Although the tango community only accounts for a very small section of the city-life yet milongas are packed with interesting people from all over the world.
In this new series of interviews Emy Kincs – a hungarian tango-lover who now lives in Scotland – attempts to find out the story of these extraordinary yet everyday people, what attracts them to tango & what it means to them, how they see Budapest and what they do in life..
The first interview is with Almiria Wilhelm, a ballet teacher from Johannesburg, South Africa.
I first met Almiria at the workshop of Pablo Rodriguez and Corinna Herrera. We introduced ourselves to each other and that was it. How we ended up having tea and shisha in a little turkish restaurant in the middle of the night I can’t quite recall, but I’m glad it happened. It was easy to chat to her she had great stories to share and was always smiling. Next time you see her, don’t forget to ask what ‘nownow’ means and what the ‘robots’ are in South Africa. Here we go:
Emy: Almiria, you are a professional ballet teacher. Tell me what made you turn to dance, what was your very first encounter with dancing and how you started your career.
Almiria: When I was four, my mother took me to see a ballet for the first time. During the interval, I needed a bathroom break but I was apparently so panic-stricken at the thought of missing the second half of the performance that I fell backwards into the toilet bowl. Fortunately I was rescued at the last moment by my mother. So I ‘fell’ in love with dance very literally. I started ballet classes soon thereafter and have been involved with dance ever since.
E: You also dance Argentine tango and salsa, not exactly similar dances, should we say. They carry different emotional charges and the venues along with the music create a very different atmosphere each time. What do these mean to you, how do you feel while dancing different styles and which one do you prefer?
A: That’s an interesting question. Every dance form has its charm and its challenges, each one like a language in its own right. I love the high energy and speed of reaction that salsa requires. It really stimulates me mentally and gives me a fabulous workout too. And of course I’ve made great friends dancing salsa :)
Argentine tango is a very special dance. The nuances are endless, and at its best it induces a meditative state of mind that feels like ‘dance enlightenment’. It allows a unique emotional connection to the music and my dance partners that I haven’t come across in any other form of dance. And again, I have met so many amazing people while doing what I love most!
E: Do you think that being trained in ballet helped you in acquiring other dances and if it did help, in what ways?
A: Having been trained in a very precise form of dance certainly brings advantages, but it’s not all good. Unlearning old habits is often harder than acquiring new ones from scratch. I am very grateful for my knowledge of how the body works, how muscles learn and for good control of my body. But unlearning old movement patterns is one of my biggest challenges and one that I’m working with all the time!
E: You have travelled many parts of the world, dancing (or not). If you had to choose your favourites, what would they be? (favourite city, favourite milonga venues, best atmosphere, cultural favourite, friendliness)
A: Wow, a challenging task! My favourites change a lot (and there are a LOT of places I haven’t been to yet), but one that stays the same is my favourite city…Budapest! I love the architecture, the people, the culture and I have had so many great experiences there that it won’t easily be bumped off the top of my list.
Milonga venues…hmm that harder, especially as it’s usually coloured by the quality of the dancing I’ve had during the evening, but the outdoor castle milonga in Budapest is certainly one of my top picks!
For friendliness I can’t think of any better place to nominate than my beloved home, South Africa.
E: Being a dedicated (addicted) dancer, how do you manage your everyday life? Do you have to make compromises or ever come across situations when you have to decide between dancing – something else?
A: Definitely addicted…and it brings both joys and challenges! I certainly have come across these situations and dancing usually wins! The biggest challenge I have is that as a dance teacher myself, I often teach late and don’t have time to attend other dance classes and this really frustrates me.
E: Tell me about a time when you got into a funny/weird situation because of this! :)
A: I remember one incident where my teaching commitments clashed with a Gran Milonga in Johannesburg (with a show by Homer and Christina Lladas). I went to a lot of trouble arranging for substitute teachers and then in my rush to get to the milonga on time, I took a wrong turn on the highway and got lost…I eventually found my way back in time to catch the second half of their performance, but it wasn’t my most successful evening ;)
E: Do you have any good tango related stories to tell us?
One of my funniest tango experiences was landing up on the outskirts of Verona, looking for a tango venue that was not where it had been advertised online, with a telephone number that didn’t work, without any cash and with all the atms in the vicinity out of order…I eventually found the milonga when I heard snatches of tango music drifting across the deserted industrial space.
Another event I will never forget is dancing tango at midnight on a street in Budapest, to the music of a street musician.
E: If you could give one advice to tango-newcomers and all those reading this interview, what would it be?
A: My advice to newcomers is DON’T GIVE UP! Tango is a dance with more layers than an onion and the deeper you go, the more exciting it becomes. And to everyone else I want to say…don’t give up tango either! I still want to dance with you ;)
E: Almiria, you might be moving to Austria soon. Does this mean that hungarian milongueros will have a chance to take you to dance more often? :)
A: Definitely. Budapest is one of my favourite places and I will be back to dance.
E: Well, thank you for taking the time to answer your questions, I hope we’ll see you soon again! :)
If you have a favourite dancer you would like to find out more about, let us know! They might be the next to be interviewed :)