Bilingual Stories: An Interview with Tanja Kensinger ‘La Alemana‘
“La Alemana” from Island Touch Dance Academy talks about her experience immigrating to the US and her advice for salseros learning Spanish. She also shares how she started dancing salsa and her favorite song she performed with Jorge.
Q: When did you start dancing and what inspired you to get started?
A: My mother was a professional dancer before I was born and still did a little bit of dancing after I was born. Music always moved me so the moment I was able to stand on my own, I was dancing.
My mother put me into dance classes at around the age of 3 where I started with ballroom, some rock & roll, jazz, tap, and ballet–but because I was such a tomboy, ballet didn't last long for me. (I think it was all the pink.)
After moving to the US, I was no longer in dance classes, but I spent a lot of time around Latino culture because my best friend since I was 10 is Puerto Rican. I didn't start picking up dancing on a regular basis until after I graduated high school.
While I was working as a go-go dancer, I saw a couple dance LA Style Salsa during one of the Latin nights. At that very moment I said to myself “I need to learn that!” I quickly pulled aside a mutual friend and told him that I needed to have them teach me. That was in 2005 and I haven't looked back since 🙂
Q: How many languages do you speak?
A: I speak English and German, and I'm currently learning Spanish.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born in Weurzburg, Germany and lived there until the age of 8. My mother got married to an American military man, and we came to the states around 1995. I lived in Tomah, Wisconsin for one year while my stepfather was still active duty, then we moved to Cape Coral, Florida when he retired where I graduated high school.
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Q: How would you describe your background/nationality?
A: My mother is German and my grandmother was part Yugoslavian. My biological father is African-American. I am now a US citizen, but I came over as a German immigrant in the mid 90s.
I still posses some of my German cultural practices and attitudes, but I consider myself more of an “American” since most of my adolescence was spent here.
Q: How did you learn English and German?
A: German was my first and mother tongue. I learned English in school after immigrating to the US and by watching American television. Applying what I learned was the most important factor in learning English.
Q: Do you think learning Spanish can make you a better dancer?
A: I feel that as a dancing artist, the actual melody and rhythm of the song is what makes me move and feel emotions that I want to express physically. However, I think that if you're dancing to music, knowing the lyrics can help in understanding the song better.
Q: If you could give any advice to a fellow salsero/salsera that wants to learn Spanish but feels like it’s not possible, what would you tell them?
A: Nothing is impossible. You only posses the limits that you set on yourself. If you want something bad enough, you can achieve it, and that includes learning a new language.
Q: Now for the tough question…what is your all-time favorite salsa song?
A: I don't have one specific song, however, one of my favorite artists is Gilberto Santa Rosa – he's my salsa husband 🙂
My favorite salsa song that Jorge and I have performed to is “No Me Ames.” Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez in that song…magic.
Q: Are there any upcoming projects you'd like to tell the dance community about?
A: Our company, Island Touch, is involved in many ongoing projects such as our franchise concepts which have proudly been adopted by many dance companies in our community.
Our dance events via Touch Events across North America; we currently run the Chicago Salsa & Bachata Festival, the New York Salsa & Bachata Festival, the Tampa Salsa & Bachata Festival, and the Punta Cana Salsa & Bachata Festival (www.islandtouchevents.com).
We have recently started our Touch The World Initiative (www.touchthe.world) which is our philanthropic arm to Island Touch Dance Academy.
I am the director of philanthropy and with this initiative all of our global teams will be partaking in helping their communities throughout the year during designated weeks. It's our way of giving back to the communities that we all live in daily. We are all in this together and so also need to help each other when there is a need.
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¡Hola! My name is Tamara Marie. I'm a language coach specializing in brain-friendly methods to learn foreign languages faster. I speak English (US native), Spanish (advanced), and Brazilian Portuguese (beginner). I'm a Latin music & dance addict and passionate about helping people learn languages.