Tango in exile: Mirta

Tango is so often portrayed with a red dress, fishnets, and a red rose in the mouth, a Hollywood pose that is still stuck in the mind of most of us. Does that tango exist?

I always look to see how tango is epressed or interpreted in every country that I visit. As an Argentinian, a journalist, and a tango dancer it´s a constant quest and exploration across many different cultures. Yesterday, the opportunity through the eyes of Amsterdam!. An icon of tolerance, the capital of sexual freedom, an opportunity to dance, have fun, and an intense vital  experience.

The Netherlands offer many places to dance (milongas) and take tango classes hosting so many activities and international events, such as the Tango Marathon, Internationale Tangoweek (26/12/2014 – 1/1/2015), and the multitude of places to dance (milongas)  and take tango classes everyday  across  the whole country.

Source: Academia de Tango – Amsterdam

I choose to visit  “La Academia de Tango”, the first milonga place in Amersterdam to kick off tango in the eighties. Tango wasn´t so cool and such a trendy music and dance worlwide distributed at that time. Mirta Campos (Argentina, 1954), and Lalo Díaz (Chile, 1951) founded it, with a red rose on its logotype, a classic icon.  At first glance, when I met them in their counter and coffee bar area, they both made me feel something “out of place”.

Director: Colin Jeffrey Van Heezik. Choreography Mirta Campos, Lalo Diaz NL | 2012 | 23’

Director: Colin Jeffrey Van Heezik. Choreography Mirta Campos, Lalo Diaz
NL | 2012 | 23’

Mirta, now a mature woman, came to the Netherlands in 1977 with her husband (now her sometimes partner dance) Lalo, and their son, Mariano.

She was in her early twenties,  and her skin was fresh as a rose in the sunrise.

She didn´t know a word in Dutch language, and she felt Amsterdam as a prison.

As a child, Lalo moved from Chile to Buenos Aires. He  never danced tango in that South Corner of the world. His long life trip with Mirta, from his native Chile to Amsterdam had a dirty, deep, bloody hole in the middle: el Pozo de Banfield (The Banfield Hole), one of the 375  infamous Detention and Torture Centers of the last Argentinian “Dirty War” (1975-1982). Source: Pozo de Banfield / Report by Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo

I interviewed him in La Academia de Tango (Amsterdam, Sept. 12, 2014):


As political refugees in Amsterdam, Mirta began to dance tango for small crowds remembering how her parents danced in the kitchen of her house in Tapalqué, a small town of Buenos Aires region. And Lalo learned from her. As in an upside down dance game of the traditional gender roles in tango: she leaded, and he followed. Tango bloomed in their Academy floor, in Korte Leidsedwarsstraat, as a non profit organization.

Tango for Mirta was the main tool to survive in Amsterdam, raise their son Mariano who became a Historian, Journalist, and a tango dancer.

Source Facebook Mariano Diaz Campos

Now, Mirta, a mature blonde hair women, speaking in Dutch, covering her beautiful eyes with thick glasses, she hosts events, awards, and community milongas. Her friends and dancers come to greet her constantly, like here:

She looks more established in the Dutch environment, after three decades in Amsterdam. She teaches tango in a comprehensive way, and especially to open doors to Dutch people to a closer communication between genders. Even though that, I am still wondering about her wounds and her emergency to seek political refuge in The Netherlands.

Talking in a hidden corner of the milonga, after myself going through her layers of trust and mistrust, Mirta  finally tells me how did she arrive to the point, that her spine and legs can´t rotate anymore to be able to dance tango, her relationship with Lalo faded to a tense business relationship ending a long marriage and tango partnership.

Join me in this conversation with her, just in a corner of the milonga:

Amsterdam doesn´t look anymore as a prison, but tango didn´t heal her trauma wounds:

“El tango no me curó. Nunca perdonaré lo que nos hicieron.” (“Tango dance didn´t heal me. I ´ll never forgive what they did it to us”, Interview, Sept. 10th, 2014, Amsterdam)

An almost empty glass of red wine stays in the table. Lalo, a torture survivor tango dancer is gone.

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