Oxygen's New Owners!

Dear friends,

Big news! Stefan and I are so happy to introduce you to the new owners of Oxygen Tango in LA, Magan Wiles and David Lampson. We are honored by their choice to accept the gift of O2 and take it forward.

In this moment we are filled with nothing but love and gratitude, and excitement and curiosity for the newchapter that's beginning.

David has been part of the Oxygen community since its beginnings, and gotten progressively more deeply involved, especially in the past few years, taking on a variety of roles including teaching and hosting. Over the years there were lots of times when Stefan and I got stuck, and Dave's kind heart and listening ear, insane attention span and capacity to focus deeply and think clearly were so helpful in moving through. We worked closely together on not only the Tango Lexicon, but also the 12 Fundamental Techniques of Tango. He's donated scores of hours of formal class instruction, and, probably hundreds of hours of informally helping beginners grow or simply experience Tango. Dave's depth of understanding of Tango, his commitment to continue to learn and improve, and openness to seek connection with all kinds of people, are a true inspiration. Dave's a graduate of Stanford University, a writer, and fluent in Spanish from living in Buenos Aires.

Magan came to us through the recommendation of our mentor Brigitta Winkler about a year and a half ago, dove into the Tango Challenge, and as she learned more about O2 she quickly saw that she could help the community by applying her business and financial skills to streamlining and documenting O2's backend administration. I appreciate that she fully comprehends the essence of Oxygen Tango and can speak inspiringly about co-creation and community, while also thinking clearly about the realities of business and working intelligently with risk, tradeoffs and deadlines. Magan received her MFA in acting from the University of Tennessee, and is the Founder of Hustle Creative.

We ask you to enthusiastically support them in their brave choice to lead this community. Their vision is to make Oxygen Tango a sustainable organization that will be around for the long-haul, and they have already started serving this vision using the funds of the transition period to create a reserve for O2, something we've never had before. Being owners of O2 is an exciting, creative role, and also one that brings with it responsibility, complexity and emotional challenge, as they will be making decisions that affect many people. It is a beautiful thing that members of our own community have stepped up to lead the organization they love in a way that will require them to give of themselves without expecting commensurate financial reward. Please thank them and welcome them into this new context, and support them and co-create with them, as we will be doing.

Stefan and I will continue participating enthusiastically in the Oxygen community in many of the same ways: facilitating the Tango Challenge and Steady Challenge, producing the Graduation Ball, leading clubs and learning labs, and just being around at practicas.

We are also looking forward to the opportunity to develop ourselves in new ways. We are working on establishing the Tango Hatchery, an organization that will provide resources and training for Tango organizers. We will continue to develop and expand the Tango Challenge and create the structures for making it available in new communities. Mitra will continue to develop a peer-to-peer learning system to provide a foundation for tango learning communities. Stefan will incorporate his roots as a choreographer into his Tango offering and create beautiful tango-inspired pieces for the theater, weddings and special events. We will continue to keep you posted about our new initiatives and endeavors. We are each looking forward to stepping into new roles where we can expand and flourish.

These past eight years we've spent working with community members to establish O2 have been incredibly rich. All of us have done amazing things together and we can all be so proud to be part of something that will endure in the hands of people who love it.

We are grateful to all the teachers, DJs, bears, challengers, helpers, advisors, donors, lenders, mentors, partners, members, buddies, friends. Alejandra DiBlasio, Alexandra Mason, Alex Bartos, Alexei Tsekoun, Ali Guerin, Alice Wang, Alicia Maccarone, Amy Zhou, Andrei Andreev, Anna Leon, Anna Shen, Anna Thanukos and Jon Wilkening, Annette Corsino, Annie Liou, Autumn Augusta, Ayano Yoneda, Bharath Sankaran, Brian Nguyen, Brigitta Winkler, Brittney Horner, Brooke Moore, Bruce Blair, Chad Wehba, Charles Whobrey, Christine Oustry, Cristina Ladas, Crystal Adams, Dan Martin, Daniel Rizzotto, Daniel Trenner, Darius Martin, David and Diana Crispi, David Lampson, Derek Tang, Devin McMahan, Diane Yoon, Dominique and Gary Hirschkron, Dong Sung An, Edith Chen, Elisabeth Raff, Elizabeth Arnold, Emmet O'Conlon, Eric Finke, Fabienne Bongard, Fay Woodward, Felipe Martinez, Frank Dong, Gary Ashwal, Gary Love, Glenn Campbell, Guillaume Chaslot, Henry Finkelstein, Hernan Bejarano, Holly Darling, Homer Ladas, Isaac Hagerling, Isaac Oboka, Jaimes Friedgen, Jane Liu, Jay Ocampo, Jenna Keltz, Jennifer Bae, Jo Nguyen, Johnny Nguyen, Joshua Beeler, Joy Kerin, Karen Baez, Kate Moxham, Katya Kosarenko, Kay Pih, Kim Eng, Koral Simpson, Korey Ireland, Kris Shinn, Kristen McCown, Kyla Mares, Lampis Zalavras, Laura Saenz, Lauren Kendrick, Lee Blaugrund, Lisa Hylton, Lissandra Ellyne, Liviu Barna, Magan Wiles, Marina Belozerskaya, Marjorie Martin, Martha Ganser, Marvin Lee, Mary Fu, Maya Reynolds, Melanie Merians, Melika Adams, Melodie Kao, Michael Grandcolas, Mike Koh, Nancy Duckworth, Naomi Hotta, Naz Martin, Nesli Erten, Patricia Bijvoet, Paul Duke, Paul Mejasich, Pei Pei Tan, Phoebe Park, Pierre Candelaria, Rebecca Shulman, Reza Kiandad, Richard Kim, Robert Le, Rose Bloomfield, Sabine Ibes, Sandra O'Donnell, Sarah Elmaleh, Scott Haller, Sergio Palermo, Shane Crosby, Sharna Fabiano, Shearon Bogdonovic, Shorey Myers, Solomon Russell, Steve Escarcega, Susan Bragg, Tania Darnton, Tanya Spektor, Ted Jastrzembski, Thomas Fischer, Tomas Howlin, Tyla Tabers, Victoria Godfrey, Vincent Wong, Vin de Silva, Vita Markman, Vladimir Sierra, Yukiko Sato, Yuliana Basmajyan, Zana Fong. I hope I didn't forget someone - there is a lot of history! There are hundreds who have given in their own silent, tiny, invisible, spirited ways - it's all those tiny ways that add up to community. We are looking forward to continuing to enjoy co-creating with all of you.

We are planning a reunion-renewal milonga party to celebrate this meaningful transition together some time in May or June and hope to see all of you there!  

What makes Oxygen Oxygen? To us it is the mission to end the illusion of separation -- it's the spirit of co-creation; the way that everyone is encouraged to explore both roles; the ability to get together at least twice a week in the same spot; the culture of stretching and trying out new things..."Believe in yourself. Dare to live your dream. And dare to believe in each other." We believe in you, 100%. And in ourselves, and we are looking forward to where our dreams will take us all.

Love, Mitra and Stefan

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Mitra Martin

Mitra Martin is Program Director at the Oxygen Tango where her focus is developing an interconnected community learning experience, and facilitating conversation around excellence in Tango as a portal to personal and social transformation.

How to use social media to share your love of freedom, diversity, and the earth, and build a more empathic world

Want to change the world with social media? We live in a world where tiny touches and clicks can move thousands of hearts and minds. But, without the right approach, it's also easy to use social media to reinforce old, outdated paradigms - and contradict the very values you are trying to spread. This is to share some of what I have learned about how the mind and communication works, and how you can be a positive cultural force through your daily post.

  • Regular posting: First, commit to be regular. Plan to do a post every day that spreads what you value, and your stories and ways of seeing the world. Practice and repetition is essential. Do it consistently, use a habit-supporting app like Way of Life of StickK to help you.
  • Stop the chain: Commit to completely stop sharing anything that repeats and amplifies the message of any candidate whose values you are not aligned with. In fact, do not even repost anything that includes the name of that candidate. Cognitive science has proven that whether if you are attacking or deriding them, you are helping them.
  • Engage with views you disagree with: Finally, commit to at least one timeslot per week (for instance 1 afternoon, 2-3 hours) in which you will bring the BEST of your intellectual power, empathic love and creativity, with TOTAL focus, to try to better UNDERSTAND AND AUTHENTICALLY CONNECT WITH those who you disagree with. You could do this by consuming media you disagree with, or holding having an open, curious, reflective phone conversation or chat with someone who holds different views than you, for instance. Take it in non-judgmentally. New ideas will arise. 

Metaphors structure our thinking and our debate. To raise the level of debate, we need to introduce new metaphors that will be a bridge to new realities. Here is my take on some NEW metaphors and messages that, I believe, need to be introduced and reinforced. They directly contradict and provide alternatives for current frames being repeated all over the media (including social media and conversation).

Humanity is a Family

Fear is an Enemy / a Liar / an Obsolete, Useless Tool

Impulsive Ideas are a Waste of Good Money

Quick Fixes are the Enemy

Steady Solutions are the Real Hero

Curiosity is a Muscle

Freedom is a Healthy Body

Family is a Launchpad

 

Humanity is a family

This metaphor replaces the obsolete but popular metaphor that "the nation is a family" or "my race is my family." It shifts focus away from haggling over "-isms" and "political correctness."

Fear is an enemy | Fear a liar | Fear an obsolete, useless tool

"Fear tends to activate desire for a strong strict father," according to cognitive scientist George Lakoff. Today, the "obedience-to-a-strict-father" worldview can do more harm to freedom, diversity and earth than we might imagine. These new metaphors focus attention on the problem of fear itself and offer alternatives, like curiosity and health.

Impulsive ideas are a waste of good money | Quick fixes are the enemy | Steady solutions are the real hero

Fearful people want things to change quickly, and sometimes they are seduced into believing that simple, direct actions will be effective in removing the situation they fear. "Direct causation is dealing with a problem via direct action. Systemic causation recognizes that many problems arise from the system they are in and must be dealt with via systemic causation," as Lakoff also notes. It may be that the people you disagree with embrace direct causation. We can help them have confidence in the power of understanding systemic causation.

Share compelling personal examples of impulsive ideas wasting money, vs. slow, steady solutions creating results.

Curiosity is a muscle

This metaphor focuses on the virtue of curiosity, and the fact that it's in our control. The attitude of curiosity has the power to transform fear. Help people who feel weak and scared of "others" flip this by embodying and activating and celebrating curiosity.

Freedom is a healthy body | Family is a launchpad

There are a lot of broken, sick, traumatized bodies in the authoritative "strict father" world. Deep down people know that this isn't how life should be. Reinforce over and over again that "a strong/loving family means you feel free/happy/healthy/good/strong/alive" and "freedom feels beautiful and healthy."

With these new metaphors we will reclaim the words "freedom" and "family," and infuse them with healthy meaning.

Watch outs:

  • DON'T repeat/amplify things that don't express your values. STOP THE CHAIN.
  • DON'T try to get people to consider the facts. That does not help. Focus on values, frames and metaphors.
  • DON'T take on a snide, sarcastic, intellectually superior tone. Speak from your heart with love and humility and openness and curiosity.
  • DON'T get tempted by comedy, irony, political satire, subtle or overt humor about the players. Although these can be educational and enjoyable, THESE DO NOT HELP and actually reinforce old, outdated, obsolete, frames. They are too subtle to make the massive gigantic shifts we need to make. Sharing them is NOT ENOUGH. 
  • DON'T MAKE FUN OF PEOPLE. Don't say mean things about any individual. It doesn't help.
  • DON'T BE VIOLENT OR DESTRUCTIVE. Take a strong stand against the use of destructive force from anyone in any form.  
  • DON'T GIVE UP. Don't be cynical. Cynicism is just fear in disguise. It is old, outdated, obsolete, and uncool. We can do this with discipline, humility, curiosity, slow and steady.
  • DON'T OVERTHINK IT. Repetition is essential. You don't need to always create a creative new message. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And, share and amplify the work of those who are finding fresh ways to express these metaphors. 
  • DON'T STOP after the election. There is a lot of work to do. It will take decades change minds that have been damaged by the past decades of media.

Question - please share:

What kinds of stories, images, examples, case histories, headlines, hashtags, games, t-shirts, slogans, stunts, bumper stickers, ETC would bring to life these metaphors ? Let your imagination run wild and then KEEP at it.

Let's do it - and as we do, remember that we ARE one human family, and let our every tiny interaction be infused with that loving kindness to one another. It's all those tiny touches - genuine hugs and smiles - that might REALLY change the world. So, let's do it, let's change the world, one embrace at a time. Love, Mitra

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Mitra Martin

Mitra Martin is Program Director at the Oxygen Tango where her focus is developing an interconnected community learning experience, and facilitating conversation around excellence in Tango as a portal to personal and social transformation.

The gifts that build Oxygen: completing our replanting

Photo by Andrei Andreev

Photo by Andrei Andreev

Oxygen is like a little plant and each year it grows a bit and needs a new pot. This year's replanting has been carried out by one of the dancers among you, Magan Wiles.

Last November when she joined the school, she offered to lend her expertise in small business infrastructure to improve O2. I had no idea what powers were being unleashed...

Magan peppered me with tons of questions about our processes and thought hard about O2's unique needs. She researched and scheduled demos with a dozen software providers and payment processors. She pulled everything together into a strong, intelligent recommendation for a database/CRM that meets the needs of the O2 community and prepares us for long term growth. She advocated for this solution and found the most budget-conscious way forward. Then she personally sifted through over 3500 records representing over 42,000 event attendances, sprinkled across 7 or 8 different databases to unify and remove redundant info. She spent nights learning wizardly new Excel skills instead of dancing, and she still graduated from the Tango Challenge with flying colors. She created a training manual for class and practica hosts and has come in to personally train every one of them. She has pushed me forward, keeping me to deadlines and prodding me to make hard but necessary decisions. And she has been a source of happiness, fun, positivity and light as all this has unfolded.

Magan has gathered the scattered strands of Oxygen's soul and unified O2 in a way that is going to be very invisible to most of you but will uplift your experience in many subtle ways.  Every drop of this hundreds' hours' effort was donated. Please, thank Magan for her hard work and her incredible contributions. I would never have been able to do this without her.

Everything's there - your attendance history, your membership status, your past challenges, your "tangoversary," your past transactions.

To me, Magan's effort symbolizes the efforts of dozens of others who volunteer their time. Over the past 7 years Oxygen has been graced by the living efforts of dozens of people who have been volunteer teachers, administrators, practica and class hosts, "bears", "fractal specialists", "tranzkrafters," tango guides, graphic designers, web designers, team members, backers, brainstorming partners, milonga hosts, writers, event creators, bloggers, interviewers. I would like to write a story about every single one of them. Maybe that's what I'll do with all my free time now that I'm not going to be going crazy trying to make sense out of 8 different data systems.

We live in gratitude for all the miracles that allow us to meet and embrace each other and dance. Love, Mitra

Hamilton's Tango: Creative Duos are the Real Genius

Geniuses, lower your voices. Because you are part of a myth that is about to be exploded. The fact is that you're a fiction.

Yes, that's right, you don't exist. And Joshua Wolf Shenk will prove it to you if you read his epic book, "Powers of Two," wherein he calmly, methodically, poetically decimates the “the myth of the lone genius" and replaces it with the world of the duet. “The pair is the primary creative unit,” he says, and goes on to give a million beautiful and scary examples of how creativity is a game that flows between two minds and never just one. Even if we thought it was just one. It was actually two.

Genius is a dance: Hamilton and Washington, Miranda and Kail

You've heard of Lin-Manuel Miranda, perhaps? See, he's a certified genius, as I’ve told plenty of people quite emphatically. (“He’s a...a...a... genius” I told my sister. “Mitra, are you blushing?” she asked.)

But see, you can tell he's already so onto the revolution. If you open the internet and watch an interview, peek around Twitter or poke around the Hamiltome, you can't miss that actually the genius is, at least in part, Lin-And-Tommy -- Tommy Kail, his longtime creative partner, who directed Hamilton and In The Heights. As Lin's Tony Award acceptance poem points out: "This envelope says Lin, but it's not entirely Lin's / Cause when you work with Tommy Kail, the best idea wins..."

And as I was pondering this, and reading Ron Chernow's epic Hamilton biography, and seeing the big golden star Hamilton logo everywhere I looked when I opened my laptop (a fan will just never be #satisfied) I started to also realize that, for all his genius, the A-L-E-X-A-N-D-E-R wasn't the genius either. It was, in a big way, Alexander-And-Washington. And a lot of the awesomesauce that happened circa 1776 came out of how the personality of their partnership pulled the best of each of them into its genius.

See, people like Alexander, like Lin, are maybe extraordinarily creative not because they are geniuses but because they are willing to dive in and tango with another person, many different kinds of other people and let something emerge.

For sure, stumbling into a genius-grade partnership is probably way more likely when you're a person who's just always, relentlessly, omnidirectionally, lovingly, loyally, pairing up to create. That's how you earn those hyphens -- by finding them, making them, everywhere. Alexander-And-Laurens. Alexander-And-Madison -- for awhile. Alexander-And-Angelica. Alexander-And-Eliza. Lin-And-Vanessa. Lin-And-Alex. Lin-And-Andy. Lin-And-Chris. Today, Lin-And-JLo. 

And maybe we could all tap our genius potential by stopping trying to be geniuses all by ourselves and actually daring to duet, to dance a tango or two. 

Daring to dance a Tango...for real?

Tango? Huh? Yes. Literally. To dance a tango. Since starting a tango school (well, I didn't really start it, it was Mitra-And-Stefan), I have definitely noticed that people who are up for dancing social, improvised Argentine tango are really opening up to the powers of two:

  • They are willing to dare to be partners. This takes such guts, whether it's with a friend or a spouse or a stranger.

  • They are willing to stay calm and persist through the long and awkward stages of risking and failing to connect...

  • And most importantly they are willing to keep on practicing and improving their skills to become better and better at partnering.

In school, most of us never learn even the basics of connecting and creating with a partner. I definitely didn't, and I got what some might consider one of the best educations that could be bought here on planet Earth! With the exception of occasional moments doing extracurricular theater, my creativity mostly was stuck inside of my journal, which was a very stultifying place for it to be.

Enter tango, which suddenly involved me in a whole mess of beautiful pairings that have blossomed in all kinds of creations - dance-creations, yes, but also events of all kinds, inventions, games, all kinds of writing, courses I offer, even a business that supports me! And the skills of improvised partnering I have learned and continue learning from tango have infused how I interact with every single person in my life, even my relationships within my family. Like, right now my mom and I are working on a children's book together. 

I've seen tango unlock people's creativity completely, and the whole community benefits. But underlying all the new performances, events, businesses, career-changes, and, yes, babies that spring up in the creative wake of tango pairings, is the gradual acquisition of a deep set of partnering skills that allows more creativity to flow everywhere - at home, at work, all the time.

The Hamiltango Genius Award

How about Tony awards for creative duos? MacArthur Genius grants to pairs? TED, how about creative pairs of people speaking together, how about that red bubble carpet being a double-bubble? True, creative pairs usually have one front man - maybe the non-front man could still be up there, just in the non-front.

Improvising with a partner can definitely be hard, irritating, confusing. Is it worth it? No doubt. Absolutely none. I bet that if you want to be more creative or more of a genius, to revolutionize government or Broadway or even your own life, learning how to improvise with a vast huge range of partners would help.

Maybe YOU (AND your partner) will be the one receiving the first MacArthur Genius-Duo Award. And you could dance a tango to celebrate.

P.S. Just for Hamilton Fans: Ten tango things you need to know...

Where do you learn to tango? The answer is: in a million partners' arms. But you can't just wait for it. You have to write your own deliverance. Here are a few things that you might want to know as you get started...

  1. A Tango lasts 2 minutes, maybe three minutes - three minutes in total agreement
  2. It’s improvised, a very vivid sort of freestyle love supreme
  3. It's like comma flirting but even cooler. It’s cool to never know if they actually got it or not. But it’s even cooler to dance it all out in a really good tango. 
  4. The music, it’s inexplicable, soul-tattering, a freight train of love, made at a time when the world was mostly manufacturing hate. In the heights of the tradition there's a tango called "Carnaval De Mi Barrio," recorded by Orquesta Típica Edgardo Donato in 1939 
  5. Tango definitely resists being captured in the fullness of its glory, its story on a stage, but I can think of someone who might could do it
  6. There is a lot of it going on, nonstop, all the time right there in the greatest city in the world (and all the other ones too)
  7. Tomorrow there'll be more of us...

Tomorrow is for the story of tango. The story of how you, Lin, and all the others showed me who I needed to embrace for the next stanza of my shot. How my shot was really your shot too. It's the story of, say, tweeting to someone for the first time -- pardon me, sir -- how strange it felt but also how right, how good it was to get used to that, to learn how such little words can move much big hearts. We went with the strangeness and realized it was beautiful. We improvised. That's the core of all this, the story of our times.  

In the meantime, tonight, how many hyphens can we earn, and what is in store for our audiences, our countries, yea, the multiverse itself if every single human here becomes happily hyphenated? Raise a glass - may every orphan immigrant, every alone person find the thing we all only need: Love.

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Mitra Martin

Mitra Martin is Program Director at the Oxygen Tango where her focus is developing an interconnected community learning experience, and facilitating conversation around excellence in Tango as a portal to personal and social transformation.

Interview with Scott G. G. Haller: Cellist, Sound Editor, and Uncle of Dozens of Tango Dancers

For years, Scott G. G. Haller has contributed time, energy, creativity, and love to class after class of Tango Challengers. Dozens of newcomers to Tango have been warmly supported by Scott, who has gone above and beyond what's normal or necessary to nurture the next generation of Tango dancers in his role as a volunteer Assistant Facilitator of the Tango Challenge. So many wonderful people who are now active Tango dancers have been touched by Scott's encouragement, humor, and kindness in their first few months of Tango. We wanted you to meet Scott and hear his perspectives on Tango and his community work. 

Photo By SubbusClicks from tango slumber party

Photo By SubbusClicks from tango slumber party

How did you get involved in Tango?

I didn’t start social dancing until my 30s. A cousin got into swing dancing and convinced me to take lessons with her so that she’d always have someone to dance with. After doing Jitterbug, Lindy Hop, and Balboa for a number of years I stumbled onto Moti Buchboot’s Sunday night outdoor milongas at Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade and started taking lessons from him because I was drawn to being able to move in a more relaxed way connecting to music which was closer to the classical music I’d grown up with playing ‘cello. You can put my tango “birthday” at January 3, 2006, since I wrote Moti a check for my very first lesson and my accounting software provides specific evidence of my first steps. I always admired his experimenting with possible ways to move. (“Now that we’ve done this to the right, can we do the same thing to the left?”)

How did you get involved in Oxygen Tango? 

I had started expanding my tango exploration with Linda Valentino’s classes in Hollywood and Yolando Rossi’s Culver City milonga when I found out that “Mar Vista Tango,” as it was originally called, was opening up in my neighborhood. I started hanging out there because having weekly prácticas nearby to work things out at was very appealing.

How did you get involved in The Tango Challenge?

Frankly I was unaware of the intensive beginner program until early Challenge student Katya Kosarenko asked me to be her practice/recital partner. I was more worried that the required 40 minutes of practicing together would bore her than I was nervous about the final recital.

What has been your role(s) in the Tango Challenge? 

In the Spring of 2012, Mitra asked me to help her with the Challenge. She wanted administrative help and felt that the coursework could use some polish. As the son of English professors and a graduate of a fine liberal arts school I worked over the written material for greater clarity and even got some chances to present ideas of my own. The first team I assisted with was The Lucky 7 -- the fifth semester of the program. Besides providing hands on coaching and another perspective in class discussions, I also took pictures and the “before” videos at the start of the term, then used my film school skills to cut together the recital videos for the clearest presentation of how far the students had progressed. Since my professional work has ramped up on the other side of town on top of the class schedule shifting from periodic Sundays to early Wednesday evenings every week it’s been difficult to give the same level of personal attention.

PHOTO BY ANDREI ANDREEV

PHOTO BY ANDREI ANDREEV

What do you get out of this work?

It’s been fascinating being an “Uncle” to an expanding family of graduates who frequently find their niche in the Los Angeles tango community. (Of course, some are never heard from again.) I think it’s very true that you learn something much better when you have to figure out how to teach someone else to do it. While it’s easy to stress out when learning something new – I’m always reminded that in the intimate connection inherent to tango it’s important to cultivate calmness so that you can put your focus where it needs to be: on your partner. I also want to make sure that beginners don’t forget that dancing can be fun & playful; they don’t have to rely on patterns and can just go step by step -- and especially with a walking dance there’s nothing wrong with taking one’s time. I quickly figured out that the best sign off I could put on e-mails to the cohort was to “keep breathing” to encourage them not to stress & rush all of the time.

What are some treasured memories from your experiences as an Assistant Facilitator?  

PHOTO BY SUBBUSCLICKS FROM TANGO SLUMBER PARTY

PHOTO BY SUBBUSCLICKS FROM TANGO SLUMBER PARTY

There’s always a thrill seeing the light bulb go on over people’s heads along with the smiles when things start falling into place. My personal goal is to make sure that beginning dancers don’t forget to connect to the music as well as have fun moving around. I was thrilled when one student led me by collecting, pausing with a breath, and waited for the right moment to take a step. Another time I was striving to convince a Challenger to keep her free leg connected to the floor and visualize drawing on the surface with embellishments; eventually I experimented with putting colorful sand on the floor for her to tangibly “draw” on – the idea got through and she was very excited about the possibilities. Shooting ideas back and forth with one experimenting Challenger led to making Velcro vests and Spandex “tubetops for two” to provide solid connections and lots of laughs.

How has the Tango Challenge changed over time? 

I come from a way of thinking of less talk, more action: learn by doing. Using the graduating student feedback to nudge for the private sessions to be actual mini dance lessons instead of talk therapy has been a good step.

Of course, when the teacher changes – the experience of the program comes to reflect that leader’s experience and perspective.

What would you like to see more of in the Tango world? 

Too many people learn sequences of steps and get comfortable using them over and over when there’s this interesting music which we’re supposed to be dancing to. It’s better to shape the steps and pause periodically to match the shapes of the sounds filling the air. Musicality shouldn’t be a technique put off for later. It’s pretty easy to use very basic steps and vary the way they’re done to more closely match what’s going on in the music.

Photo by kenneth wei

Photo by kenneth wei

Another problem with so many classes based on sequences is that too many dancers don’t connect – they’re struggling to move the way they’re “supposed” to instead of engaging with each other and moving together.

There’s also the stereotype that all tango music – or at least the “true” tango music – is sad & dramatic. Like classical music, there’s a range of emotions in the arrangements & performances and it’s so limiting to ignore what doesn’t fit the melodramatic reputation.

And there’s the weird ghettoization of more modern and alternative music. When I started dancing a decade ago the DJs would provide a range of music and the dancers happily embraced whatever was played. Now there’s a fundamentalism of only playing Golden Age music and the eclectic material can mostly be found at specialized milongas or afternoon sessions at festivals. The thing is, of course, that back in the day the milongas in Buenos Aires had live bands – so the whole concept of tandas and “traditional” cycles is a more recent development. The bottom line is that plenty of dancers get excited when they hear something “extra-ordinary” to dance to.

What is your work outside of Tango? 

I cut sound for motion pictures. More accurately, I do the sonic equivalent of Photoshop for the dialogue recordings captured along with the visuals. It’s a stealthy ninja-like job where if I do it right – no one knows I was there.

What role does Tango play in your life? 

It’s a chance to play. Like many people, I sit in front of a computer all day – so moving around (and still being able to move around) is something to celebrate. Also, dancing is a chance to perform: to create little mini-movies to an ever changing soundtrack weaving across the floor. In the end, if I can make someone else smile through sharing what I hear in the music… it’s a good day.

What is important to you, as a person, in your life: what qualities do you seek/strive to cultivate? 

Joie de vivre should not be a foreign concept. Everyone should create a little happiness around them.

Many things are possible if you can deconstruct them to their most basic elements and build up bit by bit.