Juan Carlos Copes

tango tango history Jun 08, 2022
Juan Carlos Copes

© by Mariano Diaz Campos

In 2002 the legendary Maestro Juan Carlos Copes from Argentina visited Amsterdam for the television show called "Masterclass", presented by the iconic Sonja Barend.

The three best tango couples of the Netherlands were invited for this Masterclass. Together with my dance partner Marieke and two other professional tango couples, Birkit & Muzaffer and Hugo & Marieke, we spend a very inspiring afternoon with the Maestro.

It was a huge honour for me to meet him and to learn from him, and I will always cherish this experience.

The next day we sat down together for an in depth interview with the legend. Watch a fragment of the broadcast in this video, and read the interview below.

Photo: Maria Nieves y Juan Carlos Copes

Interview with Juan Carlos Copes

"For tango you need two people and one feeling"

In 2001 the television network VARA started braodcasting the show Masterclass with Sonja Barend. Professionals from different disciplines took lessons with a master in their field. For one of the shows maestro Juan Carlos Copes and his daughter Johana Copes were invited to teach three professional couples live in front of the cameras.

Juan Carlos Copes was born on 31 May 1931 in Buenos Aires and passed away aged 89 in 16 January 2021 in Buenos Aires (may he Rest in Peace).

Copes was proclaimed "best dancer of the 20th centrury" (Argentina, year 2000). As one of the few dancers who continued dancing tango after 1955, when the popularity of tango was outflanked by rock 'n roll. Copes and his partner Maria Nieves were the first ever tangodancers who showcased Tango at Braodway in New York.

Mariano: "You are one of the few dancers of the Golden Era of tango that is still wellknown worldwide. Many of the big stars of tango dance have fallen in oblivion. What is the reason this happened, you think?"

Juan Carlos: "Since the beginning of tango more is written on singers and composers then about dancers. But in fact dancers have always been very important to tango, and deserve more appreciation, even though there are no copyrights on dance."

Mariano: "For many years you danced with Maria Nieves before you started dancing with your daughter. With Mariano Nieves you started a carreer that braught you great fame all over the world. Can you tell us more about how you started dancing with her?"

Juan Carlos: "At first I danced with her older sister, because Maria was still too young. When I met her, she was only 14. Later our connection grew and I discovered that we for a good dance couple. Thas was around 1948. In those days, you could only dance as an amature, without dreaming of a professional carreer. In the milongas I saw that those who did many steps lacked elegance, and that the elegant dancers who respected the music hardly did any steps. With Maria I tried to unite these two. That created a kind of "new style". 

Mariano: "Where you the only ones who approached the dance this way?"

Juan Carlos: "Back then, yes. Moreover, we introduced a new philosophy in which we presented the man and the woman each fifty percent. In order for the woman to not just follow, but also give her own value to the dance. This way a certain respect between the man and the woman was expressed in the dance."  

Mariano: "What other styles of tango existed in that time?"

Juan Carlos: "There was the tango de salón, tango orillera and tango fantasía. This division was very sharply marked at performances and was very much linked to the neighbourhoods. Each neighbourhood had their own dancing style. All on amature level, of course."

Mariano: "Did you and Maria have tango teachers?"

Juan Carlos: "No, I learned dancing tango by watching and by stepping on girls feet, ha ha. I once asked a girl and after the dance I knew I could never ask her again. But I just continued dancing and learning, and I asked another girl. To comprehend the movements, you had to dance a lot and watch the big dancers of that time, such as Petróleo, Fino, Virulazo."


This interview was published in 2002 in 'La Posta' (my first self-published tango magazine).
We will soon publish the second part of this interview at our website. Stay tuned!

© 2002 by Mariano Diaz Campos