Monica and Benjamin Grisoni
Monica and Benjamin Grisoni
by Jackie Ling Wong
The scene: We're sitting in Luiza and Pulpo's dining room. Luiza is translating
and Pulpo is cooking. I met Benjamin during my first trip to Buenos Aires
2 years ago at the World Tango Festival. He was one of the assistants
along with his friend, Gustavo, and I was impresses that the two of them were
open to the exchange of lead and follow. Both young men are featured in the
photos with me on the website. I met Monica, Benjamin's lovely wife and
dance partner, during my next trip. We quickly became friends, even with the
language barrier, and enjoyed many nights of wine, eating and dancing.
I cherish this couple and hope everyone who travels to Buenos Aires takes
the opportunity to meet them and give them a big hug.
Q: Who were your teachers?
Monica and Benjamin: Only one, Maestro Noberto Guichenduc in Lomas de Zamora , south of Buenos Aires. I started in 1991 and Monica in 1993. Noberto was first a folklore dancer at the Teatro Colon and a musician. He worked in Spain with the Flamenco.
Benjamin: Not only did he teach about the Tango and Folklore, but also he taught us things about Life and about our careers. How to behave, your attitude, your persona as an artist. He was our maestro on a personal level.
Monica: He shared and transmitted his spirit. And we still, if we have any questions, seek the advice of Noberto.
Q: So he's a mentor?
Monica: Almost like a father.
Q: How did you and Monica become life partners? dance partners?
Monica: Benjamin was a friend of my brother and I met him at my house. I was not dancing at that time.
Benjamin: I was dancing when I met Monica.
Q: Why did you start dancing Tango?
Monica: To follow him
Benjamin: When I was younger, I worked and played in a group from school. After 4 years I decided to start studying theatre and drama seriously. At school, one of the disciples was Tango and Folklore. It was a public school for studying drama.
I became enthusiastic about Tango and some friends, Gustavo and Christian, asked me to go with them to study with Norberto.
Q: What did Norberto teach that stays with you now?
Benjamin:: He taught me a lot about body mechanics because Norberto danced many dances. He also taught choreography and music. Artistically he formed me in several years. Now, it is up to me to continue to learn. Norberto taught well.
Q: Did he have a specialty?
Monica: For me, yes, he was always emphatic about musicality in his classes. So, although he had a background in other dances, he worked a lot on the essence of Tango.
Benjamin: He didn't teach specific things. He would teach Ballet, Folklore and Tango so with all of that, one could incorporate core of Tango... he was very clear about what was what.
He also gave us several tools that we could use them as artists .. as an interpreter and always with the strong essence of tango.
We also studied with one of Noberto's student... Jorge Torres, the captain of the production, Forever Tango. Jorge opened my mind even more. He helped me with technique and after that I learned through working with the dance....teaching, shows, etc...
I have absorbed knowledge from the people I work with. For example, the World Tango Festival where I am one of the regular assistants. Also we attend seminars with teachers like Pulpo.
Everything always adds to the learning process.
Monica: I was an assistant at CITA, and worked with Claudio and Melina.
Q: Who brought you together in the dance?
Benjamin: Monica did
Monica: I did... I said to the maestro, "He either dances with me or no one else".
Q: When did you start organizing events?
Benjamin: Our teacher, Norberto, always told us to stick together... me and my friends..
So we worked on a project that has taken many years and only now has become real. So with my friends...Gustavo, Christian, and Christina .... and Monica ....We formed Amigotan....
I do everything.. dance, choreography, plus I clean the stage, fix the tables.... the only thing I don't do is wait on people.
Q: Amigotan.. Is it growing? creativity..etc..
Benjamin: If you are growing in your learning, your work grows. In January, it will be 2 years. Since we have started, many things have happened.
At the beginning we were nothing but dancers. Now we have grown in experience on how to deal with people, the business, the contracts, events...so when you're just the dancer you just perform and leave... when you organize, it's different... it's difficult. Of course, the artistic part is easier if the business is doing well.
Monica: ....and each performance is a new experience and an opportunity to grow.
Q: Where else do you perform?
Benjamin:Amigotan is performed regularly at Confiteria Ideal. We have taken the show (amigotan) to the suburbs of Buenos Aires, to different municipal venues, Porta Madero Tango, Cafe Tortoni, Teatro San Martin and others. Also we have performed on television.
Q: Where are you teaching now?
Benjamin: Escuela Argentina de Tango - Confiteria de Ideal
Q: Do you have a style or adjectives that describe the way you dance?
Benjamin: That's a hard question.
Q: Monica, could you describe Benjamin's style?
Monica: He has a way of moving that I know.. his embrace contains me, he's smooth and at the same time he gives confidence. Now I'm going to kill you because I always tell him the opposite. I have to have some motive to fight with him.
We can't say these things in front of the man because he becomes full of himself.
laughter.. and Pulpo makes a comment from the kitchen.
.....but the heart has to say what is real.
Benjamin: With her, I have a communication that I don't have with others...either working or creating or social dancing. She understands what I try to communicate in the dance and that's the condition of a good follow. I feel that I can lead her whether I dance traditionally or nuevo. She is very versatile.
Q: Any words of advice?
Benjamin: My maesto never charged for the teaching... no selfishness... the third class I said, "I can't come anymore because I can't pay you". Norberto said, "Don't worry". Not everyone will teach a person for free. All this marketing of Tango is something different. So I admire even more what my maestro did for me. Many dancers don't have a mentor....someone that dedicates themselves to you. I have the seal of my master.
So the first important thing is to be a good person and then as a dancer, you form yourself, maybe it's not artistic advice... it would be for anyone. It's about relationships between human beings which is the important thing about this dance and in life. So if someone wants to dedicate themselves to this, you must be serious, constant, and hard working. That's what I try to do.
Monica: It's what we strive for... we don't always succeed. One tries to be good.. as a dancer, as a professional, as a parent and as a spouse.
That's why the name for our production is Amigotan.. in honor of friendship and Tango.
It might sound like false modesty but that's the way we are. The dance company and the friends have been together for 13 years. Amigotan wouldn't exist without our friends.