… if you do not feel comfortable with yourself you can’t make your partner feel comfortable either
Anna Tseitlin has been teaching tango for 5 years in Jerusalem, Israel. She is born in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine and when she was twelve she moved to Jerusalem with her family. She studied the history of art and worked for a while as an editor for a TV channel before she decided to completely dedicate herself to teaching and sharing her love to tango in Jerusalem. Anna is married and the mother of a 14 months old baby boy.
When was your very first encounter with tango? What was your first impression about tango?
It was really by mistake (laughing).. one of my friends asked me to come to a tango lesson with him, I told him that I never danced and I would never dance. I had not danced even other dances, like salsa. I was taking music lessons and playing piano and guitar but I have never even dreamed about dancing at all. He convinced me to go with him to the tango class and never showed up again, but for me… I don’t know how to explain it… it caught me straightaway, it was like love at first sight.
So my very first tango experience was a lesson with Silvia (Silvia Rajshmir). I started learning tango in the classes but later I had some crisis that caused me to quit. So I stopped dancing for almost 2 years.
Why did you stop?
It was too overwhelming for me, I was very young and somehow I felt it was too much. But later I started to have dreams about dancing tango night by night. I am not superstitious person but this and some other coincidences somehow led me to start dancing again.
When, why and how did you first decide to teach tango?
It was very gradual. I was going regularly to Silvia’s classes and at some point I started to help her in the classes. Then she asked me to continue the classes instead of her during her annual holidays as she was leaving for Buenos Aires for one month each year and this happened twice. Then some people started asking me about classes and I have always responded that I am not a teacher. Also Silvia was encouraging me in this way but it took a long time to convince me to teach regularly and when I finally decided to open my own classes it was not such a change anymore because I was already there – in Jerusalem – teaching quite often.
What is it like to teach tango in Jerusalem ? Are there any specifics?
Yes of course! What you can notice in my classes is that we have people speaking different languages and then, also, religion counts. Once I had some religious Jewish couples coming to my classes. They asked me not to require them to switch with other people during the class because already the fact that they were coming to my classes was somehow breaking the rules of modesty for them. I also had two different religious ladies in my classes who came because they felt they needed something more in their life than just family and children. They wanted to feel more freedom and felt they needed more music in their lives. Of course they were coming from a very specific environment and they have never ever dared to tell anyone in their surrounding that they are taking tango classes. More than that I have Hebrew speakers, English speakers and Russian speakers. Many Russian speakers are part of the tango community here, but at times I also had some Arabic students and right now there is an Ethiopian girl coming to my classes and I am really glad about this diversity of cultures. Really that is something that can only happen in Jerusalem and tango!
What is the most important thing you would like to transmit to your students when teaching tango?
I try to teach them that in order to become a good dancer, first of all you need to connect. To connect means to feel the other person, be there for the other person. You have to be yourself, you cannot deny yourself, but for me, the most important thing is that you go together with your partner. Not that the technique is less important but it is only important in the second place.
If one of your students asks you what she/he should do in order to become a good tango dancer, what would your answer be?
I tell them a handful of things; first..the most important is the connection as we talked before then, it is musicality, the dancer should understand the music and each time listen to it as if it was for the first time. Then I tell them that they should find a comfortable place for themselves, to feel comfortable in their own body and then start dancing as a couple. To feel themselves and the other, because if you do not feel comfortable with yourself you cannot make your partner feel comfortable and nice either. And finally; creativity which means to be able to dare while dancing, to vary the dance and constantly play with the dance.
Has the tango ever taught you something about life?
Well, it teaches me something all the time. For example when I was young I used to be a very individualistic person. And maybe this is something related to Ukraine where I am coming from but I had a problem with my personal zone. At my first tango class, when the teacher told us to hug, I immediately stepped back and gave a hand to my partner. I did not know how to embrace. And now a hug is the most natural thing for me. Tango also taught me that when I want to reach out for another person, one of the most important things is to be yourself, to have your own axis. And this is actually something that can be reflected in all my relationships.
What does tango mean for you now?
Tango is my love. I cannot imagine life without tango. Just because tango taught me so much and I have made the decision to quit every other occupation for it and I feel very happy for this decision. It is not at all a financially satisfying job. But just because I totally love what I do and it makes me happy.
Do you have any specific tango success (teaching or dancing) that makes you feel especially proud of yourself?
Yes I have. It always makes me glad when I have a person who comes to my classes and he or she is not confident at all, they are looking down at the floor and then I see them changing and how they become more and more confident. 3 days ago we had a special class with a birthday of one of the students. When I told all my birthday wishes to him he told me something that almost made me cry. He told me thank you because tango really changed his life. He said that before, his life had only two colors: black and white, but now his life is colorful. He said that at the beginning, he didn’t know what he should focus on in tango, whether it should be technique, steps or something else. But now he finally understood that being there for another person and making his partner feel good is the most important thing. It was then that I understood how I really did something for him.
Can you share any other funny or interesting story about teaching tango in Jerusalem ?
I have one but it is rather a sad one. We are now in a complicated place and complicated times. I have always wanted to go to Ramallah and see the how people live there even if it is very dangerous. A few months ago, a Palestinian tango teacher came to my milonga. I was so happy to have her in my milonga, we spent a long time speaking together and started planning together that I will come next time to her milonga in Ramallah. All this happened before the summer just two weeks before the situation got much more complicated again and so for the second time I could not make this dream come true.
Do you have any dream for the future?
I literally had a dream about making a class for the gay-lesbian community in Israel. I think that these people still have a hard time in Israel, that the Israeli society is still not that accepting and open to them. I know that the students who are coming to my classes would accept them but the problem is that they would not come to my classes themselves. The class for them would have to be organized in a special place for them to feel comfortable. Who knows, maybe one day it will be possible.
Your favorite tango, milonga and vals…
My preferences are changing all the time, right now for milonga I would choose Milonga Corralera from Palermo trio and Invierno from Canaro as my favorite tango.
Thank you, Anna, for your time and your passion in giving me insight to your classes and tango community in Jerusalem !
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