Tag Archives | Bay Area

Student of the Month – Cocco (Bella Monarch) Savelli

 

Cocco Savelli by Lanny Udell

Dancing tango since:   Bella wanted to start studying tango, and in January 2010 she received a flyer in the mail from College of Marin with Debbie and John pictured on the cover. It must have been fate.

Why tango:  “I fell in love with tango over 20 years ago when Forever Tango opened in San Francisco.  I went to every performance, and I was mesmerized.  I wanted to do that!” says Bella.  Four months after beginning classes, she started writing a show for stage that would involve telling the story through singing and tango.  She wanted to portray the characters and dance the show herself … so began the long-term commitment of learning tango.

Favorite part: “Everything! The dance…the shoes…the sensuality and passion of tango,” she gushes.  “At first glance tango seems to be about the flesh, but it has so many layers beyond that.”  As a singer,Bella is moved by the music. And she also loves the traditions, for example, the cabeceo. “I am constantly fascinated with how leaders and followers interact…how they lose their own identities on the dance floor and tango takes over, it’s very Zen.”

Alma del Tango's Halloween milonga

Bella as a French countess at Alma del Tango’s Halloween milonga

About Debbie & John:  For Bella, they are “the best role models I have… kind, genuine and so generous.”   She loves their commitment to each other, to the dance, and to creating a tango community.  “They are patient with students and very supportive,” she says.  “I also enjoy watching them teach and especially their ‘time outs’ with each other as they debate what or how to bring what’s next.”

Anything else?  Bella has participated in three Alma del Tango student productions. In Tango Tales she was a featured artist and sang three classic tango songs accompanied by the Russian pianist Ludmilla Morry.  She is also appearing in Alma del Tango’s new production, Tango Magic.

Most memorable moment: During Tango Tales, Bella got to know Alex and Karina Levin who also danced in the show. One night at a milonga, Alex asked her to dance, and she shyly said …no, thank you. He asked why?  She explained that she wanted to, badly, but “I am too scared…you are way too good for me!”  He said, “Don’t be silly, it’s just a conversation. I say something, you say something.  There is no wrong, no right. You absolutely can do it!”  With that, she gave him her hand.  “I have never danced like that in my life!  It was tango bliss. His genuine kindness, encouragement, gentleness and depth transcended the dance floor and captured my tango soul.”

Bella sailing the bay

When she’s not on the dance floor, Bella may be pursuing her other passion–sailing.

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Student of the Month – Pam Shreeve

 

by Lanny Udell

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Dancing tango since:  One night, about six years ago, Pam was leaving her ballroom dance class and heard tango music playing. “I was mesmerized,” she says. “I knew then that I’d be dancing tango.”    

Why tango:  Pam had seen a tango performance back in the 80’s, but it didn’t move her so much. But once she discovered the music and started taking lessons, she was hooked. Her once-a-week class quickly escalated to two and then four times a week.

Favorite part: For Pam, it’s all about the music and the connection with your partner.  When asked what she looks for in a leader, she says it’s not about the level of dance or doing fancy things…it’s more about integrity.

About Debbie & John:  Pam is a devoted fan. “I adore them…they are the most compassionate, sincere, hard-working instructors. They take amateurs and create magic. They listen, and give great feedback. Debbie has such faith in us, she treats us like stars.”

Pam dancing with Randy Cook

Pam enjoys a dance with tanguero Randy Cook
at Alma del Tango in San Anselmo

 

Her most magical tango experience:  While on a hiking trip in Jordan, Pam heard Bedouins playing Middle Eastern music in their tent, and she realized one could dance milonga to this music. So she and another tango dancer in her group did just that. The Bedouins had never seen tango before, nor had they seen a couple dancing together in a close embrace. They loved it … and so did Pam.

Alma del Tango Student of the Month Pam

Pam scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef

 

On a personal note:  A native Marin-ite, Pam has been a critical care nurse at Kaiser for 25 years. She has a daughter in grad school in San Francisco and a son in the Special Forces. Pam is also an adventure traveler, hiker, and loves birding. When we spoke, she was online booking a trip to India.

 

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Tango Love Birds – Michael and Margaret

Danger – the romantic kind CloseEmbrace_MichaelKlesert_byAlliNovak2013

Just over five years ago, Michael moved to Napa and became seriously addicted to tango. He began taking classes in Yountville but in order to dance at a real milonga he had to travel further – to the Belrose in San Rafael.

“The best way to do this without succumbing to the terror of asking a stranger to dance was to car pool with other members of the Yountville class,” says Michael. “One afternoon I was introduced to a charming, sophisticated, elegant Russian woman named Margaret, and we discovered that she also was from Napa.  Life is full of serendipity.”

Initially Michael was reluctant to cabaceo the lovely tanguera, thinking she was a more experienced dancer. But, eventually, after much internal debate, he worked up the nerve to ask her to share a tanda with him.CloseEmbrace_MargaretTrachtenberg_byAlliNovak2013

“I was completely embarrassed and thrilled at the same time,” he admits. “She didn’t seem too offended by my leading, so I invited her again a little later.” Soon, the two began dancing more often and commuting to various milongas, first with small groups and occasionally just with each other.

“Danger — the romantic kind — lurked in these long drives back and forth,” Michael recalls.  These interludes allowed them to get to know each better, sharing life adventures and discovering mutual interests as they drove. “Margaret went to university in Moscow where ballet, opera and theater were all very available and top quality, and I conducted musical theater, once aspired to conduct opera and was a symphony orchestra manager at one time,” Michael explains.

The spark ignites…MM-107

The time spent alone together in the car became more engaging and more exciting.  “Neither of us was aware of our growing desire for the other until one night, when I walked Margaret to her front door after dancing. She kissed my cheek, almost melting me in my shoes,” says Michael. “Totally unexpected and searingly hot, this simple gesture led me to admit that I had been wanting to touch her hand in the car but was afraid to scare her off.”

During their commutes Margaret wasn’t thinking about a relationship. “I thought he was a very nice man and I enjoyed his company. I liked not having to drive by myself at night.” Things began to progress more rapidly after Michael took Margaret to dinner to celebrate her birthday at Skates in Berkeley, then to a milonga in Oakland – their first real date.

“Since then, we have danced at my best friend’s wedding in Colorado, in the lobby of several hotels, Yountville and Cabo San Lucas included, at wineries, the de Young museum, outdoors at the Legion of Honor, and on stage in Alma del Tango’s production Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story in San Anselmo.”

CloseEmbrace_MichaelKlesert_MargaretTrachtenberg_byAlliNovak2013

When he knew she was the one

For Michael, the most romantic night of all was early in the relationship. “With a full moon and fog rolling over the ridge in Sausalito, we danced to live music by Seth Asarnow and Marcello Puig, alone on the tiniest of dance floors at Cafe Divino. I knew at that point she was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”

Margaret agrees, “it was extremely romantic.  Afterward we drove along the Bay and I realized it but didn’t say anything. Tango is a very passionate dance.  Some day we won’t be able to go tango dancing, but in the beginning, tango did its part.”

“None of this would have been possible without our very strong, mutual obsession for tango,” says Michael. “Our next big tango adventure will be a trip to visit Margaret’s daughter in Paris. Any suggestions for great places to tango?

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Tango Love Birds – Tanya and Ilya

Fairy tales do come true

CloseEmbrace_TanyaRokhlin_byAlliNovak2013

Tanya Rokhlin

 

One evening last fall, Tanya decided to go to the milonga at Magdalena in Oakland with Debbie Goodwin. It was a spur of the moment decision as she was getting ready for a trip to Europe, but an evening of tango sounded good. When the women arrived, the room was crowded and dark.

Tanya recalls a man standing by the door as she was trying to make her way to get a glass of water. He invited her to dance but she declined. Later he reappeared and asked again. This time she accepted his invitation. Dancing with him felt very warm and comfortable. “Between tandas we discovered we both speak Russian,” says Tanya.

CloseEmbrace_IlyaMagid_byAlliNovak2013

Ilya Magid

Red flag!

During the evening, they danced a couple more tandas and she noticed he was wearing a wedding ring. Ilya told her he lives in Santa Barbara and has been dancing for many years. On alert, Tanya asked if his wife dances, too. “Yes,” he replied.  “I didn’t even listen,” she says. “I have a rule that if a man is married I don’t waste my time. Whatever I felt, I put it aside.”

At end of evening he asked if she would be dancing the next day, and where. When she responded he said “Ok, I’ll be there too.” Tanya admits she was a little excited by the prospect of dancing with him again, “but I was holding myself in a neutral space, not wanting to get too excited,” she says.

“The dancing was wonderful, he made me feel good. The embrace was incredible.  Later I heard the same from other women.  In tango, it’s not how many moves the man knows, it’s how he makes you feel,” says the tanguera. (Leaders, listen up!)

Tango1Tanya went on her travels to Europe and when she came back, a couple months went by with no word from Ilya. Meanwhile she did some sleuthing on Facebook and friended him. She looked at the pictures he’d posted and saw that everything he told her was true. His life looked picture perfect. “I thought how unlucky I am…I felt all this but he’s unavailable,” says Tanya.

Finally, Ilya called. “He said he was coming to San Francisco to visit me. I thought, why is he coming to visit me? I never asked him to visit me…I said we could dance together.” When he invited her to dinner before the milonga, she thought, “Ok, now I can ask questions.”  Tanya was frank.  She told him, “I don’t want to waste my time, so if you’re married it’s not going to work.”

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Tanya, pictured here, played the lead role of “Angelica”in Alma del Tango’s  “Close Embrace,” February 14-17, 2013

Then he delivered the news she wanted to hear –he had left his wife. “Don’t think it’s because of you,” Ilya told her.  “It was coming for many years.  Living alone gave me time to think and analyze what I want to do.”

“Once he told me he was available and I wasn’t the reason, I completely lost my head,” Tanya admits. “And I’ve never looked back.”  Since then the couple has been inseparable. “Nothing is perfect in life,” Tanya says philosophically. “There is always a spoon of dirt in a jar of honey. Everybody looks at this from their own angle. I look at it as a miracle for me, and he looks at it in the same way.”

After dancing the lead role in Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story, in which Ilya also performed, Tanya moved to Santa Barbara to be with her tango lovebird. Now the couple goes to milongas in Los Angeles every weekend.

“It is a fairy tale that I’m living,” she says with a happy sigh.

Watch Tanya and Ilya dance here:

Video filmed and edited by John Campbell – Alma Video Production

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