Saturday, May 4, 2013

Interview with Martha


Porteña Linda!  Our friend Martha

Does a Porteño have an advantage over non-Porteños when it comes to learning to dance Tango?

Unfortunately for all those who were not born and raised in Buenos Aires – yes, Porteños have the advantage!  You cannot hide from Tango in Buenos Aires.  Either you have seen it on television, or danced in the street.  And you still hear Tango played everywhere – on the radio, in taxis, in your house.  You can’t help it, Tango seeps into your soul…

Our friend Martha is a Porteña who lives in Toronto.  Martha didn’t start dancing until 2008, when she was living here in Toronto.  She took classes from Toronto Tango teachers and attended milongas in the city – but as Man Yung can tell you, the quality of her dancing is different, much more “Buenos Aires” compared to the dancing of non-Porteña dancers.  As to exactly what, well, Man Yung can’t say, as he is always blissed out after dancing and can give no instructive description!

Luckily Martha agreed to be interviewed for our blog.  Maybe I can finally stop dancing Hong Kong-style tango after learning some of her secrets?

INTERVIEW WITH MARTHA

What is your earliest memory of Tango? Do you have any recollection of having grown up with Tango?

Hmmmmm, I can’t really pinpoint it.  Tango was what my mother and my aunt listened to, along with boleros, American jazz and folklore.

Every Saturday morning my two sisters and I had to help with cleaning of our condo while music was blasting from the record player – first 78’s, later LP’s and 45’s.  And of course, every day Tango and folklore was on the radio.

So, you evidently heard a lot more Tango during your youth than we would, as people from a non-Tango culture!  Were there any dancers or musicians of Tango in your circle of friends and family?

On our floor, lived a couple with no kids, Ruben Pesce and Marita Battaglia.  She was an actress and a singer, and he was a TV writer/ producer, and the director of the theatre “Florencio Sanchez”, (a landmark in Buenos Aires, no longer there, now just a piece of bronze where the theatre once stood). Another neighbour on our floor, Cacho Bustamante, was also an actor and part of the Florencio Sanchez crew. Their plays were about Tango and folklore. When Ruben had a play opening, we all went, and more times than not, the whole crew would come back to our home to dance Tango and boleros and have a good time.

It sounds like Tango was very much a part of ordinary life in the neighbourhood for you.  Did you know any other personalities from Tango?
Martha with Maestro Alberto Podesta 

We grew up listening to Tango, but ours was the generation of mainly rock and roll, although my older sister had at one point an older boyfriend that sang Tango.  She was friends with many well known singers of that time, and she always went to listen to them.
For a few years during my childhood, my mother used to have a small clothing store in a neighbourhood nearby where she met her boyfriend “El Tano”. El Tano had a shoe factory in the same neighbourhood and his younger brother used to help at the back, while writing and singing tango - “A Dreamer,” my aunt used to say. He went on to become the famous Tango singer, Cacho Castaña.

** Man Yung wants to add - "I love the music of Cacho Castaña!  One year we were in Buenos Aires at El Ateneo, the theatre that was converted into a big bookstore - and I heard Cacho's voice in a Tango played at the store.  His voice is smoky and full of world-weary emotion, and I immediately bought his CD and I have loved listening to it, and dancing to his Tangos since.  I highly recommend this singer!
When did you start to want to learn how to dance the Tango? Why did you decide to learn it?
I never danced tango in Buenos Aires, until lately. It was during one of my visits to Argentina in 2004, that an old friend of mine told me that she was dancing Tango.
“Really”? I asked, and she said, “Yes, I go five times a week, it changed my life.”
So I told my sisters, “Cristina is dancing Tango,” and they said, “Lots of people embraced Tango lately and folklore.”  It wasn’t until the end of 2008, during one of my sisters’ visits to Toronto, that I started to learn Tango. My sister Sylvia had been taking Tango for a while and had with her the list of all the milongas in Toronto, and the ones that had a class before the milonga.  So before she left she took me to Paradiso, Victor Hugo’s milonga and Club Milonga, and I’ve been dancing since then.  
It’s funny, how your sister from Buenos Aires was the one to introduce you to Tango in Toronto! Do you feel that Porteños have an innate sense of the Tango because of the culture of the city? When Man Yung and I talk about your dancing, we often refer to the notion that you have “Tango DNA” in you because dancing with you feels different than dancing with other non-Porteña Tangueras.
I’ve lived in Toronto for most of my life, but I grew up in Argentina, and Argentina has stronger roots in me than Canada which is my second homeland. Throughout my elementary school years I had to perform at school, for all the patriotic holidays, in plays or dancing folklore.  Those things are forever in my memory i.e. la chacarera and la zamba.  Too bad kids didn’t dance Tango at school performances back then like they do now.
Regarding the tango DNA that you said is in me :-), I believe exposure in any areas of life, what you see and what you learn, becomes a part of  you, especially if is related to your culture in which case the roots are so significant and so strong.
What was it like for you, learning how to Tango?  Was it any different from what you imagined it to be?
Learning Tango was more difficult than what I thought it would be, but we have good teachers in Toronto and they are always bringing great teachers from Argentina for workshops and classes. Good teachers will make the smallest correction on the way you put your feet, that you may think is nothing, but that will totally change the way you dance.
Now that you are a veteran dancer, what makes you love the Tango and keep coming back to dance it?
You might not see me much in all the milongas because of my work, but I don’t think that I’ll ever stop dancing tango, ever, it makes me happy, and it has opened memories of my life that were very concealed until I started dancing, like a new awakening for me. It’s been great.
Have you danced in Buenos Aires?  What is your impression of the milongas in Buenos Aires?
Although I haven’t gone to many places, the milongas in Buenos Aires are pretty crowded, all of them, but you can still dance, they follow the line and etiquette, and there is always one tanguero that will make your night “A Night to Remember” :-)
That’s really beautiful – that’s why we keep on recommending that people visit Buenos Aires at least once!  Finally, do you have any advice for any non-Porteña Tangueras on how to dance better, or enjoy and feel the Tango like a Porteña?
I don’t think I can give any non-Porteña Tangueras advice, I couldn’t.  But what I can say is: Stop looking at everybody else’s feet, embrace your partner, embrace the music and just dance.
Martha with Maestro Rodolfo Mederos at Toronto Harbourfront in 2011

It’s the simplest tips like these that make the biggest difference. Thanks Martha for giving us a glimpse into what it is like to learn Tango as a Porteña, and see you soon on the dance floor, where you will give to all your partners the feeling of Buenos Aires in your embrace!
Martha has a beautiful little place in Buenos Aires that she stays at whenever she travels there to visit family and friends – and to dance!  Martha’s Apartment located in a convenient location downtown and available for rental.  For further information on Martha’s Apartment and contact information, please follow this link:


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Alberto Dassieu

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