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

Monday, August 17, 2009

Interview Three: Jorge Torres (part one)

Jorge Torres is a world-renowned Tango Choreographer, Dancer, and Impresario of dance productions. As Dance Captain of “Forever Tango ”, Creative Director of The Shimmy Club Inc., Juror of the tango championships, Artistic Director of the American Tango Institute, he is constantly touring across the USA, Asia and Europe, teaching and inspiring others in the art of Argentine Tango.  He is also a husband and a father.

1. How long have you been dancing tango?
I have been dancing from 3, performing since 5 years old. I started as a dancer, studying Folclore Argentino, Ballet, Flamenco and Tango Argentino, because my teacher wanted me to become a dancer.
My teacher's name is Norberto Guichenduc. He is a very important person in my life. He taught me everything. He taught me about how to be a dancer, how to respect the dance, about life, about everything. He taught me so much, and started to spend time with him more than my father, he became my second father, and then became my mentor. He is 72 years old now. I still see him when I go to Argentina. He was a principal dancer in the Colon Theater, he danced ballet, folclore, flamenco, tango and he was a pianist too. He did everything perfect, as a teacher, as dancer, as a person. He was living in Europe, but he returned to Argentina, in the early 70's and some how he moved into my neighborhood. My neighborhood is a very small town and nobody knows why he moved there. But that's how I met him and he taught me to be a dancer.
After studying with him until I was 10 years old, I joined Ballet Forclorico Nacional for another 10 years, until 20 years old. When I was in school, there were many classmates who danced much better than I did, but many of them couldn't continue because their parents couldn't pay the tuitions. If they continued, they would have become much better dancer than I am now, but everybody has different life. Fortunately, my parents were able to pay for my lessons. They worked very hard and kept me to finish the school. I finished the school and I joined the Teatro Colon Ballet de Refuerzo.
After I joined the Colon, the singer Libertad Lamarque (a female singer level of Gardel) asked me to work for her show. That's how I started to perform as a tango dancer.
2. When did you decide to become a tango dancer?
It wasn't my choice. My teacher taught me all kinds of dances. When we first learned tango, we were only 8 or 10, any kind of dance was fun, it was like a game. We've been performing since we were very young, I've been performing since 5, so for us, we never thought about "becoming a professional dancer". It was a natural thing to become a dancer; there wasn't a day or a moment that we decided "to become a dancer". We were dancers already it was a natural thing.
3. When did you start going to Milongas?
After I became 20 years old. Because I was performing, teaching, and studying all different kinds of dances at the same time, I was very busy, I had no time for myself, no time to sleep. Working hard pushing myself, pushing and pushing, so crazy because I was young I had no limit to push myself.
4. I guess at that time, going to Milongas was part of your job.
Yes, at that time I only had 3 hours of sleep a day. Working so hard, I had no private life, not even going to disco with the guys. Only work.
5. What did you think about Milongas when you first been there?
I thought it was mysterious groups of people, like a mafia. Being at your seat was the safest place. And you had to sit very very low. Because you cannot see anything when you stand up. Everybody was smoking cigarette so much, the room was filled with smoke, all white. The air was so bad and you cannot see anything. So you sit very very low, to avoid the smoke. That was the safest place to be.
6. When did you start going to Milongas for your own joy and not as a job?
I think it was after I decided to do Tango only. I dropped ballet, quite the rest of the dances and really became Argentine Tango dancer only. Because I realized Tango was the best way for me to express myself. It was easier than ballet or Argentine Folclore. I felt the most comfortable for me. It was after my 20 years old.
7. Do you consider yourself as a Tanguero or Milonguero or just simply a dancer?
Originally I am a dancer. I am 42 years old and I danced for 39 years. My life is about to be a dancer. Also, because of my training of my teacher, he wanted me to be a dancer in life. I became a dancer naturally.
But Milonguero.... Milonguero is to be not something nice. Long time a go, to be a Milonguero was to be someone who doesn't know anything else, he doesn't work, have no money, only about girls and night. Longtime ago, if you call "Milonguerito" it meant something like an insult. With years, with tango business, to be a milonguero became a business word. Now we have Milonguero style, Milonguero this, Milonguero that for business, also another word of Milonguero, from the exact translation just means simply a person who goes to Milonga. Do I consider myself as a Milonguero? No, forget it! Milonguero was something horrible.
- So you consider yourself as a tanguero?
8. What do you enjoy the most about Tango?
I enjoy the feelings of something that keep surprising me, and they keep me feel ticklish in my blood asking me to dance. Even you know all the songs or what ever, one mood comes into me in a specific way. That makes me want to dance again. You know when you are in milongas and you are ready to leave, then you hear a song and you go back to the dance again? It's like food. You thought you were full and you don't want to eat any more, and then you see this dish and that dish? (chocolates, cakes?) Even you don't want to, you do it anyway.
9. When you dance, what is the most important thing for you?
For me, the most important thing is to get the feeling of two persons, women and man dancing.
They used to call me "a man who dances". I want to feel like a man who dances. Because I am a dancer all my life, I don't want to "look like" a dancer. I want to look as a man who is dancing with a woman together. That is the most important thing that what I dance. I don't like to be looked as a dancer. I like to be more real, like a man who dances.
10. What makes a dance beautiful?
The pleasure of the silence and the heart beat. It makes you go inside of people, inside of your partner, go inside of your body, not out side. More you are inside, the rest is beautiful. You can feel everything.
11. In Tango we talk a lot about elegance. Could you explain what is elegant and not elegant?
Elegant is simply about your being. Are you elegant or not? (He picks up a salt shaker in front of him and says) look, do you think this is elegant? No, right? This is not elegant. This is just an ordinary shaker, but if you go to an expensive elegant restaurant, everything you see is elegant. You just know what is elegant or not.
- But I feel in America, you know this is a country of freedom, and I think people here appreciate, or like being casual more than being elegant.
Well, old days in Argentina, people were elegant. For example, the other day at the championship, everybody dressed very elegant. Usually they are never in suites. Why did they wear suite that day? Because they want to look elegant! But they only wear suite for that day, so they look fake.
11. What is "Good dancer"?
Good dancer is the one who does little bit, of a lot
Quantity kills quality.
12. Why do you think tango is beautiful?
I have two passions in my life, other than my family. Tango and Martial Arts.
Even when I'm sleepy or tired, if somebody is talking about tango or martial arts, I wake up. Boom! Even I'm so dead tired.
- Does it come from music or lyrics or from the dance...?
No, I think... it's all in Tango. Tango in general. I love tango in many ways. I like to really feel in Tangos. I was born in 67, I missed everything in the golden age. I was not part of that. I missed all that. So what I try to do is from my point of view, from my age. I live in New York and I'm not in Argentina all the time to get the feeling from the older people. Because I think you can also ask older people and to talk to them. But to me, the result is when you see them dancing. When you see them dance, you can see so many things. When you really see them, you can really squeeze them. When you really see them, like their faces, you can see their life as a reflection in their dances. And they don't care who's watching them.
Most of the young people, they are more so worried about what people think or what people say. They are not honest with themselves. You know when you are in love. You don't want to eat, you don't want to sleep, it's "magical". You don't care what people think. For me beauty is that something like that.
13. You often say, "You have to be honest to yourself". Are you saying it as a dancer?
As a dancer. First of all as a dancer. But also as a human being. You have to be honest to yourself because we are all affected by the society.
Let's say you wanted to eat a cake, but you think people think you are fat, so you only order tea. You change your decision because what people think of you. You actually wanted to do this but you don't do it because of other people. And that happens exactly the same in tango. Instead of what you really wanted to do, you do what society tells you to do.
When you dance, you can not think about who's looking, think what people would say, or think I have to do this way. When you dance so close to the person, it starts to become a relationship with yourself. You have to be honest to your self. It is about relationship with your self.
14. When you teach, what do you try to teach?
What I try, is to give knowledge to people. My main focus on the people is to be an educator. I believe all of us, we need to find a right guide to guide you. If we train you in a right way, with a right knowledge, you can become something positive for Argentine Tango. But if I train you in a wrong way or just to do steps, we keep collecting garbage instead of improving Argentine Tango. "We need good dancers", it doesn't matter which countries. This is something I say to all the students.
"WE need good dancers" otherwise Argentine Tango is going to die. It will be garbage.
I am very interested to train people how to express themselves easily, to understand what tango means, how to respect themselves, how to respect the person in your arms, how to listen and to understand the music and many other things. It's not that you just put the music and go. You need to "learn". This is our responsibility, to try to make people understand. This is kind of work I want to do, giving knowledge, about life, about dance, about music, and everything.

 ~ Continuing to Part 2
Interviewed July 2009


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