Tango Boot Camp takes me higher

Sign up while there’s still space: Intermediate Level Boot Camp with Christy Cote & Daniel Peters May 21-22, 2011 – Cheryl Burke Dance, Mountain View –  www.tangobootcamp.org

Just when I think I can’t get any “higher” in tango, a new moment comes along. Such was the pleasant surprise this past weekend at Christy Cote’s Tango Boot Camp for beginners in Oakland, at Linden Dance Studio.

Along with more than a dozen other tangueros who had all studied under Christy before, I assisted the teaching of the newcomers over two full days (10:30 a.m.–6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday). There were nearly two dozen students and almost one of us assistants for each of them. We were affectionately called the Elite Force and our “regulation” uniform was a red T-shirt. The studio was beautiful with lovely wood floors, Spa-like décor, and tantalizing aromatics that filled the air.

I knew it was going to be a superlative weekend from the moment “Sergeant” Bob called us to attention and Sly, a normally quiet, always smooth and excellent leader, shouted, also in fun, A LEFT, A LEFT, A LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT. The pounding of our marching feet matched our elevated heartbeats as we moved in the line of dance. This pulse-raising exercise was followed by a spiraling together in a huge group hug to Carlos DiSarli’s La Muñeca, a song that always takes me back to San Telmo Sundays in Buenos Aires. Call me silly and sentimental but I had tears in my eyes. In those opening moments, pleasantly crushed by soon-to-be friends, I experienced all the joy and bliss that tango has brought into my life.

Could it get any better?

It did when we got down to business and the fun began. Christy and her Verdi Club partner, Adolfo Caszarry, started the workshop teaching the all-important embrace, followed by the walking, the rock step (or cadencia), little check turns, and much more. I was amazed at the material covered and how the time flew by. That first day alone, we got through many things, including the ocho cortado, the 8-count basic, various ways of walking (in cross and parallel systems), and a lot of the technique involved.

While living in Buenos Aires, I took classes with many of the gods and goddesses of tango, including (just to name drop a bit) Julio Balmaceda, Roberto Canelo, Alicia Pons, Susana Miller, the late Omar Vega, Luciana Valle, Daniel Lapadula, Jorge Firpo, and many others. They’re all wonderful but no one runs a boot camp like Christy Cote.

She paced the material beautifully. It never felt rushed and there was plenty of time for participants to ask questions in a supportive ambiance. Christy knew when to give us breaks, and when to have us sit and watch visual presentations about the history of tango. She gave a little survey of the music, giving the participants an idea of how rich, varied, and enduring it is. She gave out handouts to take away and surprise gifts. Every moment was stimulating and inspiring, not least of all because all the students there were in earnest and eager to learn. And, if you’ve been around the tango community any length of time, you know that this dance attracts some of the most interesting, creative, artistic people.

You also know about “milonga anxiety”—who among us does not? One of the gifts of these group workshops is the chance for the participants to get comfortable with the dance, with no performance anxiety whatsoever, during the fragile embryonic stages that accompany the learning of anything new. Even the teachers were there to learn. We were all open and all vulnerable together.

On Sunday, Christy’s friend and teaching partner from Metronome Tuesdays (and one of my first teachers), Daniel Peters, took Adolfo’s place. Oh, and on the spur of the moment, Christy gave me the opportunity to talk to the students about my book, Tango, an Argentine Love Story, which was really nice and gave me a chance to delve beneath the publicist’s soundbite: A travel  memoir of a woman who loved, lost, got mad, and decided to dance.

By the end of Sunday, every newcomer to tango had enough steps and patterns under their belts, in their feet, to dance at a milonga. They knew a lot about the culture of the dance and its past. And because we had a simulated milonga (“milonga with training wheels,” Christy called it), they learned all the etiquette and guidelines for attending one in Buenos Aires.

There are some big headline-grabbing events going on in the world (which, thankfully, keeps spinning on its axis). But right in front of our noses and torsos is the real news: There is a dance. It is a contemplative dance. Partners lean into each other like two hands in prayer or meditation. Anyone can do this dance, who has the heart for it. You learn it from the feet up, but you dance it from the heart down. It takes two but it makes you one. Tango is a sad (or glad) feeling that can be danced; it is a three-minute love affair with a stranger . . . and much more. It is the ultimate tale of conflict and peaceful revolutions.

Sign up soon if you want to take Christy Cote’s intermediate Boot Camp. I will be there both days, assisting. It promises to be a high tango moment. A description:

“13 hrs of instruction packed into this fast paced, kick-butt weekend of intensive Argentine Tango for Intermediate level dancers! Includes a review of basic elements then onto Molinetes, Sacadas, Ganchos, Enganches, Boleos, etc. plus Vals & Milonga (the dance) and segments on customs of Argentine Tango, history & musicality. The “Elite Tango Force” , a group of more experienced dancers, will be on hand to guide you thru the boot camp by partnering the boot camp recruits. This unique system makes Christy’s Boot Camps the best possible way to learn. No previous experience necessary, just the willingness to learn a lot in a short period of time. Perfect for those with a basic knowledge of Argentine Tango at least up to dancing Molinetes. No partner needed. Boot Camps are leader/follower balanced so sign up early to reserve your space. $189 per person. Includes CD of Argentine Tango music.”


  1. Pj Schott says

    I love boot camps. Knock yourselves out!!

  2. El Monito says

    Thanks for the great comments.

    El Padrino

  3. Thank you so much for the fantastic review….as only a great author as you can do! Your review brought tear so MY eyes!
    Tango “Sergeant” Christy

  4. So right, Camille! Boot Camps are such a great way to consolidate what you already know in tango and then take it further. It happens so seamlessly, and with such fun! I love your eloquent statement about learning tango from the feet up, but dancing it from the heart down. You really capture the feeling in your words.