Carolina Zokalski y Diego DiFalco
Scene :There’s a small break during Carolina and Diego’s advanced workshop in New York City, so we’re rushing to grab a bite to eat. Claudia, Dario, and Faye are with us in our mad search for nourishment. We settle on a small shop with great food and desserts but with limited space and loud music. So the interview takes place outside on benches. Fortunately the weather is nice. The setting is relaxed. Carolina and I are sitting down and Diego and Dario are standing up, joking around and laughing. The interview begins.
Q: Why tango and not salsa, ballet, ballroom.
Carolina: Dancing for me just happened. Diego was my boyfriend and he danced.
Diego: I was doing Argentine folk dance and the studio where I was taking lessons was offering classes from other countries like Mexico. I decided instead to learn my country’s dance, Tango. To me, Tango is a deep feeling, intimate, and more natural for the body. You can discover something new everyday. whether it is the music or a combination.
Carolina:At the time there weren’t many teachers for Tango in Buenos Aires. In one way it was bad because we didn’t have much guidance. But on the other hand, we had unlimited freedom with our creativity. We also thought it would be easy. (everyone laughs)
Q: How would you define your style and how has it evolved?
Diego: Our Tango style is Tango Salon new generation. Our signature is how we communicate when we dance.
Carolina: First, we do things that feel good. Then we work to make the movement look good.
Diego: We try to bring the milonga onto the stage. We pretty much dance the same way at the milonga as we do on stage. Of course, we don’t do all our performance moves but the feeling is definitely there.
Carolina: When we first started teaching, we were very flashy and fast. Now we are slower and emotionally deeper in our dance.
Q: How does Tango in the U.S. different from other countries?
Carolina: Women in this country try to be perfect. They work very hard and like to learn but they must be careful not to lose sight of the connection. The men in this country need to work harder. (much laughter but more from Carolina and I )
Diego: In Argentina, everyone needs to work more. (laughter) I would say that in Europe and Argentina, the embrace is closer ..more relaxed. Many people here are uncomfortable and want to be more distant physically.
Q: What do you personally like when you dance with someone?
Diego: communication… feeling
Carolina: Yes… not self absorbed.
Q: In what ways can a woman/follower be assertive in the dance?
Carolina: It really depends on the leader. If the leader treats the woman as if she is an adornment, there is no communication and the woman can not be assertive. Of course, the woman can decide if she wants to do a castigada instead of a gancho and a tiny brush on the floor instead of a boleo which gives the follower the opportunity to interpret the music.
Diego: I feel that before you are partners you are 100% individuals. When you come together you are 50%. We lead but she does the step.
Q: There’s always a debate about ganchos. So, ganchos or no ganchos.
Both: Ganchos. Why not? Just be careful in a crowded space.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the most difficult technical aspect of Tango?
Both: Turns.. All turns.
Q: What is the most common mistake you see?
Diego: The way dancers walk. If tangueros can walk, they can do anything. Also, many dancers do not understand which level they are. Our definition of a beginner is someone who is just starting. An intermediate dancer knows how to walk well and how to lead or follow. An advanced leader can have a combination described to them and they can do it without being shown.
Carolina: Often, a woman will dance with an advanced leader and believe that she is an advanced follower because she can dance well with that leader. Then they will complain about the leading of less experienced dancers when truthfully they don’t know how to follow. An advanced follower can dance without a partner and maintain her balance.
Q: What was your best / worst tango moment?
Carolina: I know which one you will say. (looks at Diego) Julio Balmaceda attended our milonga at Caripela’s and we had a great time. We tried different steps and basically the milonga turned into a practica. Both of us felt so inspired and energized afterwards.
Diego: Also we have great moments when we perform and have a strong connection with the audience. We can actually use the energy from the audience then. The worst moment is when one of us is inspired and the other isn’t.
Carolina: Yes..because the one who isn’t energized feels “hey – don’t dance by yourself”.
Q: How do you feel about alternative Tango music?
Carolina: We both love alternative Tango.
Diego:..but it depends on the quality of the music and the feeling. The music must inspire you.
Q: Any advice for tangueros?
Diego: Walk walk walk
Carolina: Don’t rush the learning process. Enjoy every stage. Oh, and don’t get frustrated.
Q: So, do you ever feel what we in the Berkshires call tango blues or tango funk?
Carolina: What is that? Oh, to be stuck. It’s good to feel this way because that’s when you change and grow. It’s an opportunity.
Diego: It’s okay to take a short break but come back and try different music, different steps, start dancing leading with the right instead of the left, etc.. Just work hard not to be in a box.
Q: What do you feel your strengths are?
Carolina: We still feel that we have a lot to learn about everything. We’re open to every idea and we are good listeners and learn from the questions our students ask.
Q: How do you maintain your relationship and also Tango?
Carolina: Isolate your work from your life. And you must get past the feeling of “it’s your fault not mine”.
Diego: Our first priority is our relationship.
Carolina: Also we had the advantage of knowing each other before tango.
Q: Which tango dancers do you admire?
Carolina: I’m not sure if admire is the right word. There are dancers who we appreciate but we don’t idolize them. We want to be ourselves. I think there are people who strive to dance like others but really you must find what is good for you. I like Natalia Gomez, Diego’s first partner. Her personality on the stage and off stage is strong. She has conviction and is herself when she dances. Also I would like to mention Melina Brufman. Her milonga is very spontaneous and she manages to dance the same way with beginner and advanced leaders.
Diego: I like the way the true milongueros walk like Pupi, Portalea, and Petaca. They are solid, smooth, natural with personality. Other tango dancers I appreciate are Julio Balmaceda, Osvaldo Zotto, Roberto Reis, and Maria Nieves.
Q: What teaching goals do you have?
Carolina: We want people to have the “feeling” of what we are teaching.not just the actual step. We want to share our knowledge, help people with their technique, and to give them new ideas.
Q: Any tips for performers?
Carolina: I do not use stretchy fabrics because it is not easy to remove your heel if it gets caught. Also I prefer an open toe shoe.
Diego: For men, I like shoes from Argentine with a small point. Round toes do not look good. A point helps with achieving a nice line. Ballroom shoes are too soft. I also like pants that are pleated in the front. There’s more room. Another important point is to be careful of fabrics. We did a show where my black coat looked burgundy under the stage lights.
Carolina: Yes. There are also different kinds of black. You must make sure you match. I like velvet for the stage. The color is rich and deep. I also use fishnet hose but not black. I like a natural color. Be careful. Don’t buy fishnet with lycra. It will shine under the lights.
Diego: A funny suggestion is to use Vaseline or butter for your patent leather shoes so that they don’t stick. (laughter) Seriously, we forgot our Vaseline and had to go into the kitchen and use butter.
Q: Any last comments?
Carolina: We are very happy living in the United States. People are very supportive of us. At first, we couldn’t speak any English but students would take privates anyway. We would just have to pick up their leg to put it in the right place.
Q: Okay.quickly fill in the blank. Tango is…
Diego: Life. Both: love, passion, emotion
Carolina: Yes, but I think your first answer is right. Life. Tango is everything.