1. Please tell us what you mean when you say “tango is life”.
Alicia: Tango holds different states of mind, at times happy, at times not. Like life we have connections that are more strong with some people and weaker with others. We need to have dialogues, because in our heart a TANGO ALWAYS PLAYS.
2. Can you explain the main difference between milongas in Buenos Aires and North America?
Alicia: In Buenos Aires you BREATHE tango in the milongas, the ENERGY is created by each couple and at times all TOGETHER. It almost looks like the floor moves. Each person dances with their partner creating a row of precious pearls and each dance opens the door to an emotion within ourselves that we express to our partner.
3. What do you think is missing in the milongas in North America?
Alicia: The sentiment. They are too pre-occupied with steps done well and not for what the couple feels.
4. How important do you think it is for students to spend time practising on their own?
Alicia: It is important to practise to feel secure on the dancefloor. But, I always say that “tango is produced in the moment”. At times one practises a lot and then when dancing forgets everything.
5. You are a wonderful milonguera, why do you think so many people love to dance with you?
Alicia: Thank you. I think I put all of my being into each dance, I express how I feel and let go so that I can FLY!
6. What can we do to keep this dance alive?
Alicia: Keep dancing and always learn more.
(Originally appeared on Tango In Toronto in an interview with Lydia)
In this blog’s last post, I asked Toronto’s Isabella Szymonowicz why dancers should experience the teachings of Buenos Aires tango instructor Alicia Pons when she visits our city early in March. In her reply Isabella included a video of the two of them dancing. Knowing that this blog’s readers have varying levels of tango knowledge and varying levels of ability to relate to a video, I asked Isabella to put in down in writing what is happening in the video. Here is her response to that challenge.
Alicia was asked last September to do a series of classes at La Milonguita which is a popular milonga a tiny bit out of the downtown core. The idea of the class was to do something simple, elegant and with the music.
During this clip Alicia and I are demonstrating the concept of simple weight change as an actual step. At about 28 seconds she verbalizes that we are only changing weight. The follower is simply walking backwards and the leader (Alicia in this case) is walking on one side of the follower and then on the other side of the follower. With great fluidity and ease the leader keeps hips level, leaves feet a bit open at times, and changes weight when he (the leader) hears it in the music. This is all done gently and with great precision. It sounds and looks so simple but really it is challenging.
The soft quality of the steps here follow the beautiful stunning music of this Osvaldo Fresedo piece with Ricardo Ruiz vocals. The music and lyrics bring forth a mood of gentle, sad, long forgotten promises never to be brought forth. The marriage of music, dance, partner, fuses into something incredibly haunting and unforgettable.
Despues del Carnaval by Osvaldo Fresedo with Ricardo Ruiz vocals.
… Fue una noche que
lloraban los violines
un triste tango de
mientas la luna plateaba los jardines
un beso ardiente en la noche palpito.
Mas el encanto
de aquellas horas,
al morir Momo
Y con mi dolor
LLore la muerte
de mi ilusion….
Another beautiful example of tango as danced in the milongas with simplicity and weight changes is this clip of Cacho Dante. He and Alicia performed and taught together.
Isabella’s conversation with Alicia continues…
1. How do you think you can help people in the North American community understand tango more?
Alicia: By showing my heart and sentiment and putting a lot of energy in the classes.
2. What would you say to women who want to come to your workshops but are worried about not having a partner?
Alicia: Come anyways to learn, we have the possibility to rotate partners.
3. What do you think are the qualities in a dancer that most milongueros in Buenos Aires look for?
Alicia: To have passion for the music and dance. To let go of the body so that it can “express” and not think too much if it is good or bad to let whatever happen.
4. What would you like to share with us that we may not know?
Alicia: Tango is to feel, not to do. The music takes us away, the connection is the most important and this is intimate, not public. It is not to show others how you dance but to tell your partner how well you feel.
Often when a tango teacher visits Toronto we don’t have the opportunity to get to know them, beyond the context of a class or workshop. We’d like to “introduce” you to Alicia through a series of conversations that she has had with Isabella. Enjoy…
1. What brought you first to tango?
Alicia: My parents met while dancing tango. My family, aunts and uncles all danced. I remember dancing as a small child on my fathers’ feet. Even when my mother was pregnant with me I danced while in her belly. Tango is in my blood. In my adolescence I got away from it but again it came back into my life at the age of twenty when I was at a party and saw a couple dancing.
2. What was the reaction of your friends and family outside of tango when you first started?
Alicia: They have always encouraged me and now they feel proud of what I have been able to do.
3. What was the cultural climate like when you started tango and how has it changed over the years?
Alicia: The thing that has changed the most is that now it has a commercial side to it that before did not exist. Everybody danced because they enjoyed it. Now many things have appeared, taxi tango dancers, lots of teachers etc.
4. What do people in Argentina think of people that visit Buenos Aires mainly for tango..tango tourists?
Alicia: They can’t believe that tango attracts lots of tourists to come to Buenos Aires, and that they stay two or three weeks or more “ONLY TO DANCE”.
5. What was the most significant thing you learned from Graciela Gonzalez?
Alicia: Graciela was my model, she gave me the technique, her elegance. The way that she moves her feet gave me the inspiration to create my own expression.
6. How did you enjoy teaching with Cacho Dante?
Alicia: With Cacho we had a lovely school, he always respected my concepts and I always respected his. I always felt good teaching classes with him.
7. Being a world class dancer and teacher puts you in the spotlight often. What is the most important thing you would like people to learn from you?
Alicia: Really I would like to transmit the sentiment of dancing, the connection with the partner and with the music more so than the “steps”. I always say that “tango happens inside you”.
For a quick introduction to Isabella and Nicolai, the organizers of Practica El Beso, you can read this interview by Lydia the author of Tango In Toronto.
This interview was originally published on her blog on November 6th, 2011.
How did this teaching partnership between you and Nicolai come about? Isabella:
After one of my long trips to Buenos Aires I must have asked Nicolai if he would like to teach with me and give back something to the community after all the experiences in dancing tango that we have had over the years.
Nicolai: My relationship with tango has been focused on reaching a high level of emotional satisfaction for me and for my partner. Tango music when it spoke to me required me to move, to dance … there was no room for standing and teaching; there was only room for dancing. It was my egotistic period. When Isabella asked me to consider teaching, something opened inside me and I just felt it was the right time to share …
Is this is a first time teaching tango for both of you?
Isabella: Luckily I have had the chance to teach a few seminars on “musicality” and assist in countless classes here and in Buenos Aires. Some of the classes I assissted in this year have ranged from Alicia Pons to Julio Duplaa.
Nicolai: When I visited my tanguero nephew in Belgrade, last March, he asked me to do some workshops on men’s technique.
Isabella, you are already heavily involved in arts education, how does teaching tango differ from your other teaching experiences?
Isabella: Every class has a different dynamic and is full of different personality types. My challenge is to inspire, engage, and affect the participants. If people come to class with an open mind to have a great experience, they probably will!
What factors did you consider when choosing your location?
Isabella: Vivace Studio on Jane Street is a beautiful space, lovely floor, with a real feeling of community. I love this. This studio is all about creating art and is an environment that encourages this. The studio reflects an openness to new and old expressions of the arts. Wonderful! It is run by people who really care. This means a lot to me.
Something that concerns many Toronto tango students is leader/follower balance. How do you plan to handle this?
Isabella: Anyone who is interested in the class would be strongly encouraged to “try” and bring along a friend, relative, co-worker, neighbour, of the opposite sex to start this new journey. Tango needs new people!
Nicolai: An important perennial issue. The resolution will depend on the participants interest to explore role reversal; a valuable learning experience in itself.
What do you hope will make your 10-week workshop different from other Toronto tango classes?
Isabella: My hope is really to inspire participants to love and explore Argentine tango. It would be my greatest desire to pass on some of the things I have learned in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Some of the old milongueros such as Tete Rusconi and Puppy Castello are not around any longer but; I did have the pleasure to dance with them numberous times, lately having danced with: Alberto Dassieu, Chiche, Ricardo Suarez, El Canario, El Nene, Ruben de Pompeya, Tono, Luis Rojas, Jose Luis, (to name a few) … have taught me a few things about tango. It would be nice to pass a bit of this on.
Nicolai: The 10 classes will deal with the introduction to tango, perhaps the most important and crucial time for any aspiring tanguero/a … will they continue or will they stop. Helping each students reach some intimate internal connection to tango so that they will want to/need to continue is the challenge. Being “in a conversation” with each student can help the teacher offer insights that may reach the student.