Tag Archives | tango classes

The Gods of Tango, a novel by Carolina De Robertis

Book cover, The Gods of TangoReviewed by Terence Clarke, novelist, journalist and Alma del Tango board member.

Carolina De Robertis is a novelist living in the United States and writing primarily in English. She is of Uruguayan roots, however, and has written provocatively about characters whose entire consciousness derives from the land, the traditions and the politics of Uruguay and Argentina. Her latest novel is The Gods of Tango, published by Knopf.

In 1913, 17 year old Leda arrives by ship in Buenos Aires, from Italy, ostensibly to be greeted by her new husband Dante. Once on shore, she learns that Dante has been killed in a street battle between syndicalists and the police.

With only the clothes on her back and a single trunk containing her things, a little money, and the violin that her cherished father gave her, Leda moves into a conventillo named La Rete, in the poor wharf-side neighborhood of La Boca. Conventillos basically were tenements, some set up by the Argentine government, others privately run, to house the thousands of immigrants pouring into Buenos Aires during the first years of the twentieth century.

A polyglot of cultures

The conditions were uniformly terrible, with many people crowded into warrens of single rooms. The conventillo would often have a central patio with a source of water for cooking and washing, which would be the gathering place for the tenants. These sprawling edifices housed people from all over the world, and must have been a polyglot confusion of languages, cultures, manners of dress and, most principally for Leda’s purposes, music.

She hears her first tango in La Rete and is immediately smitten by it. She has never even imagined such rhythmic intensity, or such soulful intent and passion, in any of the music she has ever heard. She can play her father’s violin (although at first her efforts are insubstantial), and she determines to master the tango.

There is, however, a problem.

Tango in 1913 Buenos Aires is the domain of men, and men alone. The only women involved are those who work in the many boliche cafes and bordellos of Buenos Aires, and the duties of those women have little to do with music. The very idea of a woman playing tango is ridiculous to the men.

Leda comes to understand this quickly. Wrapping her breasts to diminish their presence, getting her hair cut in the style of a man, and dressing in her deceased husband’s clothes, Leda leaves the conventillo and takes to the Buenos Aires streets, now calling herself Dante, after her husband. She does so with violin in hand.

Leda remains so disguised for the rest of the novel, and she becomes remarkably well known as a musician. Working at first in the poorest of little boliches, she hones her talent until she becomes one of the best tango violinists on the Buenos Aires scene. But she does so as a man, and the disguise—and what it teaches her about the privileges that men enjoy that are forbidden to women—becomes the very vehicle for her rise to tango eminence.

The ways De Robertis presents the confusions that arise for Dante, her fellow musicians, and her lovers, is one of the real innovations of this novel. De Robertis writes with considerable passion and beauty about the kinds of sex that Leda finds and, of course, the kinds of love that she finds.

For anyone who cares about the origins of tango, this novel is a fine addition to the history of that soulful music in its Rio de La Plata birthplace. Find The Gods of Tango and Terence Clarke’s latest novel, The Notorious Dream of Jesús Lázaro, at Amazon Smile. A portion of your purchase benefits Alma del Tango.

 

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Students of the Month ~ Jim Depeyster & Lynn Tompkins

by Lanny Udell

Jim & Lynn dance at Alma del Tango milongaDancing tango since:  Jim started dancing Argentine Tango in the mid 1990’s. He was living in New York at the time and after seeing a tango performance he was intrigued. In 1993 he saw an article about Buenos Aires in Smithsonian Magazine which mentioned clubs where people dance tango all night. He thought, “yeah, I’d like to go someplace where they dance tango all night.” So he started to look for a place to learn tango in New York. “I searched for a year and a half,” he says.

Lynn was living in Colorado, but the couple met in Florida when both were visiting their mothers. She moved to New York in 1997 and they started taking tango lessons together. “Fortunately, our relationship was strong enough to survive our early tango years,” says Jim.

Why tango: Jim had danced ballroom but wasn’t satisfied with it. “When I found tango, I knew there was no point in doing anything else,” he says. Lynn, who loves all kinds of dance, decided to learn tango so she and Jim could dance together.

After moving to the Bay Area they found tango in the City and danced at the Golden Gate Yacht Club and the Verdi Club. Eventually they found Gustavo and Jesica in Marin. “At the time we were volcada challenged,” says Jim, “they took us through that.”

Favorite part:  For Jim it’s about the connection and communication on the dance floor. Lynn agrees. “Touch is a basic human need,” she says, “and tango is difficult. You have to be brave to keep working at it. If it weren’t for the touch, people may not stay with it.”

The couple makes tango a central part of their exercise routine. They dance two to three times a week, primarily at Alma del Tango. “Lynn has cleverly molded this into a dinner date—dinner and tango, it’s part of our relationship,” Jim explains.

About Debbie & John: Jim first danced with Debbie at a practica at Bay West. He knew she was a teacher but didn’t know about her role as a founder and choreographer of Tango Con*Fusion. When Lynn watched Debbie dance she realized that she was not like other dancers. “She was doing something different, it’s the way she moves, the way she pushes off.”

“We gravitated toward Debbie and John as teachers,” says Jim, “and they’ve taken us over the colgada threshold.”

Anything else? In July 2017 Jim had hip replacement surgery. He wasn’t allowed to dance for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks he was on the dance floor the next day. 

Last word: When she isn’t practicing tango or enjoying a daily walk with Jim, Lynn can be found in her art studio painting portraits (people and pets) or still lifes, or on location painting in plein air. See her work here.
 

Painting of tango dancers by Lynn Tompkins

Dean and Raya at the Seahorse

Cat portrait by Lynn Tompkins

Cat portrait

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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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A Month of Milonga with Guest Artist David Orly-Thompson

Bay Area tango teacher David Orly-ThompsonWe are excited to welcome David Orly-Thompson to Alma del Tango! For the entire month of April David will be teaching all Level 1 – 4 classes, focusing on milonga. Here’s your chance to polish your skills with this popular Bay Area teacher. You’ll also be able to book a private with David. (Rose Vierling will continue to teach Contemporary Tango on Saturdays).

What does David want dancers to get from his classes? “Of course, I want them to dance well, to have many options, to have technique that supports their musicality and their ability to give pleasure to their partner.

But equally, I want them to find themselves in the dance, and to find some of the very highest experiences that are possible in tango.  This means knowing and feeling the music.  I really hope people come to delight in the special longing, almost a suffering, that is so rich in tango music and dance.

This is something relatively alien to our North American culture, and not at all the same as the blues, which I also like very much.”

Becoming a tanguero

David discovered Argentine Tango in 1993 in San Francisco where he saw it performed in a showcase. “I was moved by the pace of the dance. It seemed more personal and romantic than the other dances—freer and more improvisatory,” he says. Bored with his day job, he took the plunge and started taking classes.

David Orly-Thompson, guest artist at Alma del Tango

David teaching with Mariana Ancarola at the Metronome

In 2000 he had an opportunity to go to Buenos Aires for a year to immerse himself in the tango culture. One year turned into three. His training was focused with Gustavo Naviera and Giselle Ann and Mariano (Chicho) Frumboli.

“It was a very exciting time in tango since the repertoire and technique was beginning to expand exponentially,” he explains.

Teaching around the Bay

You might have encountered David at one of the many Bay Area venues where he has taught. He was a regular at the former Metronome in San Francisco where he hosted a popular milonga on Saturday nights.  He has also taught at Two Left Feet in Danville, Bay West Ballroom in San Rafael, Lake Merritt in Oakland, and currently teaches an intermediate class on Tuesday nights at Finnish Hall in Berkeley.

Says Debbie: “David is a gem in the SF tango community. He is one of my favorite leaders to dance with.  I have taught with him on many occasions and find him an insightful teacher. He loves analyzing the structure of the dance and just having fun with it.”

Popular DJ

David is passionate about the music. “As a DJ I build an evening around what used to be called The Big 4: Troilo, D’Arienzo, DiSarli and Pugliese.  I pepper the evening with other minor orquestas like Rodriquez, Canaro (far and away the most prolific band), and Laurenz, when the mood strikes.

 Book a private with David           

Take advantage of David’s time at Alma del Tango to book a private with him. You can speak to him at class or call him at 510-375-8805 to secure your time.

 

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Tango Love Birds – Michael and Margaret

Danger – the romantic kind CloseEmbrace_MichaelKlesert_byAlliNovak2013

Just over five years ago, Michael moved to Napa and became seriously addicted to tango. He began taking classes in Yountville but in order to dance at a real milonga he had to travel further – to the Belrose in San Rafael.

“The best way to do this without succumbing to the terror of asking a stranger to dance was to car pool with other members of the Yountville class,” says Michael. “One afternoon I was introduced to a charming, sophisticated, elegant Russian woman named Margaret, and we discovered that she also was from Napa.  Life is full of serendipity.”

Initially Michael was reluctant to cabaceo the lovely tanguera, thinking she was a more experienced dancer. But, eventually, after much internal debate, he worked up the nerve to ask her to share a tanda with him.CloseEmbrace_MargaretTrachtenberg_byAlliNovak2013

“I was completely embarrassed and thrilled at the same time,” he admits. “She didn’t seem too offended by my leading, so I invited her again a little later.” Soon, the two began dancing more often and commuting to various milongas, first with small groups and occasionally just with each other.

“Danger — the romantic kind — lurked in these long drives back and forth,” Michael recalls.  These interludes allowed them to get to know each better, sharing life adventures and discovering mutual interests as they drove. “Margaret went to university in Moscow where ballet, opera and theater were all very available and top quality, and I conducted musical theater, once aspired to conduct opera and was a symphony orchestra manager at one time,” Michael explains.

The spark ignites…MM-107

The time spent alone together in the car became more engaging and more exciting.  “Neither of us was aware of our growing desire for the other until one night, when I walked Margaret to her front door after dancing. She kissed my cheek, almost melting me in my shoes,” says Michael. “Totally unexpected and searingly hot, this simple gesture led me to admit that I had been wanting to touch her hand in the car but was afraid to scare her off.”

During their commutes Margaret wasn’t thinking about a relationship. “I thought he was a very nice man and I enjoyed his company. I liked not having to drive by myself at night.” Things began to progress more rapidly after Michael took Margaret to dinner to celebrate her birthday at Skates in Berkeley, then to a milonga in Oakland – their first real date.

“Since then, we have danced at my best friend’s wedding in Colorado, in the lobby of several hotels, Yountville and Cabo San Lucas included, at wineries, the de Young museum, outdoors at the Legion of Honor, and on stage in Alma del Tango’s production Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story in San Anselmo.”

CloseEmbrace_MichaelKlesert_MargaretTrachtenberg_byAlliNovak2013

When he knew she was the one

For Michael, the most romantic night of all was early in the relationship. “With a full moon and fog rolling over the ridge in Sausalito, we danced to live music by Seth Asarnow and Marcello Puig, alone on the tiniest of dance floors at Cafe Divino. I knew at that point she was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”

Margaret agrees, “it was extremely romantic.  Afterward we drove along the Bay and I realized it but didn’t say anything. Tango is a very passionate dance.  Some day we won’t be able to go tango dancing, but in the beginning, tango did its part.”

“None of this would have been possible without our very strong, mutual obsession for tango,” says Michael. “Our next big tango adventure will be a trip to visit Margaret’s daughter in Paris. Any suggestions for great places to tango?

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