An interview with Ronen Khayat, star of "Swango, the fusion"
- Offstage with the Dancers
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By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 4, 2002
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Ronen Khayat, a Tango teacher and performer at Paul Pellicoro's DanceSport (www.dancesport.com) is also part of the Swango cast, (www.swangoproductions.com) at Swing 46, 46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues, every Thursday and Friday nights, through the month of October, and maybe longer. He has appeared at SPICE Summer Festival (www.spicemedia.net) and all around town, mainly with his partner, Cecilia Saia. Ronen joined me after Swango, outside Swing 46, October 4, 2002. Also joining us were George Lilly and Mariela Franganillo.
Ronen Khayat dances with Mariana Parma
Photo courtesy of Lisa Allen
REZ - Tell me how your Israel background has influenced your Tango?
RK - I was a Ballroom Dancer in Israel, but, after the Army (I was an Officer and Lieutenant for four and one-half years), when I saw Tango, I thought, "This is an amazing dance." I started taking Tango lessons from Ricardo Tavo, a famous Argentinean. We had a Tango show there with members of the Israeli Philharmonic, for eight months a year. There were not too many Milongas then or now, just at two places each week. Tango is just developing there (in Israel). The purpose of coming here was for exploring dance.
REZ - Tell me about your partnership with Cecilia Saia.
RK - I was very lucky to get into DanceSport and to meet Cecilia. She was my luck. I started two years ago and took lessons with Cecilia. She said, "Let's do something for this Guest Night" (www.dancesport.com, monthly Guest Nights). Cecilia said, "This Guest Night". She was like an animal, when we danced. Such energy! We then started dancing together, and my dancing just changed.
Ronen dancing with Cecilia at SPICE
Photo by Roberta E. Zlokower
REZ - Yes, your dancing has really changed. Now, you became an animal.
RK - I learned from Cecilia. She's very grounded and relaxed and stable. I developed sensitivity and musicality from Cecilia. The communication does not stop.
REZ - Where are you going from Swango?
RK - I'm not sure. Things just happen to work out. I love the show for what it gave to me. As a performer, I grew, and I like the people very much. We rehearse in the mornings. Everything can move around. You get used to it. It's a lot of fun, and we feel secure. The people and dances are very nice, and I'm honored to do it.
REZ - Were there any funny stories at Swango?
RK - Nicola's bracelet fell on the floor during a dance, and they left it on the floor. Cesar came out for a solo and improvised with the bracelet and gave it to her in the dance. When we tried to do it again, it did not work.
REZ - Tell me about the chairs. Is that scene dangerous?
RK - We did first two shows with the chairs. I got tennis elbow. One night, we started with the Swing 46 chairs, which are very heavy. We kept bumping into the chairs.
REZ - Do you dance in Israel?
RK - When I'm there, I go to the Tango scene. Each time you return, you compare.
REZ - Tell me about your first experience in Buenos Aires.
RK - In November, 2000, I went with DanceSport on their very well organized trip. It was a good vacation, and when we arrived in Buenos Aires, we went to the Club Gricel Milonga. This Milonga was very uptight, and everyone danced very well on a crowded floor, like a subway in rush hour. You must be really relaxed to do this, with a good connection, and you cannot try to do too many things. I danced with the Dancesport students and guests in the group, and then I started asking people to dance. Everyone dances with the music. Every couple is in its own bubble. They played Pata Ancha, by Pugliese. There was a slow part, and then VOOM VOOM, you could really see the slow part followed by a big accent. The people were dancing the music. They give the feeling of Tango.
REZ - When you were in Buenos Aires, did you dance with Argentinean women?
RK - Yes, I was asked to dance by Laura, and also a man took me to dance with another woman, an Argentinean. These women allow the man to lead. You have a different feeling here. In certain places in the dance, the man is allowed to lead. In Buenos Aires, the women have complete trust and let you care for them. They close their eyes and let the man navigate for them.
Here, in NY, there is a difference in the Tango culture. Here, women have to be very strong, or they don't survive NYC. In Buenos Aires, women used to just follow, but now they are becoming more strong. These women know how to follow, just like Susana Miller and Milena Plebs. Women in Buenos Aires can go to a dance and follow. Here, women try to do a boleo, whenever they want, instead of waiting for the lead. This is New York. When they really allow themselves to surrender, then the man has to take care of the woman. You have this connection going on, which is really nice.
(At this point, Mariela Franganillo joined Ronen for the remaining questions and responses).
MF - If we explore our energy as a woman, and he explores his energy as a man, we can take control of ourselves and know the dynamic. You cannot be scared. In the last moment, things can happen. Otherwise it starts to be a fight. The leader connects with sensitivity and music, and you understand and make the embellishment.
The good thing about Tango is that the woman sometimes takes care of her partner. You watch the back for him. You have a three minute connection and then another. In Buenos Aires the man never stands and asks the woman to dance. In Buenos Aires the men look across the room. The woman then crosses, and they come to each other. If the eye contact is subtle and on time, then it is not too late. In Buenos Aires, you say thank you and always dance four dances. It takes time to know each other. The man starts walking and learns her timing and the way she moves. When you put on the music in NY, I ask my students, "Are we in a race?" Music has an entrance, and Tango is a conversation. When there's no breathing together, there's no life.
RK - And, I have learned so much of this from the performance (Swango) and from all these people. I even started to learn Spanish.
MF - (continues) If you walk together, you pause together. It's perfect. In Buenos Aires, people do only one to four things (different steps, embellishments) in each dance. There is a light, when you find a connection with someone. You touch the Light of God. It's so special. Technique does not matter. That you connect for one moment is all that matters. What happens each time, you cannot let it go. You have to allow it to happen.
Thank you very much. Can you imagine to be able to dance and to make a living from this? Work is good. I like work.
REZ - Thank you both.
RK - I enjoyed it. Thanks.
For pictures of Swango, please go to the Swango Pics page.
For Robert Abrams' review of Swango, please click here.
And be sure to check out The SWANGO Photo Essay by Lisa Allen
If you would like to take lessons from any of the SWANGO performers, here is the contact information for the SWANGO teachers who have sent us their info to date.