Eduardo Saucedo is Alma del Tango Artist-In-Residence during August

Eduardo Saucedo, Alma del Tango Artist in ResidenceCome study with the Maestro!

By Terence Clarke, novelist, journalist and Alma del Tango board member

The first time I ever saw Eduardo Saucedo dance was in a show at the Confitería Ideal in Buenos Aires, some years ago. He had written and choreographed the piece, and his role was that of The Wolf in a tango version of the fairy tale “Red Riding Hood.”

Eduardo paced about the stage, heavily made up in wolfish costume, his eyes wild, his voice growling, even terrifying. Above all, he danced with remarkable strength and bearing, given the rich comedy in the role he was playing.

It was marvelous!

Students and devotees of Alma Del Tango have a remarkable opportunity to study with Eduardo as he will be the artist-in-residence for the entire month of August. Eduardo is from Buenos Aires and has long been recognized for his love of and passion for the dance. His teaching, always creative, is in the same moment eminently practical. He begins with the authentic tango embrace and goes from there. He always observes the traditions of tango, while at the same time bringing fresh innovation even to the simplest of movements. His classes are also noted for their humor. Studying with Eduardo is demanding…and a lot of fun.

An internationally celebrated artist

Eduardo has been involved with some of the most important tango events internationally. Most notably he has for many years been an invited teacher and performer at the famous CITA Festival, held every year in Buenos Aires. In the United States, he has performed and taught at Nora’s Tango Week in San Francisco, performed with the Debbie Goodwin Dance Company in their show, Me Llamo Tango, and the Portland Tango Festival, to mention a few.

He has also performed at some of the key tango venues in Buenos Aires, including Salon Canning, Almagro, the legendary Confitería Ideal, and, one of my favorites, El Viejo Correo.

No stranger to video and film

Eduardo appeared in the National Geographic series Consequencias in 2010. Co-produced with Fox Telecolombia, the series was an attempt to educate viewers about contemporary issues, political and otherwise, in Latin America. He is also prominently featured in a documentary titled My First Tango by the German filmmaker Judith Schwyter, which was released in 2013.

The film, with English subtitles, gives you a close-up view of the tango dance scene in Buenos Aires, and intersperses that with footage of Eduardo giving a young woman her very first tango lesson. The lesson finishes with, to her great delight, an entire tango in the arms of the master. The film gives you a good idea of what a careful and compassionate teacher Eduardo is. Come experience that for yourself!

This August marks his fourth time as Artist in Residence at Alma del Tango. Teaching with him will be the women of Tango Con*Fusión, featuring Debbie Goodwin on Friday nights. Following the Friday night classes Eduardo will co-host a practica with Debbie and John, and on the fourth Friday, he and Debbie will perform during La Milonga de San Anselmo.

To book a private with Eduardo speak to Kikki when you come to class or contact info@almadeltango.org.

Watch Eduardo dance at Nora’s Tango Week
Watch the documentary, My First Tango (It’s delightful!)

Terence Clarke’s new novel, The Splendid City, will be published next year.

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Astor and Charlie

By Terence Clarke, novelist,  journalist and Alma del Tango board member

The great Argentine tanguero Carlos Gardel made several Spanish-language musical comedies for Paramount Pictures in New York City. In 1934, one of his most popular movies, El día que me quieras (The Day You Love Me), was being shot there, and Gardel made the acquaintance of a thirteen-year-old 
Argentine kid named Astor, who spoke English fluently because his parents had brought him to New York many years earlier.

black & white photo from the 1935 movie El Dia Que Me Quieras with Astor Piazzola (left) and Carlos Gardel (third from left)

Astor Piazzolla, left; Carlos Gardel, third from left, in a scene from El dia que me quieras

Gardel and Astor hit it off immediately and became close friends. Gardel and his musicians even tutored Astor on the bandoneón that the boy’s father had bought for him. Gardel also arranged for Astor to have a bit role in the movie, playing a newspaper boy. Gardel was killed on June 24, 1935 in an airplane crash in Medellín, Columbia.

The boy “Astor” was, of course, Astor Piazzolla, who later went on to one of the most storied careers of any tango-based musician in the history of the genre.

Astor’s letter to Gardel
In 1978, Piazzolla wrote a letter to Gardel “in heaven,” that was published in the Buenos Aires daily Clarín. Here is part of it…

Dear Charlie:
Maybe if I call you Charlie, you’ll remember that boy of thirteen who lived in New York, who was Argentine and played the bandoneón. Also, he worked as a newspaper boy on [the set of] “El dia que me quieras.”

When you asked me how to say “Carlitos” in English, I called you “Charlie.” Do you remember when I brought you a wooden puppet that my father had carved? That morning you signed two photos, one for [my father] Vicente and another for “the cute kid and future great bandoneón player.” From 1934 until today, 1978, forty-four years have passed, and I did not really let you down.

I showed you my city (I was proud to know it well…having lived there for eleven years), especially my neighborhood, Greenwich Village, where you just had to find the best Italian cantinas…you, with such problems of the paunch, and not counting the times you came to my home, where you tried the ravioli of my mother Asunta and a dessert of jelly fritters. You really liked to eat well!

I’ll tell you a nice story, Charlie. Some teachers singing at the Teatro Colón [in Buenos Aires] now make the students listen to your records as a model of song. You know, I would have written for you, and I would have made arrangements and played the bandoneón for you. We’d kill ‘em, Charlie!

Well, I’m going to work now, or, as we say today, “I have a recital.” I’ll think about the kid Piazzolla when you said, “Now, Astor, play that arrabal music and give it all you got.” It was the spring of 1935, and that’s the day the duet Gardel-Piazzolla was born. I am a lucky guy. Someday we will both be up on the top floor. Wait for me….
Astor

Terence Clarke’s latest book is the story collection New York.

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Presenting Pablo Estigarribia and Adrian Jost

Argentine pianist and Swiss bandoneonista perform at Alma del Tango

by Terence Clarke, novelist, journalist and Alma del Tango board member.

It’s a given that Argentine tango has a significant influence on contemporary music around the world. Most of the musicians who are responsible for that influence are themselves Argentine. But there have been few notable tangueros who were not born in that country.

Tango pianist Pablo Estagaribbia & bandeneonista Adrian Jost

Pablo Estagaribbia & Adrian Jost

Among those is bandoneonista Adrian Jost who, though born in Switzerland, received his master’s degree in music from Northwestern University, and is one of the co-founders, along with Argentine guitarist Guillermo García, of Trio Garufa.

On Friday, May 25, Adrian joins Pablo Estigarribia, one of the most noted younger Argentine players and arrangers of tango, for a performance at La Milonga de San Anselmo. The duo has been on tour and will make a much-anticipated appearance at Alma del Tango.

Pablo has made several recordings. One of them, Tangos para piano, was the recipient a few years ago of the Premio Gardel, the most prestigious award offered by the Argentine recording industry. His latest collection, with legendary singer María Graña, has been nominated for a Gardel this year.

Adrian is a virtuoso on his instrument. He has a complete understanding of tango’s unique underlying rhythms and plays his bandoneon with exceptional drive and humor. He brings authentic emotional authority to the music that is rare among players who do not come originally from Argentina.

Devotees of the dance
Pablo and Adrian are unusual as tango musicians in that both are devotees of the dance as well as the music. Each was initiated into the subtleties of tango through their dancing of it.

“Most of the professional tango musicians I know don’t dance,” Pablo says. “But, of course, one of the most direct ways of learning the intricacies of rhythm in tango is to get out on the floor.”

This was so important a revelation to Adrian that, when he and Guillermo García first met Sascha Jacobson, the American bassist and third member of Trio Garufa, they realized that, although a first-rate musician, Sascha didn’t yet have the dynamics of tango, the surge of it, in his blood. So they told him to go out and learn the dance. When you hear Sascha play tango now, you realize how good that advice was.

On a recent trip to Buenos Aires Adrian and Pablo spent an evening with the virtuoso bandoneonista Victor Lavallen. Victor was a principal arranger for many years for Osvaldo Pugliese, and is something of a tango immortal himself in Buenos Aires. Riding in a taxi afterwards, Adrian and Pablo decided to play together, and sealed the deal with a handshake.

Adrian is quite precise in his reason for wanting to play with Pablo. “It’s the attention to detail in his music,” he says. “Pablo introduces new elements to his tango, but it remains connected to that of previous musicians. Nonetheless, his tango is very much his own.”

Pablo is indeed a stickler for precision in the music, and is devoted to practice and rehearsal. “And that’s one thing I like especially about Adrian. He’s Swiss. So he practices. He’s always on time to a rehearsal, which you can’t say is the case with most Argentine musicians. Above all, he knows tango and what makes it work. He loves the music that I love, and I love the music that he does.”

Rehearsal by email
At first, their coming together as a duo featured an unusual practice schedule. “It was a real debut experience for me,” Adrian says. “At first, I thought it was crazy. We had trouble rehearsing because I was in San Francisco and Pablo was in Buenos Aires. So he would email me a score for some tango. I would play it, figure it out, and send him ideas for changes…also by email. Then we would negotiate, listening to each other’s ideas online. Pablo laughs with this description:

Yes, I believe it was the first series of rehearsals in the history of music to be conducted on ‘WhatsApp.’ 

To hear the results, don’t miss Pablo Estigarribia and Adrian Jost (with the addition of singer Christianna Valentina) at Alma del Tango’s milonga on Friday evening, May 25, generously sponsored by Alma del Tango friend and supporter Deborah Loft.

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A rare opportunity! Dance to the music of Pablo Estigarribia and Adrian Jost at our May 25 milonga.

Tango pianist Pablo Estigarribia and bandeonist Adrian Jost

Pablo Estigarribia & Adrian Jost perform at Alma del Tango’s milonga on May 25

With special thanks to Alma del Tango’s angel, Deborah Loft.

Widely recognized as one of the best tango musicians of his generation, Pablo Estigarribia is doing a Bay Area tour with bandoneonist Adrian Jost of Trio Garufa, and we’re fortunate to have them for a performance at Alma del Tango.

A classically trained virtuoso pianist and jazz lover, Pablo discovered tango in 2005. He has studied, composed, arranged, and performed with such legendary musicians as Emilio Balcarce, Horacio Cabarcos, Maria Graña and Victor Lavallen. Estigarribia was awarded the prestigious Gardel Prize in 2015 for Best Tango Recording by a New Artist.

Adrian is well known to the Bay Area tango community. He first studied the accordion and bayan with the best teachers in his native Switzerland. Upon coming to the U.S. to pursue his master’s degree at Northwestern University, he discovered Argentine tango and made the transition to the bandoneon. In 2001, he co-founded Trio Garufa, a favorite at Alma del Tango milongas.

“We are thrilled to present the duo at our May milonga where they will perform some concert pieces as well as classics for dancing,” says Debbie Goodwin. “Our own Christianna Valentina will sing with the two master musicians. It promises to be a stellar evening at Alma del Tango!” 

Made possible by a gift from Deborah Loft

Deborah Loft, Tango dancer

Deborah Loft, Alma del Tango angel

In order to bring you top musicians and guest teachers, Alma del Tango, a nonprofit, counts on support from our community. Our long-time friend, student and supporter, Deborah Loft, has contributed to make this event possible.

Deborah has been dancing tango for about 11 years and continues to enjoy everything that Alma del Tango offers.  “It’s amazing how Debbie and John have shaped a studio and theater with classes, practicas, milongas, performances and guest Argentine teachers and performers,” she says.

“I try never to take it for granted and make the most of it,” says Deborah. “I’m lucky I live in San Anselmo, but if I were living anywhere else in the North Bay I would take advantage of it.”

Contributing her creative skills

She deeply appreciates the importance of the arts and community and does everything in her power to be supportive of our projects.”  Debbie Goodwin

Deborah supports Alma del Tango in more ways than financial. An art historian by profession, she also has a background in theater and film. Her talents include costuming and make-up consulting. She has worked on two independent feature films and designed costumes for College of Marin theatrical productions.

She has consulted on Alma del Tango student productions and performed in several as well. You may have seen her portrayal of Maurice Le Beau in Tango Tales (2012). For that role she invented her character’s back story and encouraged other cast members to do the same in order to better understand the period and characters they were portraying. In 2013, she appeared as the novelist in Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story.

Deborah Loft portrays male tango dancer Maurice LeBeau in Alma del Tango student production

Deborah Loft as Maurice Le Beau in “Tango Tales”

Deborah also likes to support Tango Con*Fusion.  “It’s an all-women dance troupe run by women; they are not limited by gender in a dance that is strongly gender-based,” she explains.

“Deborah has been our Alma del Tango angel for many years — always ready to help out not only financially but with her extensive talents and knowledge,” says Debbie Goodwin. “We are most grateful to Deborah for making it possible for us to bring Pablo and Adrian to our San Anselmo studio.”

Learn more about our guest artists:
Pablo Estigarribia
Adrian Jost

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Sexteto Milonguero: Tango in the Present Moment

 by Terence Clarke, novelist, journalist and Alma del Tango board member.

Javier Di Ciriaco of Sexteto Milonguero, Buenos Aires tango musician

Javier Di Ciriaco, founder of Sexteto Milonguero

For those of us outside Buenos Aires (I live in San Francisco) tango is heard principally through the thousands of historic recordings made during the last 80 years. If this sea of music were to be believed, you’d think that these old arrangements were the only ones that exist. We dance to them over and over again.

But there is a thriving community of contemporary tango in Buenos Aires, peopled by actual living musicians, who are writing new tangos and re-arranging the old ones in innovative ways that literally re-shape the form. Stellar artists like Cristóbal Repetto, María Volonté, Daniel Melingo, Adriana Varela and Caracol are not only bringing tango to vibrant life again, but are expanding its territory in innumerable ways.

 Sexteto Milonguero, founded and fronted by singer Javier Di Ciriaco, is one of those groups. Just completing a U.S. tour, they appeared recently in the San Francisco Bay Area. Di Ciriaco is to the manner born. He has no formal training as a singer. Rather he describes growing up in Argentina in a musical family (his father was a singer), and those occasions of parillas (barbecues), backyard celebrations, weddings and other family gatherings during which music performance by attendees is de rigueur.

This is a common occurrence in Argentine celebrations no matter where in the country you may be. Di Ciriaco describes these events, and how as a child he too would be expected to participate. It was there that he picked up his formidable singing chops.

Highly original and inventive

The sextet is made up of a bandoneonista, two violinists, a pianist, a bassist and Di Ciriaco himself, who also lends his guitar to the musical mix. One thing that makes this band so special is that these are truly professional young musicians whose abilities run the gamut from very tight playing and authoritative knowledge of the music at hand to a sense of fun and humorous drive that makes the music highly unusual in its originality. This is not a combination heard much outside Buenos Aires. 

There was just one solo performance during the concert, and it was significant. The great tango “El día que me quieras” (“The Day You Love Me”) with music by Carlos Gardel and lyrics by Alfredo Le Pera was recorded in 1934. It was Gardel who had previously transformed tango from a country and urban Buenos Aires street music into the concert stage and recording phenomenon that eventually resulted. His recording of this song was the highest point of his astonishing stage and film career. (He died in a plane crash on June 24, 1935, in Medellín, Colombia.)

Di Ciriaco took up his guitar and sang this song alone, without the band. As with so many of the sexteto’s numbers, this version of the song was immediately recognizable. But it was also so inventive that it gave the piece a much more hip modernity and soul than I have heard in all the previous recordings, with the exception of Gardel’s own. Di Ciriaco’s version was a surprise, and a wonder. 

For fine examples of Sexteto Milonguero’s rich arrangements and featured solos by its artists, look for their recordings on Amazon Music and Apple iTunes. You can also find them at http://www.sextetomilonguero.com.ar

Terence Clarke is co-founder and director of publishing at Astor & Lenox. His latest book is a story collection titled New York.

 

 

 

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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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The story of the Milonga

Terence Clarke, writer, tango

Terence Clarke

By Terence Clarke, novelist, journalist and Alma del Tango board member.

Terence Clarke’s latest book is New York, a collection of stories, all of which take place in New York City. He and his partner Beatrice Bowles are the organizers of the milongas at The de Young Museum, the Palace of The Legion of Honor, and The Ferry Building, in San Francisco. You can see him in his role as the moderator of Alma de Tango’s video “Tango: A Romantic Ritual.”

In 1883, an Argentine writer named Ventura Lynch, who studied and wrote about tango and all its variations, described tango’s older relative, the milonga: “It is so universal in the environs of Buenos Aires that it is an obligatory piece at all the lower-class dances (in Lynch’s Spanish, “bailecitos de medio pelo”), and it is now heard on guitars, on paper-combs, and from the itinerant musicians with their flutes, harps and violins. It has also been taken up by organ-grinders…It is danced in low life clubs, and also at the dances and wakes of cart-drivers, the soldiery, and compadres and compadritos (i.e. streetwise ruffians and gangsters).”

This was written well before the tango’s own development in the twentieth century. But the milonga was already an ancient term, and referred to music and dance that was, in the days long before Lynch, not Argentine at all.

The famous early gauchos from the Argentine pampas and elsewhere in southern South America…lonely cowboys wandering from place to place in search of work…also sought entertainment. They found it in their own “payadas,” which were verse-competitions in which a gaucho, with his guitar, would sing a verse of his own making, and a second gaucho would respond with a competing verse, an answer to the first payador’s offering. Inventive rhyming language back and forth was the goal, accompanied by guitar, with quick thinking and improvisation the method.

African influences

Some of these gauchos were black, and before 1861, the year slavery was outlawed everywhere in Argentina, many of the servants and country working class were black slaves. They had been brought to Argentina from the Niger-Congo regions of Africa, where the many Bantu languages and dialects are spoken. One theory has it that these slaves, not understanding the Spanish in which the payadas were sung, and noting how much language there was in the competitions, referred to them with the word mulonga, which is the Bantu for the Spanish palabra, or the English word.

So these payadas were a lot of talk, and with time, the competitive gatherings became known more universally throughout Argentina as milongas.

Dance was not far behind, and at first it was an individual expression, in which a gaucho (probably bottle in hand, his movements fired by drink) would dance to the payadores’ music by himself. Simple, a step to every beat of the music, rough-and-ready solo moves were the earmarks of the early milonga dance.

Sometimes, the men would dance with each other…milonga’s earliest appearance as a couples event. Later, as the music and dance moved toward the city in the nineteenth century, the presence of women became a reality (usually women of not much virtue). The phenomenon was deeply influenced by the black former slaves, whose presence in Buenos Aires made a permanent mark on the music and, especially, the dance. The best-known rhythms were the habanera and the traspié, the syncopations that we now always hear and see in contemporary milonga. Both are of African origin.

With time, the milonga became not only a music form in its own right, but also the single word that would describe a gathering of people coming together to dance. So,—¡Vamos, chicos, a la milonga! “Let’s go, guys, to the milonga!”

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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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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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