ALEX KREBS – RENOWN RENAISSANCE TANGUERO
Dec 13th, 2017
The first time I met Alex Krebs was about 10 years ago. I was searching for an Argentine Tango dance teacher. A Google search quickly turned up Alex and his all-tango dance studio in SE Portland, Tango Berretin, a funky, bohemian space complete with dance shoes glued on the ceiling, a mate gourd collection, and tango artwork. I took lessons, was hooked, and joined and stayed in the community ever since.
Alex is hard to define. He not only does many things, but also does them very successfully. He is a musician and physicist by education, and an Argentine tango teacher by profession. He directs two accomplished bands — a 14-piece Balkan Brass Band, The Krebsic Orkestar, and a tango sextet. He has been featured in the New York Times, OPB, Oregonian and other major media outlets for his craft and also his community building achievements. He has performed with the Oregon Symphony, released 6 tango albums, and has tango instructional apps. Students of his have even gone on to become notable Tango teachers, DJs, and organizers. So who is he?
I picked one of Alex’s favorite Italian restaurants, Nostrana, to conduct this interview. As the gnocchi arrived we started our conversation.
How did you first get into tango?
“I heard Carlos Gardel on the radio. It was not enough to just listen and enjoy the music. I wanted to be a part of it in some way. Dancing was the natural progression. I took a ballroom dance class and quickly realized that ballroom tango and Argentine Tango were very different types of music/dance. After the music had hooked me I fell in love with the footwork. After 8 months of dancing I discovered the mystical and magical world of connection. It hit me over the head like a brick – to move in unison with your partner as time slows down and the world seems to disappear around you. Then I discovered teaching, though not by design. I never set out to be a tango teacher. People would ask me if I taught and wanted me to show them what I had learned in Buenos Aires. I loved sharing and decided to devote more time into learning about how to become a better teacher. I went back to Buenos Aires and studied every day with multiple teachers over about 3 months to get teaching ideas. I have so many people to thank in Buenos Aires for all the rich tools I learned to synthesize my way of teaching.”
What do you like most about teaching tango?
“I like people. I like helping them grow and understand themselves better. Tango teaches you about yourself and your relationship to other people, places, and time. It’s the red pill. I enjoy the process of seeing people discover themselves through dance.”
What motivates you to do so many different things and how do you achieve the success in them?
“A fear of death, caffeine, and a high metabolic rate. I can’t get projects out of my head unless I see them through — a kind of a creative insanity. It’s frustrating when my projects are not up to my own standards, which is partly what drives some of the success I’ve had.”
What do you mean by “creative insanity?”
“Well, new ideas come to me quite often. I don’t have enough time to do all the quirky projects that I have in mind. I do as much as I can, but when the ideas back up in my brain it’s hard to sit still. There’s a restlessness.”
What is your take on fashion in general?
“I don’t really know much of anything about fashion. All I know is that I like to play and try new things for myself. Fashion goes through a lot of trends and I’ve never been one to follow trends. My hope would be that people try things until they find what they like and are comfortable in, so they are unique and authentic to themselves.”
Alex agreed to dance with me in this short video clip to show my readers what Argentine tango looks like:
I imagine it’s is hard to make a living as a Tango teacher, but Alex is doing exceptionally well with his group lessons, privates, and his special events, such as an annual Tango event called, The Thing, a 4-day social dance party. People might wonder what is the key to his success? The way I see it, Alex does his craft (and business) with heart. He truly cares for every person he meets. He is sensitive and pays great attention to each individual’s need. He makes everyone feel special and taken care of. On top of that he is a VERY generous person. He gives scholarships to people to take his classes and for his events if people can’t afford them. He gives back to community whenever and in whatever way he can. He also never shows up to a party empty-handed, and sometimes arrives with too much! : ) One time I invited him over for a grill party where I asked people to bring one thing to grill. He and his family went above and beyond and brought delicious mussels, oysters, bread, cheese and charcuterie!
It seems whatever Alex chooses to do, he WILL succeed! Not only because of his dancing/teaching skills, his musical creativity or anything else, but because who he is as a person and his sincere, warm and generous heart. For that, I will always adore Alex and hope all the readers of this entry will get to cross paths with him as well.