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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
Inside Perspectives
Argentine Tangos

Rodolfo A. Windhausen

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 18, 2002
About the Author:

Rodolfo A. Windhausen

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower

Rodolfo A. Windhausen has participated in the Tango scene for more than forty years. He was born into a family that loved Tango, and his father, while in Germany in 1930, arranged the premiere of Enrique Santos Discépolo's famous Tango, 'Yira Yira', first performed in Berlin by Juan Llosas' Orchestra. Rodolfo is a journalist, by trade, and writes for El Once Tango News of London, ReporTango, NY, El Tangauta, Buenos Aires, in addition to other Latin American publications. Rodolfo has translated Tango CD liner notes, interviewed many famous Tango performers and musicians, and translated Opera CD's for andante, a classical music Website of New York-London-Paris. Rodolfo A. Windhausen is the subject of this inside perspective.

July 18, 2002, with Rodolfo, at Starbuck's, West 57th Street, sipping iced Cappuccino, and recalling songs and sensations of his childhood, as well as the historical and current Tango scenes, in Buenos Aires and New York.

REZ - Let's reflect on Tango.

RW - Dance is a source of enjoyment for people and also a source of trouble. Emotions are created, as people dance Tango, just as Tango originally reflected the emotional state of Buenos Aires in the twenties and thirties. Everything that happens in the community happens in dance. This is one reason, that, in the United States, there is a difficulty understanding the nuances of Tango. People are unfamiliar with the environment in which the music was written.

Tango is a form of life and philosophy. Tango is not just dance steps. It's adopting a way of life. Tango is a whole vision of life with enormous repercussions in the way you interact. People do not understand this outside of Argentina. Nothing is further from the notion of entertainment. It's a profound way of seeing things.

REZ - Outside of dance, in other social scenes, people meet with a different set of circumstances.

RW - In dance, age does not matter, in either direction, and societal differences don't count. It's, 'Don't ask, don't tell'. What we share is not our profession or education, but a passion for dance. It's not relevant where you come from, as long as you share a passion for dance. People erase their differences and forget who they are. The chemical interaction takes over and the sharing of a commonality. There are women, whose names I don't always remember, whom I always ask to dance, and it doesn't make a difference. This is a healthy situation. In other situations, we're constrained by so many socio-political limitations.

REZ - Let's talk about the music of Tango, and how it enhances and extends our mood.

RW - You have to use the music to create a certain mood. There are days I only want to listen to Piazzolla or Pugliese. You have to learn the chronology of the music and the dance that evolved with it. You cannot dance correctly, if you do not know the nuances and the differences. Carlos Gavito (Forever Tango) said, 'You don't dance steps. You draw your thoughts on the floor with your feet.' And, Discépolo said, 'Tango is a sad thought that you can dance to'.

REZ - Why do people tend to fall into and out of relationships in Tango?

RW - Because they feel a strong attraction to a person through Tango and then fall into a form of emotional trap. They mistakenly feel a strong connection. One problem is that we assume that an affinity for closeness in dance is an affinity for other forms of closeness.

REZ - I think we should move on to a discussion of your heritage and skills. When did you arrive permanently in the United States?

RW - In 1978, I came here, speaking English, because I have an affinity for languages. As a child, I spoke German with my Grandmother. When she died, I blocked this language; I could no longer speak German. So, my father spoke English with me. Also, I taught my neighbors Spanish, and they taught me Italian. I also learned Portuguese and French. My father's friendship with winery owners helped bring French language into our home.

REZ - Talk to me about your current journalism career.

RW - I write for United Press International, and I cover the United Nations. I also write for Website magazines, such as andante.com.

REZ - How did you discover classical music?

RW — My father had a large music collection: Classical, Jazz, Tango, and Tropical (now Latin). Through that record collection, I came to understand more about jazz and classical music, through listening, discussing, and appreciating the music. Also, a pianist, next door, had musical Salons. I met Claudio Arrau and Vilhelm Kempf at these Salons. That neighbor, Yolanda Carenzo, was my musical and spiritual mentor and also taught me to appreciate poetry and literature. I learned to distinguish good music from bad music. I also discovered a taste for West African music, Senegalese, and I explored the roots of jazz. I discovered that in the roots of Tango there was West African music, such as the one from Cabo Verdeans, who were the descendants of slaves and lived in the black community of Buenos Aires. Also, I learned about the Cuban roots of Tango. The Habanera rhythm was brought to Argentina by Cuban sailors in the nineteenth century. In fact, there is still one Milonga in Havana, once a week, for a small Tango community.

REZ - You seem so knowledgeable about the historical aspects of Tango music.

RW - Yes, and there are interconnections, as the roots of Milongas come from Candombe and Fandango, African rhythms. There is an influence of African rhythm on all forms of Latin music.

REZ - And a further influence on Tangos?

RW - For me, Tango is the most emotionally charged music, except Flamenco. It's a philosophy of life, a way of seeing the world. The Argentine writer, Ernesto Sabato, has said that Tango lyricists were the first existentialists, long before existentialism came into being. The Tango lyricists were dealing with these issues. Waldo Frank said, 'Tango is the deepest and most profound form of popular music.'

I get annoyed when people come to Tango for fun. It is for a moody, pessimistic state of mind. Don't take Tango lightly. If you want to dance for fun, go to Swing or Salsa - not Tango. It's not about trying new choreography or steps. It's about seeing life from a new perspective. I go to a Milonga with a religious sense, as if I were going to a Temple or a Church.

REZ - Thank you so much.

Rodolfo A. Windhausen

Photo compliments of Rodolfo
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