Archive | Student of the Month

RSS feed for this section

Student of the Month ~ Fred Anlyan

Alma del Tango Student of the Month Fred Anlyanby Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since: When speaking with Fred about tango, it’s important to specify Argentine Tango, as he has danced other genres…i.e., International Tango and American Rhythm. He started dancing Argentine Tango just last August.

Back story: Fred didn’t discover dancing until he was in his 40’s. His then-wife wanted to dance so he agreed to a few lessons, thinking that would be the end of it. But he got hooked! At that time, he was dancing International Ballroom and International Latin. He became a Pro/Am competitor, dancing with one of his teachers.  He later took up West Coast Swing.

Why Argentine Tango: It so happened that the studio where he first went for ballroom classes in the 1990’s was located in the same building as Alma del Tango, so that piqued his curiosity. “Argentine Tango was starting to get popular,” says Fred, and he became interested in pursuing it without giving up his other forms of dance. When he did venture in to Alma del Tango last August, Eduardo Saucedo was Artist-in-Residence so Fred had his first month of tango training with Eduardo.

Fred describes Argentine Tango as very complex and technical. “Some things can carry over from other kinds of dance, but the application is different,” he says. “I consider myself a pretty good ballroom dancer and decent West Coast Swing dancer…but I wasn’t very good at Argentine Tango.”

Favorite part: Fred took a few minutes to think about this one. His answer: “My vision for what I could do if I continue to practice. I have my mind set on things I want to do, but I’m not there yet.” (Ed note: Are any of us?)

About Debbie & John: “I think they’re terrific, he says, “so warm and supportive. They greet everyone with a smile and a hug. They’ll support you in stretching a bit beyond where you are. After I’d been in class for 1 ½ months I asked if I could try Level 2. They looked at each other, talked briefly, and said, sure, go ahead.” Now Fred takes Level 1, 2 and 2/3 on Friday night.

Anything else? “Whenever you do something challenging you have to put in a certain amount of time to get good. I’m not there yet with Argentine Tango.” But with his determination and skill, there’s no doubt he will be.

Student of the Month Fred Andlyan dancing a Fox Trot

Fred and his partner Christine Rinne danced a Fox Trot in a showcase at Stars Ballroom

Read full story · Comments are closed

Students of the Month ~ Lynn Gardiner & Jacq Macias

by Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since:  Lynn had dipped her dance shoe into tango about 10 years ago, but came back to it seriously 2 ½ years ago after she met Jacq and they enjoyed dancing tango together.

Jacq has been a social dancer for six years and discovered tango in late 2015. (Jacq uses gender neutral pronouns they/them or simply their name when being referred to.) They had been dancing country western, but after trying a tango class at Abrazo in Berkeley, Jacq was hooked. 

Why tango? Both agree, “Tango relies heavily on connecting with your partner, there are no set steps, it’s highly improvisational. It’s an opportunity to zone in and be really present together.”

Favorite part: For Lynn it’s the feeling of flying. “A mixture of going where the leader is taking you, and what you, the follower, bring to it. The feeling of one person + one person = a pair, and the pair rides the wave together,” she explains. “The leader doesn’t create it…the music creates it.”

Jacq likes the life lessons you learn in tango. “Even if you’re leading, you’re also following your follow,” she says. Typically, Jacq leads and Lynn follows, but they do change off.

About Debbie & John: “They create a warm, welcoming atmosphere,” both partners agree. “It’s wonderful to be in their class, they’re attentive to answering questions,” says Lynn. “Debbie is trained in different forms of dance, so you can ask specific questions, such as, is this like ballet or jazz, and she can describe various dance styles and cross-compare.  John is great in the way he describes things scientifically—power, rotation, cause and effect.”

“We like that they are a couple teaching together. It’s fun to watch them get along and uplift each other. It’s like learning about a dance partnership in action.”

Jacq says, “Monday night is our favorite night of the week. We attend Level 3 and 4 and make a whole night of it.  Their teaching style is very comfortable and dynamic. I especially enjoy the musicality lessons. They offer suggestions on technique, and you find you’re getting better and better.”

Anything else? The tangueros attend weekly practicas and occasionally a milonga.

We love our date-time at Alma Del Tango, and can’t say enough, how dearly Debbie and John’s classes have enriched us…dance skills-wise and personally as well

Tango dancers Lynn & Jacq compete in April Follies

Lynn and Jacq competed in April Follies.

Last word: Lynn has been training in dance for 30 years and owns a private dance studio, Learn with Lynn! She teaches 17 different types of partner dance and also choreographs weddings and teaches a Parkinson’s group. Music is her other passion. “In dance, I feel I’m all the instruments at once,” she says. A singer/songwriter/bass guitar player, she currently has four singles out. Find them at LynnGardinerMusic.com

Tango student Lynn Gardiner teaches in her own dance studio

Lynn teaching in her studio

Read full story · Comments are closed

Student of the Month ~ Larry Litt

Portrait of larry Litt, Alma del Tango Student of the Monthby Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since: Larry hadn’t set foot on a dance floor until 2011, the year that he turned 70 and got married for the second time. His wife Ying had been dancing tango for 10 years.

When taken as a spectator to his first milonga, he said to himself, “Wow, I want to learn to dance like that!” His thoughts, better expressed years later by Otros Aires, included: “Say goodbye to your old life. There’s no going back.”

Back story: Larry was very diligent in his tango study, attending several classes a week, taking private lessons, practicing at home with his wife, and attending milongas. But then, in November 2018, he underwent a complex surgery and had to take a 3-month hiatus. As soon as he was able, he was back on the dance floor.

To Larry, tango involves more than dancing. It’s a life that includes physical fitness. “You use the same muscles as in martial arts or ballet, and similarly you need skills in balance and range of motion. And a great add-on is learning tango musicality,” he says.

As a new dancer starting at a later age, improving his tango involved many extra hours. “Although going to med school was an intellectual bonanza, it also was a physical fitness disaster. There was so much sitting!” says Larry, a retired UCSF professor emeritus in Anesthesiology.

Favorite part: “The connection–when it works,” says the tanguero, referring to the tango connection with one’s partner. “It can exist even with the simplest figures. For the leader, it’s all about the follower, not oneself. I learned that in an early beginner class after feeling that I had mastered the steps just taught. Proud of myself, I asked my partner for feedback. She replied, ‘I felt like I was dancing alone.’ That was the first of many epiphanies.”

Tango dancers Larry Litt and his wife Ying with Eduardo Saucedo

Larry and his wife Ying with Eduardo Saucedo

About Debbie and John: “Related to the first epiphany is the fact that one can be given an explanation without being given an understanding. Debbie and John do an outstanding job making sure students get both,” says Larry. “Their technique is highly polished. They emphasize fundamentals, teaching by example after every explanation.”

Larry takes a private lesson with John on Mondays before the Level 3 class. In early sessions with John, Larry had to lead. When asked how that went (due to the height difference) he replied, “well, it makes you stand up straight!”

Ying remedied the height issue for about a year by regularly joining Larry’s private lessons. When that was no longer possible, Larry was able to find a tanguera who regularly partners with him in John’s lessons.

“When John asks me ‘what do you want to do today,’ I say, ‘whatever is best for learning in class tonight.’ That greatly reduces stressful challenges to my brain’s visual-spatial processing. Some dancers can, from watching only once, identify steps and subtleties of a figure,” Larry explains. “Far from being such a person, I benefit greatly from the foundation set by an early look.”

Anything else:  Larry and his wife have danced tango during their travels to France, Japan, China, England and Wales. Each time they found their fellow dancers warm and welcoming, much like the community at Alma del Tango.

Read full story · Comments are closed

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.”

 

 

Read full story · Comments are closed

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

Read full story · Comments are closed

Student of the Month ~ Edith Kaplan

Tango dancer Edith Kaplanby Lanny Udell

Editor’s note: Edith was our Student of the Month in December 2013.  She performed in several Alma del Tango student productions, and then took a hiatus when she left the Bay Area. We’re delighted to have her back on the dance floor.

Going off the grid

Edith left the Bay Area in 2015 to live off the grid on an organic farm in Oregon. While there, she meditated and volunteered at an organic bakery where she learned to prepare vegan gluten free foods. “I really enjoyed it,” she says.

She hadn’t danced for quite some time, but during the last year-and-a-half of her stay in Oregon she felt the call and put on her dancing shoes again.

After returning to the Bay Area in June 2019, Edith headed straight to Alma del Tango!

What’s different

“What is new for me is connecting more with the music than ever before. I think my private classes with John have sparked that feeling. They are shaping me on that, stepping on the beat at the correct moment.”

Edith feels that her dancing has improved from where she was five years ago. “What I imagined then is now physical,” she says. “I don’t compete with myself any longer. I feel free and relaxed.”

Edith is a jewel! She comes to lessons with “beginners mind,” hungry for growth. Her joy lights the room. I welcome, too, her frustrations, because I know she will persevere. She takes a moment, stands tall and with a determined smile she says, “I’m ready now! Lets try it again!” Then comes the “I did it! I didn’t think I could ever get it!” For me, this is the joy of teaching.” – John Campbell

She attends classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and she is “courageously trying to learn to lead, but it’s really in the baby steps,” Edith says.

Edith the artist

A talented graphic designer, Edith has designed most of the posters and marketing pieces for Alma del Tango student and professional productions.

Collage of postcards designed by Edith Kaplan

Examples of Edith’s design work for Alma del Tango productions.

“I like to design for art projects, whether it’s dance, writing or mixed media,” she explains. “It’s different from being an entrepreneur. When the dance is done, it’s done. So the artwork is something tangible that remains.”

I love ‘partnering’ with Edith creatively. As Alma del Tango’s graphic designer she is able to take the movement ideas swirling around in my head for a project and transform them into something beautiful I can hold in my hands. It not only helps my projects become a reality but spreads the word about what is happening at ADT. We are so happy she is back.” -Debbie Goodwin

You can see all of Edith’s posters on display in the studio.

Tango around the world

A world traveler, Edith finds tango wherever she goes. She’s danced in Istanbul, Vienna and London. “Istanbul was best, there were milongas every night –- sometimes 3 or 4 a night! And the leaders were amazing – and also tall,” she says with a smile.  “It was intimidating how good they were.”

In Vienna she danced in beautiful open air milongas, in front of palaces, like the one pictured here. What’s next for the dancer/designer? We’re hoping she’ll stick around for a while.

Student of the Month Edith Kaplan in Istanbul

Tango under the stars at Karlsplatz in Vienna

Alma del Tango student Edith Kaplan in Istanbul

Edith in Istanbul

Read full story · Comments are closed

Students of the Month ~ Shana Rassner-Gann & Conrad Gann

Students of the Month Shana & Conradby Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since:  Shana and Conrad started their tango adventure a year and a half ago.  She had been a modern dancer for 20 years and has a graduate degree in dance movement therapy and also in psychology. Both enjoy Contact Improvisation, a form of contemporary dance with two people.

Why tango:  Conrad says he had a vision of traveling around the world dancing tango. He and Shana had the desire to travel but not just as tourists. They thought that a couple of privates with John would be all they’d need. Ha! (The three of us had a good laugh over that.)

“We discovered we have a lifetime of learning ahead of us,” says Shana.

They started taking classes in the East Bay, then found Alma del Tango online. “We were slow learners, we were scared to go to class,” says Shana. So they started taking privates with John. After a year, they worked up the courage to go to the Level 2/3 class on Friday night.

Favorite part: Conrad jokingly says it’s the food. Getting serious, he says: “When we figure things out it’s very rewarding.” Shana likes tango because it’s an alternative way to connect.  “It’s so delicious to come together and share. We’re on the same level–we’re bad together.”

About Debbie & John: “We think they’re great, we love watching them dance,” the couple agrees. “John is really smart in the way he teaches,” says Conrad. “He boils it down in a constructive way to think about it that works for me.” Shana adds, “I feel like we found a teacher not just in dance but in life. He teaches with heart. He understood right away that we want to create a beautiful connection. Debbie is very warm and welcoming, and a beautiful dancer.” They find the Friday night mini tandas with Debbie and John very helpful.

What surprised them: “Tango is difficult, I never suspected it would be so complex,” says Shana.  “It will be something I’m working on for the rest of my life. I’m also surprised it’s grabbed both of our joint inspiration.”  

Next step – being comfortable at milongas in San Anselmo, then maybe the Boulder Tango Festival…and dancing tango in Paris!

 

Read full story · Comments are closed

Students of the Month ~ Dart & Dottye Rinefort

by Lanny Udell

Editor’s note: Dottye and Dart were first profiled in 2012.  At that time, they’d only been dancing tango for three years. A lot has changed since then and we thought it would be fun to check in with Alma del Tango’s long-time devotees again. Most of you know Dottye and Dart as our friendly, loyal door managers. Here’s your chance to get to know more about them.

Dottye & Dart Rineford, greet people at Alma del TangoAs Door Monitors, Dart and Dottye have been greeting and registering tangueros who come to study and dance at Alma del Tango for many years.  Their friendly faces are there to greet you every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and for Dottye, on Saturday as well. They love getting to know everyone.

“If we were just attending classes we wouldn’t have the same in-depth experience with people,” says Dottye. 

“It’s fun to see students improve and advance to the next level,” adds Dart. “We enjoy watching them grow and progress.”

As Performers: Dart and Dottye have performed in seven Alma del Tango student productions, five with Debbie and two with Rose (including the performance scheduled for July 6 at the Marin County Fair where they’ll compete with other dance groups.)

Those shows have included:

  • All About Tango 2011
  • Tango Tales 2012
  • Close Embrace 2013
  • Tango Magic 2014
  • Moment to Moment 2015…
  • and a showcase at the San Francisco Argentine Tango competition
    in which their group placed second 

What keeps them performing tango? “After 10 years of dancing, you can become complacent and not challenge yourself to go to the next level. Rose’s performance group has revived our focus on tango,” says Dottye. “We encourage anyone who’s interested [in performing] to do it; it helps you progress more quickly because of the intensity.”

What other changes have they noticed: Dottye and Dart agree, Debbie and John’s teaching has evolved. “Their presentation has grown and developed.  They seem more relaxed…they still have high standards, but they understand that not everyone can grasp it immediately. We ’re always looking forward to their next challenge.”

Words of advice: “We encourage people to attend Tango 1 and 2 to reinforce the basics…and to remind you what you need to do to stay on track.”

Anything else: According to Dottye, “Tango keeps our outlook fresh and youthful…it keeps everything firing—mind and body.”  

“I’d never performed in front of a group before,” says Dart. “It has brought out another side of his personality,” teases Dottye.  “It was hiding,” admits her lifelong partner.

Garden Railroad

On rare occasions when they’re not dancing tango, Dart and Dottye can be found tending their amazing backyard Garden Railroad.

Dart and Dottye are a treasure to Alma del Tango, always enthusiastically pitching in to help wherever needed. They make our lives so much easier…and fun.  They have such a youthful and joyous energy, ready to take on anything! We are often in awe watching them dance and we are very proud to be their teachers and friends.”
-Debbie and John

And, oh yes, a story about Dottye and Dart wouldn’t be complete without mentioning their award-winning costumes at the Alma del Tango Halloween party every year!

Dart & Dottye in Dorothy & Scarecrow Halloween costumes

Dorothy and the Scarecrow take first prize at the Halloween Milonga de San Anselmo.

 

 

Read Dart and Dottye’s 2012 Student of the Month profile

 

 

Read full story · Comments are closed

Student of the Month ~ Douglas Daven

by Lanny Udell

Alma del Tango Student of the MonthDancing tango since: Douglas started dancing tango two years ago. While he was taking classes with Christy Cote, Eduardo Saucedo taught with her couple of times. When Douglas saw on Tango Mango that Eduardo was teaching at Alma del Tango, he followed the maestro to San Anselmo. Previously Douglas had danced country western and salsa but gave them up within a month of starting tango.

Why tango: Douglas finds tango challenging both physically and emotionally. “I had pushed it away for years because I thought I couldn’t do it,” he says, “but I finally tried it on a lark, and took to it immediately. I didn’t expect to fall for it so hard. Now I dance several times a week.”

Favorite part: “The potential for intimacy, when I am really connected with my partner and we move almost as one body,” says Douglas. He loves the music, especially the sadder songs. “Even though I don’t speak Spanish I can hear it.” He enjoys dancing to music from all eras, including nuevo, and favors Pugliese “because there’s so much variety in the songs.” Roberto Ruffino, a singer from the Golden Age, is a favorite.

About Debbie & John: “They were extraordinarily welcoming when I first came to the studio,” says Douglas. He appreciates that they have graduated levels. “They break it down really well and they’re very thorough in their teaching.” He also enjoys their  humor…”it’s always fun to watch the interplay between them,” he adds.

Anything else? Douglas takes classes at Alma del Tango on Wednesday and Friday and stays for the practica. On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings, he dances at other venues.

  “I’m so eager to become proficient,” says the tanguero. “I feel like I’m making up for a lot of lost time.”

When Douglas isn’t on the dance floor, he is a gardener by profession. Here are some examples of his art.

Beautiful garden by professional gardener Douglas DavenBeautiful garden by professional gardener Douglas Daven

Read full story · Comments are closed

Students of the Month ~ Marti Sukoski and Scott Adams

by Lanny Udell

Couple dancing tango at Alma del Tango in MarinDancing tango since: Marti started dancing tango in the late 1990’s when the tango craze was just getting under way in the Bay Area. Before that she had danced ballroom and salsa. Scott discovered tango in 2006.

Back story: Scott started studying with Mayumi Fujio. In 2007, he was taking classes with Luz Castiñeiras and as luck would have it, Marti dropped in to a class. She was a more experienced tango dancer than he, but what he lacked in experience he made up for with enthusiasm. He invited her for an evening of dinner and dancing.

At that time, Marti was about to leave for a month in Buenos Aires to study Spanish and tango. When she got back, Scott contacted her and asked, “Do you remember me? Do you want to dance together?” She did. Fast forward—the tangueros got married last year and, of course, danced a tango at their wedding.

Traveling tangueros: “We try to dance wherever we travel,” says Scott. Destinations have included Barcelona, Spain; San Miguel de Allende, Puerta Vallarta and Morelia, Mexico, with a visit to Patzcuaro, a small indigenous town where an Argentine woman had a restaurant and taught tango. “It was very serenpiditous,” recalls Marti. The couple is currently dancing through Europe.

Why tango: For Scott, it’s the music. “It fits my personality,” he says. Piazzola is a favorite. Marti says, “It’s hard to explain, it’s a feeling. The interaction between leader and follower. You can have a tango moment with a complete stranger.” She likes the improvisational aspect of tango, “with your partner, you create something together.”

Marti and Scott at their wedding receptio n

The tango bride and groom

Like Scott, Marti loves Piazzola.  A cello player, she loves both playing the music and dancing to it. Last year she played Oblivion with a small chamber group at College of Marin.

About Debbie & John: “I love their focus on the form of tango and I’m understanding more about myself and my body from studying with them,” says Marti. They give so much of themselves through their teaching, besides being welcoming and warm people.” What Scott likes most about Alma del Tango is the community:  “it’s nice to go there, see people we know and dance with everybody,” he says.

Anything else? To prepare for their Europe trip, Scott researched milongas in every city they’re visiting. “It’s special when you dance in another country with people in another culture, whether it’s in a little village in Mexico or a big city like Barcelona.”

Tango couple sightseeing in Mexico

Marti and Scott on holiday in Mexico.

When asked why they continue taking classes they agree, “Like any art form it’s a constant learning process.”

Last word: “Isn’t it great that in sleepy Marin county there’s a place to go on Friday night where it’s hopping?” muses Marti.

Read full story · Comments are closed