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This interview is the intellectual property of Gustavo Larsen and protect by copyright.  Please do not copy any portion without the express written permission of Mr. Larsen.

This is a transcript of a 52-minute interview with Martha Antón, Manuel (Manolo “El Gallego”) Salvador, Laura Collavini, and Nelson Julio Martirena Castro, conducted on October 23rd, 2014, by Gustavo Larsen. Martha and Manolo were arguably the leading “old milonguero” couple of the canyengue movement in Buenos Aires. The interview is possibly the last full-length one offered by Martha. For the original audio file, and/or a Spanish transcript of the interview, please contact Gustavo Larsen (

Gustavo: “This first question is primarily directed toward the most experienced members in this group: How did you get started with tango and for how long have you been doing this?”

Martha: “I started a long time ago with a dancer who wnet by the nickname of “Petróleo” (translator’s note: “Petroleum”) who danced both “orillero” and canyengue. I always tell my students that one falls in love with this style (canyengue) and when that happens one often forgets about the rest.”

Gustavo: “Petróleo??”

Nelson: “Carlos Estévez was his real name”

Martha: “Yeah…every time he ordered a glass of wine, he used to say…”give me a “Petroleum”; that where his nickname come from. Petróleo invented the “giros” in “tango orillero”.”

Gustavo: “And when was that?”

Martha: “That was around ’75 or ‘80”

Gustavo: “In orillero style tango?”

Martha: “Not just that, his “giros” were also incorporated in “salón style”.”

Gustavo: “OK, this one’s for Manolo. I know you told me when we met in Argentina as to how you got started with tango. Help me remember a bit…”

Manolo: “I started at around the age of 15. My dad used to go to a small “barrio” club to play cards with family and friends from Spain. In there, I noticed other kids dancing, and I said, “this is beautiful! When are you guys coming back?”, and they told me in a few days, so I kept coming back. After two or three weeks they told me: “hey kid…just play the woman’s role for a while…” That went on for a couple of months, until another “Manolito” (translator’s note”: this was an affectionate way to refer to a kid of Spaniard descent) showed up and it was my turn to ask him to play the woman’s role for a while. I started with tango “salón” and milonga. I always loved milonga! Later in the late fifties I started going out now with my late first wife and mother of my kids. I grew up with Rodolfo Cieri. Great dancer! In the eighties, I met Martha and we started working together with canyengue.”

Gustavo: “Did you see people back in the forties dancing canyengue-style?”

Manolo: “Yes, of course! Rodolfo’s dad for example danced canyengue”

Gustavo: “One of the questions I had was that if the embrace that you saw back then is reflected on what you teach today.”

Manolo: “Yes. It is just that it is more polished today. People have changed since then. Back then a 50-year old man was an old man. He walked like an old man. Today, a 50 year old is “coquette”, and wants to walk softly as butter. In those days, they danced like they walked.”

Gustavo: “So was the low embrace, hand at waist height how they did it?”

Manolo: “Yes. And also an embrace with the hands very high, almost above their heads too.”

Gustavo: “Yes, I have seen that too.” (Translator’s note: some Grondona-Antón videos can be found where this alternative canyengue embrace is observed)

Gustavo: “Let’s ask Laura a few questions. Hi, Laura! You belong to a young generation of “canyengueros”. How did canyengue capture your heart? How many members do you think the canyengue community has?”

Laura: “That I couldn’t answer. I’m currently teaching it, and the number is growing, but MoCCA is not the only group involved in it. There are even groups outside Buenos Aires, some of them I’m not even fully aware of. In the city of Córdoba (Argentina), for example, there is a pretty active group. Sandra and Roberto over there are representing MoCCA. There is also a group in the city of San Martín de los Andes. Many years ago, after dancing some “salón” I was invited to a milonga at “La Trastienda”, organized by María Pampuso. That evening, there was a special celebration: a couple was getting married and they got out on the dance floor to dance some canyengue. Other couples joined in, including Manolo and Martha, who were also newlyweds back then. I always joked that I was their wedding present that day! I was coming from a “salón“ school that was very rigid, and when I saw those people doing canyengue I said: “that’s it…this is exactly what I want”. The next week I was at their “práctica”, and we have been doing this together since then. The relationship between beat and dance is something rather unique. Other styles have it of course, but if you are not entirely connected with the music, in canyengue you will feel that strongly.”

Gustavo: “Hi, Nelson. Tell me how you got started with tango in general and canyengue in particular.”

Nelson: “I got started early in life, my sisters used to dance it too. Back then, I saw canyengue style being danced, but it was many years until I got to learn it. And I did that in Australia! Natalia and Alberto, an Argentine couple, used to teach it in Melbourne, and in Brisbane Luis Gómez too. I learned it over there about 25 years ago. In Australia, tango has been danced for 101 years. They celebrated a century of tango last year. There are old Australian couples who have been dancing tango for a very long time, including canyengue.”

Gustavo: “This question is for the whole group: What can you say to critics, based on your experiences, about the relationship between canyengue, as taught today, and the original forms?”

Nelson: “It keeps the musicality, joy, and it is now evolving. The essence is all in there.”

Martha: “Manolo started at the age of 15. He’s now 82. He danced with Juan Carlos “Jirafa”, Rodolfo Cieri and Juan Bruno, but he saw the parents of all these friends dancing canyengue. The posture is definitely kept, and so is the embrace. What is interesting is that, if you see for example Rodolfo Cieri dancing canyengue, the core of what he did is what we do, but he added his own personal touch to it.”

Gustavo: “What do you think the last bastion in Buenos Aires was for canyengue dancing?”

Martha: “That group of friends primarily came from the west-side, outskirts of Buenos Aires. To give you an idea, canyengue style tango was danced on a patch of dirt and “alpargatas” (translator’s note: “alpargatas” are a humble, canvas type shoe, with soles made out of tightly knit thin ropes, a-la sisal rug, or jute). Downtown dances were tiles, suits and elegance. In the outskirts of town, folks with gaucho attire showed up by horse to the milongas. I was fortunate to be part of the cast in a theatrical piece portraying the life of Canaro. Historians helped with the staging, and it was a very neat. Canaro is canyengue.”

Gustavo: “Can the group tell me places where you have taken your canyengue?”

Martha: “Brazil, for example. Brazilians have that beat in their blood. As far as Siberia, Nagoya and Tokyo in Japan, in Belgium we have Roxina Villegas representing MoCCA, the last world canyengue championship took place in Italy; we go to Rome. Next August, the tango world championships will involve a canyengue competition to kick it off. Three years ago, the canyengue champions were Colombians!”

Gustavo: “Does learning canyengue contribute to the learning of “tango salón”?”

Laura: “It helps, and it helps a lot. The relationship between musicality and body movements is pretty clear in canyengue. This is not to say that that doesn’t exist in other forms of tango. It is just that the “canyengue” orchestras make that connection very clear, unlike other orchestras whose styles add a number of complexities. If we are talking about when to find when to stop and when to go, canyengue screams that out loud. As a tango teacher used to tell me, canyengue “cleans up your ears”. Another thing is that the embrace in canyengue is very intimate, making the need for a very clear lead very immediate. Couples in canyengue truly move as one person, there is very little to save, keep or guard against in canyengue. The embrace’s main area of contact is the center of the body, not high, not low. As a result, everything happening above and below that point is transmitted strongly. When that is carried into “salón style”, the canyengue dancer will have learned to “embrace” intimately while being more separated.”

Gustavo: “Any anecdotes that you may want to share with me, as related to canyengue?”

Manolo: “I always say that every pack has its leader. One of our leaders was Juan Bruno*. I remember him, who was a few years older than me, giving me all sorts of advice: “Kid, button up your suit. Kid, a woman is not to be left stranded in the middle of the dance floor. Kid…” It was just that in some “barrio” milongas then, some aging “compadritos**” used to stick their knives under their tables, making a statement, and then go dancing with an unbuttoned suit. The reason was that those who wore their suits that way, they all had knives ready to be drawn very quickly. You would not really try to go and dance with a woman accompanied by a man those days. Nowadays, they ask Martha for a dance, even if they see that she is with me. Nowadays, it seems like everybody dances with everybody.”
*Translator’s note: Juan Bruno was a legendary salón-style tango dancer.
**"Compadritos" had their heyday 30-40 years prior to the times these events took place. By most accounts, those few remaining ones had to be well into their 40s and 50s during tango's "Golden Age".

Manolo: “On another note, I have seen people from all over the world dancing canyengue. We have visited approximately 40 towns in Italy, a similar number in Germany and France. In Italy, we met a man who actually danced and learned canyengue very well just from videos. He asked me politely if he could dance with Martha. I told him he should ask her! We also visited Denmark, Hungary and Japan (twice).”

Martha: “I also need to let you know that the city of Rosario’s MoCCA representatives are working with doctors these days to teach canyengue to Parkinson patients, as “tango-therapy”. One thing with Parkinson patients is that they have difficulty walking. So they line them up, side by side, and the music and its beat helps them walk better. Another example is Dr. Trossero, a well-known physician who has been to Colombia and in Europe promoting “tango-therapy”. Dr. Trossero was our canyengue student. It is interesting that the same people who use canyengue as tango-therapy in Rosario are also teaching canyengue to 6 year-old kids, as a preventive measure to keep them off the streets. Guillermo Lobos, the well-known TV reporter from TN Noticias has aired a documentary with us on canyengue as a component of the tango-therapy approach.”

Manolo "El Gallego" Salvador: “We had a canyengue class a while back, and we asked the six couples that were doing really great to “learn to be able to teach”, and to do it for free. They agreed. One couple was Ismael and Patricia, from Antofagasta, Chile. Our friends Ángel and Graciela on the other hand, headed for “Villa 31” (Translator’s note: a shantytown in the middle of Buenos Aires city), and the priest who tends to those folk approached them: “Will you be willing to dance during service?” he said. “Of course!” they replied, but they did it right after mass instead. And shortly after their brief performance, with then monsignor Jorge Bergoglio in attendance for it (Translator’s note: monsignor Bergoglio became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires shortly after this event, and is now Pope Francis I), a lady faithful approached Bergoglio and asked him: “I didn’t like that at all! Do you agree with all this?”. To which Bergoglio replied: “What? So you didn't like it? I just loved it!!” He was all smiles. We have all this on tape. The couple had danced right in front of the pulpit to Canaro’s “Poema”.

Gustavo: “Any festivals you guys are putting together like the old CaMiCando?”

Laura: We had two CaMiCando festivals (it stood for Canyengue, MIlonga and CANDOmbe). In February 2015, we will have a one-week workshop here in Buenos Aires, in which Roxina Villegas, Adrián Griffero, Martha and Manolo and us (Laura and Nelson) will be teaching. One of the foci of the workshop will be to teach canyengue’s different visions and styles, since canyengue is not “a piece belonging in a museum”. So we will of course, respect its essence, but the instructors will share with those in attendance what they are currently working on.”

Gustavo: “I would like to thank all of you for your time. It was wonderful, and I think I got plenty of information from all of you. I will produce a transcript and an English translation of this interview. I will share it with all of you for your approval prior to dissemination. A big hug, and hopefully I will see you guys soon!”