I remembered reading this interview with Maria Nievas a while ago, and dug it out again last night. Maria Nievas, lying about her age, first went to milongas when she was 12, and when she was 14 she started to dance with a young Juan Carlos Copes, who she danced with for many years, in Paris and on Broadway, and around the world. Here she is, interviewed by Silvia Rojas:
“I learned by watching, girl, nobody taught me,” she starts to tell, this living legend of the milonga and stage tango…
- So, what do you think of the schools?
- I’m against the schools. Absolutely! It’s a con. Nobody’s the owner of the truth in tango. I always tell them when I give a lesson: there’s no better teacher than to go to the milonga! Wear out shoes, get kicked and have your feet stepped on, and do the same yourself. It’s true, girl!”
I listened to a recent programme on jazz trumpeter Booker Little, who died aged 23 in 1961. He was one of the first generation to learn to play jazz in school, whereas his peers had learned on the job. I was struck by his observation that learning jazz in school led to an over-reliance on technique, a tendency he had to struggle against. & I wonder about the tango academies of present-day Buenos Aires. I can't help imagining a syllabus: third semester, major in Estilo Milonguero with a minor in Villa Urquiza... (PS. I hope I'm being unfairly cynical.)