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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Interview Three: Jorge Torres (part two)

"And in Argentine Tango, 

the main thing is

 to be an original."

~ interviewed in August 2009

- What is Code?  From the previous interviews, we've been hearing a lot about "Codes".  I thought it meant simply general manners, rules..., but I feel there's more in it.

Yes, that is all included. 

- In Japan, we have different ways of speaking, when you speak to your parents, or to your friends, teachers, younger brother, we have different languages to use.  Is code something similar to that?

 Yes, that is it.  It is the respect.  The only ones that know about the respect are the people who are involved.  Most of the young people now don't know important dancers from before.  So there's no relationship.  Now everybody is from outside.  That's why we say, "they don't have code".  They don't have the code that we used to have before. 

Even in Buenos Ares?

 I'm talking about in Buenos Aires.  There's no more code.  It doesn't exist anymore.  The best way to learn the code is to be with old people.

- When was the most exciting time in tango for you?  "Tango Golden Age"

 Now is the Golden age, because, you know why?  Because I can appreciate tango more.  Now I can say I understand Tango. 

 - And how many years did it take you to understand tango?

 When you are 20, you think you know well, but when you turn 30 you think you know better.  It comes with experience.  It comes with the history of your life.  This is my second time marriage, I've been through many things, now I know what heart ache means.  I have many bruises, and now I know what bruises feel like.  And when I listen to tango lyrics, it says exactly how I am feeling now, and I get so amazed "how do you know exactly how I feel!?" I say to myself "he is talking about me". And at the same time that is happening the same with other people. (laugh)

- So do you think Tango lyrics are very important part to dance tango?

 Yes.  You need to know the lyrics.  Other wise, may be the lyric is singing about the death, and you cannot dance happy jumping and excited.
 When I dance, I improvise the music. Sometimes I dance with piano, dance with violin. I dance along the music too.

- And how do you incorporate it with steps and leading?

 The music naturally brings you there, and you need enough vocabularies to make it happen.  Good leaders can seduce the partners to do things, they need to feel the women, be present, not to be too charged, not to be empty for another person and be able to seduce to do things. And for the followers too, she needs to be present for the leader.
 "Having confidence kills respect"
We have a word in Spanish "confidence", we use like "I have confidence in you". When you have a good friend, you say I have confidence in you.  In tango, "having confidence kills the respect".  When you have a very good friend and you know the person so well you lose the respect to the person.  When you dance with someone you know for a long time, it starts to become a routine, little by little.  You know what this person is going to do so well, you stop paying attention. Some people they dance the same song with same person all the time. Nothing new, nothing fresh. But when you dance with someone new, you need to be alert and really feel the person, and be fully present for the other person. That's why I like to I keep changing partners all the time.  I dance with different people, to keep Argentine Tango fresh and new.

- About older people dancing, you said that when you see them dancing you can see so many things.  Do you see it even when you are watching in internet?  Because I cannot see it.  Do I need to see them in real? Or do you see it even with videos?

 Well, you have to see it in a different way.  You need to try to see who that person is.  You need to think what kind of life they had, what kind of things they went through, you just don't see it in the movement, it's a different way of seeing.

Hmmmm, I don't know what kind of life they had, because I don't know how people live in Argentina generally. Do you think I need to know the basic background to imagine it?

 Hmmmm,  maybe. ......  .....Yes, you need to know.

- Do I need to know what kind of persons they are to understand the dance?

 If you know them, it is of course more interesting.

- And you said young people they are worried about how they look and not dancing honestly....?

 At the end they start to do what they want to do.  But in their mind, the young kids, what do they think?  Do they think about the economy? about the future? No, they don't care. They just want to play. They want to have fun and party everyday. They are not thinking about paying bills, raising kids, so many things that you get later. They don't have different kinds of heart broken experiences.  Everything starts to change when things happens to you in your life.  There may be a young and mature kid, or there maybe an old person but immature.  It depends what kind of life, depending what happened to you in your life, makes the difference.

- And that shows in the dance?
 It's a reflection.

- ...I cannot see that.  I can feel that.  When I dance together.  I can feel that.  That is why I like dancing with old people.  But I don't see it...

 It's ok, don't worry about it.   It's just knowledge.  It takes time, process, study, try to understand, you know?  It's ok.

- We often hear different instructors teaching different styles, and we get confused.  What is exactly, Milonguero, Salon, Fantasia...

 Fantasia is like Carlos Copes.  It's a stage.  Salon is very simple.  It is very elegant, subtle, and simple.  Just to get you an idea, how dizzy people get, here and all over the world.  To dance Salon is just to walk.  Not even cross (5).  That is Tango Salon.  What people dance now is not salon, what people dance now is Tango Pista and they think they are doing Tango Salon.  Usually what people dance in milonga is Pista when they do steps.  Before it was only walking.  Salon is only walks no figures.

- What is Figures? 
 Figure is the steps, combination of steps.

- And what is Tango Pista?
 That is another price.
- Okay. (laugh)

- When I take lessons with the very top world class dancers and say "Milonguero" or "Urquiza" they usually all stop me and say, "don't make things complicated.  This is Argentine Tango".  I feel they don't like us talking about styles. 

 Yes, it doesn't mean anything.  Look, every barrio has a style and every person has his own style. It's not only one specific style.  If you put 20 couples in the same club, let's say from Urquiza.  They are all going to look not the same.  They will all going to look different.  Other wise, they are all copies.  They are not originals.
 And in Argentine Tango, the main thing is to be an original.  Other wise they are copies.  It is important to be honest with your own style.

- How can we dance original?

 This is like when a baby learning a language.  At the beginning a baby starts say things.  You don't' know what a baby is saying.  A baby starts with making noises that nobody understands. Then a baby start to say Mama, Papa, start to learn something what we teach them. After it starts learning words, "mama", "papa", "this", "that", then we start to teach a fraise "mama, I love you".  But a baby still doesn't know what that means.  Baby is just repeating a fraise.  First it repeats words, then starts to say a fraise.  After that baby starts to learn how to mix things. With this word, with that word. That means there is a transformation.  Later on the baby is not going to say only what the mother taught.  Now the baby starts to say what he wants to say.

- So for tango you need to start from copying. 

 Yes, so you learn words first then the fraises and then the final point is to say what ever you would like to say.  And after you get your own way of saying, then you are developing your own style. 

- So it's ok to copy at the beginning. 

 Yes, you need to copy, you need to learn.  It is ok. And gradually you start to have the style. 

 But there is a problem with our teachers.  We have to give you education to make you to be who you are.  But it's completely different now.  Most of the teachers they teach you to be like them.  So they create copies.  That is Very bad.  Because instructors are like "no, this is my student, because he dances like this", that is horrible.  They are killing your life.  They don't want to kill your life but that's what they are doing. 
 We have to be more educators than teachers.  Teachers show you how to do things but don't give you education, knowledge, or don't give the power do decide.  The educators have to give you tools, tools to make everything possible.  But here, because we have so many teachers all over. Teachers that they really don't know exactly what they suppose to do, which is happening in every country, everywhere.  They just learn two things, and start teaching. And they start killing all these future good dancers.  They don't give the tools, or they teach in the wrong way, or in the wrong order.

- There are people dancing Tango steps, but the feeling, attitude is not Argentine Tango. Or sometimes dancing the movement wrong and say, "this is my Style".  What makes the dance Tango and not Tango? When is it not Tango any more?  For us foreigners, it is very difficult to distinguish if the movement is Argentine Tango or not.

 You need to learn.
Now people have Internet.  Longtime ago, when we were learning there were no Internet. So we didn't have any information.  The only information we had was to be with people, taking classes with everybody, to see them dance, to have an idea. But now even when we are in the end of the world, we just click the internet and we can see millions of things.  Now you are able to get information, even you don't know anything about tango.  It's more difficult now to say I don't know anything about tango.  You need to watch.  Now there are so many interviews, like yours. I think there are a lot of things, information out there.  The real people talking to give you ideas and helping people to clarify.  I think it's easier than before.  But, people have to want to learn who are the good teachers and if they know or not.

- That is the hard part for us, to know who are the good teachers.

 I always tell the students, doesn't matter who is the teacher, if he is teaching you, you need to ask why, "why I have to do this?", "why I don't' have to do that?"  If he has the answers, the right answers for each questions, then he is a good teacher.    If they say, "no, just do like that because it's like that".  Don't go any more. That is wrong.  Means that person doesn't know.  We have to give answers like when your son or your daughter asks you for questions.  We have to have answers.  Because you are an example for them.  If I don't give them right answers may be they go to their mom.  If the mom doesn't know the answer, may be they will go to somebody else.  We have to make things possible.  We have to learn to make it possible.

So it's up to that person if he's willing to learn more or not? 

 It depends on that person how much he is hungry for the knowledge.  That makes you feel proud of you later because you really searched.  For your own knowledge.  I tell my students, it's not so important how much I can teach you, but it is more important how much you can learn from me.  That is how much you are open to learn.  That's what happened from my teacher.  I still go and talk to him when I am in Argentina.  It doesn't have to be only about dancing.  You talk about life.

 Jorge Torres
Un hombre que baila (A man who dances)

Interviewed August 2009


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