Javier Rodriguez

Maestro Javier Rodriguez has been visiting Korea to teach and perform tango every year since 2007. 
We talked to him about how tango in Korea has changed in the past 8 years, and about the philosophy of his dance.

"You have already been to Korea for 10 times or more. What do you remember from your first visit?"

During the first visit there was a day I cannot forget.  Andrea and I had talked about that day many times. On that day our organizer Florencia came to me with an innocent face and asked me if I could dance with the people.  And I said, "No". When Florencia told me if I did not dance with the people they would be disappointed, I realized something important.  I realized although I had known Florencia for quite some time, and she had been to Buenos Aires and taken many classes from me, she was still very innocent in tango. I also realized  what she and her friends needed was not technique or steps.  So Andrea and I made an impromptu practica and taught people about cabeceo and milonga etiquette. Before that we never talked about tango culture or etiquette in any of our classes.  I think that day is very important. It marked the beginning of changes in tango in Korea.

"How would you compare the tango in Korea now to that day?"

Koreans dance well.  But I don't think it is a creation of Andrea and me. I think what happened was in the beginning there were about half a dozen young Asian men who liked to visit Korea, and for some reason they had developed quickly into good milongueros who understood the tango culture. This was like a premonition of something bigger to come. Then Korean men started to dance well, and Korean women also became very good dancers. So foreign women liked to visit Korea to dance with Korean men, and the presence of foreign women further encouraged Korean men to dance well.  This is like a chain reaction.

"How is tango in other countries?"

As I mentioned above, on that day in Korea, the men were making one line and the women were making another line to wait to dance with me and Andrea. And we said, "No!". Instead we tried to improve the situation. After that day, tango in Asia changed. At the same time in Europe, tango nuevo started.  At the time Europeans had already been dancing for 15, 20 years, so they knew a lot of steps and technique. So there was this confusion with traditional tango, tango nuevo, tango abrazo, tango open, ....  They started tango festivals and tango marathons, which attracted many people to dance tango together. But the tango was filled with confusion and stress.  When they danced they were not sure what they wanted. But I think for tango, all these situations are positive.  Even for now things are negative, later positive things will follow.  Many people say tango nuevo is negative, but tango nuevo brought many people into tango and it made them love tango. The Mundial of Tango is the same.  Many people worried about the mundial, but because of the mundial many young people started dancing.  Because the energy of tango is circular, at the end things become positive.

"When you dance what is the most important thing for you?"

Feeling. The things I feel. Before I perform I prepare myself by ironing my costumes and listening to music. I do them so as to enter a different dimension of consciousness.  The preparation is like a religious ceremony or a ritual. Sometimes I worry I cannot go to this dimension. Before I go I am empty. There is no color and I am transparent. And in one instance the dimension switches.

"When you say going to a different dimension, do you go there with your partner?"

With Geraldine and Andrea often they go to this dimension first and invite me. It is because they listen to the music and react emotionally first.  If the woman does not go there first, I can invite her but I cannot be responsible for her getting there.  If one person is already there, usually something will happen because the two people's energy will stimulate each other and naturally both people will go together. This does not happen only in performance, but also in the milonga. People who dance tango are different because they are sensitive to these things. There are personal differences, and body condition may vary from day to day, but people who dance tango understand what it means to enter a different dimension. It  can be turned on and off and practice is necessary.

"Nowadays there are many tango professionals in Asia.  What do you think about their performance?"

I think they practice too much. Some people dance choreography. Choreography is not bad, sometimes we need choreography. The group of people in Asia who work for tango are working for traditional tango, and traditional tango is based on improvisation. But their performance is too precise, too accurate, and too perfect. It is too mechanical and not how human naturally dance. I want to see one Asian couple who stops time and air when they dance.  I want to see them dance without fancy steps, even with no patterns, using only energy but being able to take people's breadth away.

"You had danced with two of the best women in the world. How have they influenced your dance?"

Geraldine created my dance. She hand-made my tango for herself. I do not mean she taught me how to dance, but we made the dance together. Then Andrea confirmed the tango I had. One of them came into my life and created something.  After she left, another woman came and told me, "that's right, that's it, what you are doing is good!"  It was nice that Andrea came and confirmed what I did. It proved that what Geraldine created in me was based on love, not selfishness. If it were based on selfishness then I could not share this with other women. My dance have a lot of such memories from the two of them.

"What is the worst memory in your tango life?"

The worst memory of my tango life was when I broke up with Geraldine.  I was very sad. She was my lover and my partner, it was a complex relationship. And the worst memory of my life is when Andrea passed away. Andrea was my dance partner, but she also married my cousin and became my family. When you lose your family it has a big impact on your life.

"And what is the best memory of your tango life?"

The best memory is still the things I did with those two women. All the memories with them are the best memory. And also we started and grew many tango communities in the world together.

"For the last question, many people are curious when you are going to find a new partner. What plan do you have?"

People are curious about things that they will never know. I have no idea about a new partner either (laugh).

October 11th, 2015
Interview by Florencia Han
Translated by Leonel Chen