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Interview with Paul Pellicoro at Lafayette Grill - Tango in New York City

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Sitting with Paul Pellicoro, to interview him for this book on New York Tango, has been a unique and memorable experience.  First of all, I have known Paul Pellicoro since my first years learning partner dancing with my husband.  It was at Paul’s famous dance studio, Dancesport, where it all began.  My husband and I had always danced, but my husband wanted us to learn the lead and follow of partner dancing, so I wouldn’t be dancing all around him in my own solo improvisations, as I tended to do in the free style of rock dancing, which I did from the day we met in June 1980.  When disco came out in New York we didn’t have any place to dance, until we went away in the summer time.  We had no introduction to Hustle, which could be a creative way of engaging with disco music.  Then in 1997, I passed by a huge sign on the upper west side of Broadway, illustrating a man dancing with a woman whose head was practically on the ground.  Only the lady’s legs could be seen.  His leg was way up in a diagonal close to her head, and above the guy’s head.  Despite the angles of their postures, the man and woman were joined by their hands, and assuming the woman came back up to a standing position, she and her male partner would have been joined by an embrace.  I didn’t know that the couple in that dramatic pose was doing Argentine Tango.  I wouldn’t know that Argentine Tango existed for some time, but I did know that the words on the sign about the invitation to study Latin and Ballroom dancing were an opportunity that my husband and I had been waiting for. 

So it was then that I went inside this several floor dance studio called “Dancesport,” and signed up for an intro group of couples dance lessons for myself and my husband.  From there we studied salsa, swing, fox trot, rumba, hustle etc., but it wasn’t until my husband and I studied Argentine Tango that we found a dance that captured the deepest passions in our hearts and souls.  At the center of it all was Paul Pellicoro who was actually the man in the dramatic pose on the Big sign on Broadway, along with his dance and studio partner of that time, the elegant Eleny Fotinos.  Paul was the studio owner, and Paul was one of the first to learn and teach Argentine Tango in New York City.  Before my husband and I studied Argentine Tango at Dancesport, which led to our years and years of dancing at the Lafayette Grill Milongas, we were exposed to choreographed “tango fantasia,” as well as improvisational social tango, through the performances of Paul Pellicoro and Eleny, and by the other top Argentinian and New York teachers who performed at Dancesport, while in town, or on a permanent basis.  Carlos Gavito, who was one of the stars in “Forever Tango”, was one of the most famous, and Ceclia Saia, who came to teach and perform regularly at Dancesport, had been a top Argentinian young performer, who was also in the cast of “Forever Tango.”  According to Paul, Cecilia was one of the younger generations’ fast tango dancers, as opposed to the slower ones.  Like Cecilia Saia, the younger generation performing on stage had generally had ballet training, and was not coming from the social dance floor of the milongaros of the 1940s and 1950s.  Carlos Gavito was at first one of the fast young dancers.  But he later slowed his dancing down to a minimum of highly felt movement with each step.  Also doing yearly workshops at Dancesport were world reknowned Argentine Tango dancers like Pablo Veron, who starred in Sally Potter’s famous movie, “Tango Lesson,” and who danced in “Forever Tango,” and Guillermina Quiroga, who is known as the world’s top star in Argentine Tango, Guillermina is a former ballerina who also starred in “Forever Tango.”  Guillermina also performed and taught at Lafayette Grill upon occasion, as did, and does, the world famous Junior Cevila, who danced with many partners, but who also joined with Guillermina for a period.

So sitting down to interview Paul Pellicoro for this book had an historic past. Paul generously spent 2 hours and 15 minutes speaking with me, during which time I typed like a fiend.    I found that Paul is a gold mine of information on the history of Argentine Tango in New York City, and I feel privileged to report some of the interview as I have tried to piece so many facts and names together.  Of course, it is not my intention to do a full history of tango in New York, since my focus is on the current New York Argentine Tango community and its atmosphere.  Also, Paul Pellicoro has already written his own book, “Paul Pellicoro on Argentine Tango: A Definitive Guide to Argentine Tango,” published in 2002 by Barricade Books, Inc.

Paul speaks about the revival of Argentine Tango in New York in 1985 when the Broadway show, “Tango Argentino” first came to New York, after having been a hit in Germany.  He speaks of some other things I am familiar with; like that tango had died out in Argentina in the 1960s when the Beatles became popular.  I knew that a whole generation in Buenos Aires, Argentina, had failed to learn and teach tango when Rock took over with the Beatles, and then tango orchestras ceased.  But then Paul speaks of the details of how this affected tango in New York, and how the revival in 1985 actually got launched.  According to Paul, Carlos Copes, the famous tango performer who invented choreography for Argentine Tango, and who wished to make Argentine Tango a stage performance like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, had performed in New York in the 1960s.  Then “The Beatles came and killed tango!”  Paul added that in the 1950s and 1960s people in New York did not often go to Argentina.  There was one tango innovator, Antonio Todaro, who filmed tango in some of the exclusive private clubs in Buenos Aires, creating films that could later be shown to New Yorkers.  However, overall tango died in Argentina.  Meanwhile, in New York, tango never got off the stage to the people in social environments. Copes had only been interested in stage tango.  And then the Beatles came, and 60s rock music, took over, followed by disco.  Also, according to Paul, people in New York didn’t easily travel back and forth between New York and Buenos Aires back then.  So any interest in Argentine Tango as a social dance as it had been in the 40’s and 50’s in Argentina in clubs had never made its foot prints in New York.  American style tango, after the style of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, and the International tango, which was purely for the competitions that began in Britain, were stylized dance forms, mixed in with other ballroom competition styles.  These so-called forms of tango never had the organic flow and natural movement, nor the interpersonal intimacy, of Argentine Tango as danced either in Milongaro style or Salon Tango in the 40’s and 50’s clubs in Buenos Aires.

However, the new revolution of tango for the people, in the Argentine Tango tradition exploded in New York out of the Broadway show, “Tango Argentino,” which had first taken flight in Germany.  Bridgette Winkler came from Germany with the show and would later teach in New York.  Carlos Copes was in the show with highly competitive dancers, such as Nelson Avila.  Nelson worked with Copes but had come from Argentinian folkloric dance and thought of tango differently than Copes.  Also, in “Tango Argentino” were the tango couples who wanted to teach tango and its different eras of historic dance figure origins, Eduardo and Gloria Arquimbau.

When the show “Tango Argentino” set fire to the New York imagination Paul Pellicoro immediately began to study with anyone in the show he could.  Nelson Avila taught a class at Milford Plaza that related to his folkloric and stage tango origins.  Nelson rivaled Copes, and Copes had it in the contracts of the cast members of the Broadway show, “Tango Argentino,” that they were prohibited from teaching.  So it was a very secret class and group that began to meet in a studio in Queens with Eduardo and Gloria Arquimbau, to learn about club tango, as opposed to stage tango.  Paul Pellicoro came there along with Sandra Cameron, since he was working as a ballroom and Latin dance teacher at that time at the Sandra Cameron studio.  Paul and Sandra were the only two professional dancers and teachers who met in the small studio in Queens with the secret group.  This was 1985, the year when “Tango Argentino” had first come to town, and taken off.  Within the year Paul left the Sandra Cameron studio to start his own studio with the partner, Diane, who he was dancing with then.  They formed the New York dance studio, “Stepping Out,” which became one of the main New York studios teaching Argentine Tango.  When Paul and Diane parted ways, Paul Pellicoro started the now most major New York dance studio, Dancesport, where so many top Argentine Tango dancers and performers have taught over the years, from the time of the 1980s origins.  Then when Paul and Eleny Fotinos became dancer partners and studio business partners, they established a whole graduated curriculum for studying Argentine Tango progressively and in depth.  They taught and performed tango themselves and invited many other teachers, who danced Argentine Tango, including top Argentinians, to teach on the Dancesport staff.  Some taught regular classes.  Others from Argentina, who might be performing all over the world, were invited to teach periodic workshops with their special perspectives on the many forms of Argentine Tango, whenever they came to town.  Outside of Dancesport a group with Gustavo Naveira, (now in Colorado), attempted to break down the elements of Argentine Tango to teach it.  Unfortunately, this group made the mistake of bringing in Carlos Copes, because of the man’s fame, which required that Gustavo leave, which he graciously agreed to do.  Without Gustavo the group never sustained the attempt to break down the tango elements to teach, since Copes was a showman who was not interested in the art of teaching.  In Argentina, Petroleo (nickname for Carolos Alberto Estevez) created new moves in tango and attempted to teach these elements.  For example, he invented his form of boleos, and also molinettes (grape vine steps of the woman going around the man) that had the woman circling the man to the left rather than to the right.  In an on line interview with Petroleo (which means “drinker”), when he was 80 years old, Petroleo says that he would have liked to break down each tango dance into a prologue, central dance, and epilogue.

During the interview with Paul Pellicoro, Paul spouts out a bunch of name of the top tango dancers who contributed to the evolution and re-animation of Argentine Tango in Argentina.  Most of these I had heard of.  Many of these made the trip from Buenos Aires to New York as Tango took off in New York City after “Tango Argentino” came to town in 1985 and swept New Yorkers up in a new tango fever.  It was one thing to have tango on the stage.  It was another thing to have authentic Argentine Tango social dancing develop in milongas through the dance studios and restaurants that had tango lessons, practicas, and then the late night Milongas that were the formal dances or parties. Dancesport was at the forefront of inviting top stage artists and also top salon and milonguero style dancers to teach and perform at the studio.  On stage “Tango Argentino” was followed by several other tango shows, some of which are outlined in Paul’s book, but the biggest smash hit after “Tango Argentino” with Nelson Avilla, and Juan Carlos Copes, was “Forever Tango,” starring people who came and taught regularly at Dancesport, such as Cecilia Saia, Carlos Gavito, Guillermina Quiroga, and Pablo Veron.  Guillermina also brought famous male partners like Roberto. At one point she danced with Junior Cevila, a time that I remember well, before Junior connected with Natalia Rayo.  They performed in many venues in town, including the “La Boca” milonga started by Gayetri Martin in the late 1990s at Il Companello.  Lafayette Grill began their milonga in the late 1990s and would have top guest stars like Guillermina as well.  So I would be able to see several of Guillermina’s performances when she was in town.

Back in the 1980s, after the revival of tango through New York in 1985, Paul Pellicoro went from secret classes in Queens with Eduardo and Gloria Arquimbau, and classes at the Milford Plaza with Nelson Avila, to hosting his own shows and tango milongas.  He was the first to employ Il Campanello restaurant on Thursday nights that featured shows with Artem Maloratsky (“Tioma”), Viviana Parra, Valeria Solomonoff, Fabian Salas, and Helmet Salas.  Back at his Dancesport Studio Paul had both his developed regular tango staff and his guest teachers who traveled to Dancesport from Buenos Aires periodically to do workshops.  Some of these guest teachers also made tours in Europe since Tango Argentina had ignited people abroad as well as in New York.  Paul Pellicoro helped Cecilia Sigh create a new partnership with Ronen Kayat, who she trained, after she parted from her “Forever Tango” partner.  Ronen was a teacher of mine for many years, and I enjoyed dancing with a man who was leading Cecilia Saia on the stage.  Ronen and Cecilia began to teach regularly at Dancesort and to run a Sunday night Milonga that took off around 2002.  This more formal dance, the Milonga, followed Paul’s establishment of a Wednesday night practica, where everyone taking lessons could practice their technique right on the dance floor after lessons.  On Saturday nights Danielle and Maria had milongas at Dancesport and lessons before the Milongas.  Although I and my husband often preferred the informality and social friendliness at Lafayette Grill as its Milongas started in the late 1990s, we also would attend Danielle and Maria’s larger Milongas at Dancesport.  Danielle and Maria would encourage the formality of the Buenos Aires milongas that had revived the code of dress and conduct that had first developed during the time of the great orchestras in the 1940s and 1950s in Buenos Aires.  As New York took off with tango after “Tango Argentino” New Yorkers re-awakened the Argentine culture in Buenos Aires.  Consequently, highly attended Milongas sprung up all over, with the most famous of which being the revived Sunderland Milonga.  Danielle Trennor and Rebecca Shulman, who first trained at Dancesport, were some of the New York Milongaros who went down to Argentina to bring the New York passion for tango to Buenos Aires. They then brought the Buenos Aires spirit back to New York.  Danielle and Maria tried to simulate the formality of the Buenos Aires Milongas by asking all who attended their own Milongas at Dancesport to dress up.  During the days of the great orchestras in Argentina all the neighborhood clubs had tango dances, where families and groups of guys and groups of girls gathered.  Every neighborhood had their own style of dance, but they were joined together by the “coda” of behavior required for all those dancing tango at clubs and milongas.  A man must nod to a lady and make eye contact if he wished to dance with her.  He could not risk what was seen as a humiliation of asking a woman to dance and being refused.  So he would make eye contact with the lady he chose, and she could respond back with her eyes or a nod to assent to the dance.  Or she could turn away to say “no” and the man’s fragile macho ego could be saved, as he then would avoid going over to the lady to receive a more overt and direct refusal.

Along with such rules for the interaction of the genders in the tango dance hall were rules about clothing.  Back in the 1940s and 1950s, before the Beatles extinguished the orchestras and therefore the dancing of tango in Buenos Aires--for a whole generation--formal dress was expected by all who danced.  Danielle and Maria tried to continue this tradition in New York, according to Paul, by asking men to wear suits, or ties and jackets, and women to dress in evening gowns.  It was easier to encourage the women in this direction than the men.  Over time, despite the efforts of tango mentors from Argentina, men often began to dress more casually, even in jeans and sneakers.  However, women tended to wear dresses, since they enjoyed dressing up.  But now it is one American influence on the tango Milongas that a full range of dress is permitted.  Jackets often make men sweat much too much while dancing.  So all is open now.  Lafayette Grill has a full range of dress.  Sometimes men are in jeans and their partners are in evening gowns, but it can also be the other way around.  One can now wear any level of dress to Milongas in New York, and this has its own form of freedom.

From Stage to Salon and Milongaro: some words from Paul: Nito and Elba

            According to Paul many stage dancers, such as those in the top shows of “Tango Argentino,” and later “Forever Tango,” found it quite challenging to bring the tango from the stage to the social dance environment.  They also found it difficult to teach those who wanted to dance in the social dance environment of the Milonga.  Paul mentions Pablo Veron as one of these dancers, who had to move from stage to teaching social dancing.  I had seen Pablo Veron in Sally Potter’s movie, “The Tango Lesson,” where Pablo danced both on stage, in his own free improvisations on stage, and also in the social dance milonga in Buenos Aires.  Once I actually saw him dancing with Sally Potter on the dance floor at Dancesport, and they swept masterfully through a crowded dance floor, until they began to dispute which way to go or dance, just as they had always been in disputes in their movie.  There is stage tango, and then there was “Tango Fantasia,” which is somewhere in between where large dance figures with kicks under the legs, called ganchos, and high and low kicks, called boleos could be danced, beyond the sedate grounded floor walking and steps of salon tango.  Some mixture in between could also be seen in milongaro style in the social Milonga, but here walking tango elegantly is the most featured part of the dance, and no boleos or ganchos or planeos or volcadas (modern tango) are indulged in on a crowded Milonga dance floor in Buenos Aires.  In New York there is more freedom, and mixtures of “tango fantasia,” (where the couple can part and do things separately) and the soft, on the floor tango, as well as the Milongaro style are seen, with elements of stage tango thrown in.

            While tango stars like Nelson Avila, Pablo Veron, Cecilia Saia, Carlos Gavito,

Jorre Torres, and Guillermina Quiroga, Anton Gazenbeek, and Junior Cevila stepped off the stage and into the dance studios to teach what became “Argentine Tango” in the social milongas, others such as Nito and Elba, from Mar Del Plata in Argentina, specialized in on the floor Salon Tango style.  Nito and Elba taught on a regular basis at Dancesport, doing workshops and private lessons in their frequent visits to New York.  I was in their workshops where they always stressed simplicity, connectedness, collecting the feet in between steps, and most of all elegance.  They were a married tango couple who started off in the milonga, not on stage.  While Susan Miller taught the extreme arduous art of walking elegantly in milongaro style tango in Buenos Aires, Nito and Elba specialized in the Salon style of tango, with feet always on the floor, that had first evolved through Europe, and which then flourished in the tango club neighborhood dances in Buenos Aires.  Nito and Elba taught elegance, and refined ornaments or embellishments in steps for the female tango follower, who must always stay connected to her partner, moving as one.  Nevertheless, Salon Tango allows the follower to do brief embellishments in between the leader’s steps, in between the beats.  Paul Pellicoro gave tango dancers in New York a great gift by having Nito and Elba teach here, and others who studied with them taught, not only at Dancesport, and the dance studios, but also on Saturday nights at Lafayette Grill.

When the “Tango Lesson” movie came out in the 1990s, featuring the film director, Sally Potter, and the famous stage Argentine Tango performer, Pablo Veron, as the star characters, the evolution from stage to the social dance floor was seen on the movie screen.  The male/female conflict and resolution narrative enhanced the telling of this tale.  Pablo Veron followed his film performance with regular visits to teach workshops at Dancesport, where he taught the general public stage tango as it was being adopted for the social dance Milonga.  In our interview Paul Pellicoro mentions that it was a challenge for Pablo Veron to go from stage to dance floor.  But I know that Pablo Verone was part of the trend of teaching stage tango steps that were being adapted to tango and milonga dancing in the social dance halls, dance studios, and restaurants, where we held our Milongas, both in New York and in Argentina.

According to Paul, Juan Carlos Copes, who launched his new choreographic style in the world reknowned “Tango Argentino,” taking New York by storm in 1985, only did parallel style in tango.  Copes did not even know about the cross Basic tango style taught for social dancing at Dancesport.  Copes also had the film, “Tango,” which was really about stage tango, and not about the dancing for the public in Milongas that was featured in Sally Potter’s “Tango Lesson.”

Meanwhile Hollywood got in on the action, and Paul Pellicoro was part of this modern world development as well.  A far cry from Rudolph Valentino dragging a doll-like puppet woman across the dance floor in the 1920s, new movies made genuine attempts at integrating social tango into their creative expressions.  Robert Duval had studied with Paul Pellicoro in the secret Queens class taught during the 1980s, after Eduardo and Gloria broke contract to take the tango of “Tango Argentino” into the dance studios in New York.  Robert Duval had been with Sharon Brophe then, but he later wed a young Argentine Tango dancer, built his own huge dance studio to practice tango in, and then featured Argentine Tango couples dancing at a Milonga in his Hollywood film, “Assassination Tango.”

Many people in the tango world did not like this movie because its plot was contrived and unrelated to tango.  Nevertheless, it put Argentine Tango in the social Milonga on the big screen.  I know Duval came in and out of the New York tango scene.  I saw him at the Metropolitan club one night at a tango “Gala.”  As Paul talked, I learned how he and Robert Duval were both students in one of the first tango classes in New York.

Paul had a more direct interaction with other big screen personalities, the most famous of which were Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Richard Gere.  Paul was hired by Al Pacino and his female co-star in “Scent of a Woman” to learn enough of the flavor and feeling of Argentine Tango to look like they were dancing it in “Scent of a Woman.”  Paul writes about his experience with Pacino in his own book.

Some Dance Hall Developments in New York City, leading to and interacting with the Development of Lafayette Grill

            First there was Thursday nights at Il Campanello in the mid and late 1980s begun by Paul, along with Claudio and Alicia, who were living in the DanceSport studio at the time.  At this restaurant venue Paul himself performed what he was learning and developing in Argentine Tango at the Il Campanello restaurant at west 31st street in Manhattan.  He performed in shows at the restaurant with top people like Bridgette Winkler from Germany, with Viviana Para, Rebecca Shulman, Valeria Solomonoff, and Fabian Salas.  Some of these women would later form and teach at a rival studio, but Vivian Para is a top teacher and social Argentine Tango dancer who would teach and perform at Dancesport.  Mauizio Najt sis a top tango musician--a pianist and composer--who started performing live tango music with Paul at Il Campanello.  Later he would be a regular guest artist musician performer at Lafayette Grill, where he still performs periodically.  Perhaps the most renowned performer at Paul’s Thursday night shows was the guest performer Carlos Gavito, who had first been a jazz review dancer, and later starred in “Forever Tango.”  He slowed his style down considerably as he got older.  And by the time Gavito performed in “Forever Tango” with Marcela Duran (now married to Luis Bravo), he had evolved his own unique form of intense, passionate, contained, and slow Argentine Tango.  Gavito is known for inventing the “carpe,” or tent-like lean between the male and female tango partners (Pellicoro, 2002).  Gavito is also known for small footwork, as well as for the sustained intensity of feeling that he packed into each step.

Carlos Gavito made teaching videos with his “Forever Tango” partner in which he can be seen illustrating small intricate and subtle motions, motions that totally merge the partners in movement, and which flow out of a close and passionate embrace within the lean between the partners.  Gavito would frequently speak about the “intention” of the tango partners, as all body movement needed to flow from this sustained and focused mental “intention,” allowing the legs and feet to just follow, as the flow of the music and intention combine.  According to Paul, Gavito particularly appealed to older men because he demonstrated that tango was best with minimal, but deeply felt, and deeply passionate, movement.  Each single step told an entire story of love, art, and intimacy.  He foreswore any acrobatics and even stopped performing any of the stage or tango fantasia gancho movements.  As in the crowded Buenos Aires Milongas that would be developing through the 1980s, 1990s, and into the 21st century, Gavito only believed in the grounded tango movements that were all done on the ground, so that boleos became “low boleos” on the floor.    Although Gavito died a few years ago of lung cancer, his legacy remains an important part of the teaching of Argentine Tango at Dancesport.

As Paul Pellicoro became engaged in other tango show endeavors, such as “Tango Fest,” which he did in collaboration with the “World Music Institute” he turned Il Companello over to others.  Later Gayatri Martin would have a very successful Tuesday night Milonga at Il Campanello.  Gayetri’s Milonga lasted many years, and featured top guest artists, such as Junior Cevila and Guillermina, as well as couples like Armando and Daniella (who had danced together for 20 years before they broke up).  Gayatri Martin also took over the yearly July New York Tango Festival from its founder and originator, Lucille Krasne.

Meanwhile other places began to open up that overlapped with the 13 year plus development of the Saturday New York Milonga at Lafayette Grill, and Lafayette Grill’s other night milongas.  In 1996 the “La Belle Epoque” restaurant became an elegant Friday night haven for Argentine Tango dancers who wished to really dance at a traditional milonga, accompanied by live music.  Despite a crowded and small dance floor that had the impeding construction of porcelain floor tiles, La Belle Epoque took off.  Many who learned at Dancesport came to dance there when they fell in love with Argentine Tango, since at that time Friday night at Dancesport was a night with a collection of many kinds of dances and performances at their Friday dance parties.  Later this would change, and Dancesport would come to host their own Friday night Argentine Tango Milonga, in competition with the Ukranian Restaurant that took over the “La Belle Epoque” milonga when “La Belle Epoque” restaurant closed down.  Rosa Collantes, who had trained at Dancesport along with Angel Garcia, and who had particularly trained there with Nito and Elba carried over the “La Belle Epoque” restaurant Milonga to the Ukranian restaurant.  After Rosa’s recent and untimely death from breast cancer, which is mourned continuously by many of us, the Ukrainian restaurant’s milonga has been re-named “Rosa’s Milonga.”  Since there are many in the New York tango community, both the Ukranian restaurant and Dancesport are well attended and often crowded on Friday nights.

But what about the other nights?  In 1999 Coco, an Argentinian male dancer, who had first participated in the tango endeavor with Paul by working on the lighting at the Thursday night Il Companello Milongas, opened an extremely popular Milonga on Thursday nights called “La Nacional,” a name related to a large avenue in Buenos Aires.  Coco still provides lessons and recorded D.J. music at La Nacional, and always follows his early evening lessons with a Milonga, which was the traditional sequence of events at all New York Milongas.  Lafayette Grill, always has beginner and intermediate lessons before all their four night a week Milongas, stemming back to the original of their Saturday night Milongas.  Coco also plays a chief role in the monthly “all night milongas” at Stepping Out studios, the studio first begun by Paul Pellicoro, before he opened Dancesport.  Coco’s “La Nacional” recently celebrated his Milonga’s 12th anniversary, which was announced by Tioma (Artem Malorisky), who now hosts Lafayette Grill’s Monday night Milonga.  Jon Tariq also has a milonga at 35th street on Thursday nights, and there is one at Pierre Dulaine as well.

On Tuesday night, Jon Tariq has his special Milongas at Lafayette Grill.  Jon’s Tuesday milongas often feature live music with Maurizio Najt and one of the great bandonian players in America, Carolina Juarena’s father.  Earlier on, in the beginning of the 21st century, and for many years since, Ellen Sowcheck (trained at Dancesport) had Milongas first, on Tuesday nights and then on Thursday nights, at the Pierre Dulaine dance studio.  Ellen was trained by Helmet Salas at Dancesport as well as by Tioma and others.

At Dancesport itself Milongas proliferated.  First there was the Wednesday night Practica, where students at the studio, as well as those joining them from the outside, can practice all their recent steps and techniques.  This Wednesday night Milonga has remained through the years.  Dancesport also had an extremely popular Sunday night Milonga that was their biggest night before they moved their main Milonga to Friday night.  These Sunday night Milongas were known for their excellent pre-Milonga lessons.  They were particularly renowned for their many years of intermediate lessons taught by Cecilia Sigh and her partner Ronen Kayet.  They also had Santiago Steele teaching the beginner lessons. Carlos Quiroga, the brother of the world famous tango dancer Guillermina Quiroga, and also the editor of New York City’s Reportango magazine, would D.J. at the Sunday night Dancesport Milonga parties.

In addition, they had launched the tango teaching career of Virginia Kelley, who taught the intermediate classes before Cecilia Sigh (from “Forever Tango”).  Virginia Kelley taught a unique approach to Argentine Tango, which promoted the initiation of steps and figures by the female follower (generally female, sometimes male) interaction with the lead of the man.  This more active and mutually interactive style of tango was certainly a statement about the demise of the totally male dominated macho attitude in tango from pre feminist days.

Vivian Para also taught at these Sunday night Milongas when she stayed in New York and taught at Dancesport.  Viviana had performed and danced with Tioma (Artem Maloratsky) and many others later, such as Junior Cevila and Ronen Khayat.  Nevertheless, Viviana would say she was most dedicated to teaching tango.  She was a brilliant teacher, and thus offered a special addition to Dancesport’s interest in the education related to the Argentine Tango dance connection.

Paul Pellicoro on Teaching Argentine Tango and on the Tango Milonga

            Paul: “Men don’t have to dance five dances in a set or “tanda” of tango every time they want to dance with a woman.  Unlike in Buenos Aires, in New York it’s ok for the man to dance one of two dances with a woman if he wants to and then say “thank you,” and politely go on to others.”

Paul: “People should learn a simple open embrace before a closed embrace.  In that way they can learn the body technique, and take time to walk and do steps and figures.”

Paul says he tries to discourage people, particularly the men who are learning to lead tango, from focusing on “tricks” and steps. He encourages them to focus on the connection with their partners, the music, and the flow of the dancers in the room of the Milonga.  Paul notes that he has trained more men than others in New York, and he is proud of this because he says this is the most difficult part of teaching tango, “getting the men to learn.”

Paul: “It’s more important to fit in with the others on the Milonga dance floor, and to connect with your partner, than to do any particular steps or tricks or figures in the dance.  Musicality is also extremely important.  Keeping the men interested is the hardest part.”  Paul prides himself on helping so many men to begin and stay with the learning of the dance, when it is so much harder for men to learn to lead than for women to learn to follow.  Paul continues: “Men have to have a base.  I do this hard nitty gritty work.  Because I focus so intently on this, and value the basic learning, my percentages of keeping men committed are good.”

Paul: “Most of all, Argentine Tango is a sexual experience.  People want to be liked and respected by the opposite sex.  Men can make less money, and yet win women by being good dancers.  Dancing empowers men.  Women will always like to dance.  If men learn how to dance, the women will be there to join them.”

Paul: “The Tango world still allows people to be a big fish in a small pond.  Once can be special within a huge and highly competitive environment in New York City and in the world.  Tango is still a little world where you can be special!  The world has gotten too fast and too big!  Everyone who is the best in any one thing comes to New York.  Having the extra encouragement of the tango world gives you what you need.”

Paul: “You can do a simple milongaro style in tango.  You don’t have to do what the stars do!  Everyone can have their own personality is tango.”

Paul: “One can do close embrace, and enjoy intimacy, rather than trying to emulate a big star like Junior Cevila, even though nobody can compete with Junior for what he does.”

Paul: “A lot of men start off doing tango in a too aggressive way.  They need to learn how to relax and receive the music and the movement.”

Paul: “Tango was at first more static.  One would stop to do a “sandwich” (man cupping the foot of the woman) or to do a gancho (kicking under your partner’s legs).  Now the flow is the ultimate concern.  Ganchos, boleos, volcadas, sandwiches, colgadas, planeos, etc., are all done while moving in the flow.  We have moving ganchos now.  This is a new philosophy about the effortlessness of tango, just relaxing into the body flow and movement, and into the music.  If you are “working” you are working too hard.  The easier and more natural the movement is the more organic and authentic the flow is.”

Paul: “One need is to follow the new reflex flow that allows intimacy, not just following the historic patterns of tango.  Of course we can learn a lot from the historic tango, but tango is ever evolving and we need to allow and follow that evolution.”

Paul: “The new Nuevo style that Gustavo started is more dynamic.”  Paul just spent one week learning from Gustavo in Colorado:  “Tango is always evolving.”  “Gustavo has done call the research on the development of individual steps and figures in tango.  He knows how ganchos and boleos fist started.  I learned a lot from Gustavo in my visit in Colorado.  I can always learn.  I have trained top movie stars like El Pacino, Robert De Niro and Richard Gere, but I am always learning, and growing, and teaching.  Dancesport is about teaching, learning, and growing.”



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Guest Sunday, 17 June 2018