March 2004, interview by Motoko Oka @ MIT
Simonida’s Tango World – “Start dancing Tango!”
What do you feel when you enter a MIT building? MIT provides you with logical, scientific and practical surroundings. But if you enter Room 36-156 on Friday night, you will remember that humans can’t live without emotion. In the day time, the MIT campus is filled with youthful air. In contrast, on Friday nights in this room you can find also many mature people who live on the MIT campus; graduate students, faculty members, and their spouses and partners. This is the room where Simonida Cekovic-Vuletic holds her tango class. MIT members go there to learn how to express their emotions through the tango steps.
Simonida came to Boston in the fall of 2003 with her husband from Stanford, California. As soon as she settled down in Boston, she started to search for opportunities to teach tango at MIT. “There is a so-called Bechtel International Centre at Stanford whose purpose is to bring together the Stanford community, in part through a variety of arts, sport, intellectual and other activities. I assumed that MIT would have something similar. So I came across Spouses&Partners at MIT and talked to Jennifer Recklet about tango.”
She has brought a long story about her experience with tango.
She started her class during IAP of this year. And she found many more MIT members are interested in tango than she expected. The class room was filled with many beginners and experienced people.
Why is tango so deeply fascinating to people? The roots of this dance are somewhat controversial. But it surely developed in Argentina. There are some opinions that the origins are from Africa. “However,” Simonida says, “it is important to mention that tango has spread all over the world, and in every country or even region it is to some extent influenced by the local surrounding. I think one could even observe some peculiarities of tango in Providence (e.g. informal attire) relative to tango in the Boston/Cambridge area. Thus tango is Argentinean, but as a form of art it is also universal. Tango is a language.” You can communicate with others through tango without any spoken language. It is especially this point that Simonida loves.
Tango is a dance that expresses your personality by the still and quiet upper body combined with elegant and impressive leg movements. In this movement you will find infinite possibilities. “It is an improvisational dance in the sense that the steps are not predefined. If tango were a theatre play, then tango dancers would be not only actors but also playwrights and directors. This asks for something more than ‘impersonation,’ it asks us to express our own personality and to reveal a part of ourselves, our feelings. Thus, it requires trust, trust to ‘tell and to listen,’ trust to communicate, to interpret music while having a sensual contact, yet to show respect for our partners and to maintain our own dignity, to be human,” said Simonida.
“I wish to share the excitement that I feel about tango with my students. If I could but convey somehow the magic of it to them, at least remotely, it would truly fill me with happiness. I would think that I have given them something valuable,” Simonida said.
She also has her own vision of the tango world. “Tango as a dance is but one manifestation of a very broad and complex tango culture. The latter includes tango lyrics, poetry and prose, paintings with tango motives, photography, tango fashion, tango music, and much more – in short the forms of the tango culture are limitless. My vision is creating an environment that allows these various forms to be expressed. That doesn’t necessarily mean finding a location, a ‘tango podium’ for all these forms of tango culture and inviting the public to it – although that is always a good idea, but also bringing tango out to the public and to public places.”
Please bring comfortable shoes for the class. Ones with leather soles are best suited. Simonida prefers to “dress up” for the milongas, but you are welcome to wear whatever makes you feel comfortable in the class.
First and foremost, come to join the class and breathe the air of tango! You will find a way of expressing your emotions there.
I started dancing tango in San Francisco. After finishing my PhD in law I had some free time and – as I already had several years of training in ballet – I considered taking some ballet lessons again. Then I happened to see two people dancing tango at Stanford. It was Chelsea Eng and Gary Weinberg from San Francisco. They were doing very simple steps, yet they were so ‘together’, they looked so moving and beautiful, that I immediately knew that I have to take up tango. I took lessons and practiced almost every day a couple of hours. It is also very important to attend ‘milongas’ (tango dances), to dance with many different people and to have good practice partners. After some time I started teaching with Gary Weinberg, at first occasionally substituting for one of his partners. We taught and danced demos in various places in San Francisco, Oakland, Palo Alto, Stanford, San Jose, Reno and Boston.