Pulpo y Luiza Paes
photo: Carlos Vizzotto
Scene: In Buenos Aires at Pulpo and Luiza’s apartment. We’re sitting at the kitchen table after another fantastic private lesson. During the lesson, I lead Luiza and she works with me on how my lead feels (giving sound insight into placement, technique) and Pulpo walks in and will take an old approach to a move and do something totally different… basically saying… do something with this…explore this. The two of them balance one another. I feel fortunate to call them… my teachers.
Norberto’s nickname, El Pulpo, was given to him at a milonga by Pablo Banchero. El Pulpo is Spanish for octopus. Norberto’s moves can involve a weaving and intertwining that is unique in Tango.
Q: What makes you unique as teachers?
Pulpo: I can’t say. Our students will tell you.
Luiza: It’s difficult for us to say how we are unique because it is a comparison and we don’t like to compare ourselves to other instructors. We would rather say that we are strong about opening minds and bodies… letting the students understand how much they can explore…helping them to see the possibilities.
Q: Your dancing is definitely unique. How did your style of dance evolve?
Pulpo: When I first started dancing, I discovered steps that were already invented but I thought I had invented them because I discovered them without being told or having seen them. So, I would show my teacher and he would say, “This was already invented”. So I kept inventing (when nobody teaches you something, you can invent it for yourself) but everytime someone would say, “that is already invented”. It drove me to continue to try to find something NEW.
I realized that if I couldn’t invent anything, I could try to mix the steps. So I started changing the steps and that’s when my real inventions started to happen. I was 20 years old.
After 7 years, I had all the steps of my teacher and my new steps. What I didn’t have was the same kind of creativity of my teacher.
At this time, my teacher was not paying much attention to me and I didn’t like it. I wanted to be my teacher’s favorite and now I understand I was an idiot.
Q: Why wasn’t he paying attention?
Pulpo: One day, I asked my teacher , “Why don’t you ever pay attention to me”. He said, “Aren’t you a self made dancer..a self educated dancer”. And with that answer, I understood that the only person that understood me was him. We have the same vision…the same comprehension.
My teacher never said, “This is not good”. He never censored me. And so, I try to do the same thing. I have learned that a teachers is forever and when you take a student, it is also forever. I still see my teacher today and I am still driving him crazy!
Q: Your approach is/was so different. What was the reaction?
Pulpo: Most of the people from my generation were doing the same kind of search. At the beginning I would hide a little and then later I would fight and finally I didn’t care. It felt like I was living in Berlin in 1945.
But I was driven to discover ..to explore.. so I couldn’t avoid it. I can’t avoid it. I am still adding to my inventory.
When I first started dancing Tango, I had to learn a huge repertoire. Now, the repertoire is even bigger and that’s good for Tango and a challenge for the new generation. Whoever wants to dance well (in the major leagues) must study a lot even with natural talent. There is a lot of competition to be in the major leagues now. More now because there are more people. But to just social dance, it is not necessary to have such a huge repertoire.
Q: Luiza, how did you meet Norberto?
Luiza: I first met Norbeto in January 1998 in Sao Paulo. Actually my very first Tango contact was in Portland, Oregon in Sept. 1997. I was living there, studying singing, and a friend, Refaela, a Flamenco teacher, invited me to join her to this “Argentine Tango” class. I was completely thrilled at the first class, so when I went back to Brazil six months later I wanted to find an Argentine Tango teacher to keep learning. a friend of my mother gave me Pulpo’s number and I called him. I started right away.
Q: And how was this first venture into a new style
Luiza: Little by little, I started feeling that his idea of Tango was special and I identified a lot with it. The concept of creativity and infinite possibilities made me become very interested. The followers level or “surrender” was an incredible challenge for someone that was always somehow a leader in life. It taught me to lower anxiety, to wait and listen more. It made me live more the moment in an almost frightening way. it was too much of a change. It really brought up things that were present in me, but in a way very hidden.
Q: Has the style evolved for you?
Luiza: Of those seven years of experience, the style evolved a lot and I believe that teaching made me inevitably more conscious of what I had to do as a dancer. It gave me awareness and a good base to grow from . I believe that part of the leader’s possibilities of movements come from what the follower can offer. It’s the ability of adapting and availability as well.
Q: Why tango?
Pulpo: For me, it was easy. My father was a Tango musician. If my father was a lawyer and not a bandoneon player, I would be a judge.
Q: Your father was alive during this time. Was he supportive?
Q:So you admire your father?
Pulpo: Yes, but to be clear… among artists there is no admiration… there is love. (The photo above features his father’s bandoneon)
Q: Did you feel that the 2005 festival was a success?
Pulpo: The students said that they loved how they were treated. People felt very welcome and kept telling us how happy and satisfied they were. .. that they lived a dream. One student, who has attended many festivals, commented that our week was her favorite because of the environment, the attention she received from the professors and staff, and the scheduling of the events. I was also very happy with the venues. Dandi had all the facilities… air conditioning, food, beautiful design….
and I loved where we had our milongas, El Bandoneon, which is now called La Patriotica.
Luiza: Yes… it fulfilled our main goal, which was a celebration of friendship and an event where we could have mainly people that we like and have good energy around us.
Q: What was your favorite moment?
Pulpo: Rock and Roll – my party with 400 people – when all the teachers danced to rock and roll. Im here for the party! was the cortina.
Luiza: The birthday party – when the teachers starting dancing to ACDC and the cakes, confetti etc.
Q: What would you change next year?
Pulpo: Delegate and coordinate more next year so that Luiza and I feel a little less stress. We want a festival with a youthful spirit – not necessarily young people. We realized that we want a staff that has presence, is willing to take more responsibilities, but can also be joyful and playful.
Luiza: For me, shorter classes, maybe have only 3 classes a day.
Q: Was there a moment of Tension?
Pulpo: The first day.
Luiza: The first party was tense because it was the beginning. We took too much responsibility on ourselves.
Q: What made you laugh most?
Pulpo: My birthday party… I felt like I was in a dream.
Luiza: The last day when everyone was exhausted, I was talking to Paul Marshall during our class and I mentioned that people were so tired that they weren’t working on what we were teaching. I ran up to each couple to show Paul and we both started laughing.