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Student of the Month –
Christianna Valentina

by Lanny Udell

Alma del Tango Student of the Month Christianna ValentinaDancing tango since:  Christianna began her tango journey a year ago after she saw Nicholas Tapia (2014 Argentine Tango Salon USA Champion) dancing at a party where she was performing as a singer/pianist.

Why tango: “Tango had been on my mind for 15 years, and when I saw him dance I thought, that’s it—it starts tomorrow,” she says.

Christianna calls herself a “dance explorer.”  While working on a dance degree in college she studied ballet, modern, African style … and performed into her late 20’s.

Favorite part:  For Christianna, it’s the feeling of connection with another person. The nonverbal communication of having to listen to each other deeply in order to move together. “It takes so much focus, you have to turn everything off to do it, so it’s a great escape.”

About Debbie & John:  “I’m in awe of them – not only as dancers, but as teachers,” says Christianna.  A music teacher as well as performer, she understands how much heart and soul it takes. “They’re always introducing new themes, bringing in guest teachers…the classes are never stagnant. They bring creativity into every aspect. I don’t think there’s anything like Alma del Tango in the Bay Area.”

In Tango Dreamscapes, Christianna will be performing a choreography, partnered by John.

Christianna Valentina dances tango with John Campbell

Christianna and John Campbell in Tango Dreamscapes

“He has the patience of a saint,” she says.  “It’s been like trying to mold a tango dancer out of
a bundle of nerves.  It’s been a real honor to work so closely with him.”

Anything else?  In addition to dancing in the upcoming show, Christianna will be a vocalist/pianist performing a soulful tango song.  Even though she has studied Spanish and Portuguese, having to learn the Argentine accent was a challenge for the tanguera.

Last word: “Tango’s taking over my life and I’m loving it!”

Christianna Valentina, vocalist/pianist in Tango Dreamscapes

Christianna Valentina, vocalist/pianist in Tango Dreamscapes

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Student of the Month – Tanja Obear

by Lanny Udell

Alma del Tango Student of the Month Tanja ObearDancing tango since:   Tanja started dabbling in Argentine tango about 10 years ago.  She had explored a few different dances, enjoyed salsa and swing, but when she found Argentine tango, it resonated with her immediately. Tanja has spent the last seven years focused on her family and has recently re-emerged with a new fervor for her interest in Argentine Tango.

Why tango:  “For me tango is a metaphor for life,” says Tanja. “It offers joys, challenges, and opportunities for growth. In its best moments, it becomes a true spiritual experience.”

 Favorite part: Tanja loves the connection that tango offers her…to the music, to her dance partner …and to the community. She enjoys the feeling of being completely in the moment. “It’s a very passionate dance but it can also be light and fun,” she says.

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Tanja with tanguero Mark Anderson at La Milonga de San Anselmo

About Debbie & John: “What I like most about John and Debbie’s teaching style is that they articulate the nuances of Argentine tango in a playful manner, so I’m able to stay focused, yet relaxed,” says the tanguera. “Debbie also teaches followers to be active in the interpretation of the music and the lead. Even though the leader is the choreographer, the follower has her own role to play.” Tanja also enjoys seeing women leading as well as following.

What do you look for in a leader: “It’s important for me that somebody really feels the music and expresses it through their dance.  While it’s important to be technically accurate, a leader who connects and feels the music, makes all the difference.”

Anything else? On October 31st, Tanja will dance with the Alma del Tango dancers when they perform for the Goldenaires in San Rafael. It’s her first time performing in front of a group.

Last word: As Activities Director at WindChime – Memory Care Community in Kentfield, Tanja finds it deeply rewarding to have the opportunity to bring the joys of music and dance to the residents.  “I find inspiration for my work in tango, the arts, and the beauty found in nature.  My greatest joy in life is my seven year old daughter.”

 

 

 

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Student of the Month – MaryBeth Neill

by Lanny Udell

MaryBeth Neill in a big red hatDancing tango since:  MaryBeth discovered tango about 4 years ago.  “I went  to a class with a friend thinking I’d just observe,” she recalls.  But she brought shoes along…just in case.

Why tango:  The mystery of the dance intrigued her … trying to figure out what the instructors were doing and how they could move so smoothly when it was improvised.  How does the follower know what to do?  She had been going to Monroe Hall in Sonoma County for all kinds of dancing. Then one night the DJ played some tango music and her friend tried leading her in ochos, but she couldn’t figure out what to do.  That’s when she started taking classes to learn this mysterious dance.

Favorite part:  When asked this question MaryBeth recites a quote from Mirabai:MaryBeth Neill dances at a milongs

Tango is the union of beings, even if just for a moment. It is the breath that you take as one when the music lifts you out of the mundane and carries you to another realm.

She finds tango meditative, “there’s a stillness…it’s almost zen,” says MaryBeth. And then, of course, there are the shoes and the clothes. During a trip to Buenos Aires in 2012 she couldn’t resist those gorgeous Comme Il Faut shoes. “I bought 6 pairs,” she admits.

About Debbie & John: MaryBeth attends their Monday night Level 3 and 4 classes at Alma del Tango. “They’re amazing, I love their interaction,” she says.  In 2012, MaryBeth suffered a broken hip and was unable to dance for 8 months. When she’d healed, she took a private lesson with John to test the hip…”he was very gracious and helpful,” she says. “And Debbie is always so welcoming.  When she offers corrections she makes it very equal (leader and follower) because in tango, it’s about both of us.”

Anything else?  A nurse, MaryBeth confesses to doing the tango walk down the hospital hallways, and she’ll sneak in a few boleos in the nurse’s station when nobody’s watching. “I need 8 days a week so I can go to more milongas,” says the tanguera, “I have more clothes and shoes than there are milongas!”

Pedicure in Buenos Aires

Pampering her feet after dancing all day and all night in Buenos Aires

Tango dancer MaryBeth Neill with nurses in Havana, Cuba

MaryBeth visited a surgery center on a trip to Havana, Cuba in 2012

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Bettina Maria brings her exciting new collection to Alma del Tango

Bettina Maria tango fashionsMini Fashion Show Friday, July 18
We’re excited to welcome Bettina Maria to the studio with a showing of her latest tango fashions during La Practica de San Anselmo.
Inspired by the style, the music and dance of the Argentine Tango, she creates one-of-a-kind designs for sophisticated tango dancers everywhere. Her goal is to make you feel stylish, well dressed, playful, feminine and sexy! Since her clothes are made specifically for tango they move well and look fantastic on the body.

Bettina Maria, a Berliner, studied fashion design in San Francisco and worked in high fashion on the west coast for 15 years.  After seeing Forever Tango, she decided to immerse herself in the culture and spent three years living, studying and breathing tango in Buenos Aires.

Inspired by the creative energy of the city and its many fabulous dancers, as well by her own engagement and training in the dance, she Bettina Maria backless tango dresschanneled the many colorful impressions and emotions into her own art … and the collection “MODAS DE TANGO” was born.

“Each piece is individually made with love for detail, with love for Tango, with love for beauty,” says Bettina.

Modeling her fashions Friday evening will be: Debbie Goodwin, Gisela Green, Keiko Kikuta, Olivia Levitt, Lisette Perelle, Dottye Rinefort, Mila Salazar and Bettina herself.  Fashion show will begin at 8:45. Don’t miss this exciting event and the opportunity to purchase an original from the designer!

PS–Bettina Maria’s fashions will be soon available at Alma del Tango on an on-going basis.
Sexy tango pants by Bettina MariaFloral print tango dress by Bettina Maria

 

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Student of the Month – Larry Seeger

 

Alma del Tango Student of the Month Larry Seeger  by Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since: Larry’s tango adventure began about six years ago. After seeing Forever Tango, he was mesmerized.

Why tango:  A ballroom dancer all his life, Larry was intrigued by the intricacy of Argentine tango. “I wondered, how could I learn to do that?”  Then fate stepped in and Larry was invited to a book signing for   Hold Me Tight and Tango Me Home, by Maria Finn. At the event, Maria danced with David Caditz, and that fanned the flames of Larry’s desire to learn this dance. After some classes with David he discovered Tango Mango and began studying with various teachers in the Bay Area.

Favorite part: Larry has danced West Coast Swing for 10 years, and he finds similarities between the two. “Both beg for a lot of musicality, interpretation, flexibility and innovation,” he observes. “When I dance with someone and have a wow experience, it’s because we have a 3-way connection — lead/follow/music.” It’s not just the beat, Larry explains, it’s the mood. “There are surges of energy that the composer and musicians are communicating. As a dancing couple we feel that, and amplify it. When that happens, I get tearful…it’s incredibly emotional and beautiful.”

Tango dancer & sea captain Larry Seeger

Larry pursuing his two passions…sailing and dancing.

About Debbie & John: “They’re exceptional at teaching good technique…in fact, they’re driven by it,” says Larry. He also appreciates the way they approach you during class and practicas, offering feedback. “John is very tactful,” he says. “When he provides feedback he starts with the leader and almost always gives the follower some tips, too, so you don’t feel like one person is the problem.”

Larry also admires John and Debbie’s commitment to creating a tango community in Marin. “They had the vision and took the initiative to make it happen.”

Anything else?  Larry is passionate about becoming an exceptional tango dancer… exceptional enough so he doesn’t get turned down when he invites someone to dance.

Larry joined the Alma del Tango dancers for a performance at the San Rafael Rec Center

Larry partnered Lanny Udell in last fall’s Alma del Tango performance for the San Rafael Goldenaires

 

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Student of the Month – Gary Febus

by Lanny Udell

Student of the Month Gary FebusDancing tango since: Gary and his wife, Laura, began taking tango lessons about 10 years ago when their ballroom dance teachers included tango in their classes. When the teachers left the Bay Area, Gary and Laura stopped dancing ballroom and started taking tango lessons at the Lake Merritt Dance Center.

Why tango:  “It’s definitely a commitment dance, “says Gary. “That’s why we didn’t get involved at first. It wasn’t like picking up foxtrot or waltz which you can do at a lesser level. People who get into tango aspire to be better.” According to Gary (and as we all know), “tango is a dance that will crowd out other dances.”

Gary and Laura, tango dancers

Gary and Laura

Favorite part: For Gary, it’s the emotional content, the close embrace and the salon style. “Tango has the corner on that.”  He also likes the community aspect of tango…not just a single community, but the fact that there are different crowds, different ages at various venues. And tango is something he and his wife can enjoy together…pretty much anywhere.

About Debbie & John: Gary has been taking private lessons with Debbie for about a year.  He wanted a female instructor to evaluate his dancing. “I’d been aware of Debbie for a few years, and had seen her perform,” he says. Gary and Laura have also taken Debbie and John’s Monday night couples class. “There’s nothing I don’t like about their teaching,” he says. “Debbie is a friendly, open person and she tries hard to solve your problem so you get what you want out of the dance.” What Gary wants is to be a better dancer, “and Debbie has helped me quite a bit.”

Anything else?  When they’re not dancing tango Gary and Laura are avid bike riders. They also play golf, water ski and enjoy sailing.

Last word: “Women and shoes – I never got it before, but I super get it with tango. My wife hadn’t worn high heels in a long time.  Now her closet is full of Comme Il Faut,” he says with a smile.

 

Gary and his pal, Teagan

Gary and his pal, Teagan

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Tango performance at La Loggia gets rave review

Alma del Tango's Debbie Goodwin & John Campbell

Alma del Tango’s Debbie Goodwin & John Campbell

The second Tuesday of every month is Alma del Tango night at La Loggia in San Anselmo.

Tangueros come to dance, and diners thrill to the music and special performance by Alma del Tango’s Debbie Goodwin and John Campbell, or guest dancers.

On Tuesday, January 14, Debbie and John electrified the crowd.  Tango student Deborah Loft was in the audience that night and writes: “Congratulations on an especially fine performance at La Loggia. I thought you both reached a new level, and from the applause, I could tell that everyone else thought so, too.”

She went on to say, “I was thinking about what made it so special. I realized one element was that you chose to dance to a non-tango piece—When I’m 64 — and that besides the whimsy and unconventionality which opened up new possibilities, the song was in English (and well-known), so that we could see you responding to the ‘text’ (as we opera-goers say).”

La Loggia Vinoteca and Cafe is Italian-inspired but features local wines and delectables.  For these special evenings of tango, they also offer Argentine wines.

Tango at La Loggia in San Anselmo

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Student of the Month – Chuck Isen

by Lanny Udell

Chuck Isen tango dancerDancing tango since:  A relative newcomer to tango, Chuck started taking classes and private lessons in the summer of 2013.

Why tango:  Chuck has been dancing since he started going to sock hops as a 12 year old. That’s when he learned the jitterbug, cha cha, swing and other popular dances. As an adult, he became a professional actor and studied jazz and ballet as part of his training.   In the late 70’s, Chuck began facilitating personal transformational workshops…and stopped dancing.

Now semi-retired, he’s decided to learn a dance he’d never studied before. “Tango has always intrigued me,” he says, “it’s a sensual dance, and it’s a challenge.”

Favorite part: Those moments when it flows. He enjoys “allowing the music to guide me around the floor.”

About Debbie & John: “They make tango fun, and they break it down so we are able to follow,” says Chuck. He also likes the way Debbie and John relate to each other. “Their relationship is right out there on the dance floor. It’s fun to watch them negotiate.”

What surprised him: “Because of my dance background, I didn’t expect it to take this long…it’s kind of a humbling experience,” he admits.

Chuck Isen in "I Hate Hamlet"

Chuck as the ghost of John Barrymore in the College of Marin production of “I Hate Hamlet”

When asked what he looks for in a follower Chuck says, “Someone who is better than I am and is willing to surrender to the process of following. And, someone who’s forgiving, and allows me to fumble.”

Anything else? At the end of December, Chuck went to the San Diego Tango Festival for a 5-day total immersion in tango. And, he’s considering going to CITA in March.

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Student of the Month – Edith Kaplan

by Lanny Udell

Edith Kaplan, Alma del Tango student of the month.Dancing tango since:  Edith took her first tango class in 2008. She had signed up for a flamenco class through College  of Marin. It was supposed to be four evenings but the teacher was ill for two weeks.  Itching to dance, Edith took another look at the COM program and saw Debbie and John pictured on the cover. That was it – her tango life was launched.

Why tango:  “After the second class I was enchanted and wanted to continue,” says Edith.  But after the session ended, there was a long break coming up. “I tried to figure out where else to take lessons, and I started going to beginner classes at various venues in San Francisco.”  Then Edith moved to Hawaii where she lived for the next three years.  Upon returning to the Bay Area, she continued her dancing with Debbie and John.

Edith dressed up for  Halloween at La  Milonga de San Anselmo 2012

Edith dressed up for the Halloween
milonga at Alma del Tango, 2012

Favorite part:  Edith is a creative person and she finds tango a very creative dance. “I like the connection with your partner and with the music … and the interpretation, which can be different every time,” she observes. “ It’s a beautiful dance for a woman, allowing her to express a female energy that’s not so possible in the outside world … of being strong and surrendering at the same time.”

About Debbie & John: “It’s a combination of their passion and ability to teach what they really love,” says the tanguera.  “They’ve built a community where it’s more than just coming together to dance, and with the performances we have a very strong connection.  I feel privileged to be part of this. I couldn’t be in a better place.”

MSA Oct-534

Edith dancing at the Halloween
Milonga de San Anselmo – 2012

Anything else? A graphic designer, Edith contributes her talents to many Alma del Tango projects. She designed the poster, program and other elements for Close Embrace. She also creates Debbie and John’s promotional pieces, and did the design work for Tango Con*Fusión’s Trading Places and last fall’s Piazzolla concert.

Edith will be performing the women’s choreo in our 2014 student production, Tango Magic. And, she is contemplating a trip to Buenos Aires in March.

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Edith with Debbie at Nora’s Tango Week Milonga 2012

Last word: When asked her secret for getting a dance at a crowded milonga, she grinned and said, “smile.”

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Student of the Month – Deborah Loft

by Lanny Udell

 

Deborah LoftDancing tango since: Seven years ago, Deborah was taking a ballroom dance class which included one unit on tango.

Why tango: She fell in love with the music and the moves and, in time, transitioned out of ballroom. “It took me a while to find a tango community and teachers,” she explains.

Favorite part: For Deborah, tango is unlike any other form of social dance because of the close embrace, the connection, the musicality, and the one-step-at-a-time nature of it.  She’s loved to dance since she was a little girl, although she’s had no formal training. “So it doesn’t surprise me that I’ve made a commitment to learn this dance as well as I can.”

About Debbie & John: “To an exceptional degree they create community, and that has all kinds of benefits which also show up in our dancing,” says Deborah. “We know each other, have patience and confidence in each other.” She also appreciates the way Debbie and John work together and continue to learn from the best teachers and bring it back to us. She appreciates Debbie’s strength, creativity and energy. “Since I take private lessons with her, I appreciate her strength as a leader.”

Anything else? Deborah has participated in all three Alma del Tango student productions. In All About Tango she performed a solo partnered in part by a man and in part by a woman.

Deborah Loft as Maurice Le Beau in Tango Tales

Deborah as Maurice LeBeau in Tango Tales, 2012

And in Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story, she played the role of the novelist on stage and as the recorded voice-over. She also danced in the finale and was the show’s costume coordinator.

Deborah Loft as the novelist in Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story

Deborah as the novelist in Close Embrace, 2013.

Tango fits perfectly into Deborah’s profession and passion as an art historian. But she also has another passion – opera. She rarely misses a performance at  the San Francisco Opera and travels to Europe to attend the great opera houses in Vienna, Salzburg and Paris.

Last word: In 2012, Deborah spent three weeks in Buenos Aires immersing herself in tango. She went for CITA, the annual international tango festival, then stayed on to study and dance with a local instructor who spoke no English. By the end of her stay, both her dancing and her Spanish were transformed!

 

Deborah at the SF Opera

Opening night at the San Francisco Opera

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