Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Graciela in Portland

biker with tango master
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
Graciela Gonzalez is one of Argentina's most significant teachers of Argentine tango technique. Many tango performers and teachers have studied with her.

I first met Graciela at Nora's Tango Week (in the SF Bay Area) in 1998, back when I had only been dancing tango for one year. I liked her approach to the dance and her style of teaching, and ended up (along with Robert Hauk) inviting her to teach workshops in Portland in 1999.

Carlos Rojas organized a subsequent visit from Graciela to Portland in 2001.

I saw Graciela in Buenos Aires in early 2002, where she got up from her seat at Salon Canning (one of the nicer tango dancing venues there) and walked out to the center of the dance floor to greet me. A nice welcome to tango mecca for a gringo like me! I ended up going to her practica in San Telmo a few times, even though it wasn't on the itinerary of the tour I was on.

What I like about Graciela's teaching style is her deliberateness. Rather than bombarding you with information, she meters things a bit more slowly, allowing concepts to seep into your body more thoroughly.

Luisa Zini organized this month's visit of Graciela's to Portland. I agreed to dance a demo with her at the Thursday night milonga at Urban Grind. We danced one tanda (set) together beforehand, and then performed to Donato's "La melodia del corazon." I think it went okay. I basically tried to give her space to be expressive.

The next day I took a private lesson from her. Boy was it humbling ... but in a good way, methinks. We worked on frame, posture, turns, and calisitas. Graciela's main message to me was to "stay with my follower." (Not unlike what Chicho told me 8+ years ago!) It's like you think you're doing it, but in reality you could be doing it a lot better.

Graciela at work
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

I attended Graciela's "leaders' workshop" at Paradise Studios the next day. Wish there had been a few more guys there ... her technique is so solid ... but those who were there seemed über-appreciative.

Graciela also taught at the Sunday Afternoon Practica. Even though it's billed as an "all levels basic technique" class, the level ended up being a little higher, as she catered to the majority of people in attendance.

Cool to have Graciela in Portland! Thank you Luisa!

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