Argentine Tango - Koichiro Suzuki and Yulia Zhukoff

Samantha StoutJuly 14, 2021Ballroom Chat: Episode #52
koichiro suzuki and yulia zhukoff ballroom chat

Koichiro Suzuki and Yulia Zhukoffsit down and talk about their love of music, the history of Tango and why the connection and embrace of Argentine Tango is so unique, compared to other dance styles.

Koichiro Suzuki and Yulia Zhukoff are professional Argentine Tango instructors that travel extensively across the U.S. sharing their love of tango and music. They are also the owners of the Pittsburgh Tango Connection.

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Episode Transcript

Samantha: Welcome back to Ballroom Chat, the podcast dedicated to sharing the dance journey. I'm your host, Samantha with Love Live Dance. Today I'm joined by Koichiro Suzuki and Yulia Zhukoff. They are professional Argentine Tango instructors that travel extensively across the U S sharing their love of tango and music. They're also the owners of the Pittsburgh Tango Connection. And I had the pleasure of meeting and working with them while I was in Pittsburgh at Absolute Ballroom. Today, we got a chance to sit down and talk about their love of music, the history of Tango and why the connection and embrace of Argentine Tango is so unique, compared to other dance styles.

So please enjoy my conversation with Koichiro and Yulia. Well, thank you both for being guests on today's podcast.

Yulia: Excited to be part of it.

Samantha: So, um, I like to start off with the same question for every single guest and, and you guys can kind of decide who wants to go first. Um, but how did you get into dancing specifically in Argentine, Tango? And what is your dance journey been thus far?

Yulia: You start

Koichiro: I start, ok. I took Argentine Tango class, one of the electives in college. I went to school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They offer like many types of dancing. Uh, of course, ballroom there's ballroom, salsa dancing, and there's a tango. So I signed up for like first semester I signed up for the ballroom and that was it, that was fun. And I said, okay.

I was just going to keep, uh, Like dancing, just learn dancing. So I was going to sign up, actually salsa, and it was full. Already booked. So I said, okay, what's next? It was Tango. Okay. And sign up for tango. And that was it for me. Yeah. First class, I walked in. Music and instruction and everything, I though, okay. This is going to be my. First class, I knew this is going to be my dance, like forever. So then I kept dancing, learning. And then yeah,

Yulia: then Chewy moved to Pittsburgh for grad school and he already had, uh, he hasn't been dancing many years, but, um, he became kind of a teacher's assistant very quick and helping.

And his passion kind of drove him into the classes that, um, he got a lot of knowledge, not just dancing, but also teaching side, which are two different things. And not everyone knows both. And, uh, he moved to Pittsburgh and he started the, uh, be part of the dance scene. And me and Chewy actually met in college. So when he was in grad school, I was in undergrad and, um, we were just dating. So there was, I never danced in my life. Never. I played music, never danced, and he would go out dancing whenever they had their social nights. And, um, he will dress up. Iron his shirts, looked very nice and he'll come back at two in the morning. Vey shaggy, lot of perfume. And I found a lipstick on his collar one time and I was just went very jealous, because I've never danced before. There's some sort of tango dancing and he comes back and he doesn't look the way he went for the dance. And I said, you know what, take me to you a tango. So I know what it looks like. And he brought me to one of those social dances and Chewy was very serious. He was like, you cannot go without shoes. So you need to get a dance shoes. I'm like, I don't even know how to dance. And I'm not really know if I want to dance, but he was very dedicated. And so I got a pair of shoes. We went dancing and he politely moved me around the dance floor and I sat down and I started watching.

I started watching the dancers and I started watching their feet, you know, with tango, you always look at the feet, but what captivated me, the music. That 1930s, 1940s music, it didn't sound old. It just sounded, kind of connected with me. And I could sit, I realized I could sit one, two hours without moving and not be bored. And that's what captivated me. And then Chewy said that as he has some teaching background, at that point, he wanted to start and bring new, fresh blood into the community and kind of give a new start and I said, you know what? I don't know anything about dance. Let's do it. So he wasn't the driver of this. And I helped out. And then the realize the students are looking up at the assistant and I'm like Oh! I have to learn how to dance really well. And, um, we worked really hard and, um, that's, that's it. And that's how we kept going for over 12 years, who had been teaching in Pittsburgh together, became founders of PGH Tango Connection. And go to Argentina with our students and, um, just continue learning and share our knowledge with the students.

Samantha: Yeah, that's amazing. Um, So a lot that I want to dive into, I want to kind of start by grounding our listeners because it is a primarily ballroom audience that this podcast caters to, um, about the Argentine tango style and what makes it different and similar to American tango or international tango that we're a little bit more familiar with. So if you had to describe the Argentine style to someone that has never seen tango danced before, how would you describe that?

Yulia: So for us Argentine, tango has, is a dance, that's all based on the connection of two people. And I call it like a love triangle. It's a leader, follower, and the music and they are always together. And leaders lead, followers follow, but leaders don't just randomly lead, they follow the music. So leaders in some way are also followers of the music and the follower follows the leader and the follower also listens to the music. And that for me, for me is kind of one of the core parts of the Argentine tango that has nothing to do with the steps. The steps become secondary. We don't care for the sequences and patterns. All we care is about our embrace and how our embrace makes us feel. And the feeling with music and each other's feeling creates, um, that inspiration to the way we want to move our body.

So that's, that's, that's how I see it. I don't know if you want to agree or you have your own way of saying it.

Koichiro: No, that's fine. Yeah.

Yulia: So for us, When we teach, even introduce, um, tango, uh, beginner classes. We don't show necessarily patterns. We show how the body works. So with humans, we have our disassociation, we have our natural movements and how we can apply that in our movement together as two people. And then from there, eventually, we do teach vocabularies and different patterns, but then we don't stick to them. We, um, constantly changing, constantly evolve. So for us, we don't create like a safety net or like a safety box of our movements, for our safety is our connection. The moment we embrace each other, it gives us the full story of each other.

Samantha: Yeah. So let's talk about that embrace for a moment, because I feel like, um, that is definitely one of the hurdles moving from the ballroom world to the tango world that a lot of dancers struggle with because it is such a different way of connecting.

You mentioned that, you know, Chewy would come home with lipstick on his collar. Um, that's part of, kind of the, the close upper embrace that you have in tango. So what are your connection points and how are you communicating lead and follow through that embrace.

Yulia: You want go? All right. I like to talk, so I'm always taking over, but I want to be respectful.

So I will say first in the black and white way, and then I can dive in a little more details. So, um, in Tango, A shape. In ballroom, Y shape. I will, again, it's very black and white. There's so much more into both, but this is the first, easiest way to explain that, uh, what I mean by Y shape, uh, is when the connection more is in your lower body, uh, the drive comes from the hips.

The hip drive the movement and your upper body goes a little bit away from each other and creates a more firm frame with the partners. Again, I say it, with I've never danced ballroom. Never, I only danced Tango. Um, but I have a lot of students that went from ballroom, to Argentine Tango, and I I've seen that their hurdles absolutely worked through this throughout the years. And I watched, I watched the competitive dancing and I can see the art of that. And it's, it's really, the drive comes from the bottom that drives the movement.

With Argentine Tango for us, the drive comes from upper body. And then by upper body, it's not the head, it's not the collar bones that like push us towards each other is our torsos. So it's very common when they say Tango is one body and four legs. So it's not the heads. And then like, you'll have a lot of space in your legs. It's more we hugging. When you hug a person, you don't have a person where the knees, the hips, the belly, the chest, and the head touching, right? When you hug somebody, you hug them where your torso is hugging, but your legs are usually apart.

So we dance basically in the hug. And we maintain it that way. So there's many styles of Argentine tango, uh, and it comes from a lot from history. I'm not going to dive in into all Tango history, but there are some styles where they have connection almost from their belly button to their, um, collarbone, almost to the collarbone. So it's a whole torso.

If they dance this way in the closing brace. So they have all of this connection. It does not allow them to do a lot of pivots because the moment you move your hips, it separates your lower part of your demo. And we don't dance this way anymore because you see like tango, we see many leg movements and like legs go up in the air.

You need space for that. So the tango evolved into a little bit more upright way, not as deep with the whole belly.

Koichiro: Old styles called milonguero, right style and now like many people dance Salon style, which is more. More independent that not being in each other. Just more independent. So that way, like we are giving each other space to do more creative, more like legs and all the things.

So more dance style of Tango

Yulia: even though it's a modern style of tango, the essence never changed. That's the core of Argentine tango. We still maintain the movement starts from the sternum and I'm being very specific in sternum because as a center of your whole upper body,

Samantha: mhmm.

Yulia: So you still moving with your upper body first and your leg come right after. And if you think about it, this is how we walk on the street. We did not step with our foot and then bring it the rest of the body. When we run, how do we run? We run with starting our upper upper body, and then the leg knows where to land. So we use a lot of, um, um, Um, parallels from our everyday lives, but we just putting them under microscope. So we use our upper body, but we emphasize that in tango. We can step with the toes forward, but we usually walk with our heels forward. That's how our normal way walking. So we mimicking what we do in the real life, but we emphasizing an amplifying it in the dance.

So that's comes to the connection points in our upper body. So the hips almost never touch. And our legs touch only when we have some rotation movements like intentionally. But it's not about the legs like lower body is, uh, becomes a consequence to their, our upper body action. And now the last, but very important part is the frame. Our frame is, um, is very important because this way, how we can communicate with each other, uh, at the same time is not the most dominant thing.

The dominant thing for us is the torso. So chewy can lead me anything with his torso. I can just hug him and feel the movement this way. The way we see the arms in the, in our frame is more of an extension of the torso. So my torso move, my arms come with the torso. And no more than that, we did not give more power to the arms because then they can take over the axis.

They can dominate the balance. So we keep all of this power in the center and the core, and that changes our frame. So in the ballroom, there's more ways how one side goes, where the elbow goes, where the shoulder, all of this. For us as very relaxed, uh, we have our shoulders relaxed. They always dropped, comfortably dropped, because they connect to your back and your sternum.

So they can move together. You don't want to disconnect them because it becomes its own separate limb. Our elbows, if they lift, they create additional pressure on your partner. So we actually keep our elbows down. So that's why I can move, but I don't need to use a lot of force in that. And, um, last but not least part of the frame is how much resistance would give with each other the way I always explain it.

We're matching a simple handshake. So me and Chewy do a handshake. We move, but we relaxed. So that's how our frame works, we able to move if we need so we can be flexible, but we still communicate each other with each other. So the frame did I miss anything else?

Koichiro: No

Yulia: I think I got it

Samantha: Excellent. Excellent. So, um, Chewy, you mentioned that there was the the Milonga style and the Salon style, and they have different spacing. To my mind that would go the difference between like a closed body connection in ballroom and a social hold where we've got a little bit of space, but we're still communicating the lead from the same, same points in the body.

Um, did the salon style develop because of the increased amount of social dancing? Cause I, I feel like with Argentine. Sorry with Tango. It it's always been more social dance. So was it just a development of the music? Was it development of, of social boundaries? Was it a development of the different types of patterns and swivels that we wanted to kind of create?

Koichiro: It's both and, um, music and also D. Um, the period of like a time, like, um, what what's going on in the world actually. Right. Um, so tango was always social, like starting it from the beginning, like, you know, port in Bueno Aires that people get together and dancing and at the bar or salon and that's, that was the. Um, how the tango started.

And then until forties and fifties, and this is like what's going on. Like the world war two and all the things happening in the war. And also the swing swing dancing became really popular in a Buenos Aires right. Actually that , when you go to Buenos Aires the people dance like swing, like

Yulia: amazing,

Koichiro: amazing

Yulia: Jitterbug, Swing, I it's unbelievable.

Koichiro: Yeah.

Yulia: Rock n roll

Koichiro: So that almost took over. Right. And then Tango almost died after that, that, that, that came and tango with this kind of decline. So that time like the Argentinians they felt, okay, we need to do something about this. Right. The changes. So they that's, that's how actually choreography when the stage staging tango was kind of created, so to attract the people to come see, right?

So the ballet dancers and start dancing tango and modern dancers, start dancing tango, and more like show create a show tango. Right. And then that time in the same thing, right. That, that, that movement is created to move forward with musically as well, too. Right. So, um, people start doing more legs. Legs were before, wasn't not anything about like, legs.

About just social dancing, connect two people together and just, you know, like the main component of tango is always hug and walk, so nothing else. Right. And then like fifties and sixties, the doors are like many things evolve and it change.

Yulia: Yeah, tango became, it started its own Renaissance after, when it was almost died out and it, um, the poetry started evolving. Um, the music started evolving from very kind of old school tango classic music. Um, the orchestra's started feeling, some feel of jazz, some feel of improvisation, um, some like romantic feel in the tango.

Koichiro: More Classic

Yulia: more classic, and so Tango music started evolving and when you have a very clear music, you just dance is okay. But when music started changing and as I said, we dance by the way, we feel the music and then music started evolving. It started empowering dancer to create more movements. And with that is a perfect storm with that. And then the show tango became a, um, a new form of Tango expression, of Tango art form.

Uh, even they have competitions that are show, show Tango competition specifically to stage and recreate it as an art form on its own. So all of this start evolving around the same time and that created more and even, yeah. 20 years ago, 15 years ago, how people dance and explore it more, all is almost somersaults within the embraces. Like, you know, death drops, you see some tango shows, it's crazy stuff, you know? So it went in one direction. And then now the trend is more to come back more to the connection. So, and the music is, um, more responsive with that as well. So we go with that history is definitely plays the main role to, to involvement.

I will add one more thing about milonguero style. That again, th the different neighborhoods had their own way of dancing tango as well. So depends on the neighborhoods within the same city. It was also different things that said when it became extremely popular and it was everywhere, the milongas, the social dances became so crowded that milonguero style became also a necessity. It's not only like some people started dances that way, especially with African immigrants, there has been more deeper connection in some neighborhoods, but became actual, um, uh, tango frame to have meaningful style is when it became so popular with so many people that you have 400-500 people on the dance floor and that's how they dance.

So again, History that shaped the style,

Koichiro: even now, even now you go Buenos Aires, different neighborhood, uh, like different way of dancing almost, right? Like embrace is different or yeah.

Yulia: And the music they play is different

Samantha: Yeah, no, that's, that's really good context because as you're talking about this, I'm thinking, you know, the influence of rock and roll and swing arriving. When we think of especially very high energy swings from the thirties, forties, and fifties. We're thinking about Lindy we're thinking about the lifts and the spins and all of the tricks.

So then to see that become incorporated in a tango style for show, that totally makes sense that it would come out of that same era. And then, you know, the close embrace I'm thinking. Okay, well, that's like the dime dances with west coast where we took a swing style and put it on floorboards because we could pack more couples in the room that way. So, it's always fascinating to see, you know, how everything is influenced by something else and how we take a style for granted now, and you trace it back and you're like, okay, it wasn't always this way. This is how it kind of developed. So, no, I, I find that fascinating.

Um, I do want to talk about the music, um, because in addition to being incredible dancers and incredible instructors, uh, you are also musicians. That is a huge part of, of kind of your background as well. So talk to me a little bit about the music of tango and what your connection with the music style that is, uh Yulia, you mentioned that you heard the music and you're just like I could stay here all night. So, so talk to me a little about, about what makes tango music so special and so different.

Yulia: Oh, that's a tough question for musicians. We don't even know where to start. Um, So as, as mentioned we dance to a lot of music from that 1930s, 1940s, um, there's many different orchestras. It's many, but we know many of them by name at this point because it, each orchestrates like a, it's a band in that, I'm sure like in swing and all of this, they have bands and each one has their own style. So they're followers of certain ones more than the others and just the preferences.

And, um, I think Tango has everything at least my soul needs. If I feel melancholy, there's a there's orchestra that will play the music, and the singer will, when he sings, will penetrate through my soul. And sometimes when I feel really excited, then there's, um, a Tango orchestra that has this very energizing beat and power and the rhythm, like for example, Juan d'Arienzo.

His name King of Rhythm, and some people were giving up on Tango until they heard his band, and they said, Tango is alive. Tango is back because they're the people that needed that rhythm, that power, that energy. And he is the one who had it all for that power, that energy, that passion. And, um, nowadays we can, you know, open our iTunes and like, let's play d'Arienzo, you know, and then we get our power there.

So we can, interesting with music with, with Tango it has just so much variety that, um, throughout the night, when we go social dancing, it changes. I mean, Chewy is a DJ and he really can say more about that. But, um, the goal is like, you don't want to put the same thing constantly that's when you, when you get bored or you get sleepy or, you know, just tired.

Um, for me, uh, we used to go for fun for salsa music and it's it's I speak for myself and I, we love to just have fun and I don't know how to Salsa, but I know how to follow. So just have a good time. But after like hour, an hour and a half, I would get tired of the music. For me, it just becomes very repetitive in many ways. I know they mix it up with bachata, but like Salsa itself, the cow bell really sticks out for me in that whole, i hear tink, tink, tink, and I'm done for the night. With tango, there's nothing that kind of triggers that feeling for me. Um, the rhythm is sometimes they have singer sometimes too much singer. So there's no singer there's, uh, no, uh, instrumental, uh, songs there's with the singers. Um,

Koichiro: And we mix with milonga, with vals,

Yulia: yeah, we mix also, uh, styles of dance within the tango. And that keeps us going through whole night. We can go until 3, 4, 5, 6 in the morning, as long as our body can last, our mind and soul, definitely up for all of that. So that, that would be kind of my perspective. What do you think?

Koichiro: That's your soul.

Samantha: Yeah. So, uh, you mentioned that, uh, Chewy, you are a DJ. That's, that's kind of the tour that you've been on recently is Dj'ing and teaching and performing. So, um, how do you go about structuring a night of tango music? What is kind of the balance that you're looking for?

Koichiro: Like, now, like I used to. So, every time I go, to used to that, like I used to make a playlist and then go to the festivals or events, marathons, but it's always not going to work that way. And what do you, they way you planned it, right. So now, like I go with no structure and I go to the event, look the people dancing and then I pick the songs as I go.

then create the energy created to, see the people, how they react to the music and then just go change or what, like a stay, you know, stayed that way. And yeah,

Yulia: I would just add, it sounded very simple. Um, but even creating the playlist takes a lot of knowledge and a lot of practice, a lot of listening to the music. And as I said, creating the playlist is finding that there's no, um, perfect, um, formula on how to plan it because in every community, everyone dances differently, feels differently. Different time of the year, different time of the night. You just never know how people feel. So you can kind of come up with some sort of, uh, basic structure.

Uh, but even with that, you, you, you study the, those orchestras, you study those bands to know who is what and what type of music and the singer and their voice. And, um, I think after years of doing that now, when he sees, he feels like, okay, People like slowing down, we need to perk up a little bit. So you need to give a little bit of energy. So he pulls the music that he knows that will bring that energy. And then when it's getting later in the night, you don't want to slow down some things. You want to keep it going. So it depends on the time of the night and how people react, but it also all comes from the extensive knowledge of all of this orchestras and what to pick at the moment to keep the crowd going.

That's the thing, that's, that's the skill that I do not possess, no matter how much you can be a musician, you need to study the music. You need to spend a lot of time studying the music and being able to know what's needed at the right moment.

Samantha: Well, and it kind of sounds a little bit like, uh, the difference between playing in an orchestra and being the conductor, right? It, it, it almost feels like you're reading the scene in the room and deciding, okay, we're gonna find a little bit of a pickup here and then we're going to bring it back down for a little bit, and then we're going to bring it back.

Koichiro: Yeah. That's important right? You cannot be high intensity music all the time and the people get right, just done for the evening, so just, you can keep the space as you go, and then there's some times you got to fit somebody's performance between, you know, I mean the then performance depends on the, how many couples performing and so on and you have to change the right, like what's going on before and what's going to what's what's going to happen after.

Yulia: Because you don't want people to leave, and usually performances are round midnight and then people like, okay, I'm done for the night. But if you put the right music after that, they're like, all right, one more, one more. And that's, again, this is something, a very specific skill for DJ and I being musicians and being aware of the orchestras really helps. But, uh, I think Chewy's skill here is really deep knowledge of the orchestras that helps him to be good at what he does.

Samantha: Yeah. Um, so along with that, we're kind of, uh, now talking about, there's, there's a social style of tango and then there's also this performance style of tango. Um, one of the things that I remember so fondly about, about the absolute ballroom showcases, um, were that you always made a big deal about, like, this is lead and follow. We're just dancing to the song and it wasn't pre choreographed. It wasn't pre-planned. When you have tango performances, are they predominantly, still lead and follow as if they were social danced? Or is there two different styles that are performed in two different kind of times?

Koichiro: Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's, that's what I was at the Chicago Festival, last weekend.

And, uh, just the obvious, um, two couples, three couples that like, they just did choreography, like. Like just choreography and then like a few couples they do like improv, like, yeah. So it's depends on the couple, like what their style style is like, what, how most, most of people, most of the dancers, they dance socially, right. But how, when they perform what they prefer, they want to do choreography or, they want to do the salon like the social dance kind of performance. Yeah.

Yulia: Uh, I would add to that, that, um, I learned that in, in Argentina, uh, from my teachers there, that the art of, uh, also performance in in, in, at the tango events, when you have all this amazing dancers in the audience watching as well, its not the tango show where you see it with a program, no we're talking about still social dance and then there's a tango show performance.

Um, uh, one of my teachers told me that, that the art is how you put in the choreography with the improv that nobody will know was what's staged what's not staged. Because, uh, sometimes you want to showcase a certain skill and certain moment you can do that. But, um, um, there's times as Chewy said, you know, from the beginning, from the moment, they stage until the last drop, you know, it's, the whole thing is choreography and you know, okay, you did really good job choreographing together, but for us, Tango is connection, is a rela-.

Remember the triangle, love triangle. It's all comes that that's where the the, dance comes to. I would add another thing that as Chewy said, that all, um, dancers that perform, they also socially dance and they know absolutely how to socially dance, it's just how they choose to do the show. That said when they all socially dance you one of the crowd of many.

So no matter how good you are. You have a small space to dance on. And when it comes to the show, when the performance you are the only one on the entire dance floor. So even though the dance, um, uh, improvising through the whole, whole, whole song, things that are bigger, bolder, more prominent because they have ability to do that. They just, them on the entire dance floor, and I think it comes to many dancers to see that, that, you know, when you have a space to do it, you would take up the space and you own the entire space. So I would, I would add it on because I think it's important part to consider as well.

Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. So kind of along with that, when, when we're thinking about improv or if, if someone is thinking about planning out choreography for a showpiece, um, you mentioned that it's so tied to the music.

We kind of keep going back to that love triangle concept. So for a novice, uh, tango dancer, what should their ear start looking for? And how does that connect to their communication with their partner in the moment in the dance? So what are you kind of listening out for and how does that translate to movement through the body?

Yulia: I'd say rhythm,basic.

Koichiro: I mean you can listen to the rhythm,

Yulia: Novice, Novice. New beginners. So if it's the new beginners, stick to the rhythm, walk on the beat. If you walk on the beat and Chewy said that if you hug and walk, you dance Tango. So if you can hug, and walk on the beat, you're dancing tango with music. That's that would be the baseline. If you can do that, we're already in a good place.

Now from there, when we go more, then you can talk about the

Koichiro: melody, you can follow the melody right, like singers when they come. Yeah. You can follow the rhythm. So there's many ways to express, right?

Yulia: Yeah. There's many ways to express the music and we don't have to do it at the same time. So, he can follow their rhythm and I can follow the melody. I still follow him, but he would lead me something from the melodic movement. While, he can put rhythmical structure into his foot work at the same time, so we don't have to be always kind of mirroring each other. Music doesn't mirror. There's some complexities with music and it's two of us, so we can do the same thing.

But again, for that, we cannot stick to the patterns and sequences. We need to have that freedom of trust, connection, and then listening to a music. That's the love triangle. We need to trust each other. We need to work out and we need to be with the music, both of us. So when I listened to the music and I feel what he's leading me, I see how it connects with a melody.

And I, it helps me to follow more precise and more on point because I'm with him and with the melody, while he does something else with his foot work at the same time. So, that's much more advanced, that's more complicated, but we do have a lot of opportunities to be musical within our dance expression.

Samantha: So that, that leads me down an interesting path. Um, which is if we're thinking about other social dances, salsa, west coast, Lindy even, um, there is an opportunity for the, the follow to interpret the music separate from what the lead is doing. Um, in west coast, you know, the lead goes, leads leads the pattern on two, three, and then the follow has the opportunity to put her own take or her own spin on the subsequent counts. In ballroom from a social dance perspective, we're much more, you have somebody in the driver's seat, you have somebody in the follow seat and, and it's not a dictation, it's still a conversation, but there's less opportunity for improv on the follows part. What is the balance and what is the structure of the communication between partners in tango?

Yulia: I'm a follower so I do have my perspective on this here, um, in the theory it's similar thing, the leader's role is to lead, followers role is to follow

Koichiro: but there's time, right. They can do what they want and giving them time to do express themselves and like

Yulia: respecting each other. That's the key. So he's still leads, I still follow, but I don't follow in a style of blind follow and you just tell me what to do and I just do it.

Koichiro: Then she's going to be becoming leader by that point. Like she started doing all the things too much. And then like she's taking over the lead right at the like,

Yulia: Dominating?

Koichiro: Distracting my movements, almost, right? Because she wants, she wants to do right. So that's that's then does too much. Right. Um,

Yulia: so for me, I, the way I see it as a follower is he leads, I follow, but I don't follow. Just okay. Just tell me what to do and I'll do it then. That's it. I follow with my, I don't wanna say sass, but with, with my personality.

And when I do that certain movements that he leads me and I feel the music I can accentuate that I can, um, make them more prominent. And sometimes that movement can inspire him to lead something else. So some inspirations can come from the follower because of my reaction to him and to the music.

I still follow all of his steps. I do not disrupt his kind of mindset, but I can inspire an idea from the way I am moving. That's one way to do it. The other as Chewy said, respect with each other. So it's not always, I tell you what to do and you do it. So he gives me plenty of opportunities to slow down and kind of opened up opportunities for me to move.

So kind of like in west coast and salsa, but they kind of break out the embraces and can do their own thing. We still stay in the same embrace and I don't want to get him off of his path, but I appreciate that he's giving me that space. So within that, I call it like a matrix moment, when things like slow down in time, slow down and bullets go over your head, right. That slow down. He gives me that opportunity and I can use that timing to express my movements if I want to. Respectful, not going off rogue and doing something else, I'm still within the movement. But how I do it, my personality is, um, is crucial. That's what it's equal, we're equal partners in this dance.

Samantha: So, uh, to, to make an analogy out of it, it would be, you could have one conversation where the lead is saying, would you like to go out for Chinese? And as a follower, you say, yes, Chinese is fine. Where I'm, I'm telling you what my intention is, and you're responding as that intended movement. Versus, what are you thinking for dinner tonight? I was thinking Chinese. No, I'm thinking Italian. Okay. Maybe we'll go with Italian then, right?

Yulia: Yeah. It's a conversation. It's a respectful conversation. I would like, would you like to come in and with intention, the person came to the door. They do want to come in. Otherwise they would not even come to the house. Right. It's just respect to each other.

Samantha: Excellent. Um, One interesting thing that I've found over the last decade or two is the amount of research that is coming out about, um, how dance and memory and aging can can be intertwined in a very positive way. Um, a lot of the research is tied specifically to the benefits of tango when it comes to, um, mobility in age, when it comes to memory, potentially offsetting Dementia, and Alzheimers. So can you talk a little bit about the research that's coming out about what you're seeing with your own dancers and kind of, what that means for the dance community?

Yulia: I would say, I mean, this is absolutely true and that, uh, we have students in their nineties coming and dancing and the follower, we had one fellow, she'd put her little heels on and she'll come change her shoes and be ready to dance. And she danced, um, So the age is absolutely, uh, it's possible. I think part of the way the Tango's structured with no sequences, you have to constantly keep your mind occupied planning, every second of the time you're on a dance floor. As a leader, as same thing as a follower, as a receptacles to catch every single, um, impulse, to be able to respond to.

So you see when people dance Tango, they look sad or serious and it's not because we're not happy. We are very happy when we dance. We're just very focused. We cannot trust our eyes as, as a primary focus, we have to trust our impulses. So that's why very often followers close their eyes and they have to feel. That's, that part is for the memory and keeping the mind focused on the certain things like planning mind wise.

Um, the other part is, as Chewy said, like our embrace, we don't hang on each other. We connect, but we're still in charge of our own axis. So we don't hold on. We don't pull on each other. Remember the freedom of the embrace, which means you have to be able to stand on one foot and be in balance because when you walk, you step one foot and then the other foot, it's one foot at a time and you have to have, you have to make your brain focus on how to walk without the tr tremor. How to walk and know where your body arrives over your foot. So you steady and for followers is the same thing backwards, which is even harder for backwards. So, um, when it comes to the balance, it comes to their memory. Um, and the music itself, as I said, that the music is soothing enough.

It's not like puts you to sleep, but it allows you to be active throughout the hours of the evening. Um, I think all of that brings a lot of, um, Possibilities for folks who have a lot of difficulties with kind of relearning and mobility or Alzheimer's, or Parkinson's all of that. If it does help, uh, make their brain focus on the specific tasks. Yeah.

Samantha: Excellent. Um, last thing that I want to kind of touch on for today's episode is, uh, we are hopefully closer to the light at the end of the tunnel of this crazy last going on two years. Um, Because of the nature of it being a social dance because of the nature of it being a close embrace, because we know that partner dancing, you can not socially distance.

How is the tango community rebounding? What are you seeing with events and festivals? What is the outlook for, uh, the end of 2021 into 2022 when it comes to the tango community?

Koichiro: I think it's opened up already. So like the festival was 370 people in Chicago last weekend and they had the, the, um, restriction, um, just for people can sign up for just vaccination or negative test for the COVID to be able to attend the festival. That's it? I think right now it's a trend and all the festival. And, uh, event is taking,

Yulia: but you can see how many people sign up, which means there's a lot of craving to come back out. Um, but there's also restrictions that don't, when you go to the restaurant, you don't need to go through all this restrictions. And, um, there's many places where you don't need to, but, um, in at least in the Tango community, people want to feel safe. So there's additional measures of restrictions that add up more than just in general guidelines. Um, just to make a safer place, make everyone comfortable and welcomed because what would experience in our tango community, uh, many folks that been, uh, great supporters through many years are still not ready to come out. And we've been teaching in person classes for several months now. And we started doing some social events, so we are trying to move forward. Um, but mainly folks from the tango community, just not ready for this.

That said we've been having overwhelming, uh, interest from beginners. So people who want to come out and try something new, experience new things, experience new connections. Um, our beginner classes are doing really well. Like people just want to learn and want to come out and they're ready. So, um, it's definitely a new trend for us. Um, In some ways it's exciting to have all of this new folks, but at the same time, you kind of feel like you're starting from scratch completely.

Um, but we know it's just a matter of time until everyone is getting back. And I mean, we are planning our fall, um, fall events. So we are planning a marathon, uh, in Pittsburgh, um, first weekend of October. And we are conscientious of all of the restrictions and people's preferences. That said many people want to go back into hugging and walking together. So we are, um, trying to create opportunities for that in a safe way.

Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. And, and by creating, you know, that, that safety net, by making sure that you're doing the best that you possibly can to protect the community, that's a great way for people to get back, to having physical connection with another person, to be around other people, to share their love of dance with other folks.

Um, so I think that's awesome. I'm so glad to hear that your beginner classes are filling up, that you've got that support and that folks are coming back out. Um, for somebody that's listening to the podcast that maybe says, okay, it's time, I'm going to try Argentine tango. I'm going to see what this is about. What should they know? Uh, going into their first class, what should they know going into their first social event?

Yulia: I would say be patient be patient because, um, when you come to a new new class and you have a new teacher and you already have a, some dance background, sometimes you come with a feeling, oh, I'm in a good place already.

So I would recommend, put a new hat on you have a complete beginner and try to observe the information as a complete beginner. Because whatever you will learn from any teacher is going to be something new and different. You may be able to apply it to what you already do or not, but at least you will be able to, um, receive that information. Where sometimes when you come in and was like, oh, I know already they embrace, oh, I already know how to walk, the information that the teachers try to show you kind of sometimes goes over people's heads, just because they come in with that, um, understanding. So I always say no matter how many years you've danced or any types of dances, leave them behind the door and let's just start from the beginning and see what you think. And then you can do with that information, whatever you like. So that would be my suggestion is give it a try, and be open-minded to something that feels different. And the embrace and the walk will feel very different. As long as you allow yourself, your mind and your body accept this new instruction and accept this new way of movement. So that would be the recommendation and definitely try it out.

Samantha: Love that. If people want to track down the two of you for classes in Pittsburgh, or if they want to find Chewy Dj'ing around the country, where can they find out that information?

Yulia: Thank you. Yes. Um, so two, two best resources. Um, one for the classes and what we do is Pittsburgh Tango. So, uh, it lists all of the classes, social events, things that we do and workshops and marathon and all of this stuff.

Um, and I think, uh, for Chewy's travels and all of those exciting things that he does in US and other countries at this point. Um, I think the Facebook, so we have a Pittsburgh Tango Connection, PGH Tango Connection webpage and the Facebook. Um, and we list everything there as well. So we have a social way to communicate with us through social media and we have our website and we always say, if you are planning to go to any town, travel and you want to go dancing.

Go on Google, do a little research, and then send email to the organizer and say, Hey, is there a dance? Can I, can I come? Because you never know, but we get those emails and it's so much easier when the person walks in and somebody says, hi, John, thank you for emailing us. So you feel already welcomed.

And I think it's just important to, um, know that you're walking in and already somebody is aware of you. So yeah. Always to find a way to dance and connections.

Samantha: Excellent. Excellent. Well, thank you both so much for being lovely guests on today's podcast and for sharing a little bit of information about the tango community with us.

Yulia: Thank you.

Samantha: Thank you. Once again, to Chewy and Yulia for being guests on today's podcast. If you want to follow along with their dance journey, as we mentioned before, you can find that out at Pittsburgh Tango Connection or PGH Tango. Uh, links are in the description box below.

As always I'm Samantha, I'm your host with Love Live Dance. You can find the podcast versions of Ballroom Chat at, or you can follow us on YouTube. Uh, wherever you are finding this podcast. Please do make sure that you have liked, subscribed, followed whatever the format is, and if you have not already maybe consider giving us a review, we really do appreciate it.

As always stay safe, stay positive. We hope to see you dancing very soon.