This article is reprinted with permission of Tango Times
We had met Milena for dinner one evening in May while we were in Buenos Aires and it dawned on us that we had never interviewed her. Milena has been like a daughter to us from the time we met her while she was in TANGO ARGENTINO. She agreed and said that since we never saw her apartment, we could meet there. When we arrived she showed us around. She has a beautiful view of the zoo full of trees, bordered by the skyline. As she showed us the view she said she was happy there with the sun streaming in during the day, the beautiful view and the sounds of the animals at night. She commented, with a smile, that the view was like facing Central Park in Manhattan. Milena Ã smiling, serene, at peace with herself.
Tango Times: How is life treating you these days?
Milena Plebs: Laughing Ã Oh my Ã My life is treating me very well. "Muy, muy bien" My astrological sign is Aries and Aries people are always beginning Ã we're always beginning new things. So at this moment, after I parted from TANGO X DOS I began thinking about new venues. Something very different from TANGO X DOS. I do not want to do what I did in TANGO X DOS. I want to open my mind and create something very distinct, very different. I do not know how or when this will occur but this energy of beginning again fills me with much enthusiasm. I am also enchanted to be dancing with Ezequiel who is a young person.
TT: How is this partnership working out?
MP: It is a great combination Ã my experience, everything I've learned and experienced and his youth with new approaches and material. A young person always approaches projects with much spontaneity, energy, and enthusiasm because they have a a tremendous impulse. I believe he will grow to be a strong dancer. So this is a good combination Ã my experience and his enthusiasm.
TT: That is how we feel also and were looking for someone to work with us with our classes and milongas
MP: And have you found anyone?
TT: Yes, Leandro and Andrea Ã they will be working with us shortly. We are looking forward to it so that it will be easier for us to take time off. And so what have you and Ezequiel been doing?
MP: We began by rehearsing very strenuously for one year. When we began I told him to forget that I was Milena Plebs. That he had to have his space and be a strong dancer in his own right. We were to be a partnership. And so we began rehearsing for one year on various projects. In this second year we are already creating certain projects Ã a video, show, some performances Ã several possibilities. I don't know which will occur first because of the economic crisis in Argentina and all over the world but they are out there and that is what we are working on. We do have a project which will occur currently but we also have other projects that we hope to do perhaps in a year or two.
TT: Some say that it takes a professional tango partnership five years to really dance well together Ã to dance as one. Do you agree?
MP: No, I believe like everything else in life, that it depends on the individual. For instance with Ezequiel I felt we could put together a tango and dance it well together as soon as we began to dance together. In about one and one half to two months that we began to rehearse, we already were able to do an exhibition on a high level. Also a partnership is always experimenting and modifying. For example, with my past partner, Miguel, we danced for twelve years and every year we would come up with new things for our work. I feel that one cannot say that it takes five years or ten or one or two months. One is always modifying, changing, working on new things. There are times when one dances better, there are times when one does not dance as well Ã but that is normal Ã as in anything Ã no? It is a process.
TT: How did ROMANCE DE BARRIO come about?
MP: ROMANCE DE BARRIO was a good experience for me as it was my first work since TANGO X DOS. I was asked by a person who does productions in San Telmo and it had to be done within a month and a half. That is a very short time to put a show together. I am accustomed to working on a project for a much longer time. So for me it was like a rehearsal and an experiment to create something quickly.
TT: Where did it perform?
MP: In one location that is called San Telmo Arte Club and then in Teatro Margarita Xireu and the Fifth Tango Festival of Rosario. We received very good reviews I might add.
TT: When you create do you get an idea first and choose the music or do you have certain music in mind and create around it?
MP: The way that I come up with ideas for say a choreography or a show may come from many different sources. For example, one might see a photo and from that photo be inspired to tell a story and one gets an idea for a choreography and then you begin thinking about the music. Or one might think up of a story and that story gives you ideas of what movements or what music would go well. There are really many ways that one would create a choreography or show. The beauty of creating is that one does not know how it will come out. I'm always amazed after I see a choreography and wonder where did this come from?
TT: How did you meet Ezequiel?
MP: When I left TANGO X DOS and stopped dancing with Miguel, I continued to produce a bit but then I stopped producing and finally I stopped dancing. I felt that I didn't care to dance anymore. Copes had asked me to dance with him three times but I told him no. He was a bit offended Ã well not really offended Ã he asked why I didn't want to dance with him. I responded that I didn't care to dance with anyone, not with him, not with Zotto, not with anyone else. It was —- let me think —- '98 and '99 Ã two years that I didn't dance professionally.
TT: Did you go to the Milongas?
MP: Very little Ã not even to the milongas. I just didn't feel up to it. It was a very strong, emotional decision to leave TANGO X DOS. It took me two years to decide to leave and another two years to get over it and so I didn't go dancing. In reality I danced very little. So, the 2000 millenium was approaching and 1999 was about to end Ã it was the last Tuesday at Almagro. Almagro, to the tango dancers of my generation, was a temple Ã the temple of the milongas. The young and the older dancers would meet there every Tuesday. Now it was the last Tuesday of the millinium 1999. I called my friend Poroto and asked if he would accompany me to Almagro. I felt drawn to going there. He said "certainly, I will come and pick you up." Poroto came, picked me up and we went to Almagro. It was like a ritual Ã going to Almagro Ã
the last Tuesday of the millennium Ã I felt I just had to dance a tango on this day. Poroto and I went and sat at a table where David was seated. We always sat at the same table, at the side where the entrance was. At Almagro, I always had strong experiences Ã whether it was meeting new people, coming up with artistic ideas Ã Poroto, my soul-friend, I had seen him for the first time at Almagro and for the last time at Almagro. Many things Ã very strong experiences. So I figured I should go and that I could always dance with Poroto. We were seated at this table when I noticed a young fellow turning and turning on the dance floor. I asked David who he was because he appeared to be dancing very well and I did not know who he was. There had been many young folks that were dancing that night but this one had caught my attention. He was dancing with a girl but it didn't seem that they were a couple. One can usually tell by the way one dances if they are a couple or not. It seemed that they were practicing. David said that he was a fellow who was dancing in a show that he, David was also in. And so David began telling me about the show and that they were in rehearsals for a show that would appear in a theater on Corrientes. I mentioned to him that I thought that the young fellow danced very well. And so the evening ended and I left with Poroto.
New Year's eve there were grand festivities and I again went with Poroto. I danced quite a lot that evening and started getting tired and I decided to leave.The first call that I received on January 1, 2000 was from the female tango dancer that I saw dancing with Ezequiel. She said that she had been to Almagro when I was there and she was calling to see if I gave classes. She wanted to talk to me and show me some material etc. etc. I was surprised that she called me the first day of the new millennium. Well, I said fine that she could come on January 6th at noon. She arrived first and said she had been waiting for Ezequiel but that he was late and so she came up by herself. Then Ezequiel came running in explaining that he had taken the wrong train. We talked about the projects that they were on and she wanted me to see a choreography of theirs and they left a video for me to look at. I told them I would keep them in mind. When I again went to Almagro, Ezequiel asked me to dance. We danced a vals and I felt that we danced very well together.
After that, later in January, I received a phone call from someone regarding the statue that was to be erected at El Abasto. I was very involved because in 1994 there was an article in the Clarin stating that the statue of Carlos Gardel was to be removed from his gravesite at Chacarita and put at El Abasto. I had shown Miguel the article and we were upset and thought that the idea was insane. We called Horacio Ferrer
and many others but the one that was most interested was Enrique Scolnik. He was at the time the president of Fundación del Academia Porteño de Lunfardo. This man, who is now 86 years old, after many efforts talked to many people. He finally, after six years, got consent for a new statue to be constructed.
He then called several people who were involved in the tango Ã I was the only woman Ã and he said that he thought it would be nice to have a tango festival for the dedication of the statue en El Abasto. He asked me if I would dance. I said yes, of course, but I was wondering with whom I would dance with. First I thought it would be nice to dance with Juan Carlos Copes. I didn't want to dance only with Copes however, because as Copes had recently broken up with Maria Nieves people might think that I was replacing her as his partner. I didn't want this to happen. So I began to think and I remembered that I had danced well with Ezequiel. He had also invited me to see the show that he was in. I went to see how he appeared on stage. He had a good stage presence. I thought I would dance one number with him and two numbers with Copes. First I called Copes and asked if he would dance with me. He liked the idea. After I had gone to see Ezequiel I decided I would ask him if he would dance one number at the dedication with me. I knew that he didn't have a steady partner because I had seen him rehearsing with several dancers, or else I never would think of asking him. I thought it would be a nice idea to dance first one number with Ezequiel and the last numbers with Copes. So then when Ezequiel said that he would dance with me we began rehearsing. He had good material and together we created a choreography.
TT: So both of you worked on the choreography.
MP: Yes, yes Ã because I am not a dance teacher Ã I do not teach men to dance. I am not interested in that. To put together a choreography you have to have total fluidity. You cannot say do a basic, do a parada, do a sacada, etc. I try to utilize and try to better what the other does. I know that I have that capacity. In all of my choreographic work with TANGO X DOS, with the couples, I took what they did, in their style and worked with that. In that manner it becomes more personal then to put together a complete choreography for someone which might not suit them. It is better to work within the style and personality of the performer.
TT: When you started tango you must have had some idea of what you wanted from tango.
MP: Laughingly Ã No, no I didn't.
TT: You went from TANGO ARGENTINO to TANGO X DOS and you've had a lot of emotional turmoil. How has it changed your thinking from when you began in tango and now.
MP: Hmmm Ã seriously, I really did not know how far I would go. When I began tango I was a professional modern dancer. I had danced six years professionally as a ballerina and I was growing as a dancer in that direction. Then I had to make a decision Ã did I want to accept the offer to dance in TANGO ARGENTINO with Miguel? It was a tough decision. On one hand I wanted to grow as a modern dancer, I had put so much work into it. On the other hand TANGO ARGENTINO was unique, a one-of-a-kind-in-the-universe type of show. It was glamorous, spectacular, and I could earn a good living and travel. So I had to weigh a lot of things and make a decision. I asked the company that I was dancing with if I could have a one year leave of absence because I didn't know if I would like being in TANGO ARGENTINO. The first four months of touring with TANGO ARGENTINO were very difficult for me.
TT: Why is that?
MP: It was difficult because when I danced modern dance, we were a group of equals. But in TANGO ARGENTINO we had to dance with stars like Copes, Virulazo, Mayoral, Gloria y Eduardo, Los Dinzels, Nelson y Nelida. It was like dancing with all the top dancers where the artistic competition was fierce, strong. I had to learn a new dance and way of dancing. It was quite strenuous.
TT: At the beginning Ã during the days of TANGO ARGENTINO Ã remember we used to do workshops together and the question was always asked do you think that tango is macho. At that time people would answer yes. Do you think that tango is perceived the same way today?
MP: Yes Ã of course Ã yes. It is a machista dance but it can be perceived on one side in a positive way and on the other in a negative one. The positive side is that the man directs and I allow myself to be lead and actually I love that aspect of it. Some might think that this is the negative side but I enjoy the woman's role. After all the world was created with a Sun and a Moon. That is the way the world is and if one enjoys being who they are, then it is a positive experience.
TT: What is in the future for Milena?
MP: Basically I am interested in continuing to dance but also want to get involved in different shows, in different projects and I feel that it is important to systematically get back to the source. No? Because the tendency in the tango has been to get away from its roots. This is something that one must constantly address. One must always get back to the basics, the simplicity, the internal motivation. One must always be searching for this and demonstrating this in choreographies, in shows, in videos, in any thing that one does. It is important that the young dancers see this. Because if this keeps disappearing, they will not have anything to compare it with and we will see a distorted, artificial technique. On the other hand, we have to investigate exactly what we have today and utilize it. Because tango is not only for the old. So therefore, we must investigate forms that combine the old with the modern without losing its form and its essence.
TT: How do you propose doing this?
MP: We can do this with theatrical productions, shows, multimedia, video, various forms. Well that is it. Creating is what I enjoy Ã always sensible creation and with heart and soul.
TT: What about the money aspect of this Ã do you expect to make a lot of money from this?
MP: It is necessary to make money in order to live but that should not be the motivation. The motivation is creating and hopefully one can make a living from it. One does need money in order to do projects so one cannot underplay its importance Ã but no Ã it is not the primary reason.
EZEQUIEL: The money is the method by which we can create and produce these projects. It should not and cannot be its goal.
MP: Exactly. I do not create a project thinking about how much money I will make.
TT: Dancers thinking that they will become millionaires live in a dream world. One cannot go into dance with that premise.
MP: Certainly Ã an artist does it for the art. If they do it for any other reason they will ultimately fail. If you do it well, if you do it profoundly, and if you surround yourself with talented people, at the end you will, I believe succeed.
Well thank you for letting me express myself Ã and now let's go to the milonga.
TT: Yes Ã thank you so much Ã hope you come to New York real soon.