Tag Archives | Student of the Month

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.”

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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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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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Student of the Month – Mark Anderson

by Lanny Udell

Dancing since:  Mark first saw Argentine Tango performed at a half-time exhibition show during a Grand National Ballroom Convention, over 20 years ago. Then, after a 10 year hiatus from serious dancing, in April 2011, he attended a Weller House milonga in Fort Bragg. Dressed in tight-fitting Wrangler jeans with a rodeo belt buckle, cowboy boots and a western shirt, he “tango-walked” all night. He recalls: “The people, the embrace, the ambience, the music…I was hooked!”

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Mark Anderson – Accordion Player

Why Tango: For Mark, tango is the pinnacle of dance expression. He has had structured partner dance instruction and experiences for a number of years, but since finding this dance form, “I can truly relax and express myself, and feel my partner’s expression in the music,” he explains. The music is a big part of the draw for Mark, an accordion player with a deep appreciation for musicality.

Favorite Part: Those moments between the cabaceo, leading up to the embrace…and then that first step when I can feel us become one with each other …

About Debbie & John:  After watching some very accomplished followers at a milonga in Santa Rosa, Mark inquired as to where else they were dancing. They mentioned Alma del Tango and invited him to join them at a class. “Debbie approached me as soon as I entered the dance floor,” says Mark. “She made me feel very welcome and at-ease.”  He admired the manner in which John and Debbie worked together and relayed the facets of the lesson to their students. Now he looks forward to Debbie’s energy and enthusiasm every week.

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Mark Anderson – Tango Dancer

What surprised him most: Having come from a ballroom background, Mark was surprised at the slower movement of the dance lanes in tango, “ it allows much more time to explore and improvise,” says the tanguero.  He is also surprised at the vast array of options and amalgamations available in the figures presented in tango. “And, I am pleasantly surprised at how luscious and provocative the women dress at the milongas!”

On a personal note: Mark makes his home in Potter Valley, Mendocino County.  A home and commercial building contractor for over 30 years, he currently specializes in turn-of-the century remodels. Mark is an active ocean diver and pursues sport fishing using breath-hold diving techniques. He is also an active musician playing the piano accordion, and a classical music enthusiast.

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Mark Anderson – Contractor

Last word: “I have always enjoyed reaping the benefits of positive results from confronting challenges,” says Mark, “and I find Argentine Tango classes and milongas to be some of the most challenging and rewarding moments in my life, thus far.”

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Student of the Month – Helen Reutovski

Helen Reutovskiby Lanny Udell

 

Dancing tango since: Helen has been dancing tango for five years, but her fascination with the dance began when she was 10 years old and saw ice dancers perform to La Cumparsita.

Watch the tango on ice that mersmerized young Helen.

Why tango: Helen started taking classes to find relief from her life circumstances at the time. Little did she know that in a few short years she would be performing tango onstage!

Favorite part: “The music captivates me deeply,” says Helen. She also loves the feeling of connection with a partner,  “when a couple starts moving it’s like being in a different dimension or in a pleasant whirlwind as you feel the wind under your feet.”  In tango she finds profound truths that also apply in everyday life. “You have to be alert, be in the moment, and stay tall and on your own axis.”

Helen Reutovski in All About Tango 2011

Helen Reutovski in All About Tango 2011

About Debbie & John: Their love for people and the dance, and their irresistible enthusiasm stand out for Helen. “Debbie makes us feel like a star,” she says. And when dancing with John “you find out where you are…he’s always challenging us which makes dancing with him an ultimate treat.”

Anything else? Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story will be Helen’s third appearance in an Alma del Tango student production. She greatly admires Debbie as a director/choreographer, calling her “a great visionary.”

Last word: Attention leadersHelen is looking for a partner to dance milonga with her. Interested? Email or speak to her at class.

Here’s the milonga she dreams of learning.

Helen Reutovski in Tango Tales 2012

Helen Reutovski with Robert Leys in Tango Tales 2012

 

 

 

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Student of the Month – Jose Orellana

Jose Orellana at La Milonga de San Anselmo
photo by Alli Novak

by Lanny Udell

 

Dancing tango since: Jose started taking tango lessons about 10 years ago. Although he left it for salsa, tango was still in his soul. In 2009 he reconnected with his inner tanguero.

Why tango: During his salsa days, Jose met Cari who later became his wife. They decided to take tango lessons together and enjoyed a beautiful wedding dance.

Favorite part: “I get a lot of satisfaction when I encounter someone I don’t know on the dance floor and we can have a ‘conversation’ ” he says.

About Debbie & John: Jose appreciates that they teach very difficult material “gently.” He describes their technique as simple and clean … “I’m really happy to be in their hands.” Jose recalls when he first met Debbie and John and noticed their rapport. “I fell in love,” he says. “They’re not only good dancers and teachers, they’re good together.”

Anything else: Jose will have a leading role in the upcoming student production, Close Embrace: A Tango Love Story. He hopes to give the audience something that will inspire them to explore tango. “I want them to walk out thinking they saw something special.”

Last word: While he is a little envious that the Argentines invented tango, he says his native Chile has better empanadas.

Jose Orellana & Tanya Rokhlin
photo by Alli Novak

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