This is a series of interview with the pioneers of Argentine Tango. I asked simple questions: What makes a dance beautiful? How could we become good dancers? What was tango like in the old days? I have the answers here, and I would like to share with you. Kumi

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Interview Five: Sunderland Club "La Milonga del Mundo"





This is an interview with Graciela and Carlos Matera, the organizers of the Sunderland Club "La Milonga del Mundo". Sunderland Club is one of the most important and respected milongas in Buenos Aires, located north of the capital in the neighborhood of Villa Urquiza. This milonga is held every Saturday night. I asked and arranged an appointment for an interview before the trip and Graciela and Carlos kindly agreed to see me and to do the interview. The interview was done one hour before the milonga, on December 12, 2009.


When was this club found?

The Sunderland Club is a social club and it was found 93 years ago. The milonga started in 1940s.

Are you the founder of this milonga?

The founder was a tango lyricist. His name is Mario Battistella.

When did you start organizing this milonga?

We started about 10 years ago. There were many others after we lost Battistella . The name "La Milonga del Mundo" ("the milonga of the world") represents us. And it's been about 10 years now. The name of the milongas has always been Sunderland Club since Battistella, but "El Mundo" means us.

What is the intention behind this name "El Mundo"?

Because all the greatest dancers, like Gavito, Gloria and Eduardo who brought tango to the world they all started from this club.

I hear Sunderland is a different kind of institution, created by this neighborhood, "Villa Urquiza". It is not the same as rest of the milongas. What does it mean?

Because this club created quantity of important dancers, such as; Finito, Petroleo, Portalea Villarrazo, Lampazo. These are the older generation. And for the next generation there are Balamaceda, he's not from Urquiza but he was here to dance, Gavito, Zotto, Rivarola, Maria, Gloria and Eduardo. They all came out from this club.

Did all these dancers' parents danced in this club too?

No, no. Not in every case. There are families like Misse, all the children dance professionally but their parents don't dance tango. Javier Rodriguez comes here to dance but he's parents are not tango dancers.

So this area just happened to create good dancers?

No, because there were many great dancers in other neighborhoods also, but in this neighborhood, Villa Urquiza created the strongest dancers and many of the good ones brought more good ones. It didn't happen accidentally. There was a cause. This was in the golden age of tango. These dancers were identifiable, and created different styles. The styles were based on walking. It happened because of this big space also.


Were there many milongas in this neighborhood back then?

There were many, many others.

And only this milonga remained?

Only this and Sin Rumbo. There are still many more social clubs remaining now, but the milongas didn't remain.

Do you know why, this club remained?

It's a mystery. This place doesn't have any special ambiance, no luxuries, nothing special. Somehow it happened. It's a strange thing that some places put lots of effort to put beautiful floors or curtains, but they don't succeed. It's just a magic that happened here. It's something that we can not explain. We don't even do much publicity. All we do is to put fliers on the table announcing who's performing next week.


Were you open in the 70's?

No, it was the years during the dictatorship. All the milongas were closed that time. It was reopened in the 80's. I don't remember exactly which year.

Did you dance back then?

Yes! Yes, we did! We had private events more than anything that time. With people who could not stay without dancing, we got together like 20- 30 couples. We ate and danced together every weekend.


Do you have the same DJ all the time?

Yes, we have the same DJ, Mario Orlando for 10 years since we started. Would you like to interview him also?

- Yes, I would love to! Thank you.

What is the most important thing as an organizer?

To meet the people that come. We give the vibe, warmth, make sure they are comfortable as they were at home. Give personal attention, welcoming. Of course provide good music... etc.

As being organizers, what kind of changes do you see over these years. I think tango has been changing and what kind of changes do you see as organizers?

Yes, yes. There are changes. There are, and the changes are made by younger people, the younger generation. There are changes in Tango but I believe here in Urquiza, we are keeping the tradition within the club. We are always going back to the roots of the tango.

The part of the reasons I am doing this, is because I think there are so many foreigners now than before, and I feel the increase of the foreigners is also creating the changes in tango. By us not knowing the codes or not understanding the essence, I'm afraid we are breaking tango into something else. I want to give the message to the foreigners that there are many other things we should know when we are dancing tango. I believe all foreigners wish to dance authentically. It doesn't mean we don't care. We want to know. We are simply ignorant about these matters. I wonder if you could kindly give us how you feel about foreigners' behaviors that seem to be trouble, so we can learn and dance better.

(they looked very much in trouble, being asked difficult question, but they kindly opened up to us and gave us honest feedback)

What I see all the time is, I see people (foreigners) want to learn very much, but they don't pay attention to the sensibility of the dance. All they want to learn is the mechanical part.

To talk about the codes, when they dance on the dance floor, they are not aware of other couples. There's no attention, no care to the other dancers on the dance floor. They go one way, then go to the other way, those dancers are thinking only about themselves. No manner. Passing, crossing other couples, these are rude. Also not having an embrace, to be open, that is a part of the problems causing traffic on the dance floor. Because embrace is the transmission.

When I go to milongas now, I feel I see elder people retired which is the majority, many tourists, and some young Argentinean people who are professionals.

Yes, I know what you mean. Right now actually there are more teachers than students. So many maestros. Most of them are maestros on the dance floor.

Has is always been this way?

Before people were just dancing for their own pleasure. Nobody thought they can make money or become professional by tango.

Before people learned from each other. They tried some figures, while other people were watching, then you try to do it yourself with someone at the corner, it was not something that you pay, or charge money to teach. Men practiced with men. There were practicas which was done only by men, because women were taboo. Women were not accessible back then. Also the difference in the old days, the good women dancers were called good "accompaniment", because the figure of women in relationship were more complicated. Now the women are dancing their parts, not only accompanying men.

Last question. What is your wish for the future of tango?

Our wish for the tango is to grow more and to be known around the world. World means in many different ways. To all kinds of cultures and people. To become more and more popular and be adopted in different cultures, but adopted in the right way, without changing it's nature. Now, there are many places they dance tango, but they are dancing it without understanding the roots and the tradition.

We wish tango to become more popular but with respect and understanding the roots of the tango, and not become something else. Keep dancing in the traditional way.


Thank you very much for your time.


1 comments:

Carl said...

Wonderful to read about the interview with Graciela and Carlos Matera,also picture is also amazing.

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