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Niko Carambas Y Belen Martinez
We met for the first time, in Buenos Aires, at a Milonga, where me and another friend, freshly arrived from the states, decided to have our first night at a Milonga with a taxi dancer. [ For those of you not aware of this phenomenon, this is when you are able to rent a professional dancer to dance with you for a fixed price and time]. And as he was highly recommended by another favorite’s teacher couple also from Chile, Paloma Berríos Y Maximiliano Alvarado. Yes, we decided to hire Niko instantly and then suggested he bring his dance partner, Belen with as they both spoke excellent English
At the San Miguel De Allende Tango Festival, Niko & Belen were assisting Maxi and Paloma with Tango classes. Both couples are amazing dancers, but physically their appearances are quite different. Maxi & Paloma are shorter and very muscled, while Niko & Belen are taller with a less muscular appearance.
Niko and Belen spent 5 years in the world of Show tango. First in Chile travelling thru the country and then they moved to Buenos Aires. While they lived in Buenos Aires, they learned and did as much as they could, dancing in as many as 5 companies at a time and performing sometimes in 3 shows a day. Keeping this schedule was physically exhausting. They learned a lot about the dance, about how to teach. About whom they are as dancers and teachers. And in this process, they discovered what it is that they want to help others discover about Tango.
Abrazo – Embrace
What they want people to discover is the humanity and empathy in the closeness of the dance. The empathy of feeling the closeness of another heartbeat. Both feeling the connection and the floor and the music. The embrace is why we all dance Tango. Their job as teachers is to do no harm to their students, to teach them the dance and to understand the dance and not belittle them. To make possible what might be possible. To have patience, to understand the body, to understand the movement and be able to break it down into smaller teachable moments. And to have fun. To enjoy these moments as they are filled with life and laughter.
Perhaps the most important idea that they discovered was that they dance for connection.
And this is how they ended up living back in Santiago Chile, for the quarantine. They had just started a new Tango tour, with stops in the USA and in Europe, when the world changed as we know it. In March 2020, they decided to go back to Chile. At first living separately with their parents, then in August 2020 moved in together while living with Niko’s parents.
As life unraveled for all people in the tango world, now without income, many teachers turned to the internet to try and figure out how to teach an embrace over Zoom. As tango is an intimate partner dance, how do you transmit that feeling? How to continue earning a living from online classes? Last year this was all new territory.
Tango on Patreon and Zoom
Niko and Belen navigated the pathways to teaching classes online, as both are pretty tech savvy. And with the creation of the Patreon app. This amazing app was a way of folks subscribing to classes online and teachers being able to make a very modest amount of money. As a subscriber, you were sent weekly instructions on different movements in Tango. [Think this financially this app saved many tango teachers, as I currently support on 5 entities on Patreon]
Yes, I know another ZOOM class… I have watched many classes. And I will say that I did find the classes with Niko and Belen’ always have good techniques and breakdowns of the steps. They do not take themselves overly seriously…after all Tango is not only a dance but a lifestyle. Remembering to have a sense of humor is a key ingredient in teaching.
They sit on a created set with a big bowl of popcorn in front of them and chat away, while demonstrating the steps or pattern that they are teaching that day. Very homey. Not at all how you imagine a Tango class. Again, stressing the humanity of the dance. These two dancers also express a humility with others, even after years of taking classes, dancing in shows and teaching online, the liveliness of these two are always evident.
Even though 11 years ago, when they first met, they did not want to be paired with each other, somehow life always creates tensions that lead to unexpected results.
And here we are.
Seattle, Washington, USA
The secrets of a master Tango Teacher
I got to know Michelle Bandion about 6 years ago, when a friend of mine invited me to share a private Tango class with him. Having met Michelle a couple of times before, I was excited about the private. Somehow even after dancing and teaching all her adult life, she still took time to make a possibly threatening situation comfortable; the situation of course is the close embrace. For many first timers, including myself in those days, it is a bit of a challenge to be that intimate with a stranger. The whole idea of that much physical contact in a dance makes it so different than any of the other dances I had participated in. But I get ahead of myself.
Michelle’s’ style of teaching, I learned after our recent chat, is based on several beliefs. She believes that:
- People are drawn to Tango for many different reasons, including romance, physical exercise, intellectual stimulation, social interaction, and escape, and these will affect what and how a person learns;
- That all her students have individual styles of learning, but that the best teaching appeals to all types – kinesthetic (doing or feeling), visual (seeing) and auditory (hearing clear instruction);
- That learning as an adult has many emotional triggers, so the teacher needs to be aware and gentle at all times;
- That the leads and follows have different but equal needs and deserve equal time in every class.
What was your first Tango experience…
One of my favorite questions to ask dancers and teachers is: “What was your first Tango experience that made you want to dance Tango?”
Michelle answered, “When Forever Tango came to Seattle in early 1990s, I saw the show and then the stars Miriam and Sandor came to the Washington Dance Club where I was teaching ballroom dancing. That weekend I took all the workshops they offered as both lead and follow depending on what they needed, and I had a private lesson. I fell in love with the dance. Shortly after this experience, I started going to San Francisco (where Forever Tango was for an extended run) for lessons with Sandor, Miriam, and Carlos Gavito, and became one of the early teachers of Tango in Seattle.”
What about Tango today?
Because she is an experienced dancer and teacher, my next question was: “What would you say to someone who wants to start Tango today?”
“DO IT!!!! But know it’s going to be a giant, crazy, mostly fun, sometime frustrating adventure with lots of wonderful people. In my classes I teach a lot more than steps. I teach the codes needed to have a lifetime of successful dancing experiences and I make the classes fun in themselves.”
Michelle and her husband, Richard, regularly offer free house parties to her students to help them make the leap from classes to dances. She also teaches the lessons before one milonga and one practika every week and encourages her students to come. Introducing this world to her students in a gentle manner, allowing the fear factor not to be in charge … turning an almost terrifying experience into fun speaks highly of Michelle’s skills as an instructor of tango and an observer of life.
So are you having any fun yet?
Next, I asked her “What makes a great class?”
“I want my students to have a sense of accomplishment after every class, but still have fun. It is fun to be romantic, fun to be physical, fun to be intellectual, fun to be social, fun to escape and dancing lets us do all those things! You can experience some of these things in every class as well as developing the skill of dancing.”
This last year has been a unique experience for many instructors. No in-person classes, no milongas, and everyone having to learn how to teach on Zoom. For Michelle, this inactivity could only last so long. To keep in shape and happy to be dancing, she invented her own Tangosize classes. They are not actually classes but just 15-minute Tango breaks that can be done without a partner on Zoom. Created during strict quarantine, this idea took her months to perfect.
Michelle said, “I had forgotten how to train as a solo dancer. I had to work intensely to develop the four Tangosize breaks I initially did, but now it’s easy to add moves and music. I love feeling my tango muscles working hard and I know Tangozise is helping others. The breaks are every day and totally free, and even though we are opening up, I like them so much that I will keep doing them.”
Do you still enjoy …
I asked one last follow up question. “You started teaching dance with swing, salsa and ballroom dancing, do you still enjoy and teach those dances?”
“Yes, they are still fun, but I love the close embrace of Argentine Tango, and l love the challenge of teaching Argentine Tango, and I especially love dancing it with my husband.”
Michelle helped me to embrace the close embrace in that first lesson many years ago. Little did I know at that time that my Tango journey would lead to a new chapter in my life living in Buenos Aires. Tango has a way of taking us on a voyage of discovery we could not possibly have planned, and the rewards are many, as I have met some wonderful people from all over the world while dancing Tango.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Pablo Nievas & Florencia Fraschina
A Tango Tale
With the music of Troillo playing tango in the background, as I climb the stairs to the 2nd floor living and work space to meet Pablo Nievas & his partner, Florencia Fraschina. We have been in touch over the last few months via email but have never met in person before.
However, I wanted to interview him as he is a an icon in the world of Argentine tango, as he has danced for many years, and traveled worldwide to teach tango.
Primarily, because we had never met before, I read up about him on his website. On his website, there is lots of great information about Pablo and his history, but I wanted to learn about Pablo and Florencia and their story.
Pablo has been dancing since he was 5 years old. His grandparents who lived in Mar Del Plata, danced Tango at Sunday family gatherings. He loved to watch them. His grandparents were the center of attention at these monthly family gatherings. He asked his grandfather to teach him to dance when he was 5 years old, and his grandfather agreed.
Pablo noticed when he danced with his grandfather, he danced differently than his grandfather. Discovering at 7 years of age, that his grandfather had taught him to follow. Little Pablo asked him, Grandfather, why did he teach me this way to dance? His grandfather replied, you need to know what it feels like to be a follow and to dance fast and you learned to respect the follow and to lead your follow, thus allowing you to dance together to any music.
This answer was to set the tone for Pablo in his life, in his dancing and in his teaching method.
Tango Passion and Teaching
In other worlds in the years before Coronavirus, Pablo, as many other Argentine Tango maestros, traveled the world extensively teaching not only the United States, Canada but all over Europe and Britain. As he teaches the steps of the dance, he also tries to instill the culture and passion of tango to all his students.
Pablo says I give as much technique in class as I can, but I hope when students are more confident and in the control of their bodies that they relax becoming Tangeros. Then they are filled with the passion for the dance, the music and the lifestyle of Tango. It is this Magic that is why Pablo loves to share and teach. It is to share his passion for Tango with his students worldwide.
However as an indicator of his longevity in the tango world, he is currently in his third life and dance partner cycle in 50 years. His current partner is Florencia Fraschina. They first see each other at milongas in Buenos Aires but unknown to them, they had been running into each other their whole lives. Living in the same cites at the same time and but still did not knowing each other. They met a few times and even danced a few times.
After that at a milonga, magic happened for both, as it sometimes does in the world of Tango. The magic of dancing tango with the lead or follow with most delicious embrace. The connection, the music, and the floor collide at the same time. Tango Heaven. After dancing together a few more times, Pablo asked Florencia to be his dance partner.
Florencia’s background is from the world of milongeros tango which is quite different from the world that Pablo lived. Florencia had a 20-year history as a milongera, dancing with all the know portenyos in Buenos Aires
With time and love they have adapted to each other creating something fresh and beautiful.
Florencia having attended art visual college is an accomplished painter of many years. The current dancing studio used to be her painting studio as it was one of the largest rooms with great light in the house. The importance of her art in Florencia’s world cannot be understated. Her role as a painter is always evolving.
As a woman, as a painter and as a dancer, like most woman today, we are always making choices as to what is important in our lives.
They find a way to share the passion of Tango and of Life together.
To this day, Pablo and Florencia support each other and try to balance out these roles that life has given them.
For now, Pablo and Florencia are committed to loving each other and to dancing together.
With the end of the corona virus, in the next year we look forward to seeing Pablo and Florencia back out in the Tango world with Pablo teaching with Florencia.
January 2021 we are almost 9 months into this quarantine pandemic. WAHOOO!
Have you ever wondered…about Tango Festivals and how they got started?
We all love social Tango for various reasons.
On this page a new story about an individual or couple that I have met in the Tango world thru either a tango festival, milonga or as a teacher will be published monthly.
After an interview, I will publish their story. If you have people you are curious about let me know.
Valentango – Tango Festival
As a woman who dances social tango, one of my favorite American tango festivals is Valentango Festival, held in conjunction with Valentine’s week, usually every year, in Portland, Oregon. This festival is one of North America’s largest and longest running Tango Festivals.
Who is the creator of Valentango Tango Festival and how did it start?
Clay Nelson, founder of this Valentango Tango Festival and Burning Tango – and this is story. I know Clay Nelson from his Valentango festivals and newsletters and as an unassuming man who enjoys being behind the scenes. I took a leap of faith and contacted him about writing a story about him and Valentango tango. Festival He was a bit reticent at first, but then wholeheartedly got into the interview process.
How Clay came to Tango
Clay came to Argentine tango as many people used to … through Ballroom dancing. At one point in time dancing was an activity taught in the public school system. This was Clay’s first dance experience. He and another guy were the only ones in their high school class to volunteer to attend the dance classes, and because of this Clay was immersed in the adult class. Clay was hooked. The first dance he learned was Foxtrot.
After enjoying the high school classes, Clay went to his local Arthur Murray dance studio to learn more dances. With more lessons, he decides he wanted to be an instructor. At the school in 6 weeks, he was taught all the current ballroom dances. He taught at Arthur Murray while an undergrad at U of Illinois. This is where he first encountered American Tango [Aka Gringo Tango]. After all this was the 1960s.
Time in Buenos Aires
It was a few years later, upon a visit to Buenos Aires, with his Argentinean girlfriend at the time that he saw a Tango Show. As he says he was struck buy it but did not connect.
While living in Texas in the 80’s as a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A & M he had the chance to see a touring Tango Argentina touring show.
Again, he liked it, but again felt no connection.
He continued to teach
During all these times, he continued to teach at the local Arthur Murray studio. Attending a party, a woman from Argentina who danced Argentinean Tango was paired up with Clay because he too danced Tango. Only they never connected because Clay danced American Tango. In fact they tripped over each other and almost fell—how embarrassing! This was quite a shock to Clay.
In Texas, he eventually took a sabbatical from the university for personal reasons and returned to Portland.
Fast forward to the early 90’s when the first Argentine Tango Workshop happened at Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon. Clay took the workshop and fell in love with Tango. For many years, Clay ran his own successful dance studio called Clays’ Dance studio. As he danced more Tango, he felt an affinity for the dance unlike any he had felt for the ballroom dances he was teaching.
Continues to teach, but
By the mid 90’s Clay continued to teach but he decided to turn over all of his other ballroom dance classes to other instructors and focus entirely on Argentine Tango. And the funny thing was that once he decided to do this, initially Clay could not understand why the ballroom community did not take to Argentine Tango, instead preferring to stick with American Tango
As we chatted, we talked about these two types of tango, the dancers associated with each group create very different communities.
“In American Tango, the lead and follow are together in a very stylized hold that is very much separate from each other. In most Argentine Tango, the lead and follow are dancing in a close embrace. Each type of dancer is different in movement. In ballroom, one dances to look good for your audience and to make the follow look good. In Argentine Tango one dances with your partner and to make the follow feel good”.
But I digress, Clay started to host dances in the old and renown, Crystal Ballroom in Portland on Sunday nights.
Earlier, the Crystal Ballroom was sold to the McMenamin brothers. There was an uproar over this as the dancing community thought the building was going to be torn down [ It was the largest spring floor west of the Mississippi]. As it happened Clay presented to the McMenamin’s a signed petition from the community about not tearing the place down as it had such a storied history. The McMenamins decided to restore the dance hall to its former glory and use the place as a live music venue and on Sunday nights would offer dance classes. Clay was offered this opportunity and was asked to teach Argentine Tango.
At this point…
At this point, a local orchestra wanted to play argentine tango music. Same time, Clay knew of another Argentinean Tango orchestra that was touring the northwest. He invited them to join the other orchestra at the Crystal Ballroom. Then another idea occurred to him. With the live music to have a performance of Argentine Tango. He knew some other teachers and he invited teachers from San Francisco and Seattle to perform the dance and to teach classes. All this was scheduled to happen on Sunday night at the Crystal Ballroom with some overlap onto Monday night. Approximately 600 people showed up for classes that night. Cliff continued to teach, and They were taught the basic walk and the cross. The year was 1998.
October Tango Festivals
This event eventually morphed into October Portland Tango in the fall as not to compete with Valentango which happens in February. Then in 1999, after having a conversation with Alex Krebs [Portland] about the need for an event in February. Valentango was born. The first year it attracted 300 people. The last year Valentango it was held due to quarantine was 2020 over 700 people attended.
And sometimes special moments occur, that we treasure for a long time. This one happened at one of those early Valentango festivals, Clay shared the following story. It was at one of those early festivals, when a guy approached him to say,” Clay, thank you so much for doing this festival, it is the BEST weekend in my Life”.
Now in the middle of quarantine, these words continue to bring joy to Clay’s heart for all the years of Valentango festivals he has done. As we were finishing up out video call, Clay and I shared a few points on tango. That tango needs to be danced in close embrace when dancing. Open embrace is good for learning or practicing new steps.
Clay’s tango experience in Buenos Aires
Over the years, Clay has travelled to Buenos Aires over a dozen times just to dance Argentine Tango. He says each trip provides new learning opportunities. On a recent trip, sitting at a table of with several other seasoned milongeros strangers, and not knowing very much Spanish, they conveyed to him the need to show respect to your partner by how you embrace each other and how proper etiquette means you should escort your follow back to her seat at the place you first invited her to dance by sending her a cabeceo.
This is Argentine Tango!
Another Tango Story
About the Tango App: Hoy Milonga
If you have been in Buenos Aires ort countless other cities and wanting to know where to dance Tango or Tango Festivals or Milongas, you download Hoy Milonga.
This is the story of how Hoy Milonga – Tango App got to be.
From Buenos Aires – Hector Villar
In the not-so-distant past days of Tango in Buenos Aires when you wanted to know what milonga to attend. It was simple. Look it up on this wonderful Tango app Hoy Milonga for IOS or Droid or on the website www.hoy-milonga.com
While in quarantine, I wondered story of its creation. So, here is the story.
This Tango app was created in 2012 by Hector Villar. Hector an Argentinean living in Paris at the time who needed a programming job to stay in France. Years before Hector had given up his profession as a system engineer and was needing to study up on new technologies to get current and get a job.
So, it occurred to Hector to develop an iPhone application that would list all the milongas in Paris and Buenos Aires. In the end he did not look for a job, he says, I liked the project so much that I kept developing it, and that’s how Hoy Milonga, the tango app was born.
Hoy Milonga is not just an Tango application for the phone: it is an online platform with information for lovers of this musical genre, especially for those who want to dance to it.
Users always appreciate the super updated information on milongas. And they do not understand how Hoy Milonga is capable of doing it, because the data changes continuously and frequently”, says Héctor.
Currently the app is available in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Berlin and Nordrhein, Westfalia. Each site is managed by local people. In addition, Hoy Milonga, the Tango app is localized in the languages of each place. We grant a license, which is free as long as the curator of the site does it for non-profit purposes.
And here we are in Late Quarantine in Buenos Aires, and Hector wrote saying there will be a new version of Hoy Milonga, Tango app available in January 2021 containing new features and tango information…
Now here is hoping that there will be a return to embrace at a milonga!!! So we will need Hoy Milonga to consult as to where we want to go Tango dancing.
From Seattle – Jan Sheeley
My First Trip to Buenos Aires
Love and tango in Buenos Aires
My very first trip to Buenos Aires yes, I’m so excited and it is so hot and muggy in the airport waiting for a ride to the city. Crazy drivers but no worries my heart is thumping thinking about what may await in my first tango milonga.
Fast unpack and ready for my first encounter. At the door to the milonga you would never imagine the joy. Dusty wooden stairs and I can hear the music. Very small bathroom but shoe etiquette needs to be met, never enter with outside shoes.
Am finally at my first milonga
Beso del Sol the first milonga, champagne yes, good seat, eh not so great but right now it feels like the soul of tango is in my grasp. The energy washes over me, the cabeceo needs all my attention. A new face, and I get the invitation. I am on the floor, in the arms of a local and we just connect. Eyes closed the music and movement entwine. I am captured, my heart is captured can you hear my body singing?
There is respect, an outsider must wait, obey the ritual but the rewards are amazing. The welcome, the atmosphere of the dance hall, the vitality of the dancers and the sheer delight of knowing you have entered the sacred world of tango at the milonga.
No words can describe the feeling, the utter rapture. My first milonga glow encasing my entire body. Taxi home. Sleep a little and be ready for the next adventure and embrace.
Why I Love to DJ?
What made me become a tango DJ? Of course: the love of the dance, and the music. But the most important motivation and challenge at same time, is to make dancers at a milonga happy. As DJ you are responsible for the energy and mood in the milonga. It is somehow a creative job, I think.
It’s like, as you would invite some nice friends to cook for them. You would look for ingredients in good quality, superb spices and herbs and maybe some surprising flavors. Et voilà. Sure: It’s possible that some of them at the milonga are maybe not happy with your creation, but at lastly it’s your job the show the passion and true proficiency that is within you at each milonga.
To be a DJ is to make people happy
As a DJ it’s such a wonderful feeling to create and see the smiles lighting up the faces of the dancers. It’s great, when the dancers come to you after Cumparsita at the end of the milonga and say: “We came with a triste and sad mood to the milonga and going home now satisfied, bright and happy”.
And in my opinion, the best thing what can happens to you as DJ; here a short story: Once I played a Vals-Tanda in the Milonga Vida-Mía in Cologne (Germany). The dance floor was very crowded, but sweet and not hectic. All the dancers were in such a flow and happiness that I feel, I’m dancing, turning and flying with all of them at the same time. It’s just amazing, incredible.
What made me become a tango DJ? The love to people and tangolovers. But lastly: It’s not about the DJ, but about the dancers at the milonga.
Who I am?
I was born in Iran, living in Germany for more than 35 years and my profession is both a journalist & language teacher.
There are two things that I love traveling, hiking, sport, cooking, art, books & of course music and curious open mind people, who don’t think just in categories and stereotypes.
What do I love in tango (dance) is Embrace, energy, flow & musicality