International Tango Review EL ONCE, London, Great Britain

Edition may 2002 

About the origins of Argentine tango in Europe and the changes in Europe and Buenos Aires that a famous international tango teacher has witnessed since the early 80ies

 Interview with Yvonne Meissner 19th March 2002

 PL (Paul Lange from El Once Review): We first met when you came to London in September of 1998 when you came here to teach with Pocho Pizzaro, in fact we interviewed him for El Once. (Issue ***). Was this your first tour abroad ?

YM (Yvonne Meissner):No, it wasn’t

PL:Who did you tour with first?

YM:I actually didn’t tour with others first of all… I just taught regular classes and then, slowly, it evolved into teaching weekends abroad… first in Belgium and Germany, so near my home base Amsterdam. But I mostly toured alone and sometimes with others like a partner from Holland, who had started the social form of tango with me in #1996 and danced it nicely by then. I introduced in Germany and Italy. We danced salon style with rhythmical elements of Canyengue Orillero that I ‘d learnt from Pocho Pizarro. And in #1997 we were invited to Brussels next to Gabriel Angio and Natalia Games who then weren’t quite known yet ….

 PL:Who was the first Argentine dancer that you toured with… was that Pocho ?

 YM:I actually first taught with Susana Miller when I organized her lessons in Z”urich. For 3 years I organised for Ruben Terbalca, whose lessons “social psychological history of tango” I organized. Ocassionally we were asked to teach Canyengue, so I did this with him. In that time – 1994-1997 – Canyengue was a secret hit. I once taught with Daniel Trenner and another young Argentinian in the Sitges Festival #1998. But my real first tours of several months were with Pocho though by then I had already taught alone in many countries in Europe

 PL:In Europe… when you were in your school in Amsterdam?

 YM:Yes, we had a small school in Amsterdam, started tango in Den Bosch 1994 and taught in Haarlem for a while. We only taught the close style, already from the beginnings in 1994…

 PL:Susana Miller didn’t teach you canyengue… ?

 YM:No…, that’s Pocho’s part… I learnt Canyengue from Pocho. He can be a great dancer. When no-one knew asked for Canyengue in Buenos Aires, he already did exhibitions with Stella Barba, who was a great partner for him … I was drawn to it because it’s so…wild, so uncontrolled and entirely in the rhythmical tradition serving the music…. a very different expression of a historic form of tango. I needed to learn that. So I took lessons with him and sought him out for that.

 PL:Where did you meet him first?

 YM:I met him in Europe when he was on an earlier tour, and I heard that he was quite an interesting guy so I went to see him in a tango school… it was before I danced “Tango de Salón apilado”. I took lessons there, elsewhere in Europe and later in Buenos Aires…. so I flew after him…

 PL:A bit like Michiko and me .. travelling around Europe to the places where the teachers were.

 Did you plan to become one of the “tango touring teachers” or did it just happen naturally ? Did you decide at some point that you wanted to start touring and teaching internationally ?

 YM:It happened naturally like as to many of my friends who are travelling now. I had been involved with tango (touring), especially after 1996. When I was on a trip, I just went dancing in that city. I have a lot of friendship in Europe, and all of those people were the early generation of dancers. I actually ended up being asked later on. I didn’t really make a conscious decision… the only decision I made, was to drop my regular lessons, because the teaching abroad became more. It then weren’t possible anymore to travel further then only to Düsseldorf or Brussels and still continue with the regular lessons. I admire Eric, a friend who is able to combine travelling with regular lessons but would go crazy because of overkill of impressions…

 PL:When you started in Tango, who did you learn from and how do you think your way of dancing has changed now?

 YM: My first tango course was 1987 with Wouter Bravé and Martine Berghuis. They were the first people – next to Mirta and Lalo – in Holland… Seemingly studying the newer tango history, together with Lange in Berlin they were – to my knowledge – actually the first in Europe. I ended up taking something like a fun workshop somewhere and continued with a weekend workshop, still in 1987 … if I remember well, there were only four or five couples, you know… it was an “underground” activity… no-one knew what it was. We felt like outcasts in that to-be-torn-down building. Later on, when I was able to pay for regular lessons… I was a student… I took regular lessons with Rob & Inez. In that time there was nothing like a regular event. Still I remember the moment someone made a paper with some 4 milongas to come up in the next 3 months and quite a bit of time between them. It was then I started to go dancing intensively and getting quite hooked. In 1989 we had several regular events a week.

 PL:The style of dancing you started with was presumably figure orientated, like we all did at that time. When and how did you change to the way you dance now?

 YM:Through Susana (Miller) and Cacho Dante. They were, by good luck, the first people that I was able to help organise and learn from extensively…. I was around doing the public relations, organizing the space and printing or layouting a flyer. I consider it a present what I learnt those 3 years while we organized them sometimes twice a year. My nowadays didactics are very much based on Susana’s that are basicly body technique related. It was a great period that changed in my life.

 PL:Were they the first people that you invited to Holland?

 YM:I worked with a good friend of Susana and he new both very well from Buenos Aires, and as we had small schools together I really wanted them to feel home. My partner was actually the initiator but he didn’t have a computer so I did the flyers and PR. We tried to show people what Susana and Cacho were teaching and gradually I got involved more in this minimalist and introvert way to tango. It was a hard thing in 1994 to explain people, that were very much still in a figure and counting orientated tango using up lots of space, all related to the basic step with the back step. We wanted to show them a very different side that is starting from the music, a common space and couple as a definition. The women converted the situation, they all died to dance with Cacho. I first wasn’t hooked as much as it sounds, but this was a subtle power intruding my life. And now still it’s my preferred way to dance the social dance forms.

 PL:Susana called their way of dancing “milonguero” style, which is now how many people refer to it…. What would you say it was called?

 YM:I wouldn’t really use the term “Milonguero” style myself. Susana Miller used it after 1987 as an abbreviation. She had gained the confidence of the milongueros, so first Cacho Dante and then Eduardo Aguirre started to work with her in Almagro. So she invented the term as an abbreviation for the close form of social dancing in the center of Buenos Aires. And there are 3 types of holds, two are close, thus apilado, and one is open. The open one was danced in “barrios” further out like Saavedra (Salón S’in Rumbo) and the close way in the center where we tourists all got first. And that is why we know the social close form first though it’s not the only one. The same milonguero could – all in the close hold – dance small like usual in the centre with half a squaremeter of space for the couple and later in the night do a more complicated form, when there was more space, Teté and Eduardo are examples for this, next to many others less known. It’s the same people. As milonguero was a pejorative word with a meaning like more or less “the guy that dances all night long, doesn’t like to work, leaves his wife and children at home and is on the hunt for other women” it weren’t something a milonguero would want to call himself, neither the ones that didn’t fit the description nor the ones that did. Please take this with a smile. I give you the worst definition of all. Cacho and Eduardo luckily are amongst the huge amount of not-typicals as Cacho has an own company and Eduardo worked in Teatro Col’on for 20 years and both leave women in peace. Just to explain that only a non-milonguero, in this case an intellectual like Susana could invent this term. Slowly people inclusive milongueros – that now could meet tango tourists in the center of Buenos Air – used the term because of the advantage of a compact term that defines the close dancing of Tango de Salón that tourists saw because they came to the center and normally not to the Provincia de Buenos Aires like Avellaneda or Lanuz, or the barrio Saavedra. Even in 1995 milongueros like Teté declared – when asked about the style – to be dancing “Tango de Salón”. I still remember that night we sat with a big crowd on Plaza Dorrego with tango dancers from Europe confused about the different holds and terms when Teté made things clear. A memorable and almost historic moment for me was when when Cacho made his new business card in 1997. I had lost his phone number and so he gave me his new, fresh business card saying “Cacho Dante, tango milonguero style”. When I saw it, I started laughing and we laughed together for about 10 minutes. We both knew, right now and here, times had changed. Important is that milongueros go and dance for the music first, that separates them from dancers of Tango Fantas’ia or Tango Danza.

 PL:That is the prime motive for getting up to dance, isn’t it ?

 YM:Of course… when I went first I ended up in the centre of Buenos Aires where in the early nineties they had only the close hold, so I saw “Tango de Salón – Apilado”. What stroke me then – my first night was in the Almagro that still had no young dancers yet – that all of those people danced in such a small space and didn’t touch, each of them staying behind their partner. The whole mass moved to the music with the same kind of accelerations like a school of fish that waves here and there, maintaining the same distance. It were as if they respected the air in between each of the couples. I was struck and wondered how they not only could maintain the direction of dance but the quickness of this. The term “ronda” contains direction and its quickness for any milonguero. I repeat again, it has nothing to do with the hold. All forms of “Tango de Salón” respect this sculpture of music in space, and not only the close “Apilado” way… nowadays it depends on the schools, to what extent people will learn this music in space sculpture. 

 PL:Do you have a name you use for more figure orientated dance?

 YM: Again I can only explain paying respect to the milongueros whom I learnt from. They call the way I was taught by my first teachers (styleAntonio Todaro) “Tango Fantas’ia”. Fantas’ia is a situational way of dancing. The same milongueros that dance on half a squaremeter can occasionally be asked to dance in an exhibition. This will always be one on the same floor as the public, not on stage (some milongueros though did in addition, like Eduardo & Gloria) and for a certain occasion. Normally this milonguero would know his public in addition. The two dancers might then be allowed to lift their feet (forbidden in a traditional salon) and perform things like ganchos that influence the flow of the ronda in a salon. Still their dance would serve the music. And only the music. I had the honour to perform with several milongueros in a spontaneous way, being asked without knowing it would happen and it was a matter of honour for them to leave the choice of music to the DJ. Because with this they show they unprepared can dance any music (in this way Pocho is still a milonguero). This is the historic definition. Nowadays Tango Fantas’ia is called everything that happens on stage, including lifting the leg above the head. The last normally only a trained modern or ballet dancer can perform. That had been called Tango Danza before. Now this term by young people is scarcely used. Anyway a milonguero would never ever think of doing this when he would disturb the ronda in a salon. He would forever loose the respect of the others and that’s the last thing they want to loose…

 So Fantasia is situational, but became the main stream thing to be taught through stage dancers and the request of the public. Every beginner wants to learn flashy things. A teacher has to show them how cheap it looks if not done well, to convert them forever into good dancers who with modesty only after being trained in Salon – like all dancers did who work with the only performance group that is respected in Buenos Aires: Miguel Zotto’s group – will want to develop Tango Fantasia or Tango Danza … style="font-family: Wingdings;">J Fantasia dancers shouldn’t look cheap.*

 PL:So really by saying “Tango de Salón” you are encompassing all the styles of Tango which you would do in a social context…

 YM:Yes, not me but the milongueros I refer to with my definition. It’s their definition. It comprises what Eduardo Arquimbau calls “Club Tango”, “Club style”, “Milonguero”, the usual form early fourties of “Tango Liso” with no figuring at all; It though excludes historic forms of Canyengue and Canyengue Orillero which only since the interest of the tourist popped up in the salons of Buenos Aires. There is a little bit of confusion in the United States, but as you go and ask the big crowd of historic salon dancers down there (Buenos Aires), they all say they are dancing “Tango de Salón”. Like I mentioned above, in 1995, Teté said he is dancing “Tango de Salón”, 1994 Cacho said the same. Not to speak about many others whom I interviewd and spoke for long nights with medialunas and coffee. My students say they dance Milonguero and on flyers where I teach there is Milonguero Style. So, we are in the middle of an evolution of definitions. That is why I empasize the origin and the umbrella definition of Tango de Salon that still is on…You can say, Tango de Salon is everything with the feet on the ground that was danced from the Fourties.

 PL:It gets a bit confusing nowadays because everyone is putting a different name to anything and everything, so it’s nice to get a clear definition.

 YM:I have been witnessing this, especially in the United States where “Tango de Salón” actually comprises what we in Europe or them in Buenos Aires would call “Tango Fantasia”. In Europe it’s quite clear in most countries and cities that I have been to that “Tango de Salón” is social tango, and the difference is understood between that and what “Tango Fantasia” or “Espectaculo” is . In the United States there are many teachers being invited because of the credits of having worked in a stage company and those dancers oftenly weren’t even known in the milonga in Buenos Aires, not to speak they were invited by a milonguero. (I emphasize this applies not to all companies but there are.) So, as cities are far apart from each other and travelling – thus cross-fertilizing each other – is less easy then in Europe, organizers would choose to invite these dancers to teach in their cities. So people expected my milonguero partner and me to do lots of ganchos, jumps and lifts of feet when we came. It was funny. But we are still friends with these organizers!!!….

PL:With so many teachers around, teaching with different styles, do you think that sometimes people, the students, start to dance a tango in the style of “Tango de Salón” and then half-way through change into “Tango Fantasia”… and then back to Salón again ?

 YM:You speak about the students in Europe and the United States ?


 YM:Hmm… I have been seeing some students of mine that were almost trained only in Salon… to start with, they never did the eight-count basic step, in the end of a scholastic year which runs half a year in Holland, I told them… look this is what you can do and its called basic step, but they were very musical and had invented it already without the back step of course. And some of these students can end up doing “Tango Nuevo”. There is nothing wrong with such a development. As long as the teacher gives them the right improvization skills, so these figures never get sclerotic. “Tango Nuevo” has quite a high level of improvisation; and improvisation is the common denominator of “Tango Nuevo” and “Tango de Salón” open or close or what Susana was calling “Milonguero” style as an abbreviation. I have seen this development a lot, most of my students get though bored with choreographies or figures they cannot use. Then I mostly feel very proud of them. People are free to choose. And when I dance with some dancer of “Tango Nuevo” we might for the fun end up using Orillero elements in the dance. We are free to choose. The only important question is, does this built the music, does the dance shape the music. As long as one can see the music in a three dimensional shape I am totally happy.

 PL:If you are a beginner, it can be very confusing when you are being taught different styles one week after another.. you can end up taking a bit of one style from one teacher, a bit from another and it all gets mixed up into something different…maybe..

 YM:Yes, I think that would be a very unhappy way to start with tango..

 PL:It does tend to happen these days, though, doesn’t it ?

 YM:In some cities, or some countries, they have a very strong tradition of starting with half-year courses which you pay in advance for, and I think it is a very safe thing because you can get quite confused as a beginner when different teachers are telling you to put your hand this way and that way, and all very basic things… I have seen people really destroyed by this confusion of having too many teachers in their very beginning, whilst later on, when they are more experienced they are more water-proof; they are able to select. If I can give advice I would advise that people start with the same teacher and think seriously who that should be.

 PL:It seems to me that anybody who is starting a tango scene has a great responsibility to guide their students one way or another…to invite teachers who have a good reputation in a particular style that they like, and perhaps for some time considerable time maintain that teacher’s particular style and then gradually expose the experienced students to someone else who dances in a different way.

 YM:Yes, you are absolutely right. I think it is wise,. but one must choose a good teacher first… if the didactics are clear and you see a quick result in the students, you have a good teacher. If the student’s are not able to dance with others then their regular partner after one month, you have not the right teacher, it might be a teacher that teaches a couple to compensate for the other’s lack of knowledge which – I always say – is the lack of knowledge not of the poor beginners but the teacher himself. If the teacher can’t teach all kinds of learning processes, he misses something he is not allowed to put on the students. It’s his defect. The style doesn’t matter to make someone a good teacher.

 PL:So you have to be able to dance not just with your own partner but with everyone else in the dance school and on the dancefloor as well.

 If you go to a tango community and you find that everyone is dancing show tango, what is the first thing that you tell them?

 YM:Oh, actually, I am not telling so much… first of all…it depends if they do it well and with the music. Then it’s ok with me, as long as they have a good insurance for the ladies that might be kicked. In case a community is open to learn which will be the case when your get there as an invited teacher, you could work on their navigation skills and axis, the use of torso to change directions and music interpretation. Those themes might a ready-to-learn dancer of Fantasia bring to reflection on their skills and its limits. Too, I might use a technique that I learned from my teacher Pocho. We went into a school and saw that people felt themselves really very advanced. They had an arrogant attitude. And that will always be in the way of learning. He said, ok, wait and see what I do: … and he did something terribly complicated. Then the students went on trying and copying it but it didn’t work. So, Pocho said, then, I see, we have to work on the basics. Everybody agreed. And we went on teaching axis and torsion.… he was really making fun of them, actually…

 PL:Complicated in the way of figures and steps…?

 YM:He gave them an overdose of what they thaught they had. It is a great principle. Could be figures… anything very complicated… even one sole movement can be complicated if it involves a torsion and a language of different parts of the body in one go… so you would try to catch their attention on this and maybe then you can start to work. These are techniques that do apply to all kind of teaching, they are social, didactical group techniques. I personally try to only teach sole movements (involving many parts of the body) through different kind of body techniques… you know, people would actually call me for that… so I would only teach movements. But when ending up in a city and being welcomed by them without them knowing what I am normally doing, I try to convince them to really see the elegance of precision of lead and follow or the connection and evolution of all parts of the body… to make the whole movement work. That is the work that I do, even professionals come to me for this. People organize me for this,

 If people have brought me without knowing my way of teaching… the body technique and posture related things that are involved for social tango settings… then I would try to turn it around and show them the inside of tango, the quality part of tango, the connection part or what makes us so extatic about tango. I would show them that what feels right, looks elegant.

 PL:That is a good way of showing people that they cannot do something complicated if they don’t have a sound grounding and knowledge of the basics.

 YM:Why it mostly works so well is that with these small things you can make the dance feel so much better… and that’s what we do it for. I feedback on both leaders and followers, men and women… about how it feels, and then, immediately they say.. yes, wow now I feel the difference. Normally you see them start smiling when the inside of their tango got right. The confirmation of positive experience trick I use is borrowed from didactic studies. But the feel-good is the most common reason for people to start tango, it’s their leisure time hobby. If they do not have fun, with themselves and their partner or the social setting … why should they spend their free time? If it doesn’t feel good, there is no reason to learn that particular thing. Especially the men or leaders get bored or mostly frustrated, convinced they will never learn it. But it might be the teacher….

 PL:In most non-latin cultures, and particularly with the older generation, people find it difficult to get too close to a stranger… let alone having any sort of body contact… how do you overcome this when you teach… do you find this difficult ?

YM:This is a very good question. Of course there are countries that have less or more problems with contact. There are certain non-latin countries that do not have too much of a problem with touching each other, or getting near. How I would work on this normally is depending how I am teaching there. When I am teaching there for only one time in a year I leave them as they are, maybe far apart, so they feel comfortable. So, I would work on the rhythm, I would work on the space, I would focus on using torsion and torso to lead first of all. That opens already a contact with your couple. A safe contact. I would not force them into getting closer. Except my workshop is labelled like this with apilado or close hold. When we taught regular classes in 1994 we were the only people in Holland only teaching the close hold with no other forms next to it. That is ok when you have your own group of students. But if you travel you cannot say I only teach the close style. No, sure you can. But I decided the people must be ready through their local teachers or own decisions to start with sharing their chest. Forcing is the last I want. I work with opening people and having them want it themselves. Yes, I motivate people. Tango is an embrace and if you cannot give it, it is because of a certain reason but you can gradually evolve into it. The English language already says, you have to embrace a certain decision. It’s a development. People want to feel the other but are scared death to loose control. Then it’s important if I will return twice or more a year to that particular city. Then I start my own hidden program, motivating trying because it’s their way to be able to dance in an authentic salon in Buenos Aires, or to come and dance in Holland!!!!

 PL:Close hold, in all it’s forms, is the nicest way of dancing tango anyway, isn’t it….

 YM:Personally, I prefer the close hold… but it depends on what kind of partner; it needs to feel well to be enjoyable. In some cases it can depend on the music, but I enjoy Pugliese of the ‘70’s too with the close hold and the open hold… it really depends on how clear one leads with the chest and how the energy is. Personally, I have no difficulty in coming near to someone I do not know.

 PL:When you become more experienced you begin to understand that it’s the nicest way to dance providing the circumstances are right… that there is also no hidden agenda anywhere… it is just to enjoy the dance together.

 YM:Yes, you have so much more information when you dance the close hold… you have three points of reference otherwise you have only two points for reference in the leading and in addition it is a very intimate moment that you can dance with a stranger…. like a communication between two bodies without a problem of language. After the first dance with someone I oftenly think I know that person after that dance. Who travels for work or fun, it’s a great opportunity to discover the power of body language without speaking f.i. a word of French. The communication is pure and less betraying then words. In my first week in Buenos Aires I had a shocking experience with this. A milonguero knew exactly when I was distracted, though my body continued dancing correctly and with rhythm. But my mind wasn’t. I had given a sign to another dancer who wanted to dance with me afterwards. I was totally astonished. By then I still wasn’t able to do it myself. Now – with 1 ½ decades of experience I am a starting beginner but can tell when my students are thinking while dancing or not stay with my with their energy. That evening I thought they are using some kind of black magic. Now I know, it’s pure experience.

 PL:What music do you use in your classes?

 YM:That depends on the classes… I sometimes teach very rhythmical classes, like double timing or double slow or pauses or milonga, so I would of course adapt… but if I choose to have a normal start-up class for intermediates I would use Di Sarli, then maybe later on I would use something else like, if they couldn’t catch the big beat of the rhythm, not even the double, I would put on D’Arienzo. But for the slow movement, you know Di Sarli is like a heartbeat, it is very slow… but D’Arienzo has a lot of double and triple timing and syncopation. But I would adapt to the group… I have them dance first and then I would choose the music, in case I don’t have a theme in a workshop.

PL:In your travels around the world, do you find that more non-traditional tango music is being used in milongas?

YM:Oh yes… I have seen that….I live very close to one of the centres that has started playing very odd music, like Greek music that is non-tango music…

PL:Is that in Amsterdam…

 YM:That’s Nijmegen… El Corte in Nijmegen. They can have very odd music…

 PL:It seems to be the fashion these days…

 YM:It is becoming kind of a fashion, yes… Mostly with whom I bring or go dancing with I wouldn’t so much be feeling at my ease… I would have to wait a lot for the right music… so we can pass a long time until it comes… with a milonguero at your side you might wait one hour for the right song to come which we did. But normally there is lots of very danceable music played too. In the late evening they would experiment with other kinds of music. In Holland, in Amsterdam, you can say there’s mostly very good DJ’s. Too in some cities in the US. It is a quality proof that dancers choose the DJ’s and not the luxury of a milonga setting. We have dancers like this in Holland but too in some city in Italy. Some of our DJ’s are very requested in all of Europe and travel quite a bit.

 PL:They are using different music as well, are they?

 YM:No, they play traditional tangos. In Amsterdam we have quite good music, to my definition… you know, you asked my opinion, first of all there is one DJ who has been doing it for quite some time, he really plays music like, you know, in Argentina. Then we have some ex students of mine, or friends that are playing music that have quite a authentic approach that is just based on the rhythmical aspect of music. If you have late Pugliese or too much pauses, you can create troubles in the “ronda” – the “ronda” is the dance quickness and the dance direction, it is not only the dance direction but it’s also how quickly the whole crowd moves on the dancefloor, and if you are putting too much “paused” music, some of the dancers maybe pause a long time… and you cause a traffic jam, so, like in Argentina there must be a proper use of the common space. And our milonga’s come close to the crowdedness of Canning on Sunday.

 PL:So a DJ is incredibly important … something a lot of people do not realise, perhaps ?

 YM:Yes… maybe it’s not realised so much in certain parts of Europe… in many countries they can play whatever music they like and the dancers don’t get the rhythm at all… it depends on the place and local teachers.

 PL:It is interesting actually because if you take any other music form, DJ’s are considered to be very important and they get paid lots of money for DJ-ing an evening, whereas with tango it is quite common for there not to be a DJ – someone just goes and puts a CD on the turntable and it’s left to play. It seems to take a long time for people to realise how important a DJ is… that they can create the atmosphere in the milonga.

 YM:Luckily I have to say that in quite a few of the cities that I have been able to teach in, including Amsterdam, my home city, this you can’t do at all… no one would come… and many other places in Holland and other cities like Portland or San Francisco… they are very sensitive to music. You don’t get the good dancers if there are not the good DJ’s. So, like in Buenos Aires, if you don’t have the good dancers in your milonga, you can close tomorrow… that’s why they get the free entrance.. J… but they have to give the goods too, so that’s how it works nowadays too in already in quite a few cities. Even in the South of France they are quite sensitive to music, and a few places in Italy… but only some that are more developed in their definitions.

 PL:I think in London in certain places too the dancers are becoming more sensitive to the music… at one time you could just play anything and the people would dance around… now they are more selective and knowledgeable.

 YM:I have to say, in London you have some quite nice music going on, at least in the milongas I visit or I am brought to in an evening when I teach here. Only what we would really be missing in Holland and those cities that I was actually talking about, San Francisco, Portland and the South of France… we would miss the tandas… which is: 3-4 tangos of one orchestra of the same period played in a row of 3-4, followed by 3 milongas of the same orchestra, then one or two tandas of tango of one orchestra, then 3-4 valses of one orchestra and again some tanda of tango’s, clearly leading to the milonga or vals sets (or other latin or swing rhythms – Ed). We wouldn’t have one tango of this kind and a contradictory one after it. In Buenos Aires I choose my dancers according to the music. Predictibly – at least in still traditional salons – one will know it’s a vals and then I sure will look for only a certain kind of dancer with the most suiting music interpretation. There are very nice choices here in London, but the energy can’t continue and I feel forced oftenly to dance with one dancer to a music I never had chosen with him. So if you have not at least two or three of the same music, it feels like a waking up with a cold shower…

 PL:I thought nearly everyone played tandas now in London… we do in our milonga… and most of the DJ’s seem to in the other milongas we get to go to when we have time… is this not so generally?

 YM:No, not everybody… but you can take London out, it’s not so important.

 PL:It’s interesting to hear that they don’t, because I thought that they were beginning to…

 YM:It happens in many cities…

 PL:I think that playing several consecutive tangos of one orchestra helps you to get a feel for the music of that orchestra. What we also do in our milonga, or when we are DJ-ing somewhere else, or even in our classes, before playing a tanda we announce the name of the orchestra. Is this common elsewhere ?

 YM:That is a great idea. I would sometimes do this in my lessons… I think it is a good start to make people aware that there are different styles in the orchestras, and I think that you cannot be educating a community in tango when you are not educating them with the music… they will not grow… they might end up by chance dancing to the right beat; but the beat is not dancing the music at all… yet. So, to be dancing the music you have to feel the Calo, the Calo with Beron, (Orchestra of Miguel Caro with singer Raul Beron – Ed) you have to feel so many different colours or atmospheres that you would use to slow down to or speed up to, or do more round things or more staccato. There cannot be any growth without getting educated in the music.

 PL:It is a saying that there are over 4,000 recorded tangos, but you can only dance to 400… do you think that now people dance to 500…

 YM:I think actually… well, we have a collector in Holland and he has a huge tango collection… he started out recording some just for lovers of the music… who were crazy about danceable music, so I have actually, I think, a huge collection, when I include the late 10’s and 20’s which you would not use really all the time for dancing… but actually there would be a lot more than 500 tangos to be danced, if I remember the weight in kilos it must be .. I have almost all his CDs… I think I miss out maybe 20… and he only does danceable music… even very unknown music. My milonguero dance partner discovered new music through this guy and he is very picky but open to making danceable tanda’s that can be unusual for a traditional milonga in Buenos Aires. I always support his music where ever I teach.

 PL:Who is this… ?

 YM:Remi (Remi Kooij – see listings “Where to Buy” – Netherlands)… he started up with a 78rpm collector mind and he still has a 78rpm collector mind, but we wanted his music as teachers and DJ’s, and we needed it… so he started up making the CD’s and happily I have his music. But there is a lot of danceable music out there that is really unknown like Di Sarli of 1929. In Buenos Aires I had some music CDs with me and some milongueros jumped on these versions when they heared them. Remi though does the same when he is annually there….

 PL:Yes, it’s interesting how things can change… we have been told that some DJ’s in Buenos Aires are now playing the music of Enrique Rodriguez whereas before, the milongueros would never dance to his music… is this correct ?

 YM:That is a very good example. But there are only some places that would do so, and here in Europe we do dance to Rodriguez. In a very traditional milonga like Almagro (now closed – Ed) or Canning, which you know quite well, they would never play Canaro, Rodriguez or lots of other music that were not in the favour of the middle class in the forties, because it was they who made the whole kingdom of how to play music and the definition of tandas and all of this. How this evolved was because of the lyrics… some lyrics were not acceptable to the middle classes – or because of the biography and life of the person… very diverse attendance… you could have very rich people liking certain orchestras, and there were orchestra who played only for the barrios, and so on, and others that only made recordings. We gather all this music together now without knowing the social history and background of how they were used. But in Almagro and Canning no Rodriguez or Guardia Vieja, the music to Canyengue ever were played. You know the middle class didn’t want to have anything to do with Orillero or Canyengue… there are just the favourite orchestras of the forties middle class; and now they are having young, new DJ’s in Buenos Aires too and they have requests – they are very talented DJ’s – they play really good music, but they bring a fresh wind into it, and they are playing in these traditional locations but adapting to the diverse publics. This direction has been opened to my opinion – after the opening of Paracultural in its old break down building – when the young people opened the Tuesday night in Almagro in something like 1996 or 1997.

 PL:I’m glad that it’s changing because Rodriguez is really good to dance to and it seems that it was lost for a long time.

 YM:Absolutely. You share the same taste as my partner Eduardo Aguirre. He started getting fixed on Rodriguez when he came to Europe… it is like a discovery, and that is very special. We are witnessing a transformation. It’s a very special time.

 PL:We are lucky enough to get some CDs from the collectionista in Japan, Baba-san, and we receive a CD of an orchestra we have not heard of and suddenly there is all this wonderful music, really danceable music.

 YM:I heared about this person in Japan, he is the one with the best tango collection… and there might be people like Zotto and others who have real nice recordings and the milongueros that are collectors, but he has this huge, almost complete collection with the masters.

 PL:I don’t know if you saw his interview in El Once, but you can see from the photos that his flat has wall-to-wall boxes of records, and on the floor too… it is amazing… but he is such a nice, gentle man too. He told us that he still has thousands of records stored in Argentina waiting to be brought to Japan.

 YM:I know this person is very, very special as I talk a lot about music now with some of the collectors in the United States because I meet them through the other music I bring , but he is quite special to be doing such a job.

 PL:Returning to the dance aspect of tango, do you find there is a great difference in the feeling of dancing with a young generation of dancer in Buenos Aires as against an older generation… can you describe the difference?

 YM: Sure there is, you can clearly feel that somebody has been dancing a long while, and especially if you speak about a difference in years of thirty or forty years. Dancing with young dancers in general I might sometimes prefer European dancers, but I have to admit young dancers in Argentina have a very nice sensuality in their body, which is just… cosy and nice. Though it’s not necessarily the huge amount of young dancers that you find in a milonga. In a “young” milonga the mayority doesn’t dance so much better then my friends in Nijmegen, where you really get some nice level of European dancers gathering together. But sure, there is no-one in Europe that come very close to my favourite milongueros out there in Buenos Aires. This not only has to do with how they lead, what makes a world of difference is how they feel the music.

 PL:Is that because of their interpretation of the music?

 YM:Entirely … there is no dancer that will interpret the music like a milonguero, who sufferd the music at least several hundred times, he lived through the poem, that is feeling so deeply the musicality… a milonguero is something you have to “be” first … become through your childhood listening a lot, being devote to something bigger then you or your dance; it is not impossible, I am convinced that we will be kind of new milongueros soon (some more 25-30 years only!) when we are ready for the music, maybe without understanding the lyrics but sure with the attitude of serving the music first. For the time being my favourite dancers are still in this generation of the old milongueros. Alas they are less visible then before. Last year I went to Buenos Aires twice and in a 7 months time many of them had vanished as they cannot afford the “collectivo” (city bus) anymore. But there are a lot of fun dancers in the young generation of European or American dancers that I have a really great time with, that have a lot of musicality to be developed. It is more fun, it is not having the same intimacy as you have with an older Argentinian guy… you can have it with younger Argentinians too, it can be very intimate… in a nice way, but then you miss out in the musical part and the experience in their body.

 PL:This seems to support the tango clichés: “You dance who you are” …. “You dance your own Tango”…

 YM:Well, as you would see in the early nineties in Almagro… you would see all individualized, personalized styles. All this under the general description “Tango de Salón”. This must have been a spectacle in what the milongueros call “El Viejo Almagro”, the one with the tiles before the renovation in 1987 or so. It were the crème de la crème, but each of them were a topper. This derived from their way of learning through looking and output in their own body language without any lessons ever. There were masses dancing like Pocho, Eduardo Arquimbau, Pepito or Téte now. Immagine, there were hundreds of them. All stars. No one like the other. It is so fascinating, their way of interpreting the music does not have anything to do with their style but individuality all within the definition of music first.

 PL:Given that the feeling inside a person is so important, or perhaps it’s a question of outward style, but can you tell someone’s nationality by the way they dance ?

 YM:To a certain extent only when they start, but you can tell more about the life they lived as their nationality. Because people are travelling a lot and they’re meeting in international festivals and so on, so tango people are cross-fertilising these days.…

 PL:Merging with each other…

 YM:Yes… I see that happening in the United States. Before, you could say that they come from this school or that school, but that is in the past… maybe in a few places it is still like that, but it’s quite changing that you can see their city or teachers revealed as they are travelling a lot, tango dancers are like nomads; but what you can see is a personal story they are telling of course because everybody has a different way of walking, and that might be a road to lead to personify your tango, your individual style… hopefully you don’t see their teacher revealed… I try to unteach people copying nearly all my partners, so I hope they will never make fun of it…

 PL:It is a compliment in a way, though… Regretfully, time has run out on us for this fascinating interview, but before we stop, perhaps you could tell us if, on your travels throughout the tango world, you have found a place that might tempt you to remain there permanently.. perhaps a place with mountains… or a beautiful beach….?

 YM:For good… no, but for quite some time… yes… I feel like it, especially in the case of Italy, but Italy is not the first amongst the countries Tango-wise, there are some nice cities, but sure I would love to stay somewhere around to… I would love to stay in California, I love many other cities I have come across… but I am quite related to Amsterdam and with already a Summer base in Italy, I am quite OK.

 PL:So you have two nice places to choose from…

 YM:Yes… that is OK… but if I would have more places and no home anymore, I would be totally lost with all the travelling going on, so I need to feel home… and still I am always very happy when I can come back to Amsterdam.

 PL:Well, perhaps you’ll come back to London sometime…?

 YM:Yes I will…. in September…but I work with milongueros already for, I think, seven years, and if you include Susana & Cacho it is eight or nine years… but I would say it is “Tango de Salón”… and “Tango de Salón” is something that takes the music as the start of even the wish to go dancing with someone. So, music would inspire you to dance with a certain person that you are doing, for instance, only the D’Arienzo valses with… the Di Sarli ones you do with someone else, because it’s a certain way of moving that fits very well. So this, I would say, is the first thing that you should mention about Tango de Salón, which is used in a social area, a social context… and secondly, it is the navigation in the room. But first, for me and all the milongueros that I talk to, it is the music and then navigation in a social perspective with all the other dancers having the same enthusiasms as you do. As a third thing, when asking milongueros what is more important… the woman or the music… they all said the music is more important… everybody I questioned about this in Buenos Aires answered the same.

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