Tango can be found in many cities, counties, and suburbs of the Bay Area. Alma del Tango (ADT) is the gem in Marin county, located in the northwestern part. It will be celebrating the 26th anniversary at their Milonga de San Anselmo on September 23rd, 2022 with live music performances featuring visiting artist Hugo Satorre on bandoneon collaborating with local musician Seth Asarnow on piano.
A creation of love, 1996
ADT did not just burst out of the fire and set its home in Marin county of San Francisco from the get-go. It was created as a teaching program and named by Debbie Goodwin and John Campbell in September, 1996.
How did it start exactly and why ‘Alma del Tango’? If we put this in a movie synopsis, “they found tango and also each other” wouldn’t do it justice. The romantic tale of Debbie and John is a best-seller-worthy story and Tango is truly a life-changing dance that changed both of their lives. To capture the feeling of tango being a soulful experience and not so much a product of the mind, Alma del Tango, “soul of the tango” was created.
A teaching program that moved and evolved, 1996–2009
With Debbie living in Auburn and John in San Anselmo, for the first seven years of ADT’s existence, these two love birds took turns commuting 2+hrs every weekend to be together. They often taught separately (for John, through the Tamalpais Community Education program in Marin) and together whenever they could.
ADT in the greater Sacramento area
Serving as a teaching program, ADT taught in many studios around the greater Sacramento area, including Sacramento Dance Alliance, The Ballroom, Let’s Dance Ballroom Club, CSUS Dance Workshops, Barbara’s Studio in Davis, and Sierra College in Rocklin. When Tango by the River opened in Old Sacramento in 2000, ADT moved its home base there and launched the Argentine Tango Program.
Under the name of Social Dance Cultures, ADT became a non-profit organization in 2000 whose mission is:
Alma del Tango is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to encouraging artistic expression and the development of community through Argentine Tango.Tax ID #68-0444481 Social Dance Cultures/Alma del Tango
As part of Debbie’s Master’s Degree studies in Dance Education, directing ADT-sponsored tango-theme theatrical productions was an organic choice of artistic expression, a couple of highlights are:
- 2001, an ethnographic theatrical presentation of Tango! A Story of the Sacramento Tango Community at CSUS;
- Oct 2002, a theater show Tango, Rhythms of the Heart was performed by “Los Tangueros” at 24th St Theater (now known as Sierra 2 Center Center for the Arts and Community).
ADT in the SF Bay Area
In 2003, Debbie and John got married and Debbie moved to San Anselmo.
As a tango couple, they’ve taught as guest teachers at various local milongas in the Bay Area. They also presented lecture demonstrations and performances throughout the local community and began teaching through Tamalpais Community Education again.
In 2004, under the umbrella organization of ADT, Debbie founded Tango Con*Fusión Dance Co., an all-women dance company along with four other members: Christy Cote, Pier Voulkos, Michelle Gorre, and Chelsea Eng. With the intention to explore the idiom of Argentine Tango beyond its traditional boundaries, more professional performers and artists of Tango with varied backgrounds in contemporary and classical dance joined the group, they created a fusion of genres within their choreography. The core members have not performed since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, but they still meet weekly to stay in touch.
Between 2008 and 2009, Tango, A Romantic Ritual was developed and performed in two professional theatrical productions. Alma Video, of which John was the director behind, created a DVD from the shows, and the show format has been used as a base for several lecture demonstrations with student dancers/ actors at local libraries and community events.
The vision came to life, 2009-present
While Alma del Tango began in 1996, Debbie and John’s fuller vision of the program didn’t take hold until 2009 when they moved to its current physical space at 167 Tunstead Ave in San Anselmo.
Having been a gathering spot since 1926 when the Knights of Columbus built it as a community center, it holds the spirit of many. Can you imagine what the experience is like for someone dancing Tango in their sixties and seventies at the exact same place where they took ballet lessons as young kids?
Having this space on an ongoing basis has allowed Debbie and John to create the soulful experience for their tango program that they envisioned from the beginning – bond a community with love, and offer a unique place for community tango events, student and professional dance, and live music performances.
ADT has run a full program of beginning to advanced tango dance classes and practica on an ongoing basis for 13 years. The professional teaching staff often offers specialty workshops and hosts traveling guest artists from Buenos Aires.
Little by little, the physical space has also been transformed – the classroom was no more and a stage for musicians was built by the students. The theatrical curtains and the sound & lighting grids were constructed by John to add ambiance. The essence of ADT was captured through the lens of tanguera and photographer Alli Novak of Luzography. A permanent photo installation was added in the studio which showcases many of the ADT regulars. In addition, John and the team behind Alma Video have recorded and edited all of ADT’s productions and events – thus preserving moments on film that might otherwise fade into history.
Be a sponsor of Alma del Tango’s 26th-anniversary milonga
If you are a live music lover out there, consider donating any amount you are able to fund ADT’s live music performances for Sept 23rd, featuring visiting artist Hugo Satorre on bandoneon and local musician Seth Asarnow on piano. All donations are tax-deductible through their nonprofit. Donate here.