Nelson-based Anne-Maree Therkleson teaches dance and pilates, produces a yearly Tango Festival, and leads dance tours to Buenos Aires. She explores the beauty of tango through understanding the bio-mechanics of the body movements required, how to meld them together with musical awareness - while creating your own voice within the dance.
Therkleson produces four social dancing festivals a year: Summer Tango in Nelson (March), Autumn Tango in Arrowtown (April), Winter Tango in Hanmer (August) and Spring Tango in Martinborough (October). The festivals are unique to New Zealand, the mission is: ‘No performances, no teaching - purely joyful social dancing in celebration of the milonga’. Milonga is the term used to describe a gathering of tangueros (tango dancers).
Anne-Maree says that what makes Tango so special is its elegance and beauty, the sublime connection you can experience in the arms of
the other person. Tangueros search for that moment, where two people vibrate in mutual flow, an experience of energised focus, being ‘in
the zone’ or ‘in flow’, a ‘neural duet’.
The moment I fell in love with dance was .. when I was 5 years old in that soft pink tutu … yes ballet. I fell in love with Tango more deeply was when I started up my Gaytango school in Sydney. Being able to teach same-sex couples was an experience that has given me great skills and understanding of human beings, connection and acceptance.
My favourite dances are Argentine Tango and I do love to dip my toes into Swing.
Songs that will always get me onto the dancefloor are the Argentine valses (waltzes) - lyrical, melodic, often fast and always expressive.
What defines me as a dancer is being able to marry information, fun and motivation. I have performed both roles (lead, traditionally male) and follow (traditionally female) for many years and feel very comfortable in either role. I love to lead men who love to follow, I feel it is an experience that they can so rarely find in most dance forms and it gives them a chance to find another softer expressive side.
A quality that defines a good teacher is someone who can approach everyone in a different way if needed. Not everyone learns the same way, so we, as teachers, need to have the ability to find out what is going to work for our students and have fun while we are doing it. A good teacher also upskills! So continuing to learn yourself is a great tool to keep you motivated, to keep yourself topped up with energy and excitement for the dance, and it is always humbling to be the student again – putting yourself back in that position and improving yourself is a pretty cool thing to do.
What I tell dancers to think about is how to find the best in their partner. To achieve this you need to be the dancer that you want your partner to be … respectful, kind, fun, add intuitively and mindfully to the dance relationship, don’t expect your partner to provide your experience of the dance for you. Tango is all about being adaptive, with a good solid technical understanding of bio-mechanics and the moves, but it’s more than just that - it is about connection with yourself, your partner, the music and the other dancers on the floor, a synchronous whole.
The most unusual thing that has happened in class was when I was instructing a student on how to pivot and was giving them more and more information as they seemingly struggled … when he said to me “I only have one foot!”. He had a prosthetic and it was insightful to work with that and find ways to enhance fluidity … talk about a learning curve for both of us!
My top dance etiquette tip is to be aware of personal hygiene and if you are dancing in a warm climate, leaders, please bring a change of shirt because Tango is a close embrace dance.
My tip for beginner dancers is to be humble, know that practice makes perfect and be prepared for the journey! Always come with a good attitude and don’t take what people say personally, especially if they are telling you what to do and they are beginners also. Get the teacher’s attention and get advice from the professional if you are unsure about anything. Then, make friends and practice as much as you can … it is kilometres on the dance floor that hone those skills. Dance with people better than you and people not as good as you so you can learn to be an adaptive dancer and if you have to give feedback to someone, make it constructive – we need to be kind and respectful to each other.
One of the health benefits of dance I most appreciate now is the meditative experience of mind, body and soul whilst moving.
My sentimental object is a documentary, Tango with a Twist, shown at the Sydney Film Festival. It’s about a tour I took to Buenos Aires for the first Queer Tango Festival there. Twenty dancers came from Sydney and UK to attend the festival. It was a culture clash and it was brilliant. It was a blast and I treasure those memories of unexpected connections.
I would like to thank all my amazing students over the years who have made my career possible. Especially all my Gaytango students who have remained great friends even though seas separate us. They trusted me as their teacher and together we paved the way in a difficult traditional environment, changing the views of many traditionalists along the way.
One piece of advice I’d give my younger self is to be patient, breathe, relax and cross train as early as you can to ward off injuries. Take time out and give yourself a break. I never did this as a young dancer/teacher and I danced 60 hours a week and wore myself out, suffered injuries that were difficult to recover from, and felt guilty about not being there for my students. I worked myself too hard. If you want a long dance life, be kind to yourself.
What I look for in a good pair of dance shoes is padding under the metatarsal. I use Bloch as training/teaching shoes and my high heels are by Turquoise from Turkey.
My hot tip for taking care of my body as a dancer is to stay hydrated and cross train. My favourite additions to dance are Pilates and Gyrotonics which I do daily.
One of the highlights of my dance career has been dancing on the main stage at the Sydney Opera House, I don’t even have a video of it, shame! It was for the Australian Stage Tango Championships and my dance partner, Damian D’Arienzo and I got together the day before the competition to rehearse, as he lived in Melbourne we had no previous chance to practice. We came third and we thought that was no small feat considering the winners had been practicing for 6 months!
I’d like to see the dance industry in NZ have a stronger voice and work together more often across disciplines.
What I’m working on now is .. my social dance festivals come around every few months so keep an eye out for the next on www.tangolibre.com
and start dance classes beforehand so you can come and join us!