This story begins with a girl in the rural city of Tostado in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina, and a boy in the rural city of Lahti, Finland. Unaware of each other, they both start dancing Argentine tango, and eventually both find their way to the DNI tango school in Buenos Aires. A shared future starts to take shape, and eventually the two, as a family, find themselves as tango teachers in Tampere, a Finnish city with an unusually vibrant tango community.
On a sunny early September´s day of 2017, my partner and I were cordially received in their cosy townhouse, in a park region not far from central Tampere, and I had the opportunity to make this interview.
In Carina´s childhood, Tostado was a small, quiet village. There was no concrete yet on the street in front of her house, so after a rain it was very muddy, and Carina and her playmates loved to slide in the mud. Her family´s backyard was a very popular place to play for all the neighbour´s children, including herself and her three siblings. As a child she was very active, playing football and climbing in the trees; but of course she also played with dolls.
Part of the backyard was elevated, and functioned as a ´stage´ for their ´Folklore orchestra´, with Carina on bombo [a drum], and the brothers on guitars. Already at a young age, Carina showed talents in arranging events. First at the age of 9-10, by arranging twice a Friend´s day (20th July) party for her friends, with self-made invitation cards and pastries, and a dress code defined by mama´s old clothes and with make-up! Later, at the end of secondary school, she would twice raise money for a final school trip to Bariloche in Patagonia, by organizing dance parties for teenagers, 15-16 years of age. While still at school, Carina even acted as news reader in the local radio, also making cultural programs, with topics such as nature and fashion.
Carina´s father had a folklore group playing the guitar and singing, and she herself was dancing and performing folklore at the age of 7 to 12. At that time, there was a popular TV program by the name Grandes Valores del Tango, with dance performances, which the family used to watch together. Carina liked to watch the dancers dancing, but did not yet have the opportunity to do tango herself — except for a single class with her brother. At the age of 17, she moved to Paraná to study at the Journalist line at the university, more specifically on graphic design. Later she would establish an enterprise of her own, and work with graphic design for ten years.
Accidentally, the students at the University were offered free lessons in Argentine tango, and Carina enrolled — and was soon taking classes 4 times a week, eventually for a period of 5 years. There were two teachers, she recalls: "one was an old milonguero and the other was one of his students, a very enthusiastic history teacher ". Eventually, for a period of two years, Carina hosted a weekly milonga in Paraná, together with a dancer from Paraná, Pablo Villaraza, who was later to co-found the dance school DNI in Buenos Aires. For some 4 years, Carina also practiced contemporary dance, dance-theatre and some ballet in Paraná.
Already when living in Paraná, Carina started to take classes in Buenos Aires, by visiting the city for a weekend once each month, and "taking all the classes she could". In 2006 she joined classes at DNI, and in 2007 she even organized the first ever DNI Tango Company Show at the Paraná theatre, doing the production! "Only at DNI", she recalls, "I was instructed about body mechanisms. Earlier nobody had said anything on that matter".
|Carina (in the back row) with her DNI group, in 2008.|
In 2008 Carina moved to Buenos Aires, and started to give prácticas at DNI. Seven months later, a man from Finland, by the name of Arttu, appeared at her práctica...
Arttu grew up in the peaceful Mukkula area, a bit outside the urban parts of Lahti. "I was blond and shy", he says. "I was really kiltti [Finnish word for tame & gentle]". He was a profuse reader, and good at school. He used to go directly from school to the City library, and while he preferred nonfiction books of facts, the hero of young boys of the time, Tarzan was of course also on the menu — and is still to be found in Arttu´s bookshelf.
|Arttu with books from his childhood.|
When Arttu was eleven, the family moved to Tampere. He practiced slalom and bicycling, and used to make the 32 kilometer trip to their summer cottage on bicycle, back and forth! Even though, he did not consider himself to be a sportsman. At school he rather liked writing and drawing, and he was frequently contributing to the School magazine. When the school tutor presented him with different options for further studies, the Technical High School seemed an interesting choice. That path took him first to Architecture studies, which led him to travel to Japan. Later he got involved in computer applications and programming, which then became his career.
In 1986, Arttu started practicing Aikido. He pursued Aikido for over 20 years, in his most active years 2-3 hours a day, including giving classes. In addition to Aikido, he practiced other soft martial arts like Iaido, Kyudo and Taichi. Today he considers these 20 years to have been very useful preparatory step for Argentine tango. "Practicing Aikido", he says, "I learned to feel and lead the partner. The basic difference is that in Aikido you try make the partner fall, and in dance you try to keep her not falling". And in Taichi you learn the flow of energy, he explains.
Dancing — and Argentine tango in particular — came into Arttu´s life "by accident". In 2006 a friend at his workplace, who attended the dance school Tanssis, pursued Arttu to join in. The curriculum consisted of Finnish social dances, but incidentally a tango teacher, Miguel Angel Pla from Buenos Aires, was giving a weekend tango seminar. Arttu was fascinated, and decided to continue. The same summer he also enrolled for Dance Pedagogy studies at the Open University in Jyväskylä. The 1-year curriculum included Ballet, Contemporary dance, Folklore, Dance Therapy, and more. In Tampere, Arttu started to study and teach at the Tanssis dance school, and in 2010 he would eventually earn the Finnish Dance Teachers´ Association´s membership.
Let´s go back to the year 2006, when Arttu joined a group from the Tanssis dance school for a trip to Buenos Aires — again "by accident", because another person had cancelled his registration! "It was a nice experience", he recalls. He especially remembers the New Year´s party at a fountain near the Obelisco, and dancing in Gricel with a porteña [local, i.e. not tourist] milonguera, who told him: "You dance too fast!". Arttu´s next trip to Buenos Aires was in October of 2008 until January 2009. He started to take group and private classes at DNI, and had private practicas also with Carina. Arttu spoke no Spanish and Carina no English, so they did not communicate too much. Arttu also attended the classes of Oscar Casas at El Beso.
|A recent couple in 2010|
When Arttu in February 2010 returned for a 2-month visit, Carina had started to talk English, and they could now communicate. On one occasion, when Carina had two tickets to a jazz concert , Arttu offered to accompany her, and — as they both say with a laugh — the rest is history! Carina started to visit Tampere a few months at a time, and they began to give tango classes both in Tampere and in other locations. In 2013 they finally moved to live permanently in Tampere, and have become an important resource for the tango community both in Tampere and nationally.
|A framed flyer from their first joint teaching.|
Carina and Arttu are still making yearly 3-month trips to Buenos Aires. Carina works two months at DNI, and both of them enjoying classes by top artists, such as Mariano ´Chicho´ Frumboli & Juana Sepulveda, Joe Corbata & Lucila Conci, Gastón Torelli & Mariana Dragone and of course with Dana Frígoli & Adrián Ferreyra.
My partner and I had the pleasure of participating in one of the earliest classes that Arttu and Carina gave in Finland; a milonga-course in Huittinen, in 2011. Later, we have enjoyed their teaching at tango camps, festivals, and in individual seminars. From the very beginning, we have perceived them a very warm-hearted teachers.
So, I asked them: "What kind of teachers would you describe yourselves to be?" There was a brief pause, they looked at each other, and with a laughter they replied: "funny", "joking". In a more serious tone, they clarified that — first of all — they wanted the students to feel relaxed. "And if we can make them laugh, they will feel more at ease", I was explained. "We think that it is easier to learn in a gentle and warm atmosphere". Arttu and Carina strive to ´humanize´ both the students and the teachers: "We are not afraid of making mistakes. If we make a mistake, we say: do not do like this!"
Carina tells that she likes to work with the idea of "teaching by touching". She uses physical guiding of the student´s body, rather than verbal explanations, because she thinks that some sensations can be remembered by the body forever. Arttu works by defining the chains of connection "from the embrace to the tip of the toe", and uses "lots of words". In private classes, they both work a lot with bodily details, to make the student understand the mechanisms of the movements. During the last few years, they have required that the students dance in a close embrace from the very beginning. "This has made learning so much easier", they conclude.
Arttu and Carina´s tango home page.
Arttu and Carina prefer to teach groups of limited size (maximally about 15 couples), to ensure individual attention. For each class, they like to have a clearly defined topic, for example ´walking and abrazo´, or they may look into different aspects of a recent topic. One of the challenges for a tango teacher is to help the student to progress beyond the keskitaso (medium level), because many years of dancing will not, by itself, make you truly edistynyt (advanced level). However, "as a teacher you can only give the student a direction". The student has to develop his/her own dance. "We can give a lot of material and help with the physical side, but you have to explore and develop your dance, yourself!"
An exciting new aspect in their teaching is the inauguration of a new dance studio, which they are opening in collaboration with their friends and colleagues Pasi and Maria Laurén. It is situated in central Tampere, in a renovated factory, and will open during this autumn.
TANGO OUTFITS & GRAPHIC DESIGN
When you go upstairs to the second level of their home, you enter Carina´s creativity territory. In the hallway is a folding table for patterning and cutting fabrics, and in an adjacent room is her atelier. There is Carina´s desk, with a sewing machine and a computer, side by side. Although a professional graphic designer, in Finland she has not been doing any graphic projects — except for providing, as a voluntary hobby, the Tampere tango community Tango aMoroso with their advertising materials.
When our discussion turns to dressmaking, Carina hastens to humbly remark that she is "not a professional", and that sewing is "just her hobby". However, a closer interview reveals— at least in the mind of the interviewer — a level of experience no less than a "professional amateurship", the roots of which date back two generations. In her childhood Carina was taught both by her grandmother and her mother, who were used to provide their families with practically all the clothing needed. Carina sew and knit clothing for her dolls, and as a teenager she started to make outfits for herself. Even though much of a teenager´s garment had to be obtained otherwise, Carina "always made something for herself". When living in Paraná as student at the university, she did not have extra money to pay a dressmaker, so she started to make her own dresses for tango. Later she made dance performance garments for the local dance company. In Buenos Aires she was manager of the DNI Tango Store, and there she developed and designed products like clothes and shoes.
In 2013, soon after Arttu and Carina had settled in Tampere, their daughter Nina was born. Staying the first two years at home with the baby, Carina restarted her sewing hobby as a pastime activity, making clothes for Nina and for herself. "Ladies started to ask where my dresses were from, and asked me to make garments for them — and I made a few", she recollects. Little by little that grew to a collection, which she showcases on selected tango events. "I do not take private orders, with individual measures", she specifies. "I make my dresses in three sizes, the precise measures of which may vary a little". She stresses that a good fabric is essential, and acquires material from specific sources both in Finland and in Argentina. For herself to wear, she prefers non-shiny (´matta´) materials, in rather dark colours — green, black, blue, gray — and a concise (´pelkistetty´) design, but her collection is wider, as many dancers are inclined to more challenging looks. Carina is also providing dance shoes from DNI. She stresses that neither her garments nor shoes are available through internet, only on her expositions at tango events.