About Stephanie Berg
Stephanie Berg has been a dancer all her life.
The daughter of a professional singer and actress and the granddaughter of a composer, she began ballet when she was only three years old. From ages six to sixteen, she danced with Western Ballet, a semi-professional company, mostly performing in the corps de ballet, accompanying professionals who were hired for the principal roles. Ballet taught her dedication, poise and professionalism, but the intense discipline left her socially isolated. In high school, she therefore switched to musical theatre and continued to develop her keen interest in music: first studying clarinet and later joining a choir. Although Steph began her career as a ballet dancer, she has none of the rigidity associated with some ballet-trained tangueras, as she has always practised a wide range of dance disciplines, including modern, contemporary, jazz, Charleston and (a personal favourite) West African dance. This versatility enables her to incorporate movement techniques without automatizing them.
At college, Steph became enthralled by partner dances, beginning with ballroom, which she studied intensively during a year in Japan. On her return to the US, she completed an internship as a ballroom dance instructor with Linden Street Dance in Oakland and began teaching and performing ballroom and West Coast Swing. She also met Nicholas Tapia and discovered Argentine tango: two things that were to change her life. See below, for more on their partnership.
From the very beginning, Steph recognized that tango poses unique challenges because it is more profoundly led and followed than any other partner dance. It both entails more dependence on your partner and demands more responsiveness to him or her. You have to learn to harmonize with the leader, without losing your own personality as a dancer. Its demanding partner work is also the main source, for Stephanie, of tango’s emotional intensity and complexity.
Steph is the fourth generation of teachers in her family and pedagogy has always been extremely important to her. She finds it particularly rewarding to help students surpass their own perceived limitations. Deeply knowledgeable about the human body, Steph helps students overcome age, injury and trauma to discover their full potential as dancers. She respects individual students’ different learning styles and helps them to work towards their personal goals: whether these involving become a versatile and desirable social dance partner; competing; or simply dancing harmoniously with a girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse.
Steph loves students who approach the dance analytically. Even if your goal is only to dance socially, Steph believes that it’s beneficial to have a structured plan for learning, to know what you are trying to achieve and how you hope to train. She helps students map out this learning process. Steph always knows not only what she would like students to do but why: whether for elegance, comfort or to prevent injury. She never teaches anything she doesn’t fully understand. With beginner students, Steph focuses on building a solid technical framework. With more advanced students, she helps them develop their artistry, express their feelings about the music and their partner and create different moods and textures through movement.
Steph especially admires strong, characterful female dancers like Alejandra Gutty, Lorena González Cattáneo, Jimena Hoeffner and Clarisa Aragón, who are equal partners and take full ownership of their role in the dance. This powerful yet gentle way of dancing in the follower role is something she both models and encourages in her own students.