Simona Zaino — an interview

Simona Zaino

Simona (or 'Tana', as her dance partner calls her, Tana being Buenos Aires slang for 'Italian') is a professional dancer from Dublin. Before her arrival in Auckland, she offered classes in her tango studio in Ireland with Argentinian dancer Hernán Catvin. She now teaches both tango and yoga at the Pasión Por Tango studio.

What got you into tango?

I started dancing tango about 10 years ago. I had spent some time training in modern Jazz and Ballet. And then one evening a friend brought me to a milonga.. I immediately connected with the music! When I was a child my grandparents and parents used to play tango music at home. So the music was all very familiar to me.

What do you love about tango, or what does tango mean to you?

I love the music, I find it very inspiring. The variety of feelings and emotions in tango music is an incredible creative ground for a dancer.

And those feelings are so human that anybody can relate to them...

The dance itself is wonderful... like no other I have tried before. Even after many years dancing, I'm still amazed at how two people can communicate so naturally in a non-verbal way and how this encounter of energies can produce such harmonious movement.

How long have you been teaching tango for?

I have been teaching tango for the past eight years, mostly in Ireland and Italy and also in the US. In Ireland I also direct the International Tango Festival, together with my dance partner Hernan. In Auckland I will start teaching group classes at the Pasión Por Tango studio. I am looking forward to teaching there. It's such a lovely studio. There is great atmosphere there and it really feels like being in BsAs! (Thanks, Marion!)

Which tango dancers have you learnt from, or who inspire you?

I have taken classes with various teachers. I have tried different styles, from the most tradtional to the modern ones. Carlos and María Rivarola were my first teachers. They are very passionate teachers and this certantly fed my enthusiasm for the dance.

I have a lot of respect for Pablo Verón, as a dancer and a teacher. I met him a few years ago and partnered with him in occasion of the Tango Festival in Ireland in 2005. He's a true 'master of dance' (he can dance pretty much everything!). As a teacher his approach is unique as he teaches his students to feel tango 'from the inside' rather than to think about it. As a dancer, he can perfectly combine passion and masculinity with sensuality and lightness.. 'yin and yang', as I would imagine him say :)

Which style(s) of tango would you say you dance and/or teach?

Even though I also perform tango on stage, I believe the essence of Argentine Tango is that of a social dance. And that is what I like to teach. Tango is a dance for everybody, you don't need to be a professional dancer to dance tango.

If you have feelings, you can dance tango.. :)

What are your classes like?

I structure my classes so that a different topic is covered in each class. After a cycle of 5-6 classes, students should have covered all they need to know at their level. Therfore I encourage students to attends classes regularly.

In each class, I always teach technique and then show a sequence to demonstrate the technique. But I always encourage dancers to create and improvise on the music, using the technique tools I provided. This way, dancers can gain confidence in their own ability and can get away from fixed dancing patterns. And they also develop musicality.

Also, I encourage people to change partner in the classes so they get used to dancing with as many people as possible (different body structures, different temperaments, etc.). A good dancer is one that adapts. This is what makes dancing more enjoyable.

I like to explain things in the simplest and most precise way possible. And I like to give people individual attention because ..we are all different, aren't we? :) And I believe a good teacher should take this into account.

It is my personal satisfaction when people learn and enjoy dancing. I also like to be spontaneous and use sense of humor in my classes, because it makes the atmosphere more relaxed and people get closer to one another and to the teacher. and dancing should be fun! :)

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring tango dancers?

A couple of tips for newcomers and experienced tangueros:

  1. Be serious in your tango practice. But don't take yourself too seriously! :) It's only dance.. Enjoy it!
  2. When learning tango, focus on understanding its technique and dynamics, rather than just learning steps by heart. Learning steps will get you trapped. Understanding the technique will give you freedom.. the freedom to create your own dance.

Simona Zaino
May 2011

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