Tango Paper Art

by Laurie Ann Greenberg, co-founder of the Breitenbush Retreat 2011-2015

I began my tango studies at Clay’s Dance studio in 1997 when our dance community in Portland was barely 30 strong. Not long after my first tango lesson a visiting North American teacher named Daniel Trenner and a young Argentine, Florencia Taccetti, came to Portland to do a series of workshops. It was then that I discovered that learning to lead and follow was an integral part of learning tango. Daniel and Florencia both stressed strongly that learning to lead and follow would improve your dance and make you a better dancer more quickly than dancing one role.

During those early years, I formed a small group of women who were also developing their roles as both leaders and followers. I was inspired by the depth of our friendship and rapid development of our dancing. As our tango improved on and off the social dance floor, we began gaining a band of 'followers' that wanted to learn to lead as well. We were having so much fun dancing together we seemed to be inspiring other women that wanted to dance both roles, so I created several women-only 'learn to lead' events. I liked the idea of 'women only' because I enjoy the process of women working together. I feel there is a very different learning style between men and women. Women seem to work together in a more compassionate and constructive way when there are no men around.

In 1998 I met Sharna Fabiano, and over the course of many years we collaborated both on the East coast and West coast creating women-only events, including an annual Women's Tango Retreat that ran 2011-2015 at Breitenbush Hot Springs.

More recently, my creative focus has shifted away from dancing and toward visual art. The first two pieces shown here were inspired by my love of tango, the power of female friendship and my fascination with paper. I created the same image twice. The first time I cut the image was with a single sheet of black silhouette paper and an #11 x-acto knife. The faces of the women on the original cover were pensive, somber and somewhat sad and distant. The faces on this “single cut” most resemble that original piece.

The second time I cut the image I used colored paper and created a 3-dimensional feel by
using several layers of paper, foam core and small adhesive spacers. The use of color in
the image gives it a completely different feel. I also changed the expression on the faces
which gave the piece a more playful look.

I love the art of silhouette cutting and the challenge of keeping all lines seamlessly
connected just as I love how a single tango can move seamlessly on the dance floor. The
color style of cutting is my own creation. The development of my paper cutting much resembles the development of my learning to dance tango... many hours, sweat and definitely a few tears, but the outcome is as beautiful as tango itself.

I continued to develop my style of paper cutting with the additional pieces below. I
am always looking at images that inspire me to cut in a 3-dimensional way.

The Band Plays On
This piece is inspired from a graphic image I saw that was originally in black and white and with a man and woman dancing. I thought a color paper cut would be fun to re-create in a 3-dimensional form and change the dancers to two women. At first glance, one might not see that there are 2 women dancing but a second study of the dancers brings into view the subtle change from man to woman.


Tango Confused
This piece was inspired by the all-woman dance company Tango Con*Fusíon, based in San Francisco. I love the image, history and complexity of the corset. The attention to detail, structure and concentration it took to cut the back of the corset compares to the study of tango with much concentration. As in the many layers of tango, my work has layer upon layer of paper that give it form, movement, texture and depth.

Inspired by vintage tango sheet music

Inspired by vintage tango sheet music

Inspired by iconography of Quan-Yin, an East Asian bodhisattva associated with compassion

Inspired by iconography of Quan-Yin, an East Asian bodhisattva associated with compassion

Inner Flame

By Delisa Myles, Maui Retreat 2016

I had the good fortune to be a part of the Aloha Girls Tango Retreat in March of 2016 and I now realize how a break from my busy schedule gave me the necessary perspective and space to see things in a different way. And I’m not just talking about honing my tango skills, it was bigger than that.

The trip to Maui happened to line up with my spring break from Prescott College where I’d been teaching for the past 22 years. Transitioning quickly from the dry winter of my mountain home in Prescott, Arizona into the lush tropics shifted something in me. Maybe it was the soft misty rain and the flowers with their magical colors and fragrances that took me deeper inside myself and reminded me to listen and see new possibilities. Maybe it was the retreat itself, with exquisite facilitation by Brigitta and Sharna, a wonderful group of supportive women, artful meals, and luscious tango and movement practices that allowed me to feel myself in ways I was hungry for. Maybe it was the focus on leading and experiencing the dance from both sides that opened up my sensitivities. Or perhaps what shifted in me was the opportunity to feel what was underneath all of my habituated roles.

Whatever it was, when I had that ocean of distance between me and my work, I was able to tune into the gut feeling that my time at the college was at its end. Within a couple weeks of returning home I resigned from my faculty position of teaching dance, the place where I had focused my career and life for the last two decades. Something was ripe in me for change, I was just waiting for the catalyst to take the next step. Even though teaching at the college had been a fulfilling career for a long time, I was restless and ready for a new phase.

by Delisa Myles

by Delisa Myles

Aloha Girls was a reminder of the life transforming potential of retreat and the special nourishment of retreating with women. And so during the summer I reignited a passion from many years ago and began talking with my friend Jade Sherer about returning to our work of offering Nature Moving Women Retreats, a combination of Jade's expertise in Nature-based Soul Work, together with my work in Dance and Creativity Practices. We wanted to design retreats that emphasized the particular qualities, challenges and gifts of women in our age group, fifty and over, who are often transitioning or reinventing themselves. Women who’ve poured their life energy into raising children begin to see their roles change. Women, like me, start to feel unsettled in long-time careers. Many are thinking about retiring, but retiring to what? I’ve noticed that women my age start to ask what else is there? How do I give myself the space to listen to what’s calling to me now? How do I get to the unlived dreams inside me? Jade and I wanted to provide gentle guidance and a safe and inspiring place for women to pause from the relentless pace of life and notice what’s underneath when the business ebbs.

In November 2016 we offered Circling Home: An Embodied Life Review for Women over Fifty, our in first in a series of retreats. We had a full group of twelve women who came from across the country, from Portland to Boston, to share three wonderful days of guided movement practices, wanderings in nature, writing, lively discussions and creating solo ritual dances. We now have our second retreat scheduled, Inner Flame: Breathing Life into Your Body of Wisdom, February 22-26, 2017 at Juniper Well Ranch.

By Delisa Myles

By Delisa Myles

I want to extend an invitation to any of you tango women who may be wanting to find a place and time to drop deeply into yourself. Please consider joining us for Inner Flame. In these four days we’ll stay in comfortable cabins in the wild landscape of central Arizona. We’ll offer invitations to connect with nature, commune through council, dive into movement sessions and engage in highly interactive discussion, all meant to guide you to the fullness of your present moment.

Jade and I have offered Nature Moving Women programs at Breitenbush Retreat Center and Riversong Sanctuary in Oregon and at Mescal Canyon Retreat in Arizona. Circling Home was our first program designed especially for women aged 50 and over. Inner Flame is the second in this series. As we have begun to navigate this new period of our lives, we feel moved to invite you into the practices that have brought us most alive in this uncertain time.

Photo by Andrew Vartabedian

Photo by Andrew Vartabedian

Delisa Myles, M.F.A., is an educator, choreographer and performer who has worked professionally in all three areas for the past 30 years. She designed the dance program at Prescott College at taught there from 1994-2016. She is Creative Director of Flying Nest Movement Arts, a neighborhood community arts space in Prescott, Arizona. Delisa is a founding member of recently formed Ævium, a collaborative, all female, multi-generational dance theater ensemble, recently funded by Arizona Commission on the Arts to create Intimacy with Disappearance, furthering the discourse on dance and longevity, aging and creativity, and land and women. 

Inner Flame Retreat flyer: http://eepurl.com/crKvz9

More on Delisa: www.delisamyles.com

More on Jade: jadepaws.weebly.com






What is Traditional?

By Bonnie Gintis, Vermont Retreat 2016

The question of the value of tradition is often raised in tango communities, as well as in the culture at large. What is tradition? What is the value of tradition? How does it apply to the dance itself, the behavior and appearance of the dancers, the attachment to specific roles, the music, etc.? When do we preserve and perpetuate traditions and when are traditions open to interpretation and adaptation?

The most controversial aspect of tradition concerns the roles of men and women. Tango has allowed me to express one of the most radical political social acts - for a man or woman (or whatever gender-identity label one chooses to use) to dance with anyone else in either role of leader or follower. I like to call this “role fluidity.” Some call this “gender neutrality,” but there is nothing neutral in tango. The dance requires the duality of a leader and a follower. Role fluidity has more to do with the ability to participate in either role as leader or follower. It has nothing to do with gender. If everyone were willing to do this, to take another person in their arms, to listen, to feel their intention and the desire move together, not only would everyone be a better and more empathetic dancer, but also the world would be a better place!

The attachment some people have to playing out and perpetuating a romantic fantasy of a role-bound heterosexual relationship in this dance is a relic of the past that in my opinion is not worth perpetuating. I don’t mean to say that feeling romantic is in and of itself antiquated. It can be fun to indulge in romanticism. But there are those who guard what they think of as "traditional" male and female roles in Argentine Tango and apply this approach to all aspects of their dance life. This is what I am questioning, and I invite you to explore this with me and with your tango community.

In the skit above, which makes fun of the bullshit some women go through waiting and trying to get men to ask them to dance. The women discover they love dancing with each other - they all lead and follow. For those of you know the tango world there is some hilarious physical comedy (I find the cabeceo jokes very funny!)

A man who identified as being “traditional” in his philosophy and approach to tango asked me to dance at a milonga. He asked me verbally, not with the “traditional” mirada and cabeceo, a nod of the head with eye contact, and when I accepted his invitation, he swiftly let me know his point of view by verbally telling me that he is “traditional.” I’m not sure what exactly he was trying to tell me. There was an imperative in the way he informed me of this. What did he need to establish? Did he think I would try to steal his lead? Did he think I’d expect him to switch into following mid-dance? Or was it an ultimatum? If I wanted to dance with him he was informing me that we were going to do it his way. We had a nice dance and I said, “thank you.” I never figured out why he needed to tell me he was a traditionalist.

People who identify as traditional seem to think everyone else knows what that means and how to play along, but I have to admit that in this situation I was stumped. In some vague sense I assume he meant that he likes to ask women to dance and doesn’t want them asking him. He wants the gender roles defined on the dance floor. I get that, but I sense it frequently means something else that I just don’t understand.

In the spirit of breaking gender role boundedness and bringing comedy to tango, these dancers clearly show how the dance can be about enjoyment, connection, and communication, and not some romantic fantasy.

What we call traditional changes every 20 or 30 years. If you danced tango in 1890 in Buenos Aires, it would be traditional to be poor or working-class and dance in the courtyard of your tenement on cobblestones in work boots. If you danced tango after the mischievous rich sons of wealthy Argentinian industrialists sneaked off to learn it and took it to Paris, you might be dressed to the hilt in the latest Parisian styles with patent leather shoes on varnished floors. If you dance tango the way they did traditionally during the dark years of political oppression in Argentina, you’d either not be dancing at all or you’d be dancing in a dark basement on dirt or concrete floors fearing for your life. Throughout most of the history of tango men have learned by dancing with each other, but this 21st century traditionalist didn’t strike me as a man who would be comfortable dancing with another man.

I appreciate some of the things tradition offers, especially when it comes to music and food. I like the music from the Golden Age of tango. I appreciate the traditional arrangement of music into tandas at a milonga. It makes it easier to dance a particular style with one partner and then have a clearly defined break at a cortina to change partners. But when it comes to gender roles and rigid societal rules, I favor modern progressive ways.

I choose comfort over traditional footwear. I can dance longer in flats or dance sneakers than in heels. I like wearing pants. I like asking people to dance regardless of who leads and follows. I would never sit around waiting for a man to make me happy. I don’t expect men (or women, for that matter) to read my mind and do what I’m thinking. Learning how to lead is making me much more understanding and patient with other leaders. One of my many tango teachers, Karla Bourland describes the interaction between tango partners as “lead, follow, follow.” What this means is that the leader starts the conversation, the follower responds, and then the leader follows the follower. I like how this keeps both roles active, engaged, and constantly adapting to each other’s responses.

What is the role of tradition in your life? Where have you accepted a tradition without questioning its value? I invite you to explore and commit to the traditions that serve you and examine and revamp those that don’t.

Bonnie Gintis, DO, FCA is an Osteopathic Physician, Continuum Teacher, & Author of Engaging The Movement Of Life. Her upcoming workshop "Transformative Self-Care: An Exploration of Movement, Mindfulness, and Osteopathy” is open to all, and will be held at Kripalu in Stockbridge, MA from Jan 29 – Feb 3, 2017.

Learn more about Bonnie at www.bonniegintis.com

Welcome to the TangoMujer Retreat Alumnae Blog!

We are creating this space as a way to further support and strengthen you, our growing network of tango women. We see it as a way to exercise one of the most important principles of our work: sisters support other sisters. In light of our recent election, there seems no better time to put this philosophy into action. We'd like to help you stay in touch with one another and to support your work in the world, in whatever form it takes.

The content is not limited to tango. We welcome writing and images that tell us about your professional work, your volunteer work, your creative projects, books you've written, or any insights into dancing, creativity, spirituality, politics, or gender. We believe everything is connected, and each one of you is an amazing woman with many gifts to share!

A few guidelines for blog submissions:

1. You must have attended one of our women's retreats in order to submit (Breitenbush, Vermont, Maui, or Tuscany).
2. We are happy to promote your work or your events, but we ask that your contribution is not exclusively promotional, but expresses some of your personal story as well, how you arrived at the work or project you are currently engaged in, what it means to you, why it is important to you.
3. Write from the heart in the first person.
4. Focus on the vision and motivation of why you do what you do.
5. Include any links you'd like us to post.
6. If you include images with your post, make sure that you have the rights to use them.
7. No anonymous submissions.
8. There is no deadline, but please allow a week for your post to be reviewed and published.
9. We reserve the right to reject any submission at our discretion.
10. Send submissions to Sharna

We can't wait to hear your stories! Bring 'em on!

Aloha girls Maui Retreat 2016

Aloha girls Maui Retreat 2016