Archive | November, 2017

Student of the Month ~Gwen Sarandrea

By Lanny Udell

Alma del Tango student of the month Gwen Sarandrea Dancing tango since: Gwen fell in love with Argentine Tango in the 1990’s when she started dancing with Al and Barbara Garvey in Fairfax. She’s been dancing for more than 20 years, mainly ballroom, swing, tango and country.

Why tango: Gwen had always loved tango, but she didn’t have a comprehensive place to study. She took a 6-year hiatus from dancing, and when she came back, it was to tango only. She had moved to Bellingham, WA and found some tango classes there but “it was on a small scale,” says Gwen. “Not a big community.”

In 2007 Gwen went to Buenos Aires with a group and stayed two weeks longer than the others. “I was alone, and it was a little frightening,” she recalls. She knew people wouldn’t ask her to dance if they didn’t know her, so she hired taxi dancers and had a wonderful time. “Coming home was disappointing,” says the tanguera.

Finding tango at home: Gwen came back to the Bay Area and started looking at tango videos online. That’s how she discovered Alma del Tango. “It woke me up! So I started going to the Wednesday night classes and I’ve been there ever since.” Now Gwen attends the Level 3 and 4 classes on Monday nights. “I just love it, it’s so fulfilling.”

Favorite part: The collaboration and synergy with partners keep her coming back.

“Every partner is different, every dance is different. Some dances are fun, some are nurturing, some exhilarating, some playful, and some irreverent.”

About Debbie & John: “They should be very proud of what they’ve created—an open hearted community.” She finds both are very generous with their time, dancing a tanda with students at the Friday night practica. “The studio is based on a living partnership, and that feels good,” she says.
Gwen feels at home at Alma del Tango. “I love the community, people who are joyful in dance.”

Anything else: “I like laughing at my mistakes. Often, while dancing, we burst out laughing. I’m trying to take that into the rest of my life.”

Last word: Gwen is also a talented montage artist and has written a book on the subject, Montage Mirage Photo Tapestries, How To Create Photo Art From Your Heart. Learn more at MontageMirage.com

Wedding montage by Gwen Sarandrea

Wedding montage by Gwen Sarandrea

 

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Sending you a cabeceo to Milonga Valentina, our new alternative milonga

We’re excited to announce a new monthly milonga for tangueros(as) who enjoy
dancing to non-traditional tango music. Hosted by Christianna Valentina, the
first event will be held on December 16, from 6:30 to 11:30 p.m.

Christianna Valentina hosts Milonga Valentina at Alma del Tango in Marin

Christianna Valentina hosts Milonga Valentina

We talked with Christie to get the low-down:

Christie, for those who are unfamiliar, what is an alternative milonga?

C: It’s a milonga using music other than Golden Era tango, or Golden Era music given a new twist or a new interpretation. This music gives our students an opportunity to experience tango in a different way.

How did the idea for Milonga Valentina come about?

C: I’ve had the fantasy of doing this for about three years after going to alternative milongas in Portland, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Santa Cruz. I proposed the idea to Debbie and John and they liked it.

I began developing a play list and practicing with my Level 4 class partner, Jason Arnold, and we found some surprising connections with the music.

What kind of music were you practicing to?

Non-traditional tango music, familiar songs with new instrumentation, pop music sung in English, world music with a habanera beat.

How do you dance to that type of music?

C: You take what you know about tango and something new comes in. It becomes more expressive.

You said you want to make this a comfortable place for beginning tango dancers to experience a milonga. Can you explain?

C: I want to give beginners the opportunity to experience dancing in a social setting, outside of class. So we will have ice-breaking activities to entice them onto the dance floor and encourage them to take some chances. When you go to a fancy milonga you have to keep it simple because of the crowded dance floor. That’s why beginners can come and follow the line of dance using the simpler figures they’ve learned in class.

How are you dividing the time to accommodate both beginners and experienced dancers?

C: We’re starting at 6:30 and the first hour or so will be for the beginners, but I’m encouraging more experienced dancers to come early and dance with the newer dancers. At 8 p.m. we’ll have a 15-minute “live surprise,” but I’m not telling what it is. You’ll have to come find out.

About Christianna

For those who don’t know, Christianna Valentina assists John Campbell teaching Level 1 and 
Level 2 classes on Wednesday nights at Alma del Tango in San Anselmo. 

Christianna Valentina in Tango Dreamscapes, an Alma del Tango student production

Christianna Valentina in Tango Dreamscapes, an Alma del Tango student production

Christie has been studying tango since 2012 and has performed in Alma del Tango student productions including Tango Dreamscapes.  An accomplished pianist and vocalist, she has her own tango ensemble, Lagrimas y Sonrisas (Tears and Smiles) and the group is currently working on a CD. For the last two summers they studied together in a program for tango musicians at Reed College in Portland.

Milonga Valentina will be held on the third Saturday of every month. You are invited to bring snacks and beverages to share. Drop-in price is $15; $20 when we have live music.

This month, the color theme is red. Dress accordingly if you wish.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

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