ARGENTINIAN TANGO WITH A GERMAN SOUL
She is German, he is Argentinian, they are wife and husband and one of the best known Tango couples in the world. They started dancing together in 2002 in a show Orestes – Last Tango created in co-production with the WMTF Festival of Holland (coreography by Oscar Araiz), it was their first huge success. Since then they never left each other. Their carreer is incredible as is their love, full of sacrificies and strong emotions. In 2007 they reopened the renowned tango theater Café de los Angelitos in Buenos Aires. In 2010 they also became artistic directors at the Viejo Almacén and 2011 in Aqui Folklore. Since 2012 they are on tour with their company El Sonido de mi Tierra – VIDA! ARGENTINO. They went on tours through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Germany, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland as well as Great Britain and Canada.
Nicole Nau abandoned everything she had to become a Tango dancer – her graphic designer work and her homeland. In the 90s she moved to Argentina to study tango. Very soon she had her first apparences in Café Homero and in Teatro Colòn. In co-operation with Luis Pereyra she produced El Sonido de mi Tierra, Bailando en Soledad, Secretos de la Danza, El Color de mi Baile and Tango Puro Argentino y Mas. She does the costume design for several Tango Argentino and Folklore Argentino productions and in 2013 published her book “Tanze Tango mit dem Leben”, Bastei Verlag Lübbe at Frankfurt Buchmesse. In Buenos Aires she is still known with the affectionate nickname of la flaca, the skinny, referring to her long-limbed body, different from the soft typical of Argentinian woman. The greatest recognition also came from the former president of Argentina, Carlos Saùl Menem, a great lover of tango, who defined her simply as “the best”.
Luis Pereyra, has dance in his blood. At the early age of five he danced in folk groups. At the age of eleven he made his first professional appearance as a member of the Ballet Argentino directed by Mario Machaco and Norma Ré. He took studies with such renowned maestros as Santiago Ayala El Chúcaro, Hugo Jiménez, Mario Machaco, Héctor Zaraspe, Irene Acosta, Ana Marini, Wasil Tupin and Mercedes Serrano. His professional education includes modern dance, classical ballet, jazz dance, folklore and tap dance. He also studied music. In the course of his career he danced on important stages such as Gershwin Theater on Broadway, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Aldwych Theatre in London´s West End, Cologne Philharmonie, Alte Oper in Frankfurt am Main and Deutsches Theater München in Munich. In 1994 he danced for Paramount Pictures, presented by Al Pacino. In 1995 he danced in the Castro Theater in San Francisco on stage with Robin Williams and Peter Coyote.
For JL INTERVIEWS magazine, both dancers with a great openess they talked about their successes, music preferences, love for tango and they married everyday life. “I really gave everything, let everything go, just to become a dancer”, said Nicole. “My biggest success is painting music using my body”, said Luis. It’s beautiful how they interpret tango. For them, on the one hand, this fascinating dance is a strong moment when the woman and man feel free and attractive and, on the other hand, tango is a second language for the citizens of Buenos Aires. Masters Nau and Pereyra will go back with a new tour in 2019. In the mean time they continue to present worldwide a very intimate show Tanze Tango mit dem leben. Dance Tango with life and of course, if someone is interested, they accept learners, but they don’t consider themselves teachers. As they said with a smile, they don’t teach steps, they teach pure dancing.
You, Nicole, are German and Luis, is Argentinian. You are a very special couple, not only on the dance floor. Could you describe your first meeting? What were the beginnings of your dancing together?
NN: Our first meeting was very special to me. It was in the year 1986 that I was at the Show Tango Argentino (Segovia/Orrezzolli) when I saw Luis fort the first time. His appereance on stage was very intensive. Just standing there for one second, the audiance was fascinated. Luis is very male and sensitive at the same time. In his soul there his ancestors are still living, such as the indian people, the diaguitas. You see this in his calm, his proud way of moving with strong intuition. In this meeting I was the one who saw him: moving, dancing and floating. His way of dancing is very pure. His feet move like instruments to a score. His body is just music, no decoration, nothing that could disturb his pure art. To see this is very strong, impacting directely in your soul. That made me fall in love with him. But we did not meet. For me, at that time, Luis Pereyra was like Michael Jackson, you do not even think you could possibly meet this person. But then, when I decided to go to Argentina, to get an education as professional dancer, I met him again. Our paths crossed, again and again. In 2000 I was searching for a solist for the opera I coproduced with some Dutch people. We needed somebody to sing the aria of a dead person. And there I had the idea, that it would be marvellous, that in stead of singing, the dead person could dance. A kind of mute being. This was a great moment. Carlos the opera Singer singing a strong aria, and Luis dancing with his feet, tapping our zapateo. Luis was the only person who could really give life to this role. So strong and pure. This was the moment, when I really met Luis fort he first time, and this was, when I knew that I have been in love with him since I first saw him. We started dancing together much later. First we fell in love. And we wanted to form a family, but our work separated us a whole year. Him touring in Japan, me in Rome, him in Ecuador, me in Argentina, him in Argentina, me in Germany. So we decided to dance together. It was not easy, becaus we had a very different education. His was so much more far reaching. I only studied what I needed to be a Tango Dancer. That was really not enough to dance with him. I had to study all over again.
According to La Stampa, a famous Italian newspaper, you are the best Tango dancer ever. Congratulations! Please explain how it happen that you learned this dance so well!
NN: It is very difficult to explain, for what reason an artist becomes an artist. I suppose on the one hand, there is my great dedication to this culture. I really gave everything, let everything go, just to become a dancer. I have been a very successful graphic designer in my life before, but dancing, something else happened. I just had to do it. Then, of course, all the discipline. Study, fall, get up, fall again, and always get up again. Your body hurts, you are not happy, when things go wrong, but you have to go on! The other part, which has been really important to me, to become an excellent artist has been my meeting with Luis. Luis never goes acording fashion, his way is to work deep in the earth, finding the root, the essence of everything. His art is very entertaining, but never light, never smalltalk. So he works according to how it must be. Dance has concepts, stage has concepts. It is not just doing „something“ . Further on I think, God gives you the gift to be an artist, or not. There are people painting their whole life, never becoming Picasso.
Luis, and how about your story? You, Argentinian, must have grown up with Tango, I imagine it is in your blood, or is there something more behind it?
I did not grow up with Tango, I grew up listening the music of 22 provinces of Argentina: Milongas Sureñas, Zambas, Chacareras, Paso Doble, Chamame, Cuecas, Escondidos, Gatos, and much more. I only saw Tango on TV on Wednesdays, at my parents’ house, but I did not grow up with Tango. I came in touch with Tango, when at the age of 10, I interpreted a Tango for the first time. But this was part of my work as a dancer of a Ballet of Folklore. When I really dedicated my work to Tango Argentino, it was in the 80s, there was no more work for us, the Ballett of Folklore, and the most famous show of Tango in history, after Gardel and Piazzolla named Tango Argentino, de Héctor Orezzoli y Claudio Segovia. I listened to Tango Argentino, since I was 17.
Do you also listen (for pleasure), inTango music, to artists such as electronic tango Bajofondo or unconventional Astor Piazzola?
NN: I like listening to tango very much, but not in private. Privately I need to nourish my inspiration. And this I can do much better by listening to greater sensations. But in fact, to dance a Tango, we listen to it 20 thousand times. Really. The first times you listen to the tango you feel the melody, the poetry, the music. And later you discover the whole structure, and it becomes as though you were sitting there listening and seeing them playing live. Then you can start to work on your choreography. What always remains important, that we dance as tango was invented. In a culture of strong definition of men and women, led by men. Luis is leading all the choreography, because he has to manage these 4 feet to dialog. I dance his lead. Bajofondo form is too light, to chilled out. Very beautiful, but I do not find my rebellion in it. As black people move to the blues, our moove to Tango.
LP: Tango is Tango, and when somebody names it tango electrónico and say it is Argentine, it only confuses things. It is a falshood, it is destroying culture, and the Tango argentino does not deserve this. Piazzolla is nothing convencional, Piazzolla gave music of tango to his city, Buenos Aires, anybody who listens to Piazzolla’s music all over the word will say this music is Buenos Aires, it is Tango. Piazzolla is Tango, as Troilo is Tango, Pugliese Fresedo, but as many milongueros and journalists bored and without investigating or studying music, they destroy Piazzolla in his own country. But now Piazzolla’s Tango is studied in the Mozarteun of Salzburg and many other places all over the world, as Tango Argentino. I do not listen to Tango for pleasure, I listen to it to find a repertoire for our performances and shows. I listen music of all my Argentina to heal my artistic soul. I respect the Argentina tango very much, and I take care to keep its roots intact. Which have been greatly destroyed over the years.
Jorge Luois Borges said: “The tango is a direct expression of something that poets have often tried to state in words: the belief that a fight may be a celebration.” Would you add something to it? How do you feel about tango?
NN: I feel tango as a very strong moment, being all my female being, to be a woman is something very strong, when you really fullfil your role. Of course, when we try to be „like men“ and try to make men more similar to us, all this magic is gone. For this, I think it is very important that roles remain how they are, and the woman be strong as woman. That is fascinating, that is possible in Tango.
LP: To add something to what Borges said in respect to tango, would be lacking of respect. Borges wrote marvellous and absolute things about tango. He never wrote cliches, but instead described the men and women of his time. As nobody else could. I agree with Borges, poets tried to write, even today, but never can define what a folk invented, what people of a country made, something simple, something which has no owner, and more than this, no Argentine person knows the meaning of the expression tango. Knowing it, it would be easier. I feel a total freedom when I dance Tango, it is a dance invented by a folk, by a people, it gives me the freedom to dance freely. The definition of dance is time, space, and movement. The Tango is a another language of the citizens of Buenos Aires. The language of the people of the main city, not the language of the people in the land, the provinces. Tango is the banner of vanguardism which the Argentine culture has all over the world. I say in the world, because in its own country it is not like this. There the banner is folk music. El Folklore. Tango is the folklore of the city. So Tango is the brother of other sisters and brothers that Argentina has, as there are more than 200 diferent dances.
What do you consider as your greatest success?
NN: My biggest success is having achieved that my body can paint music. That people seeing me dancing, do not see that I am German. Being accepted by the Argentine people. My unfulfilled dream: just being an artist, not to have to take care about other things. The biggest success in life: to have touched real love. Love that does not need that the other do something for you. I know, that not every person finds this gift, to be touched by real love. I found it at the age of 38. When I met Luis. I think, many people live, as I did until the age of 38, without ever feeling this, only feeling the nostalgia, as something they do not know is missing. And privatly the biggest unfilled dream: we tried to have familiy, bus we lost 3 babies. This is something which we never get back.
LP: That I am still working and dancing, since I was 43, I am now 53, working with what I love and like, it is the biggest success I had in my dance life, this banner wich let me travel and gave me the possibility of showing all the other dances my country has. I feel that I have been and I am vanguardist in doing things, opening ways, until today others, collegues of my own country, copy my work. I can prove this, you can serach in my history, and you will see, I say the truth. I never had dreams, I learned to live with reality. Reality is may way, always with thorns, with difficulties, but the public and Nicole’s dance are healing my injures, what else can an artist, a man, ask in his life? My first dance with Nicole was very complicated. Because Nicole has learned first with Argentine teachers, which I tried to keep far away of my life. Because they are bad teachers, and very bad dancers. But Nicole came willing to learn, and very immediately she understood the dance, the pure one itself, and everything became easy. Today dancing with Nicole is a pleasure, any dancer – even bad dancers with bad conditions, will seem good dancers when they dance with Nicole. Nicole reached, what no female dancer has reached in the history of Argentine populare dance, to dance Tango well and many other Argentine dances, and being recognized for this here in Argentina and the world.
Now you are a very famous Tango couple. Where can we see you next? Do you organize courses of Tango in Argentina or abroad?
NN: We have some shows on tour regulary. Our main one is named Vida, Tango Argentino, with a brilliant company. It has performed very successfully in the Folies Bergére this year. We will go back on tour in 2019. The intime one, is named afer my book: Tanze Tango mit dem leben. Dance Tango with life. Just Luis and me, very personal, singing, dancing, playing instruments and talking about the secrets of Tango, secrets in our country, secrets of our life as artists. This show goes on Tour in 2018. During the year of course, we also accept learners. But we are not teachers. We are artists sharing our culture with other people. I feel, they learn more and faster, because we do not teach „steps“ but real pure dancing.
Interview by Joanna Longawa
Photos by Brando, Klaus Schultes and Zara Gayk