Juan Carlos Copes - El Musical (DVD)

Comments from Tejas Tango (Video Experts) - Fours stars out of five

Juan Carlos Copes (with Johana Copes) Tango and Milonga (Video with Classes featured as part of the DVD, from the Video Version)

In this 45 minute video, maestro Copes is assisted by his daughter Johana in teaching and demonstrating essential elements of his tango and milonga style.
Both Copes and his daughter have a very strong presence on the video, and the way they hold themselves and move with clarity and grace is impressive and instructive.
The well-produced video opens with a demonstration tango and then covers ten steps and figures in a little less than half an hour.
Instruction in tango starts with the basics (including two salidas with the back step) and progresses to an intermediate combination. Those of who taken workshops from Copes in the past will recognize most of the steps.
For some of the tango steps, Copes and his daughter demonstrate the steps individually before demonstrating them in an embrace. Voice over explains all the tango movements, but the lead, follow and movement technique are not covered in any detail. After the tango segments, Copes and his daughter dance a milonga and then take less than 15 minutes to cover ten useful intermediate steps and figures in milonga. Voice over names the milonga step or figure, and Copes and his daughter are shown demonstrating it several times from a variety of angles. The milonga segments are not instruction, but they are instructive. The rating is a composite of five stars for the tango segments and three stars for the milonga segments. Those who are capable of learning simply by watching may want to add a star to the milonga rating and a half star to the overall rating.

Juan Carlos Copes

Dancer and coreographer (May 31, 1931)

His feet, like wings, remind us of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, two kings of musical comedies. For Juan Carlos Copes, they were his paradigm, his masters, his models. The dancer, eyebrows knit together, hair slicked back, glossy with hair cream, and wearing an impeccably ironed suit is sitting on the stage border, a symbol of his autobiographical musical, Copes tango Copes, where he makes a synthesis of his 50 year long career. He appears together with his daughter Johanna, the "Copes Tango Danza" ballet group and tango singer Maria Graña. The musical shows the dancer's artistic development from his early start dancing at Atlanta football club, his participation in dancing contests in the Luna Park sports center, his trips through the American continent, his meetings with masters Piazzolla, Troilo or Pugliese, and even international celebrities such as Barishnikov, Liza Minelli or his very much admired Gene Kelly, who in Copes's words: "he was my idol, the person who gave the key to what I had to do, the one who made the deepest impression on me". Suddenly, he becomes silent. He sits quietly, staring blankly ahead, probably flying back to the moment he met Kelly in Broadway back in 1985, after his presentation of Tango Argentino. An anecdote comes to his mind: "One evening, after the show, Gene's daughter approached and told me her father was not very well, but he wanted me to go to his place in Los Angeles the following day. I almost fainted. I felt thrilled, just like him in "Singing in the Rain"". Copes has put up innumerable shows, but butterflies are still there in his stomach, before each performance. "They are ageless. The older you are, the deeper the fear to go wrong". He doesn't want to appear arrogant, which he certainly is not, and is deeply concerned about the fact that for the first time his name is the name of the show. "Even though I've already accepted it, it sounds like a trademark, as if it meant something beyond the words", explains the dancer. Copes knows that in Argentina he is "the" tango dancer, but he vigorously rejects the nickname. "It's too old and conservative to say such a thing. It takes two to tango, and a lot of passion. The rest is mere technique and it comes alone". Endowed with a profound energy, Copes looks like a man without age, but he does not deny his age. Quite the contrary: "I was born on May 31, 1931. It's in every dictionary", he comments with a smile. A pro tango dancer, as he likes to introduce himself, he has been awarded many important prizes such as the Toronto and New York Awards, the Argentine ACE, for "Entre Borges y Piazzolla", and the American Choreography Award for the best choreography for a film called "Tango" (directed by Carlos Saura). "Many people believe that legs and feet are most important when dancing. I don't think so. I believe it all starts above, in the mind, and it goes down to the heart. The feet are just the consequence", is the explanation that this 70 year old Porteño gives when he describes how to dance tango. And it surely is like that, for Copes's legs and feet have a very exclusive language capable of drawing silent shapes that reveal what words fail to do. "It's the only dance that gives full vent to imagination and creativity to tell in only three minutes a story of love or hate. But it's a portion of time that makes you forget about all problems whatsoever, if there is a close body connection". This is what he feels when he dances the tango, which certainly has some other virtues. "I believe its virtues are many, but if I had to mention one, I'd say it is its capacity to adapt itself to any time". Many years have gone by since the time a thin young man dazzled the girls in Mataderos and Villa Pueyrredón, two traditional Porteño quarters. At that time, in 1951, this young man who doubted between taking up tango or electronic engineering won a dancing contest at the Luna Park sports center, out of more than 300 couples. That night proved to be a turning point in his life. The time to make decisions. It was early in the 1950s and his partner was the woman who would dance with him most of his career: Maria Nieves Rego. They were the perfect couple, the prototype which imposed its image and started the legend of the quickest legs. Copes and Nieves were partners, mates, lovers. They loved each other, later on they divorced and hated each other. He married somebody else, had two daughters, but kept on dancing with Nieves. Until they could not stand it any longer, they separated professionally and he found a new partner in his daughter Johana. A most coherent professional, open minded and reasonable, the artist explains he would never change his way of feeling tango. He is loyal to his essence and does not believe in tango for export. A creator in the vanguard, whether people like it or not, Copes does not stick to stereotypes. Even though he defends traditions and the "old times", he is not a conservative, he also expresses his modern perspectives. He is one of those Porteños who believes that tango lovers need not live with their hats on and a white scarf round their necks to be considered porteAo malevos, some kind of fearless rogues. "If I thought that way, I would be dead", he states. When asked about for how long he is planning to dance, Copes answers with a touch of mischief: "Until my hucklebones let me. Dancing is for me the best therapy ever".