maanantai 19. toukokuuta 2014

FACE TO FACE with Daniela and Raimund

My first encounter with Raimund Schlie ja Daniela Feilcke-Wolff was in June 2013, at a week-end tango camp in Finland. I immediately liked their relaxed way of dancing the close embrace Tango Salón, and got fond of their inspiring way of teaching. Consequently, when the opportunity came to spend a full week with them in April 2014, at the Villa La Rogaia in Italy, I did not hesitate to enroll with my partner, Rita Marjut.

For all of us nine participating pairs, that week was an exciting and very rewarding experience. For me, there was the extra bonus of having the opportunity to interview Daniela and Raimund for this blog.

Daniela and Raimund at Villa La Rogaia

Raimund has been dancing Argentine tango since the early and Daniela since the late 90´s. Raimund is one of three founders of the famous Berlin tango school Mala Junta, in which also Daniela has been teaching. Raimund has visited Buenos Aires since the middle 90´s, but the greatest impact came from the visit the two made in 2005. 
Besides Daniela ”buying her first high heels”, their dance was greatly influenced both by Pablo Villarraza & Dana Frigoli of the DNI tango school, and by Susan Miller at La Academia de Tango Milonguero.  ”In this period, I was deconstructing and reconstructing my whole dance”, Raimund tells. ”The way that the movements were analysed at DNI was a big thing for me. Later we, of course, digested all this, and developed our own ideas”. 
They add that incorporating Alexander technique principles into their moves was another great boost to their dancing. While both have been training Alexander techniques, Daniela even has earned the  Alexander technique teacher´s certificate.

In Buenos Aires, tango walk is considered the basis of all tango dancing, and considerable effort is put into walking exercises. Raimund and Daniela agree, in principle. They point out, however, that you start to appreciate walking only as an advanced dancer. ”We have discovered, that with beginners you should rather start with simple turns. Newcomers ´feel dancing´ when they turn, and this gives them pleasure and motivation”, says Raimund.
He adds that ”Of course they need some basic skills, like shift of weight, parallel and crossed system – but I would also start with simple turns.” Daniela stresses that you should teach things beginners can apply in the milonga - and also encourage them to start going to milongas early, even after one month´s lessons.

I inquired Daniela and Raimund about the aspects that are the most difficult to teach in Argentine tango.
”To teach figures and combinations is easy, but to teach quality needs some experience”, Raimund points out. ”For the pupils, the most difficult part to learn, is to be relaxed in a good posture, which leads to a gentle and nice embrace, which persist even during complex movements”. To achieve this lasts the longest, a minimum of 4-5 years of regular practice and dancing, he adds. Although there are ”no quick tricks” to achieve a relaxed dance hold, what helps the leader is not to think about leading, but ”to let her dance”. When the leader realizes this, he start to relax.
On the other side, non-experienced followers ”are not really dancing”, they are ”trying to do the right thing”, preoccupied by guessing what the leader is going to do. The solution is for the follower is to be more independent, that is -  to dance! The crucial question for the follower is: ”Are you still following, or are you already dancing?” When dancing ”herself”, the follower gets relaxed, because her mind is relaxed, and she stops to worry about ”making mistakes”.
Raimund tells, that only after having danced Argentine tango for some 3-4 years, while dancing to a Pugliese tango, he suddenly understood the ”musical meaning” of a tango movement: ”Ah, there is movement in the violins…!” To discover the intimate connection between tango movements and the different nuances of tango music is an important developmental step for any dancer of Argentine tango.

When I meet teachers working with such a passion and devotion as Daniela and Raimund do, I ask myself where their enthusiasm stems from, and what their personal rewards from teaching can be? Daniela explains that there are moments in which she feels so touched. ”For example, in musicality classes you may find such a development, during even only one class, that you hold your breath, and think: oh my God!  And among the pupils, you see shiny eyes…”
Raimund adds, that in when in a class on embrace, you start to see nice embraces, that feels rewarding. And when a pupil who has been ”thinking in figures and structures” starts ”to dance”, that gives the teacher a very rewarding feeling. He adds that when at a milonga he has a very nice dance with a familiar lady, it may strike him that ”wow, she was in my tango class!”

In the teaching of Raimund and Daniela, their great knowledge of, and intimate connection with tango music is strongly present, and in their curriculum musicality is an important topic. Knowing, in addition, that both are internationally recognized DJ:s, I was keen to ask them about their personal musical preferences.
Both of them named Osvaldo Pugliese as the foremost orchestral leader, the Emperor. Daniela explains that ”he combined D´Arienzo and Di Sarli.”  She says that Pugliese´s playing was ”really rhythmical” and ”really lyrical”, not ”just kind of”. Daniela clarifies that some orchestras, such as  D´Arienzo, are ”pushing”, while others, like Laurenz and Caló are ”holding back”, while Pugliese is doing both things, simultaneously. ”He pushes you, but at the same time he says ´stop, go back´. And his music is so incredibly full of energy.” Raimund adds that in the beginning, Pugliese´s orchestra was just a copy, ”from top down”, of De Caro´s orchestra, but a pivotal change happened when Osvaldo Ruggiero joined in as the first bandoneón.
”Of course , I also love D´Arienzo and Laurenz, and I like many more”, says Daniela, but adds that she does not like the music of the fifties, except Di Sarli. Raimund, too, gives credit to Pedro Laurenz. ”His orchestra made just perfect tangos, perfect milongas, perfect valses. That you cannot say of every orchestra. Laurenz was famous for his fantastic variations, because he wanted to show how good he was. And he was able to play the bandoneón ´in both directions´, without the need of breathing in between”.
Raimund also lists Di Sarli ”because he had periods when he was brilliant, and he was getting better and better through the years, so his last recordings were the peak of his art! Most other orchestras had their best years in the beginning of their career.

Before we end the interview, Raimund and Daniela are eager to make an important statement to wanna-be tango teachers. In Raimunds words:  ”Very important is not to withhold anything. Inexperienced teachers may think they ´loose´ something if they give all their secrets. It would be irresponsible not to give the student everything you know.”  He adds that ”when you give your knowledge, you receive so much more, because when you analyse a movement for the student, you may invent three more variations for yourself”.
”You should teach your favourite things - and don´t teach anything you are not dancing yourself”, adds Daniela. ”Think about what you want your students to be able to do. Think about what reason you have to teach them.”

Home page of Daniela & Raimund
Villa La Rogaia
DNI tango school 
La Academia de Tango Milonguero