Astor Piazzolla

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This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

October 20, 1999. All rights reserved.

Back to Tango, Moving As One: Liliana Attar

A lifelong dancer and dance teacher, born and trained

in Argentina, Liliana Attar never expected to find herself dancing

the tango.

"The tango was for old people — my parents’ generation,"

says Attar, who came of age in Buenos Aires in the 1970s. "My

dad was an incredible dancer, but we young people rejected tango."

Attar, who trained as both a dancer and a dance teacher at the National

School of Dance of Buenos Aires, performed and studied modern dance,

creative dance, and a panoply of Argentinean folk dances in the three-year

degree program. But never the tango.

Now the dancer and mother of three who left her home in 1989 for the

United States is drawn back to the old dance form. Her dance group

Connections will present "Feeling Tango," at Murray Dodge

Hall at Princeton University on Sunday, October 24, at 4:30 p.m.

"Tango is not just a dance, it is part of the culture. It has

so much culture behind it and it tells you who the people are,"

says Attar. "We’re a melancholic people, a people who came from

far away, who were missing what they had lost. Our story is a sad

story."

The form, she explains, was born out of the immigrant experience in

turn-of-the-century Buenos Aires. The port city of what was then the

seventh wealthiest nation in the world, became a magnet for immigrants

from Italy, Spain, Germany, and Eastern Europe. The dance form flourished

in the poorest neighborhoods, San Telmo and La Boca, down by the waterfront.

Then the tango spread from the dance halls of Buenos Aires to ballrooms

around the world to become an international sensation. Its passion

and grace captured the imagination of millions — of all nationalities

and ethnic origins. Today you can tango every night in London, and

tango aficionados gather faithfully in Holland, Germany, Finland,

and Japan. The tango touring show has become a stage attraction worldwide.

As an immigrant herself who arrived in the United States without any

English skills, Attar says she began to immerse herself in the music

of the late tango giant, Astor Piazzolla. His music, in turn, drew

her to the tango form, which she began to study, just two years ago,

at the Theater-Dance Workshop in Lawrenceville with instructor Marjorie

Duryea.

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Astor Piazzolla

Piazzolla, a music prodigy and bandoneon player, grew up in Argentina

and New York, and began his career accompanying the great singer,

Carlos Gardel. Mentored by composers Alberto Ginastera and Nadia Boulanger,

in the 1950s Piazzolla forged a new tango shot through with jazz and

classical influences.

Initially shocking for its mixture of brutality, honesty, sensuality,

and magic, Piazzolla’s music has been extolled by the poet Pablo Neruda

for its complex melding of the multi-hued "stains" of human

experience.

Attar’s concert flyers are embellished with British dancer and film

director Sally Potter’s notion that "the tango is as complex as

its own roots and as simple as the primal impulse for two human beings

to move as one." When Potter discovered the tango in her 40s,

she studied it obsessively, eventually producing the 1997 international

movie hit, "The Tango Lesson."

Love, passion, jealousy — the primal emotions that drive Argentina’s

most famous and fiery social dance — are all part of Attar’s "Feeling

Tango" show.

"`Feeling Tango’ is a tale of human feelings told through tango

and modern dance," says Attar. "Tango’s appeal is universal,

it speaks to very basic and powerful human emotions."

Attar formed a six-member group of modern and tango artists to interpret

her modern vision of the tango. The group is comprised of dancers

she met at Dance Improv sessions at the Arts Council of Princeton

and at Duryea’s Lawrenceville tango salons. Its members come from

a diverse range of ethnic and professional backgrounds that include

a computer consultant and a librarian who is also a professional ballroom

dancer. Company members are Nance Bowers, Paul Cerna, Olga Klushina,

Terun Sabre, and Kera Voigtlander. One section of the dance piece,

"Love, passion, fight," is choreographed by tango teacher,

Marjorie Duryea.

Attar’s husband Ricardo Attar, a molecular biologist working on cancer

research at Bristol-Myers Squibb, is also an accomplished flute player.

The couple met in Buenos Aires when both were working in a children’s

theater production; they are now parents of three children ages 13,

12, and 6. A woman of apparently boundless energy, Attar works for

HomeFront and teaches dance in a variety of settings, including in

shelters for troubled youth. Her volunteer activities include Parents

Anonymous of New Jersey for whom she’ll produce a benefit dance concert

next year.

"Feeling Tango" premiered in June with a benefit performance

for the Cranbury Arts Council, and was reprised in August with two

performances at the Arts Council of Princeton.

"The idea is to give back something that I have inside — something

of my culture," says Attar. Then, as an independent woman who

likes to lead as well as follow her partner, she adds: "It’s my

vision, a woman’s vision of tango."

— Nicole Plett

Feeling Tango, Connections, Murray Theater, Princeton

University, 609-895-2981. $10. Sunday, October 24, 4:30 p.m.


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