Archive | March, 2013

Students of the Month – Judy Feil and Dan Alexander

by Lanny Udell

Judy and Dan in their life outside tango

Judy and Dan in their life outside tango 🙂

Dancing since:  Judy and Dan met in a Spanish class at College of Marin in 2010. The following year she saw a COM brochure with a photo of a very dashing man. “OMG, that’s my eye doctor,” she exclaimed. (We all know who that was). That’s when the couple signed up for tango classes with Debbie and John.

Why tango:  Of the Latin dances, tango appeals to Dan the most. (He mistakenly thought it would be easier than the other styles.) Prior to tango he had no experience with partner dancing. Judy has studied jazz, tap, and other kinds of Latin dancing, but like Dan, had never done partner dancing. “I’m used to doing my own kind of choreography, so being with a partner was difficult,” says Judy.

Dan & Judy at Alma del Tango's Halloween Milonga Oct 2012

Dan & Judy at Alma del Tango’s Halloween Milonga Oct 2012

Favorite part: For Dan, it’s “dancing with Judy.” And he also likes the music, especially Nuevo. For Judy it’s the turns. “I just love the energy…even as a child I loved to turn,” she recalls.  “But it’s not just the dancing. It’s bigger than that. I have to sublimate a part of my natural personality for a time. It’s a good lesson to do that.”

Judy explains that she’s quick and assertive…a natural leader. But tango requires that she hold back and tune in to her partner. “For me it’s a life lesson in terms of relationship. Taking class together affects our relationship in a positive way.”


Dan & Judy at La Milonga de San Anselmo March 2013

About Debbie & John:  “They’re great!” says Dan. Judy elaborates: “Each gives a different perspective on the same movement. They do a very good job of explaining things in an interesting way and they’re very supportive.”

What surprised them about tango: Both partners agree that the most surprising thing was how challenging tango is, the subtlety and nuance of the dance, and the inter-connectedness of the partnership.

Last word:  While they admit to not being as passionate about tango as some students, “when we miss a week, we do miss it…”

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Buenos Aires Tango Experience 2013


La Cúpula


Debbie, John, Pier and Dan stay in this historical Cupula apartment in the Congreso District in Buenos Aires.


Dan brings us fresh pastries “facturas” every morning.



Here are some of our favorite foods in BsAs.


Helado de Chocolate y Dulce de Leche!


Bife de lomo a la pimenta con papas.

Bife de lomo a la pimenta con papas.

Ensaladas at Cafe Riva in San Telmo
Ensaladas at Cafe Riva in San Telmo

This “fileteado” artist from the San Telmo Market painted Dan’s ukelele and made a sign for our Alma del Tango Studio.

Adrian Clara, the artist painted Daniel's ukelele and and new sign for Alma del Tango Studio!

Daniel Peters, Artist Adrian Clara, Debbie Goodwin

We took 3-6 hours of dance classes a day with a variety of tango masters from Buenos Aires.
Here are the ones we studied with: Fabián Salas & Lola Díaz, Chicho Frúmboli & Juana Sepúlveda, Adrián Veredice & Alejandra Hobert, Lucila Cionci & Rodrigo “Joe” Corbata (Debbie & John’s current favorites) , Christian Márquez & Virginia Gómez.

More photos and stories to come but we wanted to give you a glimpse of what we have been up to!

Abrazos,Debbie & John

Debbie & John with Lucilla and Joe. Our favorite teachers this trip!

Debbie & John with Lucila and Joe


Debbie & John with Alejandra & Adrian



Debbie & John with Virginia & Christian

Debbie & John with Virginia & Christian





Debbie & John with Fabian and Lola

Debbie & John with Fabian and Lola

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Debbie attends Lady’s Tango Festival in Buenos Aires

IMG_2215Last week I attended the Lady’s Tango Festival in Buenos Aires. “John, I have to leave earlier than we planned because I just found out about a fantastic opportunity! It happens the week before we are scheduled to go.”  I could see that he needed more convincing.   “I want to be the most delightful follower you can possibly imagine. I think these 6 ladies can teach me what you want me to know.” It worked! I left with his full support. 😉

Organized by Johana Copes, the daughter of legendary tanguero Juan Carlos Copes, the festival featured renowned tangueras Milena Plebs, Guillermina Quiroga, Aurora Lubiz, Corina De La Rosa, Juana Sepulveda and Lorena Ermocida along with the male perspectives of Pablo Veron and Chicho Frumboli.

Stepping off the airplane and into the Ezieza airport, the pulse of Tango was under my feet. No other city I have visited even comes close to energizing me like Buenos Aires. The next afternoon I filled my backpack: water, snacks, notebook, pen, and my shoes. 3 pairs of shoes:  flat jazz shoes, tango sneakers with a mid size heel and 3” NeoTango stilettos. I knew I faced a full schedule of daily classes and would have to carefully choose my footwear depending on the exercises and how much my feet hurt. Thirty hours of classes in 6 days and yes, my feet did hurt.IMG_2294

Class attendance ranged from 9 to 36 women. The maestras covered a full spectrum of themes such as posture, balance, axis, pivots, boleos, moving decorations, musicality, dissociation, turn technique and new dynamics. But it was “the art of walking” that I found most interesting. Each maestra was exquisitely clear in explaining “the art of walking”. They were so convincing. But – no two of them described it the same!


Milena Plebs and Debbie Goodwin

Milena Plebs:
“The leg and hence the foot is neither turned out nor in, but in one line. Your axis is slightly forward from the ankles. You point your toe as you step but at the moment of transfer it is the heel that strikes first when walking forward.”


Debbie Goodwin & Johana Copes

Johana Copes:
“You stand up straight and natural with your shoulders above your hips. Your heels are together but your toes are open. You walk in two tracks. When walking forward, your heel strikes first.”


Debbie Goodwin and Aurora Lubiz

Aurora Lubiz:

“Your feet are parallel, not turned out. Your axis is slightly forward. You walk forward and back in the same way with the ball of the foot striking first, followed by the heel. You walk in two tracks.”

Lorena Ermocida and Debbie Goodwin

Lorena Ermocida and Debbie Goodwin


Lorena Ermocida:
“You walk in 2 tracks when in front of your partner and in 1 track when walking outside your partner. Your axis is slightly forward and your feet are turned out.”


Debbie Goodwin and Guillermina Quiroga

Guillermina Quiroga:
“Your axis is upright, your feet are turned out, you strike the ball of the foot first when walking forward and you walk in one track going forward or back.”

Juana Sepulveda:
“Your axis is completely upright with the shoulders above the hips. It is okay to walk with parallel feet but I use a slight turn out for better balance. I try to point my foot and strike the ball of the foot first when walking forward but sometimes I strike the heel first.


Debbie Goodwin & Corina De La Rosa

Debbie Goodwin & Corina De La Rosa

Corina De La Rosa:

“When standing in bare feet your axis is perpendicular to the floor but when you put on high heels you need to make an adjustment so that your axis is perpendicular to your high heeled shoes. The heels are together but my toes slightly open. The hips remain over the arches of the foot and the shoulders are over the toes. When stepping try to step with either the heel or the entire foot at once and not the toe.”


I truly understand how women become frustrated by all of these discrepancies. After 17 years of dancing Argentine Tango, all I can do is smile. I have come to cherish this paradoxical aspect of the dance.  How delightful that despite all these conflicting methods we can travel around the world and find on the dance floor a communication that is so universal. Tango is a common language danced together using shared vocabulary, but each of us has an individual style, and it works. Here is what Pablo Veron told us. He said that the great leaders of tango came together for a conference and could not even agree on what the “basic” was.  Johana Copes saw it this way and advised “tango is like life, we will not get along with everyone. In the dance we need to search out those who we feel comfortable with and dance with them.”

This festival was a fabulous opportunity and I know that John will be more than pleased. From the variety of new ideas and exercises from this seminar my style will change but it will still be clearly my style. I will share it with my students. Tango evolves and learning never stops. I’m sure that as the years go by, my style will also continue to evolve.
Asi se baile el tango – This is how you dance the tango!

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Student of the Month – Gerti Partsch Miller

CloseEmbrace_GertiPartsch Miller_byAlliNovak2013-1

by Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since: Gerti took her first tango lesson in February, 2012 while on a trip to  Buenos Aires with her husband. “I already had it in mind to expose myself to tango,” she says.

When she returned, she went on Tango Mango and found Alma del Tango. “I loved the name, and when I read Debbie’s bio I was very impressed, so I booked a class with her.”  Gerti took a few private lessons with Debbie, then started attending classes and practicas.

Why tango:  Gerti has always loved dancing…growing up Austria she danced the Viennese waltz. Now she’s entranced by the Argentine vals. Gerti believes that people who dance have much joy in their life. “Dancing transforms me somehow…better than the gym,” she says.


Gerti’s first pair of tango shoes!

Favorite part: The musicality, passion and aesthetic of tango. One of her highlights was buying her first pair of tango shoes in Buenos Aires.

About Debbie & John:  They embody the “soul of tango,” observes Gerti. “I’m very blessed that I found them.  Alma del Tango is unique…it’s not like any other venue.”

About performing in Close Embrace: “When Debbie asked me to dance in the show I said, I don’t know if I can do it, I’m such a beginner. She said  ‘yes, you can dance in the women’s choreography.’  In my wildest dream I couldn’t have imagined being in a production like this.”

Anything else?  “Close Embrace was definitely a challenge for me but with everyone’s help and encouragement I felt very well taken care of. The professionalism and support made me want to do another show next year.”

Share your thoughts with Gerti below.


Close Embrace_Oblivion_CloseEmbraceby AlliNovak2013

Oblivion, the women’s choreography for Close Embrace.
Gerti pictured kneeling lower left

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