Tango Résumé / Developmental History

Tango Start:
I used to start my tango history in 2006, but that is not fair.  It really started the summer of 1965 when I was in 5th grade.  I started as a musician at that time.  Being a musician informs me at my very core of how to dance tango, and being a musician draws me back to tango over other music because of what tango gives me to do as a dancer.  I think anyone who becomes an advanced social dancer would probably do well at learning to improvise in jazz.

Why tango?  One would think that salsa would be my dance, since I know all of the percussion parts (conga, bongó, timbales, etc.).  However, tango allows the dancer the freedom to be a musician in one's body more than salsa does.  You might think that I would want to dance to jazz, since I played jazz professionally  and on stages all over the world, but the dances to jazz also lock the dancer into a box.

Tango makes dancers musicians.   Tangueros/-as play their body as their instrument.

In 2006 I was deployed as Social Work Officer to Ft. Bliss, where I first encountered tango.  I was living in Europe when I was called onto AD; so in 2007 I returned to Europe.  I was playing timbales at a salsa party.  I dropped my sticks and started dancing, and then I realized that I like dancing more than playing music.  I was dumbfounded.  Playing music had been my "heaven on earth."  That was late in 2007, but I still could not dance tango that well.  Salsa was still king to me, but that was soon over.  Tango started in September of 2006 and a year later it had started... a new way of being.

Tango: a new way of being in the world.
Tango transformed my life, slowly but surely.   I was invited by a Latina in a bike shop to dance tango.  She introduced me to her friend, who was the best female tanguera in El Paso.  Alica took me under her wing because she later told me that I had potential.  She never charged me; she just loved to dance.  I had another girlfriend, and Alicia's motive was simply to dance.  We became and still are great friends.  We dance as if we were lovers and that is what all of El Paso thinks.  (I love having a bad reputation when I don't even deserve it.)

2007 the European Connection:
After El Paso I went to Germany and I hardly could dance at their milongas which were crowded.  My experience there transformed the way I started dancing, and after Alicia's influence, has shaped the milonguero (close embrace) path that I am on.  The embrace was taught as the foundation for what tango is.  Also,  I was influenced my some excellent milonguero teachers from Saarbrücken on the boarder of Germany and France.

2008-2010 the Austin Tango Community:
Only a year old and some months in tango, I arrived near Austin, Texas to find a great community of tangueros.  The community when I arrived was mostly open embrace.  Ricardo Moncada had brought tango to the area by starting his now well-known "Fandango de Tango" festival there, bringing in great dancers.  Most of the emphasis there had been on stage tango -- how tango looks more than how it feels, more on performance than on dancing only for your partner and on a shared, social dance floor.  Outsiders to the community there were two teachers who were trained in Portland, Stephen Shortancy and Mardi Brown.  Had it not been for them, I may have forgotten about my insights in Germany.  I started studying with them because I knew that the open embrace style would be worthless in Europe and Buenos Aires.  The arrival of Juan Carlos and Alicia Súarez and shortly thereafter, Daniela Acuri changed the open embrace emphasis because unlike Stephen and Mardi they had the "credentials" of being Argentinos.

From my perspective I was always an outsider in Austin, although it was a caring and wonderful community.  For one, I was hanging out with the Milongueros from Georgetown, Stephen and Mardi, and I was dancing in a different way than what the established teachers were teaching, which was mostly open embrace at the time.  Interestingly, all the teachers could dance close embrace well, but they didn't teach it.

Slowly, I became more accepted.  For one, I now was a better dancer, but also,  I started a calendar called "Focus on Milongas" because I was confused by the email that had lots of classes, Spanish lessons, tango shoes for sale, etc.  The calendar in April of 2008 had very few milongas, but people started using it and it became the main calendar used in Austin.  It still is, although I no longer live there.  The calendar started filling up only a few months after it was promoted on a email newsletter.   Austin is smaller than the cities close to it.  However, in spite of being much smaller city, Austin had more milongas than Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston or San Antonio, the closest cities.  The calendar followed in the collective and unifying tradition that Austin had already established, which is rare in US cities.  We had one calendar and teachers/disciples not fighting each other -- a rarity in most cities.  Why Austin?  It is the live music capitol of the world.  The culture of music helps dancers. But the mentality of people in Austin is unique in Texas.  Austin has a very liberal and open mentality that has been the womb of why tango is so healthy in Austin.

2010 October:  I arrived in Washington DC.  I presently am enjoying going to milongas 15 minutes away rather than the hour drive.  I thought that I would be a little fish in a big pond, but dancing to the music with joy and passion; dancing with a focus on connection to one's partner; loving the community, knowing myself, respecting differences -- these skills and values that I had developed in El Paso, Germany and Austin had me well established with friends and valued partners in only a few weeks.  And I live within this huge sense of caring friends from around the world.  

Alicia Guevara (mentioned above).

Dieter in Germany:  Really too critical and too focused on steps, but a great influence.

Detlef Engle (see below):  Milonguero, now known around the world, but I met him in a little town in the state of Saarland, Germany.  A great early influence in my European experience, which I "maintain" by going back to the German/French milongas every year.

Stephen Shortnacy and Marti Brown:  Humble and great teachers/dancers in the Austin area.  They are responsible for my greatest growth in Austin.  They got me back onto the milonguero path that I discovered in Germany.

Alicia and Juan Carlos Súarez:  Although I have not had many lessons with them, they are a walking encyclopedia of tango and wonderful friends.

Daniela Acuri:  Daniela is the only world-class performer/teacher I have regularly had as a teacher.  She is wonderful and has a voluminous repertoire in the wide spectrum of tango argentino.  She also has become a dear friend along with her children and husband, Ben.

Visiting Teachers:
Junior Cervila and Natalia Royo.  These dancers/teachers are at the highest level of performance but were humble, gentle teachers in Austin.  I had just one lesson, but it had a huge influence.  Although this video shows performance tango that will blow your mind, it was their first dance locally that convinced me to take lessons from them because of their connection that never went into the mind blowing arcorbatics they are known for.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJS2YCGDJds

Daryl and Phillis (Dallas).  Incredible influence in milonguero concepts.  People start with them and go off to learn cool things, only to come back to what really matters -- the feeling of tango, not the glitz and what others watch.  I have several classes and one private with huge effects on the way I dance.  If I lived in Dallas, I would be their regular student.   http://www.la-vida-es-una-milonga.com/index.html 

Murat Erdemsel:  One lesson and then later a few group lessons at a festival.  He changed my dancing more in one lesson than any person has.  His performances with his wife, Michelle bring embarassing tears to my eyes.  They are that good.

Diego Di Falco:  In Dallas I met Diego and his ideas and dance have highly influenced me, especially how to expand one's "vocabulary" by doing everything that you know mirrored and in reverse.  http://www.carolinaydiego.com/Home.html

Detlef Engle (in Germany):  Detlef teaches in at least 4 languages.  I had his classes in German.  He was one of the first milongueros I met, but at the time I did not know what that was or how important his teaching was.  We had a class that taught men how to truly lead a woman to cross, something some teachers even in Buenos Aires teach women to do automatically.  http://www.facebook.com/?page=1&sk=messages&tid=1470966827437#!/detlef.engel?ref=ts

Michael Young:  My first private lesson in El Paso, focused on a tango walk with me rather than the usual over-emphasis on cool new combinations.  I am still working on what he showed my in my first private lesson with a professional teacher.

Tommy Nations:  Local instructor in El Paso, who did his best work when Alicia and I brought an agenda with a new move and he cleaned it up.