del TangoDancing tango since:  Francia grew up in Medillin, Colombia, where the legendary Carlos Gardel died. When she was growing up, her household was filled with tango music, but she didn’t think of dancing until a year ago when she was living in Sacramento

Why tango:  “I have a passion about it,” she admits. A traveling nurse, she first looks for tango, “then I look for the job,” she says. When she landed in Sacramento she thought, “OMG, I’m going to heaven.”  Francia immersed herself in the dance, taking classes six days a week for a year.

Favorite part: “The music – it’s so sensual, it touches every fiber in me,” says Francia. She loves the sound of the bandoneon and the violins. “The combination of sound goes straight to my heart. Sometimes I have to hold back the tears,” she says.  She also loves the challenge of tango. “It is so difficult – you need to think about your movement from head to toe.”

About Debbie & John: Francia loves their professionalism, the way they teach, and how they break every step into in 1000 pieces.  “They pay attention to every student and make sure everybody gets it.”

Anything else? We’re sad to say that Francia is leaving us at the end of the month. Her next nursing job is taking her to San Diego. But not to worry.  Our tanguera has found three tango venues where she can continue to pursue her passion.

Alma del Tango Student of the Month, Francia Ciguenta poseswith an image of Carlos Gardel

Francia with Carlos Gardel at the Salon Malaga, Medellin Colombia

Last word: Life as a traveling nurse can be lonely. “I go places where I don’t know anybody. Tango is the best thing that happened to me. I’ll stay in it for the rest of my life.”

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Student of the Month – Wade Spital

by Lanny Udell

Wade Spital, Alma del Tango Student of the MonthDancing tango since: Though not a newcomer to dance, Wade is fairly new to Argentine Tango, having started in April 2014. He describes himself as a fairly seasoned swing and country-western dancer with a strong background in Latin and ballroom as well. “I typically dance and/or take dance classes 3 or 4 nights a week.”

Why tango: In 1987, a friend asked Wade to take a ballroom class with her and he agreed. “As soon as I started, I really liked it,” he says. “I found that partner dancing helped me feel more connected and also enhanced my experience of both dancing and music.”

Over the years, Wade has done some American Ballroom Tango, but as Argentine Tango increased in popularity he became intrigued. “I thought I’d get around to it eventually.” Then, last year he decided, “I’m not getting any younger. I’d better learn this dance.” That’s when he went onto and found Alma del Tango.

Wade Spital, Alma del Tango Student of the Month, with swing dance partner

Wade and his swing dance partner at the Black and White Ball

Favorite part: “Because Tango is an improvised dance there’s a lot of potential for individual expression,” says Wade. While he likes all three tango rhythms, he’s partial to the Vals. He also appreciates the package offered at Alma del Tango. “I get a whole night of dancing for a very reasonable price.”

About Debbie & John: “They’re very caring and passionate teachers who really enjoy helping their students,” says Wade. “They have built something very special, I haven’t found anything else like Alma del Tango in the Bay Area.” Wade also appreciates being greeted at the front door by Dottye. “Her big smile always makes me feel welcome,” he says.

Anything else? Wade owns a machine design and fabrication business in Petaluma called Avalon Engineering. He is also a co-founder of a non-profit animal rights group in Sonoma County called Compassionate Living.  “We encourage people to move towards vegetarian and vegan diets to improve their health, lighten their impact on the environment and reduce animal suffering,” he explains. Wade also admits to being “a hopeless computer geek.”

Tango dancer Wade Spital rescues

Wade and his non-profit volunteers rescued 450 chickens that had been abandoned and transported them to a sanctuary.

Last word: When he’s not on the dance floor, Wade may be found playing the piano or guitar, hiking, or watching the sun set at the coast.


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Students of the Month – Pamela & Victoria Stuart

by Lanny Udell

Pamela Stuart and Victoria Stuart, Alma del Tango students of the month

Pamela & Victoria are Alma del Tango’s first mother/daughter students

Dancing tango since:  Pamela first took classes with Debbie and John in spring 2013, through College of Marin.  She continued in the fall of that year but due to illness she had to stop.  Now, healthy and happy, she started classes again in February.  Her daughter Victoria started taking tango classes two months ago. “I’m very green,” she says.

Why tango:  After 25 years as a professional belly dancer, Pamela was looking for a community having to do with dance. “It’s very isolating to be a solo dancer, particularly at the professional level,” she explains. “I learn so much more dancing with a partner,”

Victoria took her mother’s lead, so to speak. “When she told me how wonderful tango is, I started taking classes and learned that it has a lot of great life lessons.”

What are some of those lessons? For Victoria it’s about learning to be in the present, and to be relaxed. “It’s impossible to predict. This dance is teaching me how to listen. I really enjoy that.”

Favorite part: Mother and daughter both like the improvisational nature of tango. “Anything can come next,” says Pamela, “and you have to be able to trust that you’ll be able to figure it out.”  Victoria had previously taken a semester of ballroom.  “That didn’t help me,” she says. “They did routines. The improv of tango is more fun.”

About Debbie & John: “I adore them beyond compare,” says Victoria.  “They’re my perfect teachers, so kind and gentle. I love how much fun they are. John understands the perfectionist part of me. Debbie understands that I’m a beginner.”

Pamela finds them amazing dance instructors. “I’ve seen changes from when I started to today. They’ve come to a new refinement in their curriculum. They’re more focused on a process that allows you to learn…continually changing and flexing within the class.”

Anything else? Victoria, an English major at COM, looks forward to participating in dance competitions. “I totally want to perform.”

Her mom is looking to advance her horizons in the dance world, socially. “That means going to events, dancing well socially, and becoming part of the community.  I want to be part of a group,” she says, “I haven’t had that in my life.”

Last word:  Victoria: “My mother is the true dancer of the family, she just cannot stop!”

Pamela:  “Watching my daughter dance is one of the most gratifying and inspiring experiences for me, both personally and as a parent.”

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Student of the Month – Sergio Orvalles

by Lanny Udell

Servio Ovalles, Alma del Tango Student of the MonthDancing tango since: Learning tango was something Sergio wanted to do, but he had put it on the back burner.  Then, last summer, while on a trip to Argentina for his school (he teaches Spanish at Branson), Sergio took some classes and was hooked. He called the Performing Arts Director at Branson and asked her to find him a tango studio. She directed him to Alma del Tango.

Why tango: Sergio has always loved dancing — he’s done salsa, hip hop and banda, which he describes as a fusion of lambada and polka.  He also has been very active in athletics, especially bike racing and running.

“But as I get older, my body doesn’t respond in the same way,” he explains, so he looked for another way to use his energy. “Tango can be athletic, sensual and fun.”

Favorite part: “What resonates with me is the more modern aspects — the turns and twists remind me of banda.”  He listens to tango music every chance he gets, especially while driving to LA to visit his family. “I’m still learning to follow the beat.”

Servio Orvalles in Buenos Aires with tango teachers.

Sergio in Buenos Aires, pictured with his tango teachers.

“I don’t want to be a robotic dancer who just does steps, that ruins the fluidity of it,” says Sergio, who is proud to announce he was just promoted to Level 2!

About Debbie and John: “I like their methodology…they provide the scaffolding,” Sergio says. He describes their classes as very participatory, not just someone lecturing at you. “They’re good at explaining, showing and providing feedback.” He especially likes that they’re passionate about what they do.

Anything else? Sergio calls learning tango a humbling experience. “I had to deprogram my body. A lot of the dances I do have hip movement so tango is different from what I was used to.”

Last Word: Sergio looks forward to tango as a lifelong pursuit. “I hope to emulate people in the studio who continue to find the fun and the passion.”

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Alma Del Tango’s “Tango Dreamscapes”
Debuts on Valentine’s Weekend

Dream adventures come to life through a surrealistic tour of the Argentine Tango in this annual student production and fundraiser, conceived and directed by Debbie Goodwin.

You will meet the “sneak thief” in pursuit of the tango fairy; the wannabe artist who dreams of dancing off with his muse, the accordion-playing hobo who imagines winning the affections of the gorgeous society lady, two friends who are lost in nostalgia for the romantic days gone by when they danced the tango in Milongas all over town.

Pamela Shreeve and Michele Richards in Alma del Tango's Tango Dreamscapes

Pamela Shreeve, the Tango Fairy with Michele Richards, the Sneak Thief.

William Zemsky and Sylvia Flores portray Picasso and his muse in Tango Dreamscapes, a student production in Marin

William Zemsky as Picasso with Sylvia Flores, his muse

Tango dancers Tanja Obear and Mark Anderson perform in Alma del Tango's Tango Dreamscapes

Mark Anderson, street musician, and Tanja Obear,  his object of desire.









Two pieces have been choreographed for women only. “Pretty Feet” showcases the intricate footwork a follower must master, and “Femme Fatale” is a slightly noir ensemble dance with the dancers wearing masks.

Beautiful shoes worn by followers in Pretty Feet, a dance choreographed for women in Tango Dreamscapes

Focus is on intricate footwork in Pretty Feet.








Musical performances and guest artists
Choreographed by Debbie Goodwin, Rose Vierling and John Campbell, and danced by 18 members of the Marin Argentine Tango community, Tango Dreamscapes also features musical numbers from dancers William Zemsky on guitar, Mark Anderson on accordion and Christianna Valentina, a professional vocalist/pianist.  Ms. Valentina will be partnered by John Campbell, a professional dancer and co-founder of Alma del Tango.

Guest artists Debbie Goodwin, Rose Vierling and Erin Malley from the all-women  company Tango Con*Fusion and the new Debbie Goodwin Dance Company, will perform a new work.

Performances and Tickets:

Treat your Valentine to a romantic evening (or afternoon) of  tango fantasy:
•   When:  Friday and Saturday, Feb. 13 and 14 at 7:00 & 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15, 2  & 3:30 p.m.
Show runs 1 hour.
•   Where:  Alma del Tango, 167 Tunstead Ave., San Anselmo, CA
•    Tickets:  In advance $20 general seating; $25 premium.  Available at Or call 800-838-3006. $25 and $30 at the door, if available.
•    Proceeds will benefit Alma del Tango, a Marin-based non-profit dedicated to encouraging artistic expression and the development of community through Argentine Tango.

Conceived and directed by Debbie Goodwin

Headshot of director/choreographerDebbie Goodwin, director/choreographer, Debbie Goodwin Dance Company

Debbie Goodwin, director/choreographer of Tango Dreamscapes

An accomplished tango dancer/choreographer and teacher living in Marin, Ms. Goodwin has immersed herself in Argentine Tango culture for the past 18 years. Tango Dreamscapes is rooted in her ethnological research of tango communities, the topic of her master’s project in dance from CSU Sacramento, and her continued interest in the profound effects tango plays in the lives of those who enter into this culture.

About Alma del Tango
Alma del Tango is a non-profit 501(c3) organization dedicated to encouraging artistic expression and the development of community through Argentine Tango. Under ADT’s umbrella, Debbie Goodwin and John Campbell bring dance classes, lecture demonstrations and performances to the Marin community. Also under its auspices are the all-women’s dance company Tango Con*Fusion,  Debbie Goodwin Dance Company, Alma Video and Seth Asarno y su Sexteto Tipico.  For more information:

For additional photos and interviews with Artistic Director Debbie Goodwin
Lanny Udell
(415) 459-8966

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Student of the Month –
Christianna Valentina

by Lanny Udell

Alma del Tango Student of the Month Christianna ValentinaDancing tango since:  Christianna began her tango journey a year ago after she saw Nicholas Tapia (2014 Argentine Tango Salon USA Champion) dancing at a party where she was performing as a singer/pianist.

Why tango: “Tango had been on my mind for 15 years, and when I saw him dance I thought, that’s it—it starts tomorrow,” she says.

Christianna calls herself a “dance explorer.”  While working on a dance degree in college she studied ballet, modern, African style … and performed into her late 20’s.

Favorite part:  For Christianna, it’s the feeling of connection with another person. The nonverbal communication of having to listen to each other deeply in order to move together. “It takes so much focus, you have to turn everything off to do it, so it’s a great escape.”

About Debbie & John:  “I’m in awe of them – not only as dancers, but as teachers,” says Christianna.  A music teacher as well as performer, she understands how much heart and soul it takes. “They’re always introducing new themes, bringing in guest teachers…the classes are never stagnant. They bring creativity into every aspect. I don’t think there’s anything like Alma del Tango in the Bay Area.”

In Tango Dreamscapes, Christianna will be performing a choreography, partnered by John.

Christianna Valentina dances tango with John Campbell

Christianna and John Campbell in Tango Dreamscapes

“He has the patience of a saint,” she says.  “It’s been like trying to mold a tango dancer out of
a bundle of nerves.  It’s been a real honor to work so closely with him.”

Anything else?  In addition to dancing in the upcoming show, Christianna will be a vocalist/pianist performing a soulful tango song.  Even though she has studied Spanish and Portuguese, having to learn the Argentine accent was a challenge for the tanguera.

Last word: “Tango’s taking over my life and I’m loving it!”

Christianna Valentina, vocalist/pianist in Tango Dreamscapes

Christianna Valentina, vocalist/pianist in Tango Dreamscapes

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