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For the 13th time, Johana Copes, daughter of the legendary dancer Juan Carlos Copes, is organizing the “Lady's Tango Festival” in Buenos Aires in March, this time exclusively online. Their idea: The best tango dancers and teachers give concentrated courses for women for a week, plus there are dance shows, live music, tango fashion shows by hip designers, interviews and information about tango - especially from a female perspective.

“Lady's Tango Festival” now worldwide

On March 8th, International Women's Day, the “Lady's Tango Festival Worldwide” begins. The new edition of the festival, this year in a global format, aims to bring together great dancers, teachers, organizers, fashion designers, DJs and more from all over the world. In spring 2021 it will take place online from March 8-15.

Ladys Tango Festival Johanna Copes
Lady's Tango Festival director Johana Copes

It is a meeting of women from countries all over the world, such as Argentina, Russia, USA, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Germany, China, Uruguay, Spain, Greece, Korea and others. This gathering gives all tango ladies the opportunity to get to know each other, exchange experiences and make contact with new people from the tango community.

The festival, which is well attended by tango fans from all over the world as well as by locals, also has a German location: the Lady's Tango Festival in Wiesbaden under the direction of Johana Copes and Natalia Berascola.

Ladys Tango Festival fashion show
Lady's Tango Festival 2019: fashion show at the milonga “Viva La Pepa”

What does the festival program offer?

The festival program includes open discussions, live recorded lessons, dance shows, tributes to outstanding tango dance artists and much more. There will be interviews with DJanes, organizers, singers, writers and choreographers, and exclusive material from previous editions of the festival will also be on view.

In the March edition, the offer includes 5 live courses directly from the “Copes-Valdez Tango Estudio” in Buenos Aires with Argentine star dancers: Guillermina Quiroga, Ariadna Naveira, Corina Herrera, Virginia Gomez and Johana Copes. A special course with Mariana Montes is recorded from her studio in Cagliari / Italy.

Recorded courses stay online for 1 year

As a novelty of this year's program, the festival presents the “Lady Revelation 2021”. It is Agostina Tarchini, who offers a course of her innovative tango dance that is fused with other movements. In addition, the festival presents more than 20 representatives of tango from different cities and all parts of the world. The special thing about it: the courses are uploaded to the ASLAN platform as soon as they have been broadcast live, so that you can watch them again and again and retain access to further training for a year!

Ladys Tango Festival Guillermina Quiroga Show
Lady's Tango Festival 2020: Guillermina Quiroga & Fernando Carrasco dance at the Milonga Viva La Pepa

How do I take part in the Lady's Tango Festival?

For the presentation of the general festival, Johana Copes has chosen the ASLAN platform on which all participants have the opportunity to register, log in and enter the profile of Lady's Tango Festival Worldwide. There is a one-time entry fee to have access to all material for a full year until the next festival in March 2022. Click here for the website of the Lady's Tango Festival. Please register by email at: ladystango@gmail.com

Interview with designer Bettina Maria on the subject of tango and fashion

Festival director Johana Copes has long been a fan of the German fashion designer Bettina Maria, who lived in Buenos Aires for a few years and now designs her exclusive tango fashion in Berlin under the name “Costume Couture Berlin”. On the occasion of the Lady's Tango Festival in March, we present an exclusive interview with Bettina Maria that Stephan Röhl conducted with her.

First fashion show at the Lady's Tango Festival

SR: Bettina, thank you very much for the opportunity to do this interview. You showed your early Tango Fashion Collection “Modas de Tango” in Buenos Aires at one of the first Lady's Tango Festivals in 2007/2008, at that time in a fantastic fashion show. At that time, you also made the decision to leave the United States and move to Buenos Aires. In 1990 you had set up your own private fashion label in the United States. Based in San Francisco, you've designed luxury fashion collections that you've shown at some of the most prestigious fashion events like New York Fashion Week, you've sold to clients like Bergdorf Goodman in New York and the famous Golden Door Spa in Southern California, and at times you kept 10 employees busy.

For someone with this background - what made you change your direction, and what is it that got you into tango back then and therefore moved to Buenos Aires?

Tango Festival Bettina Maria
Fashion designer Bettina Maria

Study and success in San Francisco

Bettina: I certainly didn't plan this, but I think when we are open to life we ​​follow what moves our heart. That's what tango meant for me: to follow my heart. I love tango, I love beauty and fashion, and I love life. I was very fortunate that, as a German, I was able to study at a small couture school in San Francisco.

My expression was always on the theatrical side, as I first studied theater costume in Germany. It was also my heart that brought me to San Francisco at the time, so I was already an adventurer. In the creative climate of San Francisco in the 80s and early 90s, my unique designs quickly found a following, and the connections I made there helped me build my business.

The limits of the fashion industry

But the fashion industry is also a very tough business that requires an incredible amount of work and constant investment, especially when your company is growing rapidly. That comes at a price, too, and as an artist I had to realize how difficult it is to strike a balance between wanting to create something unique while being pushed into production at the same time. To be creative, you have to have space to invent and do new things, and it's an art to keep that balance.

Influence of the show "Tango Argentino"

When I saw “Tango Argentino” on stage in San Francisco in 1992, I was not only fascinated by the imagination, the dance and the skills of this early dance troupe, I was also very inspired by the style of the clothes. It reminded me of what I first designed for the theater. To see how the fabrics flow with this wonderful dance in combination with movement inspired me much more than the design of textile surfaces and working with previously known patterns, as I used to do. It felt so organic, it came alive.

I was enthusiastic about the creative possibilities, which, combined with the historical influences from the late 19th century through interesting epochs like the 20s, 30s and 40s, offered a lot of room for imagination, just like with tango itself, and I saw the chance to invent completely unique styles regardless of show dates and fashion trends. Indeed, it provided an opportunity to reinvent myself as a designer and create an international fantasy collection that would appeal to women from diverse backgrounds, regardless of culture.

Reorientation in tango culture

Basically, we artists created our own culture in tango over and over again. It was new - we had the beginnings of tango, the history, but then there was a big break. It was not until 1992 that the first dancers began touring again, when the shows "Tango Argentino" and "Forever Tango" became known and seen in Europe and the USA. So just a few years later, a revival began that produced the next generation, and we were international.

The same thing happened in music. All these different musicians related to the origin of tango, but brought their own cultural influences, new interpretations. (A wonderful example is the Beltango Quinteto from Serbia). We all started influencing each other - what an exciting time for tango and every artist who worked professionally in tango! It felt incredibly alive in those days, to feel the past of early tango history before the big boom that was called the "tango industry" later. It was the time when we still found the little shoe shops at the Calle Suipacha to buy a pair of handcrafted original Argentine tango shoes.

Tango Festival Costume Couture Berlin
Fashion by Costume Couture Berlin, to be seen at the Lady's Tango Festival, Photo: Laelia Milleri

United in creative movement

SR: What did tango mean for you personally?

Bettina: When I finally took my first dance class in 1998, it moved my emotional center. In those first few hours I was overwhelmed by two feelings: bliss and crying. It was because of the deep connection tango offered through the embrace and the experience of moving in unity, in synchronicity. To be united, together, in creative movement with another person, in community with others, on the dance floor, was extraordinary. Nowhere else could you have this experience.

Up to this point, my reality as an artist had meant being alone in my studio and designing at my table, with my sewing machine. What I missed was community. In tango I experienced for the first time, perhaps similar to musicians in an orchestra, what it is like to create something together in synchronicity. The flow that you feel when you move intuitively to the music, in harmony with another person, constantly refining and expanding your technical skills, is really a very unique experience.

The first tango fashion for milongas

That was when I was going to classes and practicas in San Francisco four to five times a week, and my studio was soon filled with tango music. I started to think, feel, breathe and design for tango. The other dancers saw that I was wearing my own clothes and asked where I got them, because back then nobody designed tango fashion for milongas, the social dancing, just for the stage. As a businesswoman, I saw a huge opportunity.

Tango Festival Confiteria Ideal
La Confiteria Ideal, time-honored meeting place for tango dancers in Buenos Aires

The time between the old and the new world

When I was in Buenos Aires for the first time in 2000, I was very lucky to experience the early days before the big tango tourism - it was so special in the afternoons at La Confiteria Ideal, and to discover small, hidden, long-established milongas which were only visited by Argentine dancers. It was a fantastic experience of a moment in between the old and a new world.

The Buenos Aires adventure

In those days I started to train with Rodolfo Dinzel in his little Estudio Dinzel on Calle Jufré in Villa Crespo. What a great adventure of experimenting with intimacy, with creativity! Eventually I moved to Argentina 6 years later and literally immersed myself in tango for three years. It was a tremendous healing after the life had been living, "running in a hamster wheel", chasing deadline after deadline, trying to meet the demands of a fashion company.

It was also the right moment to realize that creating tango fashion would allow me to live in Buenos Aires and train tango professionally, with some of the best teachers. It was a great privilege and one of the most adventurous times of my life!

The freedom in tango

SR: When you look back on 20 years of dancing, what has tango essentially taught you?

Bettina: Tango opened me up to play again and to discover a lot of things. To be present in the moment, to feel my body, to learn to truly listen to music and to cultivate awareness and hearing. He taught me to express emotions through my body in connection with another person and to improvise in the process.

From my point of view, that was special about the Dinzel method. It meant freedom. Freedom to be, freedom to express creativity, freedom to enjoy simplicity, not for profit or money, which had become very painful in the design business - having to squeeze my creativity into a product in order to sell it in order to survive. I remember Rodolfo often talking about freedom. Tango has a certain structure, a certain code and a few steps, but within this structure one is free to improvise, to reinvent, to discover.

Open to surprises

Tango also teaches us a lot about relationships, about harmony and respect. It teaches us to listen, to perceive physicality. It also teaches us to be still, to allow pauses, to wait for our partner. Furthermore it teaches us to be open to surprises and that means to become childlike again. I think that's why tango dancers tend to be happy when they can dance. It fulfills a human need.

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Dance shows from the Lady's Tango Festival on YouTube

To get a taste of the atmosphere of the festival and to see the star dancers perform, we recommend the video playlist on our YouTube channel: "Lady's Tango Festival", filmed in Buenos Aires 2019 and 2020. There will be dancing: Johana Copes, Ariadna Naveira, Milena Plebs, Guillermina Quiroga, Maria Nieves, Fernanda Ghi, Lorena Ermocida, Aurora Lubiz and Pepa Palazon. There are also 3 beautiful videos of Ariadna Naveira on our channel that were created at the Tango Festival in Munich 2019.

Ladys Tango Festival 2020 Lorena Pancho
Lady's Tango Festival 2020, Lorena Ermocida & Pancho Martinez Pey in Salon Canning

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Cover photo “Puente de La Mujer” (Woman's Bridge) in Puerto Madero / Buenos Aires, photo “Fashion show” and videos by Karin Lüders. Photos by Costume Couture Berlin: Laelia Milleri.

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