Archive | November, 2019

Student of the Month ~ Rick Kutten

by Lanny Udell

Portrait of Student of the Month Rick KuttenDancing tango since: Rick is new to the tango world having started just three months ago (at this writing). His journey to tango started with solo dance, also known as self-expression dance. He had never done any partner dancing until a friend said, “let’s try East Coast Swing.”

Back story: Rick and his friend signed up for East Coast Swing at Dance Arts. “It took me three months to learn how to do a triple step,” he laughs. “I felt like I had two left feet.” Then they decided to check out Jasmine Worrell’s Swing class at Alma del Tango. Rick fell in love with Jasmine’s way of teaching, and he’s been dancing with her for 3 ½ years.

While working with Jasmine, Rick says, he struggled. “Then something magical happened. My partner and I found each other…on the dance floor and in the music. It was amazing! Intoxicating! Ecstatic! Ephemeral! Now I know why I am dancing. Because there are moments of magical, mystical union…of what? Love? Life? The universe?” (In tango the phenomenon is known as tango bliss.)

When did tango enter the picture? Last summer Rick heard that Eduardo Saucedo was coming to Alma del Tango for his annual August residency, and he decided to stick his toe into the tango waters. With tango, he jokes, “I discovered I had two right feet!” After Eduardo left, Rick found that everything he’d learned had evaporated, so he started over with Debbie and John.

Why tango: “I’m a drama queen,” says the tanguero, “and tango has a lot of drama. It’s a good fit for me to have a style where my drama, feeling, creativity and musicality have a place for expression.”

Rick recalls that when he was learning swing, his critical ego was so strong. “I wish I could have enjoyed being a beginner, but I did not.” Now, with tango, he is taking his time to enjoy the process. “I know I will be a good tango dancer, in time.”

About Debbie & John: “They offer a warm and welcoming field for beginners,” says Rick. He finds them patient and generous with their time. “Their love for tango clearly comes through. I know it’s challenging to help beginners get their mojo going. It’s a unique challenge and they do it well.”

Anything else: Rick attends Level 1 and 2 classes and will soon start going to the Friday night class and practica. He describes himself as a “strong and generous” lead. I want my lead to be obvious…I want my follower to ‘get’ my lead.”

Tango dancer Rick Kutten at Alma del Tango

Rick takes a break during the cortina. (Is that his next partner behind him?)

Last word: Rick sees tango as a long-term relationship. He’s “super-excited about the open expanse of possibilities tango offers.”

 

 

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Cacho Castaña ~ Superstar of Argentine popular music and film

Portrait of Cacho Castana, Argenine singer and film starby Terence Clarke, author, journalist and Alma del Tango board member

A porteño named Humberto Vicente Castagna died on October 15, at the age of seventy-seven. Better known as Cacho Castaña, he was a superstar of Argentine popular music and film. During his long career he recorded five hundred of his own songs (among others) on forty-four albums, and appeared in thirteen films; for two of them he wrote the musical scores.

His beginnings were of the humblest. In 1958, at the age of sixteen, Cacho was working in his father’s shoe repair shop in Buenos Aires. But he had musical aspirations and had been studying piano. He auditioned one day for the tango orquesta tipica of Oscar Espósito, who hired the boy. With his father’s blessing, Cacho left shoe repair behind, and began what was to be a glorious career in show business.

A tanguero at heart

Tango was just one of the styles of music that Cacho pursued, as can be seen in any of the videos that were made of his full concerts. There is often a kind of Hollywood schmaltziness in his work: over-arranged and over-orquestrated. But I believe Cacho was a tanguero at heart, and it is in his tangos that the real depth of his talent can be seen. If you can find a copy of his album Espalda con espalda (“Shoulder to Shoulder”), in which he sings only tangos, and which won the prestigious 2005 Gardel Prize, you’ll find his true soulfulness.

His recording Garganta con arena (“Throat Filled With Sand”) is one of the most famous tunes Cacho ever wrote. It is a tribute to his friend and mentor Robert Goyeneche. In it, Cacho sings this:

“Cantor de un tango algo insolente
Hiciste que a la gente le duela tu dolor.
Cantor de un tango equilibrista
Más que cantor, artista con vicios de cantor.”

“Singer of a tango somehow insolent,
You made the people feel your pain.
Singer of a tango on a tightrope,
More than a singer: a real artist
with all the vices a singer may have.”

With these lines, Cacho Castaña could have been writing about himself and his own gravel-filled, deep-feeling voice. It would have been a fitting tribute to his tanguero heart.

Terence Clarke’s new novel, When Clara Was Twelve, will be published next year.

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Students of the Month ~ Gayle Delaney and Kevin Kreitzman

Tango dancers Gayle Delaney & Kevin Kreitzman by Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since: Newly divorced and thrilled to be single again, Gayle went to a speakeasy party in 1994. “A couple got up on the stage and did something magical,” she says. It was Argentine Tango. The couple was Al and Barbara Garvey, legendary Bay Area tango dancers. That was the beginning of her love affair with tango.

Kevin started dancing tango a year ago. “I was not a dancer,” he says. “Gayle brought out the dancer in me.”

Why tango: Gayle had done ballroom and Latin dancing, and she was a competitive ice skater during her teen/college years. When she saw the Garveys dance, she says, “they were in such harmony with each other, I knew I wanted to do it.”

Back story: With a man she met salsa dancing, Gayle signed up for tango classes through Mt. Tam Adult Education. About the same time, she met John Campbell who was in her Psychology of Dreams practice (a pioneer in the field of dream psychology, people come to her to understand their lives better through dreams). She recommended that he take a beginner class of Argentine Tango. “It’s a wonderful way to meet people,” she told  him. He took her advice and we know where that led!

Gayle gave up tango in 2004 to begin harness training to help her learn jumps for skating. It required that she be out early in the morning, so late night milongas didn’t work for her. But, last year she was drawn back to tango and Alma del Tango

“Tango is so much better now,” says Gayle. “A mere 20 years ago, women weren’t taught…they were just expected to follow. But, thankfully, that’s changed.”

About Debbie & John:  “They are the best teachers I’ve ever had,” says Gayle.  “They break it down, talk to the leader and follower, not like in the old days.

I feel like Rip Van Winkle, I woke up in a paradise of tango!”

Kevin adds, “I appreciate John and Debbie because they break things down and explain. You can see what you’re doing wrong. I’ve got a few bad habits I keep repeating. I’m hoping that more and more things will become second nature.”

Anything else: We’re sorry to say, Gayle and Kevin have left Marin to make their home in Florida. But they haven’t left tango. They are determined to continue dancing. Gayle’s vision is to have milonga house parties. “We will create our own tango world.”

Last word: Buen Viaje, Gayle and Kevin! We hope you’ll come back to visit and dance with us again.

Kevin Kreitzman holds his partner's beautiful tango shoe.

Kevin contemplates drinking from Gayle’s new Madame Pivot shoe. Rome, July 2019

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