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