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More About Stephen + Deb
Debbie + Stephen have been dancing + improvising together
on Tango's social dance floor for more than 18 years, making their
partnership one of the longest + most enduring on the West Coast.
Based in Ojai, California, Deb + Stephen have also been hosting
and teaching locally since 2003, sharing Tango by way of their one-of-a-kind
"All Levels" Workshops on 1st
+ 3rd Monday Nights offering more than 300 sessions
over the past 13 years and in the unique "X"
Session, an interactive exchange which is part of their weekly
Tuesday Night Tango gathering
Unlike most learning opportunities, these forums present + explore
the dance from a Principle Based perspective, with the aim
of helping dancers find, discover, consider + engage Tango's many
possibilities for themselves, on their own terms.
Over the years, Stephen + Deb have found that an approach like
this allows and encourages each individual dancer + couple alike
to create a more personal and potent Tango one that is not
only flexible, creative and technically rich, but also one that
is built on a solid foundation of our essential shared humanity,
leavened with mindful helping of awareness, attention, presence
Fluent in many modes, methods, "styles" and aspects of
Tango, Deb + Stephen are both skilled at both roles leading
+ following. They are more likely to be found studying in class
as students than operating in front of a class as
"teachers." And in any given month, together, they typically
spend a combined 60-plus hours on the social dance floor
more than 300 tandas a month improvising Tango with
each other and with a wide variety of partners, of all experience
levels, in both roles, to all kinds of music, in all kinds of embraces,
situations, venues + floor conditions.
Stephen + Deb dancing Tango on the Beach, 2005
from a photo by Jenni
Deb + Stephen's earliest instructors were Brian
Griffin & Fay Villanueva in Santa Barbara. Since then they
have had the benefit of many hundreds of tango classes, seminars,
workshops, and private lessons studying with more than 270
teachers and world-class tango dancers.
Along the way, Stephen + Deb have embraced and explored a wide
variety of tango approaches, techniques, and pedagogies ranging
from the end of the "Golden Age" (Nito
& Elba García, Ricardo
Vidort & Muma Valino), through the "Tango Renaissance"
of recent decades (Brigitta
Howlin), to the cutting-edge investigations + ongoing discoveries
of today (Chicho
Frumboli + Juana Sepulveda, Andrés
Amarilla + Meredith Klein).
Beginning in 2006, they have also organized and presented dozens
of events, Workshops and "Tango Labs" with visting guest
artists in Ojai, Ventura, and Santa Barbara.
Stephen with student Joann
photo by Brooks
Smothers © 2005
Stephen + Deb are frequently asked to demonstrate, perform and
present tango at Ojai Day, Santa Barbara's French Festival,
Ojai Valley Athletic Club, Nordhoff High School's "Celebrate
Dance!"; at fundraisers for the Ojai Retreat, Goleta Valley
Community Center, Theater 150, Besant Hill School; and at weddings
and private parties.
They have attended a number of marathons and tango festivals, and
are a regular presence at milongas in Los Angeles and Santa
Barbara. Whenever they travel, they aim to seek out and dance with
local tangueros with memorable outings in the Bay Area, New
York, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Tucson, Albuquerque,
Santa Fe, Ann Arbor, Paris, Vienna, Maui, and Buenos Aires.
Since summer 2009, they have offered periodic workshops and helped
mentor an emerging tango community in Nevada
City, and they have been recent guest instructors in Santa
and the Esalen Institute.
Along with their colleague Brigitta Winkler of Berlin, this spring
they will present the first edition of a new project, "La
Valle Rosada" - Ojai Women's Tango Retreat, an intensive
weekend of study, practice and bonding for experienced women dancers
who lead + follow.
When they're not dancing tango, Debbie works as a massage therapist
and a life coach. She played Brazilian percussion informally with
a local ensemble in Ojai, and has played piano and sung backup
vocals with two Latin bands. Her dance background before tango
includes African, Brazilian + salsa.
Stephen taught screenwriting at Columbia College in Chicago,
was a long-time member of Ojai's Theater
150, and owns the small business East-West
TeaHouse. He's also an award-winning writer, a writing
coach, and works as a story analyst + script consultant for motion