On our 2015 trip to Buenos Aires, my partner and I participated in Demian Garcia´s Milonga and Vals classes at the Nueva Escuela Argentina de Tango, and we also had the fortune to enjoy a number of private lessons by this sympathetic, internationally renowned tango teacher.
I was very pleased when Demian agreed to give an interview for this blog, and I was overwhelmed to know that his professional partner, Inés Muzzopappa was going to join us. So, one Thursday evening the four of us were sitting at the dinner table of our modest rented apartment in Barrio Recoleta. The weather outside was rainy, but the atmosphere at the table was cheerful, due to the warm personalities of our visitors.
THE UNWILLING TANGO STUDENT
Would you believe that a tango Maestro, with a dance career of twenty years, did not want to start dancing tango, at all? Well, that is the true story of Demian Garcia.
Although the Garcia family lived in Boedo, a famous tango district, his father ”rather listened to rock-and-roll”, and the parents were not dancing. They did have a desire to learn tango, but an attempt to go to a class had failed, and as Demian´s father was working as an engineer on a ship, his long absences complicated the issue.
When Demian was about 17 years of age, a new tango place (Gricel) opened, just around the corner to their house. One day, when Demian´s mother was out shopping, she noticed the new tango place, returned home, and said to Demian and his 11-years old sister: ”let’s go!”. When they arrived in Gricel, Demian bursted out ”mother, you are crazy to wish me accompany you here”, and left the scene. The mother and Demian´s sister eventually joined the tango lessons, but the mother felt uncomfortable to dance with unfamiliar men. ”So my father bribed me to join in, by letting me use his car”, Demian says, with a laugh.
After 5 months of participating, Demian was still not at ease with the tango lessons, and quitted. Half a year later, however, he returned voluntarily! Why? ”I do not know, I cannot say. Probably it just was important for me to join voluntarily, and not because of someone else´s will”. He attended the Gricel group lessons, given by Efrain Ordoñez, a total of 2-3 years, and ”eventually I started liking it”.
DANCING SINCE CHILDHOOD
Inés Muzzopappa´s story is rather the opposite to Demian´s. Her family was living in the barrio of Saavedra, and her mother was a performing modern dancer. When Inés was at the age of 4, her mother started dancing tango, and Inés would accompany her to the tango lessons. At 7, she started to dance with her brother, and at 8 she accompanied Vincente Lopez to tango lessons.
She commenced serious tango training in 2002, at the Sunderland Club, where she met skilled milongueros, and started to take lessons from Jorge and Liliana Rodriguez and Carlos and Rosa Perez. In the class of the latter teachers, she met Dante Sanchez in 2006, and they joined to train for dance competitions.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP IN BORROWED SHOES
The almost unbelievable fact is, that in only one year after having started to work together, Inés and Dante won the tango World Championship, in 2007. But wait a moment - the story is even more incredible!
Their original ambition was to participate in the Campeonato Metropolitano, i.e. the Buenos Aires championships, and specifically in the Milonga series. However, at the registration, they also applied for the Tango series - in which they ended up at the 2:nd position! That granted them the entrance into the finals of the World Championship, which was due about 2 months later.
They started to practice for the World competition. But a couple of weeks before the contest, Dante´s father fell ill, which jeopardized the training situation. On the day of the competition, Dante decided that he was forced to travel to his father, who lived far from Buenos Aires. However, he did not manage to leave Buenos Aires, because of troubles in the airline traffic.
So, at 7 p.m. of the evening of the championship´s final - which was to start at 9 p.m. - Dante calls Inés, who is visiting a friend of hers, asking if she can make it to the contest! Inés borrows her friend´s dress and shoes, hurries to the contest site, dances the competition with Dante - and they end up as champions!
While for Inés the world championship was a her boost to start a professional career, Demian was then already an acknowledged authority - and he even was a member of the 2007 championship jury! Because of some age difference, they belonged to separate circles of tango friends, spending both their spare time and their professional activities in different environments.
Their professional CV:s are overloaded, and only a very brief synopsis can be given here. Demian´s career has included countless visits to international tango events and seminars in North America, Europe, Russia, Australia, New Zeeland, Middle East and Asia. His dance partners have included Milena Plebs, Aurora Lubiz, and Carolina Bonaventura. Demian has also served as judge in several international championships, and performed in tango shows, both in Buenos Aires and worldwide.
From the very start of her tango life, Inés performed extensively in Buenos Aires milongas with different companions. After the championship she started her international career with Dante. After their partnerhip broke, she partnered from 2008 to 2012 with Federico Naveira. In 2012, the organizers of the World Tango asked Inés and Dante Sanchez to partner again, for the World Tango Festivals. Before joining with Demian Garcia in 2014, Inés performed with different renowned partners.
I am curious to know how professional dancers find their partner. ”Your first partner often is either your partner in private life, or a person from the same tango class, like in the case of Inés and Dante”, they say, adding that sharing your private and professional lives with the same person has some practical advantages. However, at present both of them are very content with sharing a professional partnership, while having separate private lives.
They also recognize that ”When you already are an acknowledged artist, finding a new professional partner is a more complex issue”. Which prompted me to ask Inés and Demian about how they partnered. Firstly, I am told, they became a bit more acquainted in the milonga scene, through mutual friends. And, of course, they were aware of one another´s merits. ”But”, they tell me with a laugh, ”what actually happened is that Demian called”. About one year ago, Demian needed a partner teacher for certain classes, and Inés agreed to join in. The idea of forming a professional partnership evolved eventually.
During the interview, Inés repeatedly refers to the concept of ”growing as a dancer”. She ponders on implications both at the individual and at the dance couple level. ”In the first year of a new partnership, you adapt quite easily to the new partner, but later you may find that you are growing in different directions”. When I ask her, what a ”growth” is all about, she concludes that ”it depends on what phase of your process you are in”.
When asked about the definition of a ”phase”, Inés and Demian, after some pondering, list different elements, such as your technical level, your level of recognition, and your over-all relation to life. They both stress the importance of enjoying your life, having relatives, meeting friends, going to theatre, and so on. Demian recently bought a motorboat, with which he enjoys moments of leisure in the Tigre delta.
Inés stresses the personal aspects of a growth. For her, this has lately related to starting studies in Social Education, and reading South American literature from outside Argentina, ”to be pushed to increase your scope”.
Both Demian and Inés are internationally acknowledged and beloved tango teachers, and in their home town they give regular classes in renowned tango schools and high-end milonga sites. When I ask them what specific aspects they want to stress in their teaching, I get answers that differ a bit, but fit well together.
Demian recalls his own early years as a tango student. ”At that time, teachers just showed different moves, without giving explanations. For me as a teacher, a progressive curriculum is an important issue, as well as explaining the details of any move”. He adds that he tries to give the students challenges, but without making it too complicated. ”An important, but not always easily achieved aim is to keep the students interested, but not overwhelmed, by introducing just the right amount of new things”.
Inés concludes, that whereas Demian focuses skilfully on a tango class at the group level, she likes to focus on the individual student. ”I try to make the students thrive, and by that way keep them attentive. I like to talk to the students in person, to hear about their feelings and desires”. She also would prefer a slower pace of teaching than what is common, to improve the quality of learning.
TANGO – MILONGA – VALS?
When I ask Inés and Demian ”Which of the three dances do you like most?”, both say that their preference has been changing during their tango years. Demian, with a reputation for his Milonga dancing, surprisingly tells that ”In the beginning, I did not like the Milonga at all”. Inés recapitulates that when she started dancing, she like Vals the most, but now she would put Tango first. ”I find it to be the richest. The different tangos invite you to different styles of dancing, into so many variable feelings, so many changes in rhythms”. Demian agrees that Tango is the most variable of the dances, ”but I very much like the fluidity of Vals dancing”.
When inquired about their near future plans, Inés and Demian tell me that in Buenos Aires they have been regularly teaching together at Gricel, and have recently started classes in Club Fulgor, but they still mostly have separate tasks.
Demian gives classes in Canning, and they both teach separately at Nuevo Esquela Argentina de Tango. In San Telmo Inés hosts her Bendita Milonga on Mondays. Internationally, Demian has many solo-teacher commitments, including assignments in Brazil, Slovenia, Belgium and England, and Inés is negociating on task both in Europe and in the USA.