Intervju - Tango

BIANCA AND PASTOR talk to Michele Stanley.

MS: What is tango?

B.  Tango is everything - beautiful movements, passion, seduction,
romance, happiness and sadness, elegance and pride, subtlety and drama -
in a word, life!

P. Tango is the art of meeting.  Tango is a dance where you express all
what you are in an embrace.  It is a dance with your partner and all the
other couples that are dancing on the floor.

MS:  Did your family encourage you to consider dance and/or tango?

B.  Every summer my parents took my brother and me out for dinner and
dance almost every night until we became teenagers.  After that I was
famous as a disco diva at school, which matched my tendency for
theatrical dressing for any occasion.  My earliest memories of
fascination with dance were when I saw some intricate patterns in a
particular folk dance being performed in my town.  Other than that, I
remember admiring ice skaters for their elegance and skills on television. 
 
P. No.  I lived all my childhood and adolescence in the countryside in
Argentina , so it was impossible for me to consider dancing anything.
 The nearest dancing school was sixty kilometers from my home.

MS: What was your career prior to tango?

B. As my first passion since I was a teenager was in designing and
making original clothes I went on to realise the big dream to study
fashion in Italy and after that, came to England to study
English but ended up also specialising in millinery (craft of making
hats).  At some point, though I came across a tango class and that marked the
end of my successful millinery career with my last collection of hats being
dedicated to tango.  I then decided that I wanted to become a dancer and
to finish my fashion career in style I choreographed and performed in a
few tango-hats shows in collaboration with different dancers and
teachers in Paris London and New York milongas.  I have decided to show
the same collection this year in Kew Gardens at my milonga 'Rojo y
Negro' during the Ascot period in case you are interested.

P.  After my school days I studies Philosophy for five years.  I worked
in different companies in Argentina and then I studied tango in CETBA.
(Centro de Estudios de Tango de Buenos Aires).

MS: How did you discover tango?

B.  My first memory goes back to my teens when a local ballroom dancer
(in Montenegro where I come from) refused to teach me some tango steps
he knew as I was 'too young for that'!  That was the perfect challenge
for me to start looking for Tango when I grew up.  I started dancing
tango in London about ten years ago but the scene was quite small at
the time and I soon got to know everybody so I had to move on in order
to progress.  I traveled to Europe and, of course, I made regular few trips to
Buenos Aires where I trained with many great teachers, and mostly with Gustavo Naveira, the most innovative teacher in the last decade.

P.  It was funny how it happened!  One day when I was returning home
from my university I saw a leaflet on which it advertised a
place where they taught tango for free - so I decided to go in and
learned the basic steps.  Then I started to take classes regularly.

MS:  What other dances interest you?

B.  I am interested in absolutely any dance form on earth and have
explored quite a few in the last ten years of studying dance.  In
fact, I am fascinated by other forms of movement -e.g. martial arts
yoga etc. and complementary dance techniques such as Feldenkrais and Alexander technique.

P. Well, I am interested in Argentinean folklore, flamenco and
contemporary dance but to be honest, I do not know very much about other
dances apart from tango.

MS: How important, in your view, is body consciousness to dancing tango?

B.  To me it is very important as it helps me to define my tango technique
through which, in turn, I can enjoy the movements to the highest
degree.  I developed a high level of body consciousness through my
thorough dance training and find it impossible to ignore its importance.

P.  It depends on the level you want to reach.  I think it is not very
important at beginner's level but when you want to improve more you have
to study your body and how you feel the movements.

MS:  Tango music demands the movement.  How can this be taught?

 B.  In my teaching I try to be as clear as possible when describing
movements, dynamics or required posture using specific dance vocabulary
I accumulated in my dance training.  In order to teach and demonstrate
the movement it is important to be able to describe all aspects of it
and how they are inter-related.

P.  Movement in tango has to be taught slowly, step by step.  In my
point if view at the very beginning you have to find movements natural
to your body the, when you feel them natural, you can make them elegant
and then you can create your own style.

MS:  How important is the music?

B.  The music is very important as it inspires dancers to dance!  I find
that some classic pieces are so amazingly composed that even after years
of listening to the same tune I still keep discovering new notes each time.

P.  Tango is a dance and when you dance you have to listen to the music
you want to dance to.  The music is what inspires the dance so it is the
most important thing.  You can make lots of steps but if they are out of
beat then you are not dancing.  You are just moving.

MS:  There is narrative in the music of tango.  Is it necessary to
listen to the music on a regular basis when studying tango?

B. To understand songs it would be desirable to understand Spanish and
relate to the lyrics, otherwise it is necessary to feel and be able to
interpret the mood of the song, which demands certain levels of
concentration from dancers. In my opinion it helps to listen to the
music as much as possible and not only on the dance floor in order to
get familiar with the structure of tango music and identify different
layers in the music and different dynamics from very subtle to the very
powerful, created by the conversation of different instruments.

P.  It is not necessary but it is advisable. While you dance you have to
listen to the music and
enjoying what you are listening to is the most important thing in order
to be able to translate both music and feeling into your movements.  I
had never heard tango before starting to dance and I do not listen very
often to tango music at home.  I listen to it when I go to a dance or I
teach but since I started to go to classes (at least twice a week) and
then started going to the milongas (places to dance) I have listened to
a lot of tango.

MS:  What styles of tango do you favour: salon, show or nuevo?

B. I don't mind any style and can adapt to different dancers, providing
I like their style of dancing to begin with. My criteria are usually that
what looks good (to me) should feel good and I tend to observe a
dancer's posture, hold and the walk before I dance with them.  Other
dancers apply the same criteria to me I believe, at least in Buenos
Aires .  As long as my partner gives me a firm but gentle frame and
leaves space and time to allow the dialogue and creativity to take place
I am happy.  If he is also expressive in the use of dynamics or subtle
use of body language (including facial expressions) and is totally
concentrated on our connection in the dance and is also playful or sensual
according to the music, then the experience is even more enjoyable.

P. I dance in milongas, so my favorite style of tango is a mixture of
milonguero, salon and nuevo styles.  In a milonga you cannot dance as if
you were in a show because it is dangerous and tango is, above all, a
social dance so you have to respect the other people who are dancing.

MS:  How do you see tango evolving?

B.  As any other dance form, tango has been evolving continuously for
the past 100 years.  With more dancers coming to tango from different
dance backgrounds and introducing new vocabulary, the movement potential
is limitless.

P.  Every evolution brings good and bad things.  In tango, good things
are more technique, more difficult steps and better approach to people
who want to dance because it is more beautiful to watch.  Bad things are
that a lot of people who dance tango lose the idea of the dance;  it is
for enjoying and it is a sensual dance.  Some codes of old tango dancers
are missing these days.  One of them is order on the floor.

MS:  Do you ever change roles?

B.  When I dance with my favorite dancers or my dance partner we might
not visibly change roles but there is definitely a dialogue going on
the whole time.  It is always nice to surprise your partner by an
unexpected move and when you see a guy smiling that is when this might
be happening!

P.  I change roles in practicas, not in a milonga.  It is useful because
you learn better your own role and understand the other's part
difficulties.  I advise people to change roles from time to time.

MS:  Do you advise your students on the suitability of shoes and dress?
B.  Yes, of course I give genuine advice to anyone about all tango
matters, from my own tango experience as well as from anything I learnt
from other dancers and teachers.
P.  No.  I am very informal in my way of dancing, even in Buenos Aires .

MS:  Do you teach salon etiquette?

 B.  Definitely, even though some cultural aspects that are so
characteristic for Buenos Aires can't easily be assimilated in other
cultures.

P.  Yes, I think it is one of the first things you have to teach because
tango is a social dance and you have to take care of your partner and of
all the other people who are dancing on the floor.

MS:  Do you admire any particular tango dancer?

B.  There are many dancers that I like a lot but amongst my favorites
are Roberto Reis from Forever Tango (with whom I had the best dance
ever!) then Chicho -who is incredibly creative - and Marta and Alfredo
who make me cry every time I see them perform for their pure energy.

P.  Yes, I admire a lot, women and men.  For example, Geraldine and
Javier, Lorena and Osvaldo and Maria Nieves just to mention three
different generations.

MS:  Do you still take lessons yourselves?

B.  Occasionally, yes.  My last class was with Pablo Pugliese a young
but incredibly talented dancer.  I also learn a lot from watching and
dancing with lots of different teachers in Buenos Aires and other
experienced dancers to whom I get introduced.

P.  Yes, I am going to Buenos Aires now and I am thinking that I will
take some private lessons.

MS:  Do you think there should be a Governing Body for teachers to
protect the standards of teaching?

B.  Yes.  Tango should be canonized just as ballet in order to preserve
its traditional form and mark the difference between different styles.
 In the U.K. there is only one dance body that offers tango exams and
that is mainly for ballroom dancers but there is no regulating body
monitoring the standard of teaching for tango.  Students should take
care that they find out as much as possible about a teacher's background
to ensure quality of tuition.

P. Yes, it would be a great thing especially for students.

MS:  How easy is it to dance tango?

B.  To be honest, it rather depends on the level one wants to achieve.
 If you are musical then you can dance some simple tango steps right
from the start but it takes years to fine-tune more complicated routines
in terms of musicality, rhythm, floor craft, leading technique and
expression and to learn how to interpret all the richness and variety of
tango music. 

P.  It is not so difficult as it seems when you watch a couple dancing
but it is not very easy.  In an initial moment it is easier for women to
learn because they are the followers and when you receive information it
is easier to learn anything   Men have to lead so they have to learn how
to give that information.  Tango takes practice and practice makes for
perfection. 

MS:  Is it important for students to visit Buenos Aires and do you
arrange for this?

B.  Yes, it is a very important step for anyone interested in Tango.
 However, I recommend they should go after at least one year of dancing
in order to gain maximum benefit from dancing with 'Portenos' (locals).
 I have just come back from a visit to Buenos Aires where I took a small
group of students for the first time in collaboration with Hector
Villalba, owner of the 'Salon Dandi' and now the newly opened tango hotel
nearby - 'Royal Dandi' - in the heart of San Telmo.  It is a wonderful
package and we are planning to do it every year in April, as the weather
is ideal then.

P.  I think it is not important for students to visit Buenos Aires but
it is an interesting experience because you are in contact with the
roots of tango and can improve a lot by dancing and taking classes
there. The people of Buenos Aires are very warm and friendly and being
there will enhance your understanding of tango

MS:  What are your future plans?

B.  I have too many plans to mention.  My head is buzzing with ideas at
all times.  My tango career has been very successful in the past two
years and has taken me in many unexpected directions, so I now just
watch the ball rolling ......  For all current and future events please
check my website: www.RojoyNegroClub.com

P.  I do not know.  I want to dance tango all my life.

MS:  You have been very informative and open in answering these
questions and it is obvious that both of you have tango in your blood!
Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to me.