For weeks, I have wanted to write about a unique gem that sits a few blocks from my house: Tango and Salsa Dance Studio.
I first visited this place a few weeks ago and was welcomed by owner-instructor Albert Rombold, who treated me to a two-hour session of dancing that impressed and enthralled.
During these two hours, I experienced a kaleidescope of feelings: enthrallment with this sensual yet highly poised dance form, frustration with my own inability to “follow” and “flow” with Albert’s excellent lead — and then, even greater enthrallment when I tapped into that “flow,” let go and followed his direction. I felt weightless, elegant, beautiful, relaxed, connected and … really good.
I’ve visited twice since, always more impressed and delighted as I learn more about this unique dance form, this studio and what makes Rombold tick as a teacher, dancer and entrepreneur. Below I share some highlights from my interview with him last Thursday, some insights from students Gabriel and Tanya and a video (eek!) made by a crew of “neighborhood rovers” — my friends Jenny and Da lee — when we stopped by last Friday for a spontaneous lesson.
April Doner: How long have you had the studio?
Albert Rombold: It’s now 17 months. I went through this recession, and I’m still standing. It’s still working.
AD: Did you have a studio before this one?
AR: I was a dance teacher for 10 years in Sarasota in ballroom studios, and because I didn’t want to do that any more, I started this studio … because [ballroom dance is about] “selling dance” instead of making it happen that people can enjoy dance. That’s the difference with what I do in this studio. I make it affordable: For a $100 a month membership fee, people can come whenever they want. In a ballroom studio, you pay $85 an hour. And we were instructed as ballroom teachers to not teach — to sell. And this is not my philosophy. I want to create couples. I want to create good dancers.
AD: How did you get started dancing?
AR: When I was 18 years old, my mother forced me. She said, “You have to take a dance lesson with your sister.” And I said, “No, I don’t want that because I’m a man.” [laughing] I played soccer, actually. But she said she’d pay for my driver’s license if I’d do that, and it was a good deal for me because, especially in Germany, that is very expensive. My sister danced two years and I danced my whole life. I stayed dancing my whole life; I did nothing else.
AD: And so how did you start working in dance?
AR: Ah — you go there — I didn’t want to talk about it, but it’s okay. It is “Rock Acrobatique” dance sport. In Europe it’s big. In the United States, it doesn’t exist because of liability insurance and suing possibilities and it’s a very … risky acrobatic sport. And, yes I was World Champion, German Champion twice and all that. And then I went to Costa Rica, made a little real estate, stopped dancing because I thought I was too old (I was 31). And what a mistake. After 11 years in Costa Rica, Sarasota dance studio owner from Dance Fusion Patrick Johnson saw me dancing again, like for fun, and asked me if I want to come over here and dance.
AD: Why do you love tango?
With Rock Acrobatique it was a totally different story. It was nothing about feeling. It was rock and roll. It’s rough, it’s flying, it’s fun, it’s everything. It satisfied me totally because I was like a little body-builder; I wanted to get stronger.
When I was in Miami three years ago, I tried to dance Rock Acrobatique again with a Russian girl there. But on the other side of the street was an Argentine tango studio and I thought, “Okay, with my spare time I have to do something.”
And now since [that] day, it’s never let me go because Argentine tango is creative. The man is in charge. The man has to play with the music. The man has to lead the girl [so] that she feels good. And the girl has to — I don’t know if it’s the right word, I say it always — submit totally to the man.
It sounds like macho or something like that, but actually the girl’s feeling better on it than everybody else. I mean, in every dance the woman is the follower. One cook has to be on the soup, not two cooks — it’s not working. But in Argentine tango, it’s so extreme. The woman is like a musical instrument and the man plays the musical instrument according to the music, and if you find this feeling one time, if you as a man [find] the feeling to be in charge, and the woman feels to be stroked the whole time … even if she’s not stroked.
It looks sensual but there should be no touch, actually, in Argentine tango. Everybody thinks, “Oh, they’re making love on the dance floor” — it’s not like this. It’s all illusion — it should be illusion. It asks for creativity of a man and for the woman to give totally up for three minutes. She has to give up everything, and so every thought she has, everything. She just has to go with the flow. And when you achieve that, you never give up Argentine tango because it’s the best feeling you ever can have.
I have a student, she opened a business — a big business. She says she comes to tango dancing because she can let go. Because when a woman goes with the flow, she doesn’t have to think, she has to let go of everything. It’s kind of like meditation for her. And she said, “This is my two hours a day or my hour a day where I can let go, I just feel the music, I go with the music, I listen to the music. And it’s a calm music — it’s not anything rough, and it calms me down.” And she is very busy at the moment and still she finds time to come in.
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With busy lives these days and often pressing economic concerns, why do people make time to dance tango?
Tanya and Gabriel have been coming to the studio for one month now. Tanya (originally from Mexico) and Gabriel (originally from Hungary) first began coming because Gabriel “didn’t want to sit in the chair and watch the other men dance with my girl.” Tanya adds, “We tried to find something that we can find more time as a couple and complement each other — because I like dancing, and he likes dancing but different styles. I’m Hispanic and he’s more into techno. So now we’ve found something that can make us be more of a unit as a couple.”
Also, the couple doesn’t have to worry about daycare as Albert welcomes them to bring their baby, 14-month-old Sophia, who watches from the sidelines in stroller. The ample one-on-one time that this studio offers has also been crucial to their growth and enjoyment of the learning process.
What keeps them coming back? “[Albert] is a really good teacher,” Tanya says. “We have been coming here for just one month and we are already dancing really well.”
Gabriel adds, “He has a good attitude and he corrects you if you want — and he finds the way to put a good impression on you. Even if you’re doing some wrong step, he finds a way to teach. All people are different and you need to feel confident in the way you move. Albert is giving us that confidence that we need.”
“And,” Tanya adds, “he’s just such a nice guy. He makes us happy.”
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Albert’s goal is to “create good dancers,” “create good couples,” and “to make people happy.” From what I observed, he is succeeding. As further proof, here’s my friend and fellow “rover” Jenny Acheson happily trying our best.
Video by Da lee Woodsman.
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So don’t be shy! Go on by the studio.
Meet Albert, enjoy the space he and his students are creating for genuine practice and experience for yourself the interesting thrill of “submitting” (ladies), or “taking charge” (gents) — fully, creatively, for the sake of flow.
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