"Tertulia #1" (conversations) with Makela - How did all this start? Get to know her philosophy and experience on tango -

Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at Makela Tango Dance Studio in Culver City

Part 1 of Makela interviewed by student, Steven G. How all of this started…

Steven: Why did you want to start learning Tango? Have the reasons for dancing and studying changed?

Makela: I studied when I was a little girl doing ballet dance and modern dance at the National School of Ballet in Buenos Aires and it was kind of an accident. I really wanted to be an actress, and my mom put me in ballet school. That year my grandfather had died and he was a musician, he was a pianist and  my mom felt bad that none of us did anything artistic so she put me in ballet school. I wasn’t really sure about it but I said, “why not?” And the school was very, very intense. After regular school I would go dance 1-6pm, get home at 7pm and then do my regular school homework. But I loved it, I had great friends and we generally had live pianists. Many times they would play particularly tango for the class. I remember one pianist, her name was Iris, she had huge white hair and beautiful blue eyes and fake eye lashes and big eyeliner and pink lipstick, she was a character, right, and she would always play “Adios Nonino” by Astor Piazolla. That was my favorite part of the ballet class. All those years we did many performances and many were Tango based. Modern dance, ballet…and that was the first introduction to Tango but I didn’t really learn it. It was when I moved to the United States that I felt a nostalgia, really missing it, crying every time I heard it, that I decided to really give Tango a chance.  I went back to Buenos Aires and just danced and danced and danced. It was not only a need, but a must.

 S: What do you mean, like you felt like you had to do it?

 M: They always say cheesy things like you don’t choose Tango, Tango chooses you, but it was true, I felt totally that and thank God it was pretty easy for me. So even though I always wanted to be an actress, I kept dancing and dancing and that was the way I expressed my artistic need. And it changed when I started to teaching.   I never wanted to teach Tango, I just wanted to perform and I knew it would be difficult to do both, but when I started teaching I realized little by little how Tango would impact the lives of people. People change their posture, how they see themselves, how they connect with touch…and I became really intrigued and honored to be in that role for people. That’s what mainly inspires me now.

 S: Finding an identity as a teacher and how to share what you’ve experienced as a performer?

 M: Right, yes they are very different. And I always think the moment you stop studying is the moment you stop living basically. I always try to go back to Buenos Aires and talk to colleagues, practice, ask questions, read, and listen…Tango is such a huge array of things, the music, the history, culture, the relationship between a lead and follow, gender issues, so many things. It’s fascinating and I love it.

 S: Is there anything in your practice you are currently focused on now?

 M: I am focused a lot on the studio now, building this studio, but there is one thing in particular which is being open to other people’s point of view. When you are dancing, you as a follow you have to be totally open to what this person is bringing to your reality.  And in every case I want to learn something. Even if I don’t like it, I can learn something. You have to be open and ready and I think working on building the studio is reminding me to be open. In order to keep a studio I have to allow other points of view and not only my specific view of how to run a studio.  It’s much easier to say no to something that is unfamiliar but I need to be open. Also, being open to students. There could be someone who really wants to learn and is avid, training every day, and I also want to be open to students who just want to have fun and socialize, and that is an expansion and totally okay.

 S: That’s tough to do both it seems to me. But I definitely feel you succeed…in the classes there is so much attention to the dance and learning that everyone gets swept up in the learning.

 M: Yes, that’s what is should be.

 S: That brings me to another question, about the relationship between student and teacher. You talked about ways of communication between the student and teacher. Can you speak more about that? 

 M: I cannot superimpose my goals. Many times people say “tell me what to do.”-- and this makes me feel so humble and privileged. And I really have to follow what their interest is. For you or for another student it means something totally different. Some people find their path by being a DJ.  Some people find their calling by going to shows. Some people find their call by going to Buenos Aires with me and getting embedded in the culture. I want to help them find their goals and not superimpose what they should be. That’s the most important thing. My grandfather, the pianist, Luis La Via would always say, that the best teacher is the one that becomes unnecessary. Gradually unnecessary. And the students loved him. He was not only a teacher of piano but also of life. He was really fun, super loving and generous. And funny. And a smoker. That’s what I think the role of a teacher is, to really understand the student’s goals and help guide them.