I had an amazing opportunity to perform with the maestro Carlos Copello this past Sunday night in the Misterio Tango Festival’s closing milonga at La Viruta.
The opportunity came about on Wednesday night when he suddenly messaged me to call him. He then asked me whether I’m available on Sunday night to perform with him. I didn’t quite understand what he meant and he gave me the details of what it was. I wasn’t expecting this big news and my heart started pounding. I told him I’d think about it and I’d let him know within the hour.
The truth was I was scared to death. Sunday night was only 4 nights away and such a big event in Buenos Aires where there will be tons of people and maestros watching, on top of that, the closing night of the festival with him being the closing maestro. And again, this was the great maestro, Carlos Copello. I was flattered that he would even think of me and my hands were already shaking. I wasn’t sure I had the confidence to do that, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle my nerves. But then, I really wanted an opportunity like this, this was something I’ve always been dreaming about. After calming my mind, I decided I’d take this opportunity on, with all the fright that was seizing me, I wanted to do this. I was going to do this.
We set up rehearsals the following day to decide what we’d do. Carlos sent me a song and asked me whether I like the song or not. He wanted to hear how I would feel with his proposal. At first, I wasn’t sure because I’d never heard of the song. After he explained what he wanted to do and why we would be dancing the song, I was convinced. We were going to dance a song called “Atropellando” by Osvaldo Fresedo from the year 1923. We were going to dance with the feeling and style of that era, dedicated to a certain tanguero. Something I would not be able to do with just anybody, but I knew Carlos would make it happen the way it should. The second theme we were going to dance was Patetico, a more dramatic song that had a strong variation in the end.
Thursday went by, then Friday, Saturday, and Sunday arrived. These 4 days were one of the most mentally intense days. Every other second I was imagining how La Viruta would be Sunday night packed with people from all around the world, gathered for this festival. I was there last year at the closing night and I knew exactly how packed and energized the place would be. I was trying to figure out any possible ways I can relax myself and not let my nerves take over. I already know how nervous I get when I perform, and especially when something matters, it can be tough. This opportunity mattered to me so much, and it was a first, a BIG first, and I had to prepare myself.
Carlos was really present leading up to the performance, in every single way. He talked to me during rehearsals checking how I am feeling with things and how he can help so things would work well. He knew this was BIG for me, and he understood my responsibility as well as his responsibility. He represents Tango, he IS Tango, and he can’t undergo the expectations of the audience. He says he dances for himself and told me not to not care about what people say, but I know he is completely aware of the fact that he is performing for the people by dancing what really is “Tango” and to honor the maestros that has given him insights into his Tango. Every second, I was appreciating this opportunity, his presence, support and his teaching by being who he is through Tango.
The night came about and I arrived to La Viruta. This was going to be a total surprise. Neither the organizers nor his friends knew that I was going to be dancing with him. His partner was a mystery just like the name of the festival “Misterio”. There were already a lot of people as I arrived around 1:30am fully with make-up. Carlos’ daughter, Miriam advised me that I wouldn’t be dancing until 2:45am. I waited, sitting, as I tried to meditate and calm my nerves that kept rising. My boyfriend keeping me company and trying to make sure I don’t start a panic attack. I don’t remember anything like this, and I already had a headache since the morning. I had to make this happen, and dance Tango, and do all that I can so Carlos can do what he does, dance “Tango”. As I tried to stay in my zone, La Viruta was growing with people and the energy buzzing, and except for my few excited friends, no one was aware of me and I was silently battling with my nerves.
2:45 came about. We watched the first couple perform, a set of dancing, then the second couple perform. We were right after them. My body was hot and cold at the same time, I tried breathing really slow, I tried closing my eyes, I tried listening intently to the music, I tried to lose myself in the performance that was going on, I made sure that my dress and hair were alright, I tried to check that my center/abs were active, and I tried to tell myself that everything was going to be alright.
As Carlos was announced that he has no partner and is looking for one, he entered the floor along with the music, in his element, doing his show, capturing the whole room with his energy and presence. It felt like the moment before I would jump into a lion’s cage or jump off of a bridge into cold waters clueless of what was going to happen. I counted to 16 and it was time for me to step onto the floor. I caught one last glance with Miriam who was sitting beside me to get an assurance and out I went.
Flashes of things from the rehearsals pass through my head, flashes of moments when I tell myself “remember no one is watching so just dance”, flashes of moments to remind myself to breathe, Carlos telling me to “relax” when I start to tense, as I allowed myself to dance. To dance for dear life, to feel what Carlos was telling me through his dance and allow myself to respond and dance. Carlos was completely present with me as he was completely present with the audience playing his mastery of show. His confidence in his steps assured me as he controlled the delicate nuances in the dance. He led me through the intense experience as only a maestro would be able to, who really understood what it was all about. I danced, and as he wanted me to, I was flying. When we struck the last pose, I felt the energy of the whole crowd rising into applause and cheering. I was dazed and could only think, “Wow, I made it. I survived.” As a bit of my senses came back, I grew more conscious of the audience’s reaction, and was able to think to myself, “It seems like the crowd liked it.” I was relieved. He swirled me out of the pose to bow. I was thankful, I was so thankful for Carlos, my friends who were there to support me and the crowd that really focused to watch our performance. I bowed still dazed and could feel myself smiling, mostly out of great relief and then a sense of gratitude I had never felt in a moment so strongly.
Carlos was happy and he was in his element snapping his hand high, greeting the many dancers that came to congratulate him. It was emotional. I feel it even more now after I’ve recovered from my good “traumatization” of this amazing opportunity. Everyone has a first in all things, but I’d just like to say that it was a BIG first for me. As Carlos says “VA COMO PIÑA!” = “Knock Out!”
Thank you Maestro Carlos Copello!