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"Tango Chef" — Workshop in Nevada City:  February 2015


"Tango Chef"

— Kinetic Concoctions for Tastier Tango*

— Tango Workshop + Integrated Práctica with —

Debbie Edwards & Stephen Bauer

* New Recipes + Fresh Ingredients = Gourmet Results on the Dance Floor

The Stonehouse — 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

More Information:

   Workshop Overview      About: Deb + Stephen       Past Quantum Tango Workshops

More on the "Tango Chef" Workshop

The 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 roasted ...

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 and context.

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

(Click here to enlarge image ...)

A 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 before:

(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 experience.

    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 been played.

    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 disappeared ...

Like a Taoist philosopher, rather than focus on any particular "destination," as dancers, we tend pay our closest attention to the Journey Itself.

    In Tango, we aim to embrace and "ride the wave" — aligning ourselves with the ever-unfolding present and continuing to flow, making choices and taking actions as they come ...

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?

One Solution:  "Pre-Packaged Choices" for Simplified Tango Cookery

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 more involved:

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" ingredients.

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. ...!"


The 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 right.

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 — instead ...

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 City:

Tango Nevada County   (Facebook)


More About ...

Argentine Tango

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


Stephen + Deb at Caltech Marathon 2014
— photo by Momo Smitt

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 in Ventura.

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 and non-judgment.

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 link ...


Past Workshops + Events in Nevada City and Reno

Rundowns on some of Debbie + Stephen's previous Tango offerings in the area:

•    The House That Milonga Built (Foundations + Innovations) — Nevada City, March 2013

•    A Mid-Winter's Tango Lab — Nevada City, December 2012

•    Introduction to Milonga — Nevada City, September 2012

•    Exploding Patterns - Your Tango Beyond the Numbers — Nevada City, July 2012

•    A Mid-Winter's Tango Lab — Nevada City, December 2011

•    Around the World in 180° - Tango's Media Vuelta — Nevada City, November 2011

•    Turning on a Dime - Compact Rotations in Vals — Reno, Nevada, November 2011

•    Ochofinity + Turnado #759 (A Dynamic Turn to the Right) — Nevada City, July 2011

•    Zero to Tango in 30 Minutes + Supervised Práctica — Nevada City, March 2011

•    Zero to Tango in 30 Minutes + Supervised Práctica — Nevada City, December 2010

•    Tango Exploratorium - Workshops & SYRCL Fundraiser — Nevada City, Sept. 2009

•    Tango Exploratorium - Workshops — Grass Valley/Nevada City, July 2009


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