10 Question Interview with Sandra & Santiago Monticelli (Full version)

1   Tell us about the first time you came to dance in the UK. What were your thoughts?This is a very simple question but we cannot answer to it in a simple way….In fact, our relationship to this Country and especially to London has a long story. Sandra had spent some time in London when she was a young girl and has always loved studying English. We came here together for the first time in 2006, when Santiago had a part in the show “Romace d’Carnaval” of the Art Latino Company, which included as well some teaching and choreographing. In that opportunity, not only we discovered the lively London tango scene but we had the fabulous opportunity of stepping on the stage of the BBC’s show Strictly Come Dancing, in which Santiago was featured with Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace. Some years later, we would meet them again, but at that time we did not suspect that we were going to move to the UK! Back to Buenos Aires, we kept on performing, teaching and running our tango studio, where we welcomed a lot of tourists, many of them from England. We hoped to be able to go back to London soon, and in 2009,  thanks to the cooperation of Oscar and Sofia, we organised  two successful tours in which we met a lot of lovely people. Some of them are our best friends today. We felt so comfortable and “at home” that we decided to come to live here in 2010…right when Vincent and Flavia were looking for some professional dancers for the show Midnight Tango! We spent the first year touring the UK and getting to know the country from North to South. What a glorious welcome! We could not ask for more.
2 How did you two meet?I had lived in Buenos Aires for two years, perfecting my tango dance and I was sharing my flat with the niece of the famous dancer “El Flaco Dany”. One day, my flat mate told me that she had a short term contract to perform in the theatrical   dinner show “Piazzolla Tango” thanks to  a “very serious, experienced, (and good looking!! ) male professional dancer  who was looking for a partner”. When she mentioned his name, Santiago Monticelli,  it sounded like music to me! During the rehearsals, she would tell him about her   “interesting and beautiful Italian flat mate”… to make a long story short…we started to like each other long before we met! Eventually, we met, and it was love at first sight! Our common passion for art, politics, dance, philosophy, tango, literature, cinema and travelling have been and are the fuel of our love.
3 What made you take up tango?Santiago: I feel tango as a part of me, not only as a dance and a music style, but as a cultural universe in which I grew up: Buenos Aires, with its peculiar lifestyle, its language ,   its    blues, its characters… The word “tango” evoke my  childhood, my friends, and of course this wonderful music, which is unique in the world. To walk to the tango music, for me,  feels like walking in the street of my neighbourhood. In particular, it is the tango embrace that makes it so special to me.Sandra: I took my first tango steps when a was a child, with my mum, who loved to dance it with my father. When I grew up, my interest for Argentina deepened because of my political opinions and the study of its history, in particular of the infamous decade of the dictatorship. I felt a strong attraction to this country under many aspects. Tango is not just a dance  and music genre to me, it is the refined artistic  and intellectual  expression of a society that started to take form at the   end of the 19th century and lived its golden age between 1940 and 1960. I am fond of art in all its expressions and especially dance. I trained in different styles before having the possibility of studying Argentine tango, with its sensual and flashy moves. I knew that, in order to become a professional tango dancer, I had to move to Argentina. That is what I did.
4 What’s been the highlight of your dancing career so far?Santiago: After many years, it is difficult to choose just one or two important events, because every stage of one’s artistic career has its own highlight. What I certainly make treasure of in my long experience, is that I had the chance to dance accompanied by excellent musicians such as Carlos Lazari and Ernesto Franco (Bandoneonists, D’Arienzo Orchestra), Fernando and Mario Marzan, Jose’  Colangelo (Pianists), Director Dragone (Francisco Canaro Orchestra), Daniel Ruggero, Carlitos Rulfi (Bandoneonists) and many others. Mmmhh and as well…Tango x2 and Tango Emocion were not a minor achievement though….Sandra: I agree with Santiago, but I think he will share my feelings if I mention the lovely  and inspiring time we spent working at the theatrical dinner show “Esquina Homero Manzi”, back in 2008, directed by the renowned  dancer Gachi Fernandez.  He would partner her on the stage, while I was Assistant director. The cast of musician and dancers was superb and some of them are still close friends today. We shared a lot, on and off the stage. I can’t t think about it without feeling a bit nostalgic….
5 And what’s been your most embarrassment moment?It was very funny and unexpected what happened one evening in which we were  about to perform in a private party.We take or positions on the dance floor with our best solemn attitude, the music starts, we move towards each other and embrace dramatically, ready to perform our best choreography when Santiago freezes and whisper to my ear: What comes next? Blank! My silence led us into a fabulous improvisation which received a hearty applause, but we must admit that the song had never sounded so long to us!
6 You are both very popular teachers. Can you describe your approach to teaching?We teach traditional tango which is the root from where all the more recent styles of tango have originated.Our teaching method is based on our extensive experience as teachers and performers in Buenos Aires and all over the world (check out the CV). We focus on the technique, the musicality, the connection and the elegance in every step. More specifically,we teach our students how to lead and follow in the improvisation, becausewe believe that tango is much more that just a batch of sequences.

 

7 A lot of the music you play at milongas is not really main stream tango salon. What would you say is your DJ style?Before answering your question I have to point out that the music played in the milongas in Buenos Aires is called traditional tango. Tango salon is the definition of a style of dance. Without sequences and with the feet strictly caressing the floor. At our milongas, we play mainly traditional orchestras. As for the tango nuevo tandas, they amount to 3 or 4 in the whole evening. Our choice of music aims at pleasing everybody’s tastes. We listen to our tangueros requests because the most important thing for us is that everybody spends a pleasant evening in a friendly atmosphere.A common feedback is that in traditional tango evening, the “nuevo” tandas are appreciated to “relax” and dance to a rhythm that is more familiar than the old tango orchestras.And I have to add that traditionally, in the golden age of tango in Buenos Aires, you would have two orchestras alternating on the stage: a tango and a jazz one. Later on, when they started to use recorded music, and still in the 90ies, at the milonga you would dance to other rhythms such as fox trot, paso doble, rock ‘n roll and traditional cumbia.   
8 What’s your favourite tango band/composer?It is difficult to choose because every orchestra has something peculiar to listen and dance to, but the ones that  really thrill us are: Juan D’Arienzo, Osvaldo Pugliese and Pedro Laurenz.
9 How do you keep fit? Do you do yoga?Sandra: We do a lot of training every day in our own rehearsal room,including yoga and stretching. Plus, I take regular dance lessons (ballet, jazz).Santiago: A part from training with Sandra,  I regularly train martial arts at a high performance level.
10 Tell us a secret about yourselves!We keep it for the next interview 🙂