Today we’d like to introduce you to Iryna Ilyk.
Iryna, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have been a dancer all my life, beginning with ballroom and Ukrainian folk dancing. I started dancing the tango in December 2012, and after several years, decided to share with others how it makes me feel and what horizons it has shown me. I would like to share everything I have absorbed from many talented and amazing teachers since I started dancing the tango. Tango awakened the need in me to create an environment where everyone feels heard, understood and comfortable to create, to feel, to connect to others, and to communicate to others through dance. Teaching seemed like the best way to do that. Therefore, I developed a program which would welcome all at any skill level.
I started teaching with my co-teacher, Luis Benavides Zuleta, in March 2017 with three programs: Beginners Level Class, Intermediate Level Class, and Follower’s Technique Class. Our schedule also included tango etiquette class and weekly guided practica for students to have an opportunity to polish their knowledge and techniques. Now our program has grown to include an 8-week Beginners course, an 8-week Advanced Beginners course, and Intermediate Level Classes with monthly dedicated themes. Weekly Practica is a friendly, social environment, where new-to-tango students find like-minded friends, a needed hug, and understanding. 🙂 To improve the community dancing level and to bring our students closer to true Argentine tango we also organize Weekend Workshops with tango legends from Buenos Aires, like Jorge Torres, Donato Juarez G. & Carolina del Rivero.
Seeing our students smile during classes and seeing them motivated and excited by the challenge of tango, we got inspired to make the next step and introduce them to the highest level tango you can find in the United States. Therefore, Be In Tango is organizing a nationwide tango marathon, Buscandote, in January 2018. Houston will host 200 great tango dancers from many states across the US. Like many tango marathons, Buscandote includes 32 hours of dancing, 5 milongas, 5 DJs, plus an after-party milonga on Monday.
A Be In Tango student, Jace Valcore, and my teaching partner Luis had a chance to share their experience about tango with others as a part of the Queer Tango Salon 2017 conference in London. In a pre-recorded audio interview, they discussed their feelings, ideas, challenges, and approaches in solving them as a genderqueer student/new member of the community and the teacher who is seeking the best way possible to welcome them. Their story is personal, yet relatable to many, if not all. It clearly shows the importance of becoming vulnerable in order to help someone else become stronger.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
A few challenges have arisen. The foremost issue has been securing space for classes and workshops. Tango requires hard floors and involves high heels. It is standard for completers to wear high heels for social tango, so they must learn and practice the dance in heels, as well. Unfortunately, very few studios or venues are willing to rent to tango dancers because of potential damage to their floors from high heels. So, weekly classes are currently held at a local bar, Avant Garden, and practica are conducted at my home. We’ve been fortunate to find a Latin dance and fitness studio, FitMix, to host workshops and milongas (social dancing).
I like to say that Argentine Tango is a down-scaled model of life. It has something to offer to everyone: social interaction, conversation, a hug, love, friendship, great energy exchange, learning, and drama (if anyone has a need for it), too. And it is a beautiful dance, after all. But at the same time, tango is a technically challenging dance to learn and it takes time to master it, so recruiting and retaining students can be a struggle.
Many people become interested in tango when they see a dramatic or showy performance, but social tango is actually much subtler and requires one to focus internally on their body and emotions while simultaneously listening to and connecting with their dance partner and music. One student observed: “You cannot lie in tango.” Yes, you must be true to yourself in order to find a connection with your partner.
So, it is both physically and psychologically challenging, but can also be very rewarding and an opportunity for growth. It is an interesting challenge for teachers to help people open up to the emotional exposure that social tango involves and inspire them to invest the time needed to improve their dance. Also, some young adults have the perception that tango is for the older generations, so there are several obstacles to overcome when building a community and welcoming students.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Be In Tango story. Tell us more about the business.
The main message we send to the universe: “Be open in your heart, trust yourself, enjoy listening deeply to your partner or anyone next to you, show unconditional love and respect. This is happiness.” Emphasizing these aspects of the dance made us reconsider the traditional terminology used in tango teaching to refer to partner roles.
As in many other dances, the partners in tango are typically called the Lead and the Follow. These terms do not truly reflect the dynamics between partners in tango, as each role is responsible for listening to and following the other during each step of the dance. Upon reflection and conversation, it was determined that we can create the terms for the roles that reflect the most truth, that define only the sides of each role that are truly different and therefore help us to give a clear message to students. As we see it, one initiates the movement, so we call them Initiator. And their partner completes the movement, so we address them as Completer. This new terminology is the beginning of an exciting research project and discussion that will hopefully change and influence the entire tango community.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I believe we build our own luck by setting our fears aside. The biggest step was to start, it took me about 18 months before I took that step, but since then things have naturally evolved and progressed quickly.
Please follow the link to find Original Article: voyagehouston.