Ruta Keller and Alexis González, champions of the Stage Tango category at the Official Preliminary of Tango BA 2022 in London, talked to Milonga about their career in tango-dance and the opportunities brought by the new global scene.
Milonga: What was your journey in the tango championships prior to the pandemic?
Alexis: Before the pandemic I was able to compete several times in different sub-venues of the Tango World Championship managing to reach the semifinals in the stage tango category in the years 2019, 2014, 2013 – prior to that, I participated in the sub-venues because I lived outside of Bs As.
Milonga: What did you rediscover about dance post pandemic?
Ruta and Alexis: We can’t deny the fact that at one point it scared us because we didn’t know how long we wouldn’t be able to dance again and we even thought that maybe it was the end of this stage. Then, the pandemic made us take out of the drawer of our memories a lot of our beginnings, for example, classical dance, going back to investigate music, orchestras, going back to train tango again from scratch. Let’s say that it helped us in a certain way to be able to recharge a lot of energy to put together a new project and, at the same time, to unite as a dance couple.
Milonga: What is your history with tango?
Ruta: At 13 I saw for the first time a tango company in my hometown (Pasvalys), and that’s when I started to investigate what that music and those movements were. At 18 I moved to Vilnius and got in touch with the director, Sigitas Repsys. He invited me to join his theater group and that’s where I followed this path.
Alexis: My link with tango started when I was 11 years old by accident, because we had to put together a performance for the end of the year party at my elementary school and I wanted to do something different because I always danced folklore; I came up with La Cumparsita in Julio Sosa’s version, and that was my first contact with my tango. Of course, I was very young and my dance was only steps or sequences. Later on, I discovered tango from another side, where I shared with other people the different orchestras in the milongas, where in each one of them I could discover that each sound transmitted something new to me, that was magic indeed.
Milonga: Besides the joy of being finalists, what did the challenge of participating in this competition bring you?
Ruta and Alexis: We believe that the most pleasant thing that the process of preparing for the competition gave us was to work towards a goal as a couple, and to connect more from that desire to grow together in our dance and share as if we were a married couple, since everything we do is always agreed by both of us and that makes us feel strong and firm. We also discovered the process of training hard by modifying several individual ideas of two individual styles and being accomplices in a single style being an arduous path, of course, but we feel it is that way.
I started dancing when I was 4 years old in my city Pasvalys (Lithuania), it was thanks to my grandmother who took me to the dance studio at that time was Ballroom, I practiced it for 10 years in a row. In those years I was never taught the art of tango because in my country it was difficult to get it as we know it now. My first contact was in the same studio, where while I was rehearsing my performance I could hear that music from far away, and it caught my attention and I wondered – what was it. Then I came to know tango as a very particular dance. It called me by its forms, its melodies and I said “I want that”. Then I devoted myself to Lithuanian folklore dancing for 4 years, after finishing my primary school I moved to Vilnius and it was there that I started my first tango steps together with Sigitas and, at the same time, I started studying at the University of Dance while I was developing my other art. Then I was able to travel to Argentina and it was a before and after because I discovered tango from all the angles that one can imagine, from drinking mate, dancing in milongas, traveling to different cities, sharing meals, all that makes me breathe an air that always transports me to tango, it was very difficult to grow from my dance because I never had a stable partner. Every year that passed was a new partner and that makes it really complicated to think of a definite goal. Then I met a very famous couple from Argentina, Carla Dominguez and Julio Sefino who based on my history with dancers, told me that they knew a dancer who had the same problem with partner changes. That’s when I thought, “Well, I have to meet him, I don’t know how, but we have to get together! – And so it was, destiny connected us and today we are working together with the idea of many years to come.
I am from San Nicolás. There I took my first steps at the age of 6 years old dancing Chilean folklore, then at 8 years old I started taking Argentine folklore classes and at 11 years old I had my first contact with tango on stage. Later on, when I was about 18 years old, I started to discover the social milongas because I could go out more alone, and that’s when everything started to change. I bought original CDs by D’Arienzo, Pugliese and Di Sarli, I traveled to Buenos Aires to take lessons. I left folklore and dedicated myself fully to dancing tango and perfecting my dance from scratch practically because every teacher offers something new. One day I was chatting with my grandmother and she told me that my grandfather had a very famous milonga in San Nicolas, and then I thought maybe my roots in the art of tango came from there since he was the only member of my family who danced or did something for him, and I thought “wow, after so many years, I had it in my blood and I didn’t know it”. And so I was finding my way, competing in national competitions, world championships, I put together my tango group called Tango Macuo, where I was able to develop my role as a director and it was a beautiful moment in my life, I felt it as a part of my family. Then came the tours in 2019 and the pandemic, which was terrible. but then a job proposal appeared and it changed my life. It was the opportunity to work in Vilnius in a tango studio. I left everything in Argentina and here I am in Lithuania, dancing with Ruta.