EPISODE 1: THE MANSION
So some recent video displaying this intringuing setting caught my attention.
Photo credit: National Park Service, Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
After I had spent some time researching on it, I was able to get in touch with Anne Jordan, one of the curators of the place who responded positively to my request for an interview about this superb manor. Actually, a mansion. Here is a guided tour of Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, Hyde Park, New York.
Anne Jordan, could you please tell us what are the roles of a curator in Vanderbilt Mansion?
A.J.: Curators are responsible primarily for the preservation of the furnishings in the house.
What place does Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site hold in the US art history and simply in the US history?
A.J.: It was preserved because it represents a period of US economic and cultural history. Today, we recognize it also as a masterpiece of architecture. The surrounding landscape is thought very important too.
Why is it called a Mansion?
A.J.: Mansion is mostly a term used today, but not so widely used during the time the Vanderbilts lived in the house.
Could you please, in a few words, tell us about the history of Vanderbilt Mansion and when it became a National Historic Site?
A.J.: The house was built between 1895 and 1898 for Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt. This was one of about five residences they owned (others were in New York City, Bar Harbor, Maine, Newport, RI, and the Adirondack Park). The house was designed by a prominent American architectural firm, McKim, Mead and White. The style is rather typical of houses designed for the wealthy during this time. This house became part of the National Park Service in 1940, shortly after Frederick Vanderbilt died. His wife predeceased him by a decade. They had no children.
How long have you been working as a curator and what are your interests in art and architecture?
A.J.: We have two curators, responsible for the Vanderbilt house, the Home of Franklin Roosevelt, and the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Sites. One has been at the sites for 25 years, and one for 16 years. The houses differ widely in style and the history of the Roosevelt and Vanderbilt families here in Hyde Park are so rich, they continue to be of interest for very long periods!
Many visitors mentioned the fact that Vanderbilt Mansion offers a stunning view on the Hudson River. It recalls those films showcasing the New York Bay. Always fantastic images! How can you describe, the geography of the location?
Photo credit: National Park Service, Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
A.J.: The mansion sits on a natural ridge overlooking the Hudson River--about a few hundred feet, affording excellent vistas across the river to the mountains beyond. Manhattan, where the Hudson River ends at New York harbor, is roughly at sea level.
What is the link beteween the name Hudson and the river?
A.J.: The river was named for one of the earliest European explorers who navigated the river in the 17th century--Henry Hudson.
What are the other attractive locations in the Vanderbilt Mansion surrounding area?
A.J.: The Hudson Valley has many historic and scenic attractions. In addition to the nearby Roosevelt homes, area sites include the homes of the eigth US President Martin Van Buren, Hudson River painters Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, the artist and inventor Samuel Morse, the longest pedestrian bridge in the world over the Hudson at Poughkeepsie, the United States Military Academy, West Point, and the home of Hudson Valley writer Washington Irving.
Anne Jordan added that approximately 430,000 people visit the Vanderbilt grounds annually, and about 80,000 of these tour the mansion. The house totals 54,000 square feet, and the grounds are approximately 200 acres in size. This interview could have been some travel and tourism magazine's article suggesting ideas for your next holidays in New York. It could be a nice choice place to visit! However, the point of my conversation with Anne Jordan is not travel and tourism. Alright! In the present case, let's say I am mixing business with pleasure. Or... rather... pleasure with pleasure :)
Because the purpose of my exchange with Anne Jordan initially lay else where. Remember, right from the begining, I mentioned a certain video...
What else happens at Vanderbilt house apart from taking a tour? What if some other specific events take place in there? Anne Jordan replied to my questioning by heralding that, at Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, once or twice a year, they have musical performances by local musicians, often associated with nearby universities. There remained my interest in the mansion, since, a year ago, it was the setting of some other entertaining event: Last Tango.
EPISODE 2: PERFORMING THE DANCE
Last Tango is a dance & music film that portrays a love story. Performed by Julia Juliati & Ronny Dutra, it was filmed at Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site. The dance duet danced to Gente Que Si, a contemporary Tango sound called New Tango, Neo Tango or Tango Nuevo created by Carlos Libedinsky, the leader of the group Narcotango.
After their first dance video, Julia Juliati & Ronny Dutra, once more, decided on a brand new collaboration together, thus the Last Tango project.
- To be colloquial - I have had a crush on Julia Juliati & Ronny Dutra's passion for Tango Nuevo and Narcotango. So, after I had interviewed them five months ago, I decided to share their Last Tango journey again with you.
From their fantastic jobs, Last Tango Movie and Last Tango movie - Documentary, both videos issued by Juliati Production, I decided to give an update to Last Tango by making this 24 seconds trailer.
THE INTEREST: CREATING A DRAMA
I would like to emphasize on my interest in Julia Juliati & Ronny Dutra's works. Fact is their dance does not simply look like a choreography they execute. They upgrade it with a little touch that transforms everything.
We have this mutual trust in each other's abilities.
I totally trust him with choreography and creating the dance and
he totally trust me with creating the story and filming and directing all of that
(Last Tango movie - Documentary, Julia Juliati on the creative process)
Indeed, music, choreography, acting, decor, wardrobe, chemistry combine into a touch of drama that gives life to the whole creation and THAT the magic of Julia Juliati & Ronny Dutra's work!
Here, Julia Juliati is giving her insight in her creative process
What about Julia Juliati, the story teller?
Julia Juliati (J.J.): The beginning of the creation is different every time. The inspiration can come from all sorts of feelings, images, dreams, events...For the Last Tango it came from the imaginary location. I wanted to create a story in a very special place, like castle, or old mansion. From those I started to daydream about the place and ask myself «what could happen in that place between two people...who are they...what's their relationship like...what's the drama?» And then the story started to evolve.
On this second project with Ronny Dutra, there is a voice over. For your next one will you include a dialogue in your scenario?
J.J.: Yes, we will be starting our next project in July. There will be no dialogue, well not in a traditional sense...with words...but a very intense dialogue of the minds of the characters. The mind game between the characters that might lead to a reality :)
Have you ever had any special request to create a dance that will be featured in a movie? Or maybe you intend to work with a movie production?
J.J.: Because of my dance projects I have a lot of interest from other dancers. So I've created several films for others. As far as working with a big movie production, yes I will be interested to do that.
What about passion & emotion? Your role is to find the right story with the right tone to fit in the music & the dance. And that special element is emotion. All the more in Last Tango movie - Documentary, you said: «all the logic comes after the emotions».
J.J.: I thought about our (me and Ronny) personalities, about our feelings when we dance together, about our relashionship...and I applied that to the characters, and from that I went further, deeper, creating the final story. And once the base of the story is created I share it with Ronny and we discuss all the details, all the logistics. Ronny will «adjust» the character to what he feels of the story/relationship/drama, so in the end, it's always a team effort.
THE SECRET TO TEAMWORK: A GIVE-AND-TAKE PARTNERSHIP
Knowing Ronny, knowing his personality and knowing that chemistry
that we have when we are dancing, I knew how in-depth we can go...
We have a very good connection when we dance...
And I know some of those movements will suit her perfectly
I just used her body for the creative process
(From Last Tango movie - Documentary, Julia Juliati & Ronny Dutra on their professional and artistic connection)
In this display, one can't possibly miss sensuality. It just belongs in the canvas. And it obviously takes mutual understanding and trust to let it shine in the dance film. That's why the wording "chemistry" and "connection" are so important in Julia Juliati and Ronny Dutra's explanations. In a general working context, this also means it is a blessing to find the right partner to team up with.
Let's check out the dance film
Isn't it eye-catching? Fantastic dance moves! Intringuing filming location! And a treat for the ears. It's all with panache!
MORE ABOUT FILMING LOCATION
Anne Jordan agreed to add further information on some particular aspectss during the filming of Last Tango.
While watching Last Tango movie - Documentary, I learned that there are extremely precious furnitures in there and there's that carpet one can only walk on either bare feet or socks. What is special about that carpet?
A.J.: The Vanderbilt house is a unit of the National Park Service, and so is considered to be of significance in the history of the United States. The majority of the furnishings in the house are original to the Vanderbilt family, including the 1913 Savonnerie carpet in Mrs. Vanderbilt's bedroom, where a portion of the video was filmed. We make an effort to protect this carpet from wear as much as possible.
Julia explained that it was not easy to have authorization from you to film at the Vanderbilt Mansion. How did she finally convinced you to be part of the Last Tango project?
A.J.: We make an effort to permit filming or photography when we have the resources to do so, because the house is in public ownership. Due to our very limited resources, however, we are able to accept very few projects of this nature.
The dance scene fits very well in this place. Now it's also a Landmark and visitors can take a tour all over. Do you regularly host any other events in the Mansion and is it possible to book a place exclusively so that to secure tety of the event?
A.J.: Our primary focus is to provide tours within the house for the general public. Once or twice a year, we have musical performances by local musicians, often associated with nearby universities. We are unable to promote use of the house widely for filming of performances, due to our limited staff and resources. We also must ensure preservation of the house and its decor.
Initially is this a ballroom herein? What can you tell us about the architecture in the picture? There is a majesty in that place, a theatrical dimension I very much a
A.J.: There is no ballroom in the house. This was a house used primarily in the spring and summer for enjoyment of the country life. So outdoor activities were the primary entertainment. Most country houses of the wealthy do not have ballrooms, but houses in Newport, Rhode Island or in New York City might have a ballroom.
This picture right above with its decor is a fascinating one! What is the style of the architecture and what is the dominant style of the furnitures in the whole Man
A.J.: This is known as the Beaux Arts style. Dominant style of the furniture is French, a range of historic style, but primarily Louis XV. These were the popular styles among American millionaires from 1890 to 1920.
EPISODE 3: NARCOTANGO & TANGO NUEVO
Let's take a closer look at the music and the group. In Last Tango movie - Documentary, Julia Juliati stated this:
We decided to go and choose Narcotango again,
since we did our first project together
we enjoyed that music so much
Indeed," Gente Que Si" was the sound Julia Juliati & Ronny Dutra danced to. Undeniably, Tango Nuevo is gaining influence on the contemporary tango scene. What so special about it was the last issue I decided to deal with in this article.
It all started when I went to a Narcotango concert in Brazil with my tango partner at that time. The show was great. Beautiful music, great atmosphere, great to see them all playing live and, at the end of the concert, Carlos got on the microphone and asked if anyone would like to dance tango to their last song of the night. Obviously I raised my hand, and there was I having Narcotango playing live for me to dance on the stage. Was absolutely mind blowing! A phenomenal experience, the kind of feeling that really touched me and I felt very connected with all that.
This little yet unforgettable flashback is Ronny Dutra's very first connection with Narcotango. I'm pleased to invite him & Julia Juliati to share more about the music & the dance with us.
As contemporary Tango, when did Tango Nuevo music started to gain the public area?
Ronny Dutra (R.D.): Well, that I can't answer precisely. But I wanna say in the beginning of the century. In my life, definitely almost 10 years ago
As we learned it from the Behind the Scenes interview, Carlos Libedinsky is a bandoneon player and Narcotango went viral. It's a stimulating state because Tango Nuevo has been featured on many movies' soundratcks. I just think of Gotan Project's Santa Maria in Shall We Dance; you dancing with Candace Caplin to Gotan Project's Mi Confesion; plus you and Julia Juliati dancing to Carlos Libedinsky's El Aire En Mis Manos and Gente Que Si; also heard in the film Wygrany. Is contemporary Tango easily adaptable compared to traditional Tango?
R.D.: Those are great references. Neotango or Tango Nuevo is how it is commonly called. Groups like Gotan Project, Tanghetto, Bajofondo, Narcotango, among others have a huge influence on the tango scene nowadays. More and more people like it and feel connected with Tango Nuevo. There are even Congresses dedicated to Tango Nuevo. It's definitely a branch of traditional Argentine Tango, but with a nice contemporary twist.
Plus one interesting point is Carlos Libedinsky himself, is a traditional Tango dancer. Now, how does traditional Tango generation see Neotango? Is it Tango vs Tango Nuevo? Or they both exist in harmony?
R.D.: Haha, tricky question. Look, I'm all about the expression of the art and the connection between the partners and with the music. Some say that Tango Nuevo is not Tango, some are indifferent, some simply identify with it a lot, so basically you'll find all sorts of arguments for this question. At the end of the day, dance to whatever fulfills you and makes you happy.
Did Narcotango started to reach the rest of the world from Argentina or was it the other way round? From outside of the country to inside?
R.D.: The group Narcotango specifically was born in Argentina.
You talked about «having some mate juntos» with Carlos Libedinsky. It sounds very cheerful! Is it a special expression from Brasilia? How did you and Carlos Libedinsky spend your time together?
R.D.: Meeting Carlos was amazing! I was thrilled to share with him the experience I had in Brasilia almost 10 years ago and to tell him how much it transformed and influenced my dancing and my passion for tango. Back in time, I would never thought that I would get to meet him in person and just have some afternoon tea. Lol. Was great to get to know more about formation and origin of the group and their future aspirations.
How can one distinguish traditional Tango from Tango Nuevo?
R.D.: Traditional tango was basically the tango born in the beginning of the 20th century when many immigrants came from Europe to work on the construction of Buenos Aires. Every single form of tango until the "Golden Era" in the 1940s. Tango Nuevo was created in the end of the 20th century and more strongly in the beginning of the 21st century and it's a beautiful mix of the Traditional elements of tango like the Bandoneon, violin, piano, with a nice modern twist of electronic contemporary music.
What sorts of influences in Tango Nuevo dance compared to traditional Tango? I know it's very technical but can you pick one particular move and describe it a little bit?
R.D.: Just like the music, the dance was also influenced by the creation of a new tango style. Some of the New Tango moves that are very remarkable, are moves where there's a counterbalance of both partner's bodies while one goes around the other in a concentrical fashion creating beautiful shapes and forms. Just a different approach to some Traditional tango moves.
Is it me or are there some Spanish guitar influences in Carlos Libedinsky's Tango Nuevo sound?
R.D.: You're absolutely correct. There's definitely some influence to it.
First time I heard «Narco», I thought of some sort of «addictive matter». Which language is this prefix «Narco»
R.D.: That's funny. I thought the same when I first heard it. Lol well, I think I can tell that I definitely got addicted to it Lol
Ronny Dutra, I know you speak Spanish. Carlos Libedinsky's sound Gente Que Si. What does it mean? How many languages do you speak, by the way? And what about Julia Juliati?
R.D.: I speak Spanish, Portuguese and English fluently and I can get along with a bit of French. Please don't test me LOL. Julia speaks English and Russian for sure. Maybe some crazy ancient lost language as well, who knows lol. As per the title of the song, it can mean two different things, I wish I had asked Carlos. "People that 'yes'" or "people that 'if'".
J.J.: I speak Russian and English. I would love to learn French and Spanish as well, already purchased the language softwear :)
Your second choice of music for your work with Julia Juliati is once again, Carlos Libedinsky's. Do you have some specific term of agreement with him for your projects? Or you just pick the music and he agrees with that?
R.D.: We pick songs that move us, that tell a story and that we connect with. No agreement. No contract. Just art circulating around the globe.
J.J.: Carlos is very happy that his music inspires such projects. We are friends now due to this kind of collaboration.
For your next project with Julia Juliati, are you planning on dancing to Carlos Libedinsky's music live? It would be great! And I will cover the event (LAUGHS)
R.D.: WOW, that would certainly be amazing!!!!! I told him that when the group comes to US, I'll be the first in line!! And you better come as well to cover every second of it! LAUGHS Thank you so much!
J.J. : That would be great! Once he is in NY, I'm sure we will arrange something. And yes, Essi, you're already part of our team :)
And I have already started to daydream about that future interview, live. Maybe in French ;)
Thank you so much Julia Juliati & Ronny Dutra for bringing your lights and sharing your Tango Nuevo journey and simply, your art.
I'm sure there are so many other captivating things that are still left to be said about Last Tango.
Watch Last Tango movie - Documentary here
You enjoyed this article? You will also like the behind the scenes interview with Julia Juliati & Ronny Dutra on dejourtoujours.com
Note: the photos of the dance film are the property of Juliati Production and www.dejourtoujours.com