For the love of tango and a woman, he left Buenos Aires to Holland to teach and dance milonga.
We had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Walter González, an Argentinian of 49 years old that moved to Netherlands with the goal of helping spread Argentina’s traditional tango. Currently, Walter offers tango classes and milongas seminars for beginners and more advanced students. The tango ambassador tells us how his life goal consists of promoting a bit of that Buenos Aires Tango soul from the 40’s to all who are willing to learn outside of Argentina.
“This passion started after seeing my grandparents dance. I was fascinated when I discovered tango of the people. In reality, my ties with tango surged out of a need to connect me to my roots and origins. So, I started to frequent more traditional places. I started taking classes, going from professor to professor, until I found those that were dedicating themselves to the resurgence of the more traditional dance. It was here that I fell hard and no one would be able to take that love from me”, said González.
In reference to his European adventure, each time he returned to his country of origin, Walter always takes the opportunity to reflect whenever he returns to Argentina, coming to the conclusion that tango hasn’t changed throughout the years. He’s convinced that it doesn’t matter the diversity that’s presented in Buenos Aires, tango still lives for those that look for it.
In this way, and in order to explain his thought process, Walter explain with a fascinating comparison: “Tango Is a different language, and, just like any other language, it has its own dialects. Each district interprets tango in the way they live it or understand It. The differences are in where it’s danced, the people, the context, the setting, but the essence is always the same.”
Walter recognizes that the same foreigners that love tango and have made the journey to Buenos Aires, bring with them new ideas and repertoires. He reaffirms that, what most foreigners consumed by these visiting tangueros, tends to be different from traditional tango.
Without a doubt though: “The keepers of tango continue to be argentine. While I can admit that the golden age of the 40’s has past, the milongas are still full. You’ve got to understand it’s its own little world. But a little world that understands and recognizes that culturally and geographically it was born in every sense of the word, in Argentina. I’ve never heard, for example, a tango or invention of another country that wasn’t this one.”
How can explain the tango through the years and the generational leap?
This question seemed to loom over us throughout our entire tango conversation. With a bit of a critical response, González talked about the existence of a generation in argentine society known as “the lost generation”. This generation corresponds to the generation of Walter’s parents. “It was the generation of Rock and Roll. A generation that destroyed many traditions, in large part due to political motivation. And it’s that,when we talk about tango, we talk about much more than just the music, the lyrics hold just as much, if not more weight. These pieces invited listeners to reflect on society and the individual. They were lyrics that surged from the needs of a community. The Argentine dictators of the time were looking for the exact opposite. They didn’t want the people to think or express themselves. After the 60’s they started to have more superficial themes and a catchy chorus. Songs with no message that didn’t identify us as a society.”
As we spoke, we talked a bit about his journey from Buenos Aires and in the Netherlands itself. Walk smile a bit as he thought about the past and confessed: “That’s the reason I left”. His head motioning towards his dance partner and partner that sat beside him. A permanent smile seemed to don her cheeks as he spoke, a beautiful Dutch woman, tall, and stunning. As if without missing a beat to leave us without any doubts: “Love”. Which now had him beaming as well.
“I was working as a professor giving tango classes in English to tourists at a local hostel in the district of San Telmo and there she was. We met and right away felt a spark but, she had to go back home and so it was. Six months apart. I couldn’t take it anymore and I decided it was time to go find her. Just like that, what felt like a blind date, butterflies filling my stomach and nerves all over, I saw her waiting for me at the Amsterdam Airport.
She’s from Enschede, a small Dutch town near the German border. There she introduced me to the local tangueros and they all seemed very interested in my work. It was a relationship that saw me going and coming for almost 3 years, until finally, they asked me to take over at the Flor de Tango, and important tango academy located in the city of Arnhem.”
Walter mentioned how arriving in Netherland with tango as his flag, he felt a certain amount of responsibility for being an argentine exponent: “I felt; I had a mission to complete. I wanted to be a window through where everyone could see other parts of the world. I wanted to give the world a little piece of Buenos Aires in the form of tango. From the way we walk, to the space we use, and the passion we have. Everything that’s essential, like the Little Prince says: invisible to the eyes”.
In relation to his students, his experience as a tango professor, Walter admitted that the secret ingredient to becoming a great dancer, was in surrounding yourself in that style of a milonguero and to share it like a passion.
“I know people that haven’t taken a single tango class ever, but because they frequent tango clubs, have developed a bit of talent”. He spoke about the waitresses of the tango clubs in particular: “They spend so much time surrounded by that essence of milonga, they’ve developed very good technique. Many starts to dance better, not because of what they see or hear but, from the energy that’s all around them.Honestly, I feel that milongas have so much energy, that even if you were blind, you’d be able to feel it all around you.”
Our conversation soon drifted to the professional Tango dance and Tango dance competitions. His reason for visiting Argentina on this occasion. Walter made it clear that the entire world was evolving and developing more and more professionals. It’s clearly visible in the Tango World cup in its growth in the last few years as well as becoming more and varied in terms of nationalities, all of which have crafted brilliant performances.
On a final note, Walter Gonzalez spoke a bit more about his tango project in Netherlands and his plans for the future. “I am bringing a bit of an argentine flavor to the Netherlands. Something uniquely argentine about each milonga gathering. That each piece and every little detail have its own argentine touch. If at all possible, with the same social norms and mannerism that are present in Buenos Aires, from how we greet our guests to of course classic flavors such as empanadas.”
I want them to open the door in Holland step in and say: “I’m in Buenos Aires.”
© images/videos credits: waltergonzaleztango.com; tangozwolle.com; flordetango.nl