An Interview With Tango KaBloom 3-Year Winner, Solomon Russell

by Mitra Martin

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The Most Stupendously Convivial Individual Oxygen Tango knows : Solomon Lamont Russell !

I [That's me, Mitra] met Solomon Russell at Orlando Paiva’s Tango Masquerade festival in Burbank in 2008. My friend Nick Jones introduced us; Solomon had taken Nick’s very fun intro classes at the fest and was intrigued to learn more Tango.

Since then, Solomon has become involved in the Tango community in LA and at Oxygen. With a graduate degree in Computer Science from UCLA, Solomon is a dancer, a meditator, and a high school teacher. He’s currently working on a book and the working title is “The Best High School Computer Science Book Ever.”

Solomon has won Oxygen Tango’s community-growing contest Tango KaBloom three years in a row, by inspiring the most individuals each year to try Tango. So for his unmatched persistence, determination, and coolness in growing the Tango community, we honor Solomon Russell with the Stupendous Conviviality Award !

Mr. Russell took the time to speak with me from his home in West LA. Our conversation touched on topics like how Tango and salsa are different; how Tango and meditation are similar; and what a different Tango can make in someone’s life.

What role does dance play in your life ?

I think dance in general is a great way to break up the monotony of people’s routines in life. It is amazing to me that when we start working 9-5 how small the circle of friends and people we associate with becomes.

A lot of people in their early lives going through that face crises. You go from a really interesting environment in college and then suddenly it’s just you and your computer. Like me, at Raytheon.

You go from being a person who can do anything, take any class, to this “Senior Analyst.” You go to work, come home, eat, look at television.

I love that I found dance. It breaks things up. You have experiences you couldn’t ever think of having. I had no idea that it would be something I identify with. But now — I’m a dancer.

You’re into both Tango and Salsa. Without pitting them against each other — heh heh — tell me about the difference between the two forms, what you get out of each.

I love salsa music. I love the happiness and pure joy that you get out of dancing salsa. Tango — Tango music’s good, but I really like the connection. The subtle things you pick up in your partner. That concept of being single-pointed, so earnestly in tune with somebody else. Really at one level you have one nervous system.

I had forgotten that you meditate — tell me about your meditation practice.

While meditating I had this realization that there is no reason to worry about things. It does nothing for you. When you stop worrying, it frees you up to do the things you were put here to do.

I see a lot of similarities between meditation and Tango. In meditation, you are really getting in contact with that part of you that doesn’t change. Through it you get in touch with the more subtle hints that life wants to give you.

And Tango, you’re getting in tune with your partner, getting in touch with those subtle hints that no one looking at you can see but both you and your partner know are there.

Why does Tango KaBloom inspire you ?

Even though I think I’m really giving, I love helping people out, and I love being part of a community — even more so than all those things, I love to WIN !

I was bummed out on Wednesday [the 3rd day of Tango KaBloom] when I heard I didn’t get anybody on Monday or Tuesday. I passed out a LOT of those little cards ! I gave them to people at restaurants, I went to this graduate thing at UCLA — anyway, on Wednesday night I came home and told myself, “You know, I am not going to be worried about the result. I am going to be interested in the process.”

And the next day — I got two people I know from Pasadena who wrote on my Facebook wall, ‘We are going to drive down from Pasadena beause we want you to win.’ And then Teresa, the wife of my meditation teacher came and brought a bunch of her friends. And then a lot of people bought packages !

So I went home Thursday night and the thing I thought of wasn’t whether I won or not but instead I was thinking ‘Wow, I have so many people who really care about me.’

Thank you Solomon for all you have done to grow our community and for stupendousness unmatched. Next year: Solomon Russell Presents : Tango KaBloom 2012 ! 

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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.