torstai 20. marraskuuta 2014

FACE TO FACE WITH - Danielle Charonnet

At  our very first trip to Buenos Aires, my companion and I caught delight in Danielle Charonnet´s (alias “Dani”) clear and devoted style of teaching, and have resorted to her private lessons on our trips to Buenos Aires, ever since. On our fifth visit, in November 2014, she gave an interview for this blog.

Dani at "our" rehearsal studio.

She tells that she started dancing Argentinian tango in Paris in 1998, did her first “studying trip” to Buenos Aires in 2002, and moved there in 2004. She lives in Buenos Aires ever since, and started to teach tango 9 years ago. ”Quickly after I settled in Buenos Aires, some Argentinian teachers proposed me to work with them as their assistant, and then after a while, as their partner. Teaching was for me at that time –and still is – the best way to keep learning about the mechanisms of that dance.”
When I ask Dani the question “What is tango”, she first answers with a cheerful laugh, but then becomes serious. “For me, tango is a new dimension which you can add to your life. Basically it is this.”
She then expands on the subject. “It´s a very multiple dimension. It is a connection to a social life that you would not have otherwise. It is a connection with yourself that you would not have otherwise. It is a connection with esthetic emotions, which you would not have otherwise. It is a connection with other people – such a special connection, that in no aspect you would have, otherwise.”
She adds “If I speak for myself: I am a much richer person than before I started to dance tango. Learning tango, I developed a higher sensibility to the context, a deeper awareness about the present. That led me to experience in other artistical fields: dance theater, singing … “
“As a dance of pure improvisation, the tango does not propose any sequence of steps which would be written in advance. Learning this dance is like learning a language. The more skilled you get, the better you can build your sentences, and the better they reflect the feelings that generate in you the moment. The more skilled your partner gets, the better he or she can answer to what you just expressed, commenting it or completing it with his/her own ideas and colors… It’s a conversation!”
What concepts does she want to bring to a class of absolute beginners? “First of all, how they can connect to each other”, she says. “I want them to feel that they don´t even have to touch each other, to send or receive a lead. So, I don´t start with the embrace. I start with the communication that can be established at a distance – just being conscious of the movements of the body that is in front of you”.
For each beginners´ group, the pathway of teaching that is then pursued may vary a lot, depending on the precise of the group, she explains. “Each time it is different, but usually I try to get into it in such a way, that the embrace, which often can be experienced as something blocking, or difficult, or heavy, will be conceived more as a help. I try always not to impose a form ´from outside´, but instead to get, little by little, to the tango embrace – from the natural part of it”. She says, that also in many other respects she likes to refer to usual, daily sensations of axis, walking, relaxation, tension, and so on.
“The dancer and the pedagogue are very strongly connected in me. I understand dancing tango as a never ending research, which proceeds cyclically: you first complete a cycle of basic knowledge and then… go through the same cycle again and again! It may sound a bit boring, but trust me, it isn’t!”
“I’m lucky enough to say that after all these years of dancing, studying and teaching tango, the thrill hasn’t gone! When I’m about to enter a milonga and the first accents of the rhythm and melody reach me, my heart beats quicker!”
I ask Dani how she would compare tango dancing in Argentina versus in Europe. “I think that tango is more ´sanctified´ in Europe”, she answers. “It is put on a piedestal, which is understandable, because it is not the original culture of the people”.
She tells about differing experiences in milongas. “In Europe dancers make great fuzz of getting ´in time´ to milongas, and to dance every tanda, to make the visit ´rentable´. In Argentina, you go to a milonga – and you may perhaps not dance at all”.
When inquiring about differences in dancing styles or levels, Dani ascertains that European and Argentinian dancing have converged. “A decade ago, there was a huge difference, but it has clearly diminished. Nowadays you can have access to real milonguero style dancing in Europe, too. Still, in genuine Argentinian tango, there is something that is impossible to repeat outside Argentina”.
I am curious to hear what wisdoms, told by her own teachers, have been of special importance for her. After pondering a minute, she tells that she cannot pinpoint any singular tuition. “I think that I have received a lot of small crucial inputs, from tango teachers and also other body awareness and dance teachers. Combining and recombining them, through all these years, I started to build my own way to understand and explain some important principles. It is not that I would have been ´struck´ by any single advice.”
I then want to know, which main wisdom she, herself, wants to give her students. Her answer, in my mind, is a great wisdom in itself: “I think, that if I am a really good teacher, I would give nothing particular. Because, I think that it is something that you really must discover from your own sensations. I will give tools, but I will not say much, because I think that learning tango is a very personal trip”.