Thursday, 19 March 2015

Interview with Stephanie Rose, tanguera

As an English barrister, I have spent a professional lifetime questioning people. However, here is a new dimension - my first interview here in Buenos Aires. Who better to choose for this attempt than the lovely tanguera Stephanie Rose, partner in tango, in Buenos Aires, and in life.

Stephanie, some readers will know you first hand, others through postings here, and countless tangueros through a tango embrace. Can we start with your tango journey? How did tango come about for you?

I have always loved to dance. As a child it was ballet; back when living in South Africa, I used to compete in Latin American dance - cha-cha, rumba, paso, samba and jive; and since then dance-exercise. It was whilst in South Africa that my best friend introduced me to Argentine tango. She invited me to an Argentine evening at which two old milongueros danced. It seemed so different from all of the dances I had known, but little did I realise then that later I would turn to tango as my main life interest. When we met in 2005, Argentine tango was the only appealing dance that was not already owned by either of us, and so that was the inevitable choice.

Who helped you most on your tango journey?

That is a really difficult question, for each teacher has played their part. My short introduction was with Tanya and Howard, two English tangueros, but soon after starting classes in 2007 I took my first visit to Buenos Aires. Here, Mariel Robles - then assistant director at DNI was pivotal. She instructed me how to breathe and to relax - probably two of the most overlooked aspects of learning dance. My most loved UK teachers are Miriam y Dante. They taught me back in England, and are inspirational. I believe that their future will be the most exciting in terms of both teaching and performing. Back here in Buenos Aires, Hector Corona y Silvina Machado are a perfect choice. Currently, Carolina Bonaventura at 'Mariposita' is providing my 'annual reconstruction'. She is awesome! Lita who works at Mariposita also provides huge support through her técnica class.

Have you taken classes with any of the famous names of tango?

I don't believe that Argentine tango is about famous names. Over 7 years I have taken classes with Pablo Veron, Geraldin Rojas, Miriam Larici y Leonardo Barrionuevo, Daniela Pucci y Luis Bianchi, Murat y Michelle, Michelle y Joachim, Oscar Casas and others. They have all been impressive, but for me tango is really experienced on the floor of a milonga, preferably here in Buenos Aires.

What for you is the most important aspect of tango?

The music. It is the key to every dance, but never more-so than in Argentine tango. I listen to tango music at every opportunity, I do housework to tango, I relax to tango; and have learned to identify the orchestras by their unique style and composition. For me, tango is really that of the 'Golden Age' - from the 1920's to the 1950's. Yes, it is a small window, but one full of fabulous music played by some of the most experienced musicians of the time. To play in the orchestras of D'Arienzo or Demare players needed to be at the top of their game in a tight market of instrumentalists. The old orchestras played seamlessly together - they probably performed every night of the week so they would know their fellow players as well, if not better, than their families.

After the music is, of course, the embrace, and as someone who has danced all my life, the expression of the music through movement.

What do you look for in a leader?

Musicality - of course! Like most followers, I am not impressed by the catalogue of steps that a leader may have acquired in classes, but am totally drawn in by his musicality. I love a leader who experiences the music, and shares this through his lead; who plays with the music and who creates surprises and challenges. They say that 'tango is a feeling that is danced'. The feeling should contain the unexpected, so long as it is faithful and true to the music. I would love it that leaders learned this lesson at the outset. Followers don't generally want a leader who competes with other leaders, and certainly not one who competes for attention with his partner. We want sensitivity, expression, generosity and the safe opportunity to dance.

You make regular visits to Buenos Aires. Why do you keep coming back?

There is something totally special about dancing here in Buenos Aires. It has a different quality from Europe and the USA. I don't get to dance with the most expert tangueros here (except for Oscar Casas), but some tandas - especially those with experienced milongueros - are sublime. Perhaps it is something in the culture; or maybe that they have simply 'lived' tango - something that you observed in one of your blogs. When a milonguero whispers the name of the orchestra in your ear, takes you into close embrace and leads you effortlessly in a tanda, you realise that you have arrived with tango.

Where next for you with tango?

I would love to continue to improve my technique; especially to work on my connection with the floor and my partner. Carolina has been inspriational in this regard, reminding me of some of the most essential aspects of tango and dance that get overlooked. When I dance, she spots the precise moment that my foot touches the floor, how I make the step and where my balance is at each moment. It is hard work, but then - that is tango for you!

Will you still be dancing tango in 10 years?

I have been watching some of the more mature tangueras (as well as the older flamenco dancers - another dance passion of mine) and love what they do. In fact, dancers are like good wine. If they have well-constructed technique, and continue the discipline of practice and learning, they simply mature - developing an unassailable complexity that cannot be replicated by the young. It is a special quality. That is where I propose to be, if I can. But I hope you are not suggesting that I will be too old to dance tango!

What advice would you give to beginner followers, and those at the start of their tango journey?

Unlike many other dances, Argentine tango requires a high level of commitment and application. If all that you want to do is to get round the floor with a regular partner at a social dance in Europe, that is one thing. But if you want to receive everything that tango can deliver, it is necessary to develop a softness, accessiblity and responsive to the lead and to the music. Get to the milongas and watch some of the best tango partnerships - find someone who you really admire - and dedicate yourself to learning exactly how they respond to each other. At the risk of repeating myself, listen to the music. Bear in mind that, for you, every tanda is a new start; and stay positive about your dance.

This interview took place in Buenos Aires in March 2015 - at Peru 735 and Café Rivas, Balcarce, San Telmo.