Interview | Mauricio Castro
Interview for Tangodanza (Germany), May 7th 2004 in Berlin

Mauricio Castro
First Published in Tangodanza 03/2004 (July)

E: How did you come to the dance?
M: Friends of mine were already dancing Tango when all these new generation people started to come back to the Tango. There were Milongas where you could see young people dancing, that's when I really started to dance.

E: When was that?
M: Tango for young people has come back in the 90s, that's when I really, really got into it. Of course, you could say, socially, Tango has formed my whole life. But that's when I really took it seriously, trained it and went to places every night.

I started learning little pieces from here and there. Coming from a music background, I played the guitar for a long time and went to Berklee to study music, - so when I got to the dancing, the first thing that shocked me, was, how this dance was organized. It actually surprised me, that some people, even good dancers, used such a disorganized system of practicing and comprehending. So I started to write down something for myself, never even thinking about publishing a book or anything similar. I wrote like 300-400 pages and started to show it to some friends of mine. They told me that it was awesome, but that probably the number people on the planet that could understand it was about. So they made me realize that I had to write the beginning of the whole thing. That's how Volume I came into being.

E: Have you been teaching Tango before you went to study music at Berklee College or did you start when you came back?
M: I never wanted to teach. I started because some of my friends, who were teaching already at La Galeria, were traveling every once in a while. At that time La Galeria was very busy, they didn't want to lose their teaching space. So they asked me to teach in their time, to keep that space. Then, little by little, I realized that the class I was giving was the most advanced class in Buenos Aires and I had all these promoters and teachers taking classes from me. People invited me to go to other cities - and I was not interested at all. That was until I wrote the first book. Then it occurred to me, that it would be a good promotion for the book to teach a little bit out of Argentina.

E: When was the book published?
M: The book was done in 1999, that's when I started to travel. I was already teaching in Bs As some years before.

E: Is there any dancer from the older generation that you really admire?
M: To be honest, not really. That's why I changed the method, that's why I do what I do. I would say that this is a truth for some artist, who are on a high level of creating dance: you're not satisfied with what you see around. You really have to create your own to satisfy yourself. Although of course there's a lot of interesting dance around. The only thing is, it doesn't really talk to me like it does to other people. It does not satisfy me. When you ask any dancer around in the privacy of his or her own party, "Do you like this or that dancer?", they tell you that they don't like anybody. If you go to some painters or sculptors and ask them which artist they really like and they wouldn't change anything at all on their work, they will tell you nobody. It's hard to generalize, though.

E: Do you have the feeling that some people from the older generation start to accept your teaching method? Or is it still mainly the young people?
M: I think is unfair to define the older generation as conservative and not liking to evolve. The tango tradition it does contain a very powerful rebellious attitude towards the dogmatic. So I would make a distinction between traditionalist and conservatives.

As far as I understand Argentine Tango tradition we are the most traditional group today.

If somebody tell you how you should dance, you can send them to hell!... (laughs).

These distinctions don't correlate with age.

I have students, a very few, of 80 years old and the rest manly from any age. Being traditional smart and open minded doesn't correlate with ages. And even among the young generation you can find traditionalist or conservative dancers. Let me give you an example out of 'Tango awareness': This kind of battle between the old and the young is just a subjective type of glasses, reality is a lot broader than just the way of seeing two generations. We have exercises to cure that... (laughs).

E: I read, you've studied contemporary dance techniques. Does that mean you took modern dance classes?
M: Yes, I do take them regularly. Modern Dance is the most systematic way to learn how to move. It's very pragmatic. There are other people in Tango that have studied a lot about movement. Basically in the past Tango was just a popular dance and there were just a few people that were trying to do whatever they could. Modern Dance is a very good source of information and we took some ideas out of it to generate exercises for improving the Tango, to understand it and to make it evolve to something a lot more efficient and pragmatic . At least as a system of learning and teaching. When we talk about Modern Dance: I took some ideas out of music theory as well, some out of NLP, right now I'm working with Feldenkrais-Techniques. 'Tango awareness' deals with all those different backgrounds, all together serving the purpose of learning Tango. All those backgrounds by themselves are of course not enough to learn the Tango. You can see very, very good Modern Dancers trying to dance Tango and they can't. We took the best of those activities and fused them into a new Tango system.

E: Is your system also open to other dance forms in the sense of fusing them into the Tango, thus creating new steps that don't belong to the traditional repertory?
M: That's just one way of seeing it. This has been happening from the beginning of history, even Modern Dance is a fusion of something else. These fantasize "original styles" don't exist in reality. People that danced 90 years ago were also criticized because they didn't dance the "real style". We have also a cure for that... (laughs)

E: ... in your new book?
M: This kind of thinking has a very high impact when you go to consume classes and you feel how all these narrow minded views are not what you're looking for. If you go to consume, you only get very narrow-minded towards what's going on. That's why I think, as far as teaching and learning is concerned, Tango Discovery is the key process to learn faster and better and to enjoy dancing ten times more than before.

E: So you think itís important to have an open mind?
M: Only if you want to enjoy life.

It's very, very hard to define what is a Tango step and what is not. Conservative dancers do create their own share realities and they transmit these share realities to someone else who propagates them. Some people really think that they are dancing the original thing. I don't think you enjoy something more because you think it's original. Those opinions just narrow peoples' minds. If glasses get very short sighted and very constrained, you stop having fun. The more of those definitions are, the less you can enjoy life itself. You're not gonna get exactly the step you think is a Tango step, but by the way you just invented at that moment. I go around the world and see people dancing and paying a lot of stress and attention towards being exactly in front of their partner and exactly square in front of their partner and dance like that the whole dance, as if that is being conservative. In March in Bs As there has been an event, called the "Milonguero's Night" and they videotaped more than 25 couples from 50 or so up. None of those dancers had that embrace. So I don't know how this conservative dancers are going to blind themselves to keep deleting this facts of reality.

On the other hand I'm not saying 'younger is smarter', if young people go to see something that someone told them was the original thing and it was not, and they can't enjoy that either... I think they are also wasting their time in an abstract battles. Once you understand that, your mind opens up and your awareness opens up as well, you can enjoy a lot more things, that's why you also can learn faster. The way I teach and learn is that dance technique is there to help you enjoy more movement.

E: What is "Tango Discovery" exactly: a label for a teaching method, but also for the business?
M: Yes, both. Actually "Tango discovery" is a method. It's not about pulling things in, but getting your blinds out of our heads. It's a step back to watch ourselves playing all these weird games on ourselves. That's the part on the awareness. Of course, a greater part of the audience that does enjoy this approach are young professionals or people that want to become professionals or some older people with very young minds, willing to explore their own nature. And anyone wanting to celebrate Argentine Tango tradition.

E: Would you say, that in this respect it's also a method to discover things about yourself, explore limits, to step over limits?
M: You are the complete creator of your own limits, fantasies and possibilities. Of course, there are also physical limits. Narrow-minded approaches to movement generate very unhappy people. An open-minded approach generates actually a lot better dancers.

E: Coming back to the NLP and Human Ecology.... What is that by the way?
M: Human Ecology is a school in Argentina. It is an evolution of the psychology Transaction Analysis movement. It talks, explains and trains students in the understanding of the mechanisms of our own bodies and minds. It is oriented to a developmental type of psychology.

Neuro Linguistic Programming it is the field of study that do takes care of teaching students on how to have fun with your own neurology. It is related to make you understand that we do create our own realities. It gives you tools to increase your sensitivity with respect to yourself and your surroundings.

That is why when somebody tell me that this is tango or this is not tango, it really makes me laugh and I can have a lot of fun while listening.

E: How do you integrate the NLP and other Human Sciences into your teaching?

The integration of human sciences into what I am doing is inevitable.

All the studies that I have done and the ones I'm still doing are training into clarifying broadening and manipulating my own senses. They are also to get rid off behavior that I don't like.

When you can read people also this way, you have a better understanding of what they are looking for when they came to class. So the process of satisfying their needs is fulfilled successfully.

Let me give you a very common example.

There are some teachers from around the world coming to class that they have been dancing for 1, 3, 6, 10 or 25 years.

We show a sequence that we do improvise it at the moment and these dancers can't do it.

As you can see it is not a matter of accumulating years of dancing, or repeating sequences forever, or anything similar. Dancers do get stuck on their own heads, it is not just movement.

So when I teach I use very specific language and exercises that are design so you will learn no matter what, of course if the dancer sticks with us for a while. They are exercises that do install great thinking moving and feelings simultaneously in YOU. Now when this is part of your functioning, faster learning process takes place.

E: What's power improvisation? Improvisation on the Tango or rather a general dance improvisation?
M: Power Improvisation is a new dance, that I have created in the late 90's.

It's a mixture of Tango Discovery and other dances like Contact Improvisation and the use of elements like chairs and columns. It can be improvisations with any number of people simultaneously. It's a very different way to relate to your partner. It contains everything you can imagine from the Tango Discovery perspective. When you're dancing with your partner in your back and you want a gancho for example, you realize very quick that you can't muscle your partner around like in regular tango. When you want to dance to Chick Corea music, which is ten times faster than any Tango, you will realize that you can not push and pull your partner around, it's too slow. Those two aspects of this very, very complex dance made us create very different ways of communicating with the partner. This new way of communicating is what we have applied to Argentine Tango. We do have some practicas and classes in Argentina and Canada. The teachers that are interested in this system have done a lot of dancing and know all the Tango sequences back and forth - and they were bored with them, they were looking for freedom... We have found a new way to evolve the scale and to have fun with a new form of dancing.

E: Future Plans with Tango Discovery?
M: Concerning the books: The 3rd one is going to be out this year and is about Tango awareness. The 4th one is going to be about music and Power Improvisation.

Right now I'm finishing the third book and I'm also doing a series of DVD's this year for training, what does communicating with your partner mean, how to use the exercises in the books.

In November we are doing in Buenos Aires de first most complete tango training ever.

In December we're doing the first Tango discovery Innovation Week" in Europe, in Cologne. For next year we're planning more Intensive Workshops, there's a show in progress about Power Improvisation, that does contain a lot of avantgarde techniques, from sound processing to striking light systems which generate movements. That's another big chapter.

There is plenty of information at:

E: What would be your message for the tango dancers that are reading this interview?
M: There's a sentence in my new book that somebody has told me some time ago: "You might as well be yourself, because everybody else is taken..."

Voor meer informatie over Mauricio Castro en Tango Discovery: kijk op
Alle rechten voorbehouden Cuartito Azul, Rotterdam. Tel (010) 452 73 77
Terug naar boven