By Marķa Susana Azzi
(30 November 1930 - 29 April 1996)
True name: José Domingo Monteleone
Hippopotamus, Buenos Aires, August 3, 1992, 12 PM.
«I started dancing at twelve at the Carnival celebrations in Avellaneda. My true name is Monteleone; "Pepito Avellaneda" is a nickname. My ancestors were Italians and Spaniards. I used to go to dance to the Salón Duca, in the 40s, 1945, 1946. I started to dance, I dared to dance. In 1945 I made my first exhibition: it was at the Teatro Roma of Avellaneda. I was fifteen years old then. I danced with Royuelo's daughter, a muscle therapist at Independiente club. We even now still meet, she is now married, she has children. I'm a close friend of her husband, very close friend. They're used to go dancing to 'Tanguería del 40', in Lanús. Nice isn't it? Because it is a memory of years, years.
«Dancing is everything for me, I feed on it. I dance and I am nurtured. I signed many contracts, for example in the provinces: Salta, Córdoba, Tucumán. And I, even though I was not paid, I danced because I felt it. That is to say I did what I felt like to and I was also paid. That is wonderful. It means that I feed on tango, I enjoy teaching. I spend all day long teaching. In Europe they love me very much. So much so that I receive letters, they send me invitations, it's very nice.
«I am pizzero. My trade is to sell pizza. We had a pizza shop with daddy, but I was crazy for milonga (dancing). No, no, no...I wanted to work like that. Only with dancing. When would I find time to sleep? When it was the time of the Carnival celebrations, people at clubs ordered pizza, I delivered pizza, I stayed there to dance until the next day, I went back home at six in the morning and then I started to get pizza ready for the following day. It was Carnival time. That is to say that I did not sleep. Sometimes daddy told me: 'Come on, lie down for a while that I wake you up later'. My old man was my friend, my brother, everything... I lost my Mom at five. He meant everything for me. I lost him three years ago. Certainly, I'm from Avellaneda. But the boys, as I danced with the name 'Los Porteñitos', told me 'but how d'you represent the capital if you're from the province?'. Then I told my manager about that and he called me 'Pepito from Avellaneda'. 'You go to Mataderos, to Flores, Pepito from Avellaneda, it sounds good'. 'No, Pepito Avellaneda'. I sounds like a surname. And so it's been from long since. I think I made it popular in 1957 or 58. I still keep paper clippings of that. I'd like to show you. I worked hard in live shows. When there was a live show, I used to go and danced at the cinemas, between the movies, there was a live show. I have programs of the '55, '56. It's incredible. The magazine 'Ahora', of the '57. I was looking after in old magazines, and then I start to see one and there I was. It's incredible. I've been with tango for a long time, with teaching.
«And I learnt by myself. It was a question of trying, to make a step, another step. And then I dared. Later the practice in clubs came, among men. That is to say, I led you, you led me: in other words, you learnt to lead a woman. That to dance on Sunday, on Saturday. We practiced to create some steps. There were no women at the practices. It was only with men. We practiced it to dance with our girlfriend, with our wife. It's easier to dance with a woman. There are men that dance like a woman. Okay. And there were cases when someone played the woman's role to find out what women did... If you know how to lead a man is easier to lead a woman. Women learn much quicker than men. Because man has to know how to guide a certain step, to think of the step, how to lead her. And that is difficult. Now if they make a choreography, it is no longer the same thing. It is then a utility thing. But the milonguero (dancer) has to know how to lead. And there are many that dance, leading. There are others that dance as if programmed by computer. That is to say, a choreography, and nothing else. But when they go to a ballroom, they don't know how to dance. That happens with many dancers».
«Milonga, for me, is my life. Others make it like a trade. I don't, I grow with it. That is the difference. There are those who learn to make money. And others that learn because they like dancing. Like these kids, these kids -Diego and Natalia - they are very hard-working, I gave them many classes, but they are very attentive.
«In their inner self they like tango. They feel it, they feel it, and Diego looks at me from head to toe. All the movements, the placing of feet. And that is very important. It's very important. But there are other kids, you know, they learn it to say 'I travel and get dollars', nothing else. But there are a lot of kids that like it. Here´s Pugliese's son, Pablo. Pablito, is eleven years old and he's mad. He likes it, he feels it. How can an eleven year-old kid like so much tango dancing, milonga? I brings back memories to me. It's very nice to see them dancing that way. They want to dance. They feel it. He dances either with a young girl or with an elderly lady. Whoever she may be. And he is a very capable boy because he leads. That is to say that tomorrow he'll be a future milonguero. Not a dancer. A future milonguero.
«I like either tango or milonga. As for the milonga, I'm the creator of all the steps I play. At tango as well, I'm the creator of the figures I dance, they're mine. This means I'm a creator. Besides I like it, I invent steps, they spring out from me. I taught an old milonga to Diego and Natalia, a milonga of the 20s, with guitar, and it seems that they have a guitar on their feet. But if you would ask me: 'will you design a choreography?'. I don't know it. Because I was inspired and I got it then, and I don't know if I could do it again.
«Abroad, they write down the steps, they write them in their way. One figure, I don't know how they write it down, but they do. Others with hieroglyphics. They transcribe steps, turns, crossword puzzle. But they understand each other. And others write how it starts, how the beginning is and how the end is. Of each figure.
«Before I used to sing with Dad. For ourselves, for fun. Very
nice. Discépolo is the greatest
thing for me. Then come the others, without looking down on them.
Discépolo: I hear him and he delights me, I listen to the things
he has created. And I love him. He's a poet. Including the tangos,
very good. All them with feeling. And I like Troilo.
«To dance tango orillero (tango from the outskirts), then, D'Arienzo. Because of the beat. But I also enjoy the smooth sliding beat of Di Sarli. Pugliese. They're different musics. To dance slowly is very difficult. Because you have to convey the theme, the cadences, the pauses. Do not play a non-stop dance, it's not something continuous, you look, look, but you don't see anything. In other words, there is no transmission. Instead when you add a soft cadence, tango is poetic. It is poetry.
«I want to get everywhere with dancing. I tell you, I get out from here, when I stop working, I go to a dance hall. Last Friday I went to Akarense with a couple of Americans. Yesterday I was at La Galería with some students from Barcelona. They like to see how the people dance. But business is when tourists are taken to Casablanca, El Viejo Almacén, Michelangelo. But they go, see and see nothing. Because they see something that is not true tango. You see true tango at dance halls. That's the way the people feel it. And I take everybody -who comes from abroad- there.
«I like jazz as well. Cumbia. I like all kinds of music. Opera, some pieces I understand, not others. Same as, I like very much Liberace, this pianist I love. I listen to others but I don't understand them. Then, maybe they are very good, but they don't get me. That and many orchestras, like Piazzolla. Piazzolla played very nice before, he played quite good, he has some old recordings, from before, and he once said 'All those recordings have to be discarded'. He meant we have only to listen to his later material. For me it's not that way, it's the other way around. Or maybe it is not that I don't like his music, because there are tunes that are quite beautiful. But other music is not danceable. That is to say, if it cannot be listened to, it is not for dancing either. But there are others that yes. Even with dancing, are good for the ear. I mean, I don't say I despise him, but, it's my point of view, my liking. There are many who also coincide with me. Now I say, I love Piazzolla, I have to go to Paris, and later to Belgium, Brussels, but I like him, a good musician, a genius.
«The future of tango. It conquered the world, we may say. Tango conquered the world. Now people in any place dance tango. Either in the United States, Central America, Europe. Everything with tango. And they teach to dance tango, so that tango will never be forgotten. In Germany there are lots of schools where tango is taught. In Hamburg as well, in Stuttgart, too. I mention the places where I've been. Holland. Amsterdam, Maastrich, Rotterdam, and in other cities there are many places where tango is danced and is taught. Let's talk of Switzerland, in Basel, I always go there. In Buenos Aires I taught them and then they knew nothing at all. They put up a school in Basel, and they're doing fine. That's incredible. Cecilia and Romeo are the ones from Basel. When I was in Basel, teachers came from Zurich, that is to say that I was teaching teachers.
«It's incredible. In every place in the world. In Paris. Now I have to go to France, also to dance tango and teach. Sometimes I laugh, because during all my life I was struggling for the sake of tango. And only at 56 I started to travel to Europe. It's incredible. I was in Canada, six months with Copes. Appearing at shows and teaching. They are cold because that is the English area. It's Toronto. But, they adapted themselves to our tango. That is to say that if it's in Canada but on the other side, that is kind of France, there they like tango very much. There they already have places for dancing. They have places to teach. Montreal. There, from there instructors came, Lili Palmer, who was Thompson's wife. Lili Palmer came to study with me in Toronto. It's incredible. They love tango, they adore it, for that reason I tell you it's a worldwide thing. Now I'm invited to go to Russia. I never visited Russia. And that is for about December or January. They even asked me to bring a video. They want to hire me because they need a milonguero. I don't know where I'm going. They ought to tell me. They told me it's Russia. By the way, today I recorded a video, because Casablanca, Claudia and Paola, asked me to do it. Then they go and a milonguero is needed. So they called me. I already told Copes about it. I told him about Paris. I told him about Brussels, but as this is just talking, the other thing is for certain because they sent me the ticket.
«I get up according to the time I went to bed. Sometimes I don't get up, because sometimes I go back home very late, at seven, eight, nine, I sip a few mates and I have to go to teach because around eleven AM I begin to teach. European people like to have lessons in the morning. At ten AM, at nine. Because it seems that they have their head cooler in the morning. Because they always ask me in the morning. At nine in the morning, sometimes. I go to the dance hall, go back home, have some mates and I go out to teach. Yesterday I was in La Galería, returned home, it was eight AM, drank some mates, with some tasty doughnuts, watched a little TV and then I went to teach at eleven. Later at one the Americans arrived. Then you cannot sleep. Later I had the Spaniards, the ones from Barcelona. New people, I had to teach Roxana and Carlos Morel. It means that I had the whole day today. And now I came here. Soon I go home, and go to bed. I think as soon as I put my head on my pillow I'll see nothing else. But what a happiness this book 'Antropología del Tango'. Tomorrow I'll get up and will read it. I hope we'll meet again. We'll have a coffe like we did today».