"Tango Chef" Workshop in Nevada City: February
Concoctions for Tastier Tango*
Tango Workshop + Integrated Práctica
Debbie Edwards & Stephen Bauer
Recipes + Fresh Ingredients = Gourmet Results on the Dance Floor
107 Sacramento St., Nevada City
Sunday February 22,
2015 2:00 - 5:00 pm
All Levels* Welcome
* Accessible to Newer
Dancers Challenging for Experienced Dancers
$20 / dancer
on the "Tango Chef" Workshop
Metaphor of the Kitchen
In a pizza kitchen, the artist to who creates the "pie"
is The Chef and, to the uninitiated, he or she
faces a daunting task:
- Imagine what kind of pizza to make ...
- Select a group of "raw materials"
to work with a set of of basic ingredients ...
- Combine various simpler elements
like flour, water + yeast to make more complex
elements like dough ...
- Adjust and modify still other ingredients
by chopping, slicing, roasting, peeling, grating ...
- Arrange all the many pieces + parts into
some kind of compelling and evocative format ...
And then ...
- Transform the whole concoction by baking
it just right so that somehow the greater collection
of disparate colors, textures, flavors and aspects will
all come together and meld ... in the process, creating
a Most Harmonious Whole.
Along the way, our artistic pizza Chef notices that any number
of simpler elements can be used in a wide variety of ways
The same tomato can used fresh, cooked into
a sauce, or dried in the sun ...
Garlic can be used whole or chopped, fresh or
Even something as elementary as "salt"
can come into play and contibute its savory presence
almost anywhere in the cheeses, sauces, prosciutto,
olives, anchovies, and dough itself ...
In pizza-making, as in life, no one element or ingredient is
ever predetermined, "fixed," or used in exactly the
same way, in every circumstance. On the contrary, things shift
and evolve all the time, changing in quality, character, utility
and appropriateness sometimes quite dramatically
based on nothing more than their circumstances, surroundings
In this way, the artistry of the Pizza Chef is much less about
what goes into the "pie," and much more about
how it's "all put together" so that
what ultimately comes out of the oven is as delectable, enticing
and mouth-watering as it can be ...
Borrowing the metaphor of the kitchen, we might ask:
... Is there something
about the process of pizza-making that can help us learn, create
and dance a more powerful + persuasive Tango?
Three of Stephen's Pizza Recipes:
- Stuffed Spinach Chicago style
- Classic Flat famous in New York
- Deep Dish in a California theme
here to enlarge image ...)
Closer Look at Tango's Unique Challenges
As in the kitchen, so too on the dance floor:
On any number of deeper levels, our "artistic task"
as Tango Dancers is much the same as the Pizza Chef's
noticing, imagining + selecting ... modifying, combining +
adjusting ... arranging, rendering + transforming...
But since we are working in a very different "medium,"
as Tango Dancers, we also face a number of unique challenges:
- Our Body is Our Instrument As dancers, we
move in time, space and gravity ... and from the inside, it
can be hard to get a clear perspective or "read"
on what's really happening.
As W.B. Yeats famously
observed, "How can we know the dancer from the dance?"
Even from the outside, it can be notoriously difficult to
tease apart, understand, describe + model exactly what's going
on when things are in motion especially when there's
a complex, living system involved.
For example, human beings have lived with, observed, and
worked side by side together with horses for thousands of
years ... yet we couldn't
really "see" what was happening as they galloped
by until the late 19th Century when the advent of photography
finally allowed us to "freeze frame" + analyze
all their integrated movements, moment by individual moment.
- There are Two Roles in Every Couple Tango
is famously a collaborative art form, not a solo activity.
When we dance Tango, we meet, agree + conspire with our partner
to co-create (at least!) two things that have never been seen
(1) The larger partnership that we share together in that
particular moment of time, space + possibility ... and
(2) the elusive dance that rises, unfolds and emerges from
that occasion, fueled by our own unique + potent interaction.
In this collaboration, both partners are "artists"
and both are "dancers," but each uses a profoundly
different set of "raw materials" in order
to create what they do.
Just like it takes two poles to create a larger
magnetic field, so too in tango, where an effective
collaboration between partners requires us to maintain a
clear understanding of our "polarity" the
"two-sided" outlook, perspective, sensitivity
and skills that we each contribute to our larger shared
As a consequence, in Tango, no single person ever "owns,"
monopolizes, or controls the larger dance on the
contrary, each partner is entirely dependent upon the choices
+ actions of the other ... so it really does "take
two to tango."
- "Tango" is a Verb, not a Noun an
"action" rather than a "result."
In many important and compelling ways, Tango is far less
about something that we "have," and much more about
something that we do ...
As with any experience, dance can be much harder to grasp
when we try to think of it as a "thing" of some
kind as a specific place or position, "step"
or situation, object or state of being.
Instead, tango is more powerfully conceived as an ongoing
process that rises and flows, changes and evolves, constantly
unfolding through time:
In music, by the time we hear any given note, it's already
So too in dance: By the time our foot hits the floor,
the "main event" is already over the original
impulse that has given rise to our movement is already passed,
and the elusive action that somehow created
the "step" itself has already melted away and
Like a Taoist
philosopher, rather than focus on any particular "destination,"
as dancers, we tend pay our closest attention to the Journey
Since Tango offers us all these unique challenges, one of our
Key Questions becomes:
... How can we best
manage all the variables involved in order to create the dance?
Solution: "Pre-Packaged Choices" for Simplified
One of the most common ways that dancers aim to simplify
the process of creating Tango is to move toward some kind of
formulaic approach or "pre-packaged" solution.
- In the metaphor of pizza-making, this is analogous to going
into our kitchen, taking a factory-made frozen
pizza out of its box, and heating it up in the oven ...
Presto! All done a hot and tasty pizza in minutes
with no muss, no fuss. Definitely "convenient"
... although maybe not the best possible flavor, or ingredients,
or nutritional value ...
And perhaps not all that very "artful."
Since someone else has made all the decisions about what
elements to use and how to put them all together, our involvement
as a pizza "chef" is minimal:
We make a purchase at the store ... take a familiar frozen
slab out of the box ... and heat it up.
In Tango, the equivalent of our "dancing frozen pizza"
might be reproducing some kind of "pattern" or salida
a little "choreography" or formulaic "set
of steps," created by another dancer, which we take out
of the box and reheat as necessary a convenient way
to put a little tango on our plate ...
- Another, similar approach to pizza-making it to use
a "kit" of some kind, or to buy various pre-made
elements such as pre-baked
crust, sauce in a jar, bag of shredded cheese and
then put these together to create a "pie."
Not quite as "effortless" as simply re-heating
a frozen pizza, but still fairly straightforward. And in this
case, the "artistry" of the pizza maker is a slightly
We choose several larger "elements" ... bring
them all together + put them into a pleasing arrangement
... then finish the last step of the process by baking everything
in the oven.
In terms of creating the most delectable possible pizza,
however, there are a number of drawbacks:
While we have much better control over the kinds of toppings
and the amount + distribution of cheese, we are still limited
in a number of other ways the size + shape of the
crust ... the flavor + consistency of the sauce ... the
amount of salt + spices used in any of these "pre-packaged"
We are even constrained by the availability of these ingredients
themselves if the market doesn't have our favorite
pre-baked crust in the cooler, then we may be out of luck
... no crust = no pizza for us tonight.
The Tango version of making a dance out of "pre-packaged"
ingredients might be cobbling together a dance using a various
"figures" or combinations a few forward
ochos ... followed by a walk
to the cross ... then maybe a molinete
that curls around to the right and back ... a parada
and a gancho like
the ones we saw on youtube that time ... then another walk
to the cross ...
No doubt about it: The result of this kind of dancing
is much more interesting than simply eating reheated
"frozen tango" all the time.
But in terms to accessing our most flavorful possible Tango
together, something important still seems to be missing ...
... How can we make
Artful Tango more accessible by simplying our approach,
rather than just simplfying the dance itself?
A Few Pre-Packaged Tango Products: "As Seen
on T.V. ...!"
Art of Improvisational Dancing: Mastering Delectable Tango
Since "making art" of any kind can seem daunting,
the impulse to somehow simplify the process is perfectly
understandable and perhaps because of the elusive "materials"
involved, this urge may be even more evident in the case of
learning + dancing Tango :
From the outside, to the non-dancing onlooker, Tango can
seem unbelievably complicated, intricate and inaccessible
an infinitely variable + profoundly unpredictable dance
... with no obvious or apparent "rules" to by which
to organize or govern what looks like its overwhelming number
of options + possibilities ...
Indeed, a century ago and more, when the proper English "dance
masters" in and around the City of London first witnessed
this improvised "street dance" from the arrabal
of Buenos Aires, they had much the same reaction:
Accustomed to choreographing pagents + balls where all the
dancers executed the same predictable forms, all together,
all at the same time to the same music, the English and their
"dance professional" counterparts throughout Europe
quickly distilled Tango's many possibilities into a few academically
acceptable "sequences" and "figures" ...
which they could then teach to aspiring dancers within the
safe walls of their academies.
The irony, of course, was that back home in Argentina, none
of the tangueros and tangueras who
actually created Tango ever went to a "school" or
took a "lesson."
Instead, our Tango ancestors literally "made up the
dance" by doing what came naturally creating and
learning Tango as easily and naturally as a child
learns to speak their native language.
As dancer + writer Christine Denniston observed:
The [traditional] process by which a man would learn
to dance [tango in Buenos Aires in the 1940s] was similar
to the way a child learns a language. First of all the child
listens. Then, after perhaps nine months the child starts
to make little noises, imitating the sound of words spoken
by the adults around it. But mostly it still listens. Gradually
it starts to make words, and then phrases and sentences,
until by the age of three a child can have a proper conversation.
There is still some way to go, of course, but the fundamentals
are there, and a child who learns in this way doesn't make
grammatical mistakes as an adult. The child may grow up
to be a poet or someone inarticulate, but whatever use it
makes of the language it learns, the fundamentals are always
Naturally, in our own time, we don't quite have the same opportunity
to be surrounded by and learn directly from a culture that offers
us living examples of Tango everywhere we look.
Instead, we find ourselves turning to classrooms + other learning
opportunities, both more and less "formal," and we
do our best to absorb + understand how it all works, and then
apply what we discover to explore + create our own possibilities
in the dance.
Of course, in terms of taking on an improvised dance
like Tango, emphasizing an "academic" approach runs
the risk of entirely missing the point.
In many ways, those who still try to learn and teach a dance
like Tango by way of rote learning and "memorized patterns"
are seeking to recreate an ineffective and outmoded
"English system" ...
As in other walks of life, we can often lead ourselves astray
when we focus on "results," and try to control our
outcomes when we spend the majority of our time looking
around for hard + fast answers ... rather than putting
our attention on how to improve our deeper understanding,
and looking for ways to refine the effectiveness of our
method + approach.
The haiku master Basho put it this way:
Do not seek to follow
in the footsteps of wise poets
instead, seek what they sought.
One key to effective learning and practice is how we organize
the ideas and information we encounter. As researchers
have suggested, expertise is less a matter of "how
much" we know, and much more a matter of how efficiently
and effectively we "use" what we know.
In the metaphor of the Kitchen, it is very like creating
a loaf of fine
artisanal bread at home from the very simplest ingredients.
And as in the kitchen, so too on the dance floor:
We create the very best possible result not because
the ingredients themselves are strange, difficult, esoteric
or complex but because the process and procedures
that we bring to bear are so effective.
The secret to artistry + success lies in how we combine + arrange
our ingredients how we put them all together.
In the "Tango Chef" Workshop, we'll
work with this idea directly. We'll get into the "kitchen"
together and take a similar straightforward + intuitive approach
to creating Tango by rolling up our sleeves, trying out a few
innovative new recipes, and learning how to build up
some very unique and compelling possibilities ...
Not because we are trying to memorize or recreate any specific
"step," combination, pattern, figure, or sequence
We'll explore the
idea of "Layering" how to identify + combine
Tango's simplest ingredients to cook up the most delectable
possible dance ... entirely from scratch.
For more Information about Learning + Dancing Tango in Nevada
Nevada County (Facebook)
More About ...
More on the sensibility and practice
of Argentine Tango, insights into its improvisation and creativity,
and links to online resources for additional background and perspective
Debbie Edwards + Stephen Bauer
Debbie + Stephen have been dancing + improvising together
on Tango's social dance floor for more than 16 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 12 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.
In addition to their activities centered in Southern California,
since 2009, Deb + Stephen have also helped nurture + mentor
an emerging Tango community in Nevada City / Grass Valley.
For more on Debbie + Stephen as dancers, organizers
+ teachers, please follow this
Past Workshops + Events in Nevada City
Rundowns on some of Debbie + Stephen's previous Tango offerings in
House That Milonga Built (Foundations + Innovations)
Nevada City, March 2013
Mid-Winter's Tango Lab Nevada City, December 2012
Introduction to Milonga Nevada
City, September 2012
Patterns - Your Tango Beyond the Numbers Nevada
City, July 2012
Mid-Winter's Tango Lab Nevada City, December 2011
the World in 180° - Tango's Media Vuelta
Nevada City, November 2011
on a Dime - Compact Rotations in Vals Reno, Nevada,
+ Turnado #759 (A Dynamic Turn to the Right)
Nevada City, July 2011
to Tango in 30 Minutes + Supervised Práctica
Nevada City, March 2011
to Tango in 30 Minutes + Supervised Práctica
Nevada City, December 2010
Exploratorium - Workshops & SYRCL Fundraiser
Nevada City, Sept. 2009
Exploratorium - Workshops Grass Valley/Nevada City,