Interview Transcription - Liz Young (2019)
David: Welcome and thanks for your time today, Liz.
Liz: Pleasure, David.
David: Music and dance are a large part of your life having playing the violin, teaching violin, playing in bands like Beyond Blue and Mendoza Quartet. What is the earliest memory that you have of playing music?
Liz: Oh, gee, that’s the earliest memory of playing music, well, I did start off playing the piano first, but I don’t know whether I remember that as clearly as actually playing the violin. And the reason that I remember my first experiences playing the violin is that I actually wanted to play the trumpet because that’s the instrument that my brother playing and I worshipped the ground that my brother walked on. And I was very disappointed when I was told that actually no, I’m gonna play the violin. But the reason was that my piano teacher had already scoped me out to have an ear to play the violin. So funnily enough, when I was presented with the violin, I did love it. And I think my first memory of actually playing that was being the worst in the group class. And that feeling of like, I suck and everyone seems to understand what’s going on. So I was 7, 7 going on 8 but I didn’t understand anything. And that’s when I started getting private lessons which totally accelerated me. I obviously had a different style of learning.
David: And when you mention your music teacher understood that the violin would suit you best. How does the music teacher know?
Liz: So when you learn piano there is a good instrument to start with because all of the keys are there and if the piano has been tuned recently, it’s all in tune. But there’s a C – C, a D – D – E. I don’t have perfect pitch so maybe that wasn’t exactly a C – D – E, sorry for the perfect pitch people. But you can just learn to play notes straight away and pieces of music that are generally you know, quite easy. The violin entails a lot of different things. In the right hand, the bow is happening and if you don’t have the bow sound right, that’s when you get all the scratchy, squeaky, just lack of control, just horrible sound. The left hand, well that’s like normally on a guitar, you’d have frets. That’s where my finger goes, that’s where my finger goes, that’s where my finger goes. But violin, there’s no frets so how do you know? Well, when you’re a beginner, we do put stickers there to give you some sort of like, structure. But ultimately, it’s about your ears training to know exactly where to go. Now, I think anyone can be trained in the skill of actually learning how to better hear things and play them back. But there are some people that potentially have the skills slightly better. And maybe, when I was playing piano and singing songs with my piano teacher, her name was Kaye Hardwick, I loved her so much, she was amazing, she probably could just tell that by the way I would maybe sing back to her, or clap back rhythms that I had good listening skills. For instance, if she sang, do-re-mi, I would sing do-re-mi (sings in tue), as opposed to do-re-mi (sings out of tune), which a lot of my students I do teach do. But that’s okay, because they can still learn how to do it well. And the same with the rhythm (claps a certain rhythm) and immediately responding with, I got that (claps the same rhythm). The violin is just an instrument that requires good listening skills. Some instruments, you can get away with just doing this (imitating playing piano keys). I’m not saying that piano is any easier or any harder. But there is something about the violin that is quite difficult. And if you don’t have that prior, maybe natural thing, it is a lot harder but it can be learned.
David: And was there an instance during your musical career where you grabbed the trumpet?
Liz: Yes, I don’t know whether I ever grabbed my brother’s trumpet, I was probably worried about the gross things. You know I ended up being really put off by trumpet players and maybe just trumpets in general because they do this spit thing. They like kind of playing along and their spit stuck in the valves and so every like minute they’re going (imitates a trumpet player). It’s like spit would go on the ground. It’s just it’s not attractive. So, I just don’t think that I ever really had, after I started the violin, I was like, that’s okay. I think growing up, I love listening to the trumpet, when it is Winston, he is a guy that plays it, and he plays the beautiful concertos (harmonizes). If you listen to classic FM long enough, it’ll probably come up. But I love listening to it and maybe that’s the time that I go, oh gee, I’d love to be able to hold a trumpet and just work out how to make that sound but I’m okay not doing that now. And I think that came from just years and years of having to work out how to play a really beautiful sound on the violin. It does take years and then going, oh, I wonder if I can apply that to other instruments. A lot of that is just like intellect. I need to think about it this way and just be really motivated as well. Like once you’ve got the technique, you just kind of practice doing the same thing. And that’s what draws me to starting anything new actually, not just doing a trumpet, but it’s that thing of like, oh gee, I wonder if I could be good at this, you know, within six months.
David: Then you’re within your pathway of learning the violin, when did you first come across tango music?
Liz: That’s a great question. You know it’s a strange thing, but I’ve felt that tango was like always in my soul somehow. But my first real sort of like, oh this must be tango, is obviously the scene from True Lies that everyone seems to be drawn to tango. It’s the scene that Arnold Schwarzenegger and some other actress at the time, well at the end of it Jamie Lee Curtis, his wife, actually dances the tango with him but it’s “Por Una Cabeza” (harmonizes). And you know it’s funny because in the movie, they’re just, well, they are walking which essentially is tango but she’s just like dragging her leg and there’s a rose and that’s basically it. And it’s like, I thought that was tango and I thought, oh that’s hard and that’s amazing. Whereas now, I’m like, oh cool, just kind of walk and you drag your leg and then you look really cool, play some good music, that’s great. So that, I probably watched that when I was, I don’t know, 10, but I wasn’t allowed to watch it then, maybe 12, I don’t know. So that’s my first thing of tango, which I thought was tango, wasn’t really, then my next thing was Piazzolla so my, what’s the word, exposure to Piazzolla was probably more so at university. So I studied music and occasionally, I would hear other people perform pieces. And my heart would just go, there it is, like that’s the music that I want to play and I’ll never forget, I can’t remember who was playing it, I just remember the music and it was Oblivion (harmonizes). The cello class was performing it and maybe with a couple of others in the group. I loved it straight away. Libertango (harmonizes), was it another one that classical musicians tend to love playing. So that was what I thought, at that point, was tango. And then after university, I actually took up ballroom dancing just because I wanted to dance something. And I remember going through all of it like each week, it was like, we’re gonna do the jive, then we’re gonna do the waltz, then we’re gonna do the cha-cha, and then rumba. And I was like, when are we gonna get to the tango. And we finally got to the tango, and I was like, yes, yes! You know those head flicking and all this stuff that really isn’t tango at all. And with meanwhile, dancing to music that’s like MIDI file, just hard stuff. And luckily enough, Sammy and Michael were there, who we all know in the tango scene. Now like, Liz, this isn’t tango, you’ve got to come with us to the real Argentine tango scene. And I was like, okay, show me. Did they tape it solo? And that’s when they took me one night, it was West End at that point and just walked into this room of these people dancing to this music that was like from the 1930s and 40s. And I was, is this tango? And at that point, I was more to the dance than the music, which is really interesting. It took me about four years to fall in love with real tango music.l So now, I perform Piazzolla like in a concerto style. And I love Piazzolla, and I’ve fallen in love with him all over again. But in terms of that true Argentine dance music that people actually dance to, that’s where my heart is, I love it.
David: Is there a tango composer you find more difficult to play than others?
David: What is that?
Liz: I think that Piazzolla has a lot more complexity about him given that he’s a more later composer. And it’s potentially more difficult. And then second to that would be Pugliese, sorry if I pronounced that wrong, like I’ve been playing tango music for years and dancing it, I still can’t pronounce anything right in Spanish, so sorry Pugliese. He has some really intense music that the timing kind of, it almost chopped some changes but there’s a lot of things going on. The problem is that every single piece that I play has a lot of subtlety now, I realize, it’s more than what’s on the page. And then every single piece that I do, I have to listen to like, 25 times before I feel like maybe I’ve got a feel for it. Which is why it worked out so well for me to play tango music because I’d already been listening to it dancing to it for so many years. There are techniques that are hard so it’s not the notes themselves. You might have a hundred notes on the page in a fast piece of music but it’s just about playing the notes and they’re long as often like I just need to get through all my notes (harmonizes). Gonna play my notes and that’s a classical thing where you’re like most concerned about playing your notes well. Whereas, a lot of in the tangos, there’s a lot of little techniques and ways of playing that are really subtle and are actually really hard to do consistently well. We’re talking about percussive sounds that are made like in other places on the instrument not just on the string but also on the string itself and just a way of playing that’s not classical. I think that’s the hard thing so it’s not really the notes or the orchestra but it’s the ability to go, I wonder if I can just play this in the tango style really well.
David: So you obviously love playing tango now. Do you still play other forms of music?
Liz: Yeah, I do. And I fall in and out of like, deeper love with tango music. So for a while, there was like, my life is about tango and nothing else. And then, wait, I need to play with a rock band, that was fun (laughs). And so, yeah, I play with a rock band that played rock music covers and I love that. It’s kind of like tango but for another dancing. So we just once again, it’s dance music but we also do just covers and play pubs and that’s fitting. So that’s rock, I also still play, not as often as I used to, we used to do a lot of touring with it’s Deep Blue orchestra, meant to say that before, it’s not Beyond Blue, which is the depression thing but Deep Blue orchestra. And they are a combination of anything and everything like we could probably play tango as well but probably not in the right style but we play anything from rock to bit of classical to maybe a bit of jazz. And then my own solo playing. I like to play lots of different things depending on the function or the type people that I’m around. So for instance, Port Macquarie Tango Festival, which I often play at just as a soloist. It’s like, okay, so most of the people around me are going to really love tango music so if I play some music, I’ll try and play some tango music but also some other stuff as well, you know, some classical also. I don’t know here, maybe Ella Fitzgerald or whatever. I generally have realized that if I don’t pick up lots of different types of music to please a lot of different types of people, then (A) I won’t make the connection and (B) I won’t make any money. So you learn that best when you’re basking in the mall. You know Mozart “Eine kleine Nachtmusik/ Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major” (harmonizes), in fact that’s the one classical piece of music that I would say 99% of people will give their money to. But you might play something else classical and maybe you get one person, you know, giving money so you’ve got to learn up with stuff. Is my heart in all of that other stuff? Not necessarily, but my heart’s deeply in connecting with people, so even if I’m playing Pachelbel’s Canon, which is, that quite played a lot, and we’re gonna say overplayed but it’s played in a lot of weddings (harmonizes). If I need to play that for the 250th time for someone who did actually walk down the aisle to that, and it makes them cry, well that’s for me, that’s worth it. Wasn’t gonna do that I’m gonna get stuck in my musician: I don’t wanna play that, could’ve played too many times, like, hey, I play the D Major scale like 50 thousand times a day with my students.
David: So you mentioned playing to people, in a Milonga situation from a musician’s point of view, what do you think live music adds to a Milonga?
Liz: I’ve had asked people that question because in my mind, for so many years, I would have conversations with dancers who were perhaps a little bit disappointed with live music. And so, I think when I first started getting up and doing this live tango thing, I was quite scared, and felt vulnerable about the whole ‘is it gonna be danceable?’ and the fact that we were but people were just shocked, you know, oh my gosh, like how can you be danceable, well that’s because we care and we listen to the music. But I’m still, I’m almost still in that, oh, it’s a surprise to me that people are actually still enjoying it, so for me to say, oh, I think it adds this, I’m like, I don’t know, does it? (Laughs). I think what people have said is that, so dancers are used to dancing with the CDs, with you know the digital tracks that are 100 years old, whatever, and to have something that sounds like that in front of you and real, it’s gotta be better surely. And what people have said is that it’s like it but you add your own flavor to it which is good. I like that idea but I certainly yeah, I’m still striving to kind of sound like those orchestras and that’s probably gonna be a lifelong thing. For me personally, okay, I love it. I love that I’ve got a purpose on stage. So giving a concert is great and some people are really happy to sit and just watch an hour or two of music and good. But maybe because I’m a bit of a maniac kind of physically, in terms of a lot of things. Having seen people dancing to something that I’m doing musically gives purpose to what I’m doing.
David: Do you think it’s really necessary to play exactly like those recordings?
Liz: No, so I think originally I would have said it’s pretty important because otherwise the dancers will be really upset but I think there’s a few things that make something danceable and if you tick those boxes, there are other things around that doesn’t matter.
David: And one of those boxes is…
Liz: One of those boxes, yeah, okay, who, this is where we get on like territory, very, very simply something that has a beat that you can hear it’s like D’Arienzo (snaps to the rhythm) oh there it is, (harmonizes) okay, touch clear and it’s not kind of going (harmonizes but out of rhythm) that kind of stopping and starting and like no orchestra ever does that. So the timing thing is that. When it comes to something like an orchestra like Pugliese, that has a lot of like pull and push, and give and like this and so it can be difficult for dancers to dance to. People love it, but if you play too much of it, people get upset, so if you just do maybe one or two tango of Pugliese, that’s enough. So yeah, there’s a timing, there’s the instruments. So there are instruments and this is something that you know, like my history in terms of tango like you should be doing that about this sort of stuff but this, there’s kind of the set instrument group that are in a tango thing generally a violin or quite a few violins, bandoneon or quite a few bandoneon, bass and piano. They’re the basics of what you need there are things like other instruments around that may have been used before the whole dance thing happened, you know, throughout the 90s and 30s. So I heard that a flute and guitar actually were used maybe in the 1920s, however, then stopping so someone, anyone can correct me on that something I read in my violin tango book. So that is something that if you’re listening to a lot of tango music from the 30s and 40s, you may not hear those particular instruments there. And if it’s all a sudden that are there in the orchestra are playing that music that you’re used to listening to, it might be a surprise, oh, what’s up doing there. There’s the type of instruments, there’s the type of singing as well, just the style of singing. And I think this is probably the most important: it’s the way, everything is played in all of the subtle things. So here’s where musicians can get like, I know what I’m doing if you have a sheet of music and you just read it and you play it, I’m doing the right thing, cool, like tick if you wanna, I don’t know, get into a gospel or history or something. The tango music, there’s just all this stuff behind the music that if you don’t spend time without tango musicians or if you don’t listen to the music or if you don’t read the books about the tango technique, you’re not going to know how to play it well. And so it’s having that humility of like, ah, it’s not about the notes, it’s about how they’re played. It’s the same with dancing tango, it’s actually not about the steps, it’s about how you step. That’s my take on it.
David: So with your background in music, have you ever considered being a DJ?
Liz: Yeah, sure but I just haven’t had any sort of time to kind of, it hasn’t been a priority. But in the last few years, I have certainly started to think about how I wish I went to all those workshops that all the DJs gave at all those festivals (laughs). So yeah, I’d love to, I mean, I’m a DJ for my nieces and nephews when they come over and often we’re dancing to Pugliese and you know they’re all dancing to it and they’re 3 and 5 so hey, if they dance to it.
David: Where do you see your life being as a musician in 5, 6, 7 years time?
Liz: You know this is the year, like right in the last couple of weeks where I’ve been thinking I need to do something more so I don’t know is the answer to that. The last 10 years, I’ve been consistently teaching private students anywhere between 30 and 70 students a week. That has taken most of my energy and that has been a priority and I wanted to do that and it still is for about 30 students at the moment. So I think teaching will be always a part of my life as a musician. Not only because I think it keeps you learning as a human but also because I just love so many of the kids I teach and their families and being a part of their families. With the third not so popular reason is the money is consistent and good. So that’s probably the reasons why I’ll keep teaching. In terms of what I’m doing musically, I love all of the bands that I play in so I meant those are Smashing Pumpkins, Deep Blue Orchestra, occasionally I’m doing the folk thing here and there. But I think I’m trying to do more as a soloist. I don’t really know exactly where I want to take it but there’s some skills there that I’m trying to package and create more of a show and take that to places, I think. I’ve done a lot of background stuff. I’ve played a lot of violin just as people are kind of eating and I’ll entertain people. I love people and connecting with people and telling people stories and I hope to kind of connect that and playing. And if I could travel around doing that, I’d be pretty happy. So that’s what I’m doing in five year’s time.
David: Okay, back to your tango dancing, you mention you were dancing ballroom, you were taken to a tango milonga, how long ago was that?
Liz: So that would be in 2010.
David: So that’s 8 years ago. As a dancer, what fascinates you about tango
Liz: As a dancer…
David: Yes, what is it that grabbed you?
Liz: It kind of ties in with the music thing but like at school I was, I always did play the violin but also by the time I got to grade 12. I was allowed to play soccer, to do athletics. So I did sprinting and long jump and just using my body all the time doing those things. To get to tango and go, I can combine the music thing with the physical thing was like a dream. Deep Blue Orchestra is actually that because I’m playing and I’m moving around and I love that. But there’s something about the music and tango that because it’s ;ole here (points to the heart). It’s like (gasps) no one can really describe that. But I love the music and I love movement so to combine the two is gold.
David: What is one word that would describe the way you dance?
David: And why do you think that is?
Liz: Can I tell the story of my back?
Liz: Put that in there. So I started dancing in 2010, it was about April or something. And I did 1 month and then long story short, I fractured my back and it kind of culminated in me just collapsing and I couldn’t walk. So for about 6 months there, I just discovered tango and it was like, yes, the hobby of all time and then I couldn’t do it. I spent 6 months thinking I’ll never do it, ever again and I won’t do any of the other things I loved doing either. And I was quite sad and I went just trying to get better. After not getting better, now I have a better mentality of actually things might like that, might take several years and that’s okay but after 6 months, it’s not better and I’m just really sad. I had a really wise friend telling me that perhaps instead of writing something like tango completely off, until I get better, he said maybe you should face the fact that you may never get better but you’ve got a choice, you could be happy or sad about being in pain. I was like, oh wow, that’s hard but I think I would rather just be happy. He said maybe you should start thinking about doing the things that you love again. And tango, I was like tango! And that’s when I started dancing again in really tiny amounts and as I’ve seen Rosemarie, she’s also a physio as well and she was out just tell me when to stop and I gradually built it up from there. So tango became to me far more than just, oh it’s a hobby and I love dancing but I’ve came out of being in pain and thinking that I would potentially not ever dance to dancing and to loving it. I got completely obsessed. I was doing it 5 times a week, I remember one week I did 6 times and I was like, I’m a bad human being, I’ll have no friends outside. But I was, it was a rehab thing for me and I really loved it. So when I say reserved, it’s coming from this background of well, I came into it very reserved, thinking that I might not ever dance. Now that I am dancing, I will be careful about it. But also I have a very conservative background. I was raised as a Christian and I guess I don’t like to be associated with all of the things that sometimes tango is associated with. Its sensualness and you know all that, it’s like I’d rather just be me and I’m just gonna dance, I’m gonna have a great time and then I move on. And that perhaps, that’s why I say tha. In recent years, my back is actually better and I have no pain at all and it’s amazing. So for a lot of years then when I was dancing, I was still in pain but I was like, I’m gonna choose to be happy. Or I sound like I am happy and I’m happy. I would say there’s a lot more freedom in my dancing so that’s a funny thing but I’m gonna change my word to free.
David: And how does religion impact on your dance other than that being reserved initially?
Liz: I’d rather ask the question how does tango impact on living Christian. Given that me following Jesus is number one and everything else is number 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. I think the constant battle as a Christian is going, oh, there’s all these things that are like so much better than that looks so much better, then Jesus, but I’m constantly coming back to actually I wanna follow Him and the truth. So tango, I know at certain points in my life, I’ve been like it’s like taken over in a way that would take me away from things that I don’t wanna be taken away from. I haven’t danced a lot lately and sometimes it’s good for me to do that just to kind of read kind of go, this is what’s important in my life. I think it like anything, it’s just having a good balance of appreciating the really good things in my life that God has given me and dancing tango is one of them. But it shouldn’t be worshipped above Him, that’s how I feel. Worship the Creator, not the creation. So I mean, that’s I said when I walked in here, David. Before, I was like just at the moment I am feeling quite grateful. There’s always something to complain about, sure. But there are so many good things in my life that I’m really, really grateful for and I would want to acknowledge the person that gave them to me as opposed to just get really invested in the thing itself.
David: So going back to when you first started dancing tango, do you recall what that was like or what you were like as a dancer?
David: So what was it like when you started dancing? What did you feel?
Liz: Well, the feeling potentially started at ballroom dancing because I was like, oh I’m moving and I’m with someone else and I’m having lots of fun, that was one thing. But then, tango was this deeper thing. It was like, how can I be led by someone, without them leading me. Because my definition of leading was like spinning you around and that’s the thing. But there was something kind of, just deeper. Then being pushed around. I think I really enjoyed, I really have to say, I really enjoyed the technical side of things that could stem from just being a perfectionist in general. In a lot of areas in my life, not just in terms of my clean room but playing the violin also or so you just wanna get right, you know. So I love the feeling of like, I just want to practice, I wanna do it and I wanna learn.
David: Was there a point in your tango wherein you felt that you just got it?
Liz: You think you get it after two weeks and you’re like, I’m a winner and then you see a video of yourself and you’re like, I’m a loser (laughs). And then you have your friends, they’re good friends saying well, you know actually, you need to keep your feet together a little bit more than that and actually your legs are still really bent when you walk back and you’ve gotta straighten them. So then you get into kind of the two years more like, I got it, no I don’t. So yes and no. I definitely had moments of life I got it and then, no I don’t. I think getting tango is you understanding that there’s so much more to get.
David: Very good. Looking back, what advice would yourself when you first started dancing tango.
Liz: Don’t do it (laughs). In terms of, I just wanna be good at this already, you know it’s healthy to think about being good at things in terms of years and years, instead of minutes and hours. And as a 25-year-old, I had a lot to learn about that. At that point given that a month into it, my back went and life slowed down a lot yet I still pushed to be there. And now, all I teach all my students is to get there, you need to do this and this and this… and spend all this time on this and this and this… So that you don’t need to be frustrated about not being there because you’re actually just here. You’re in this stage one, now you’re stage two. Oh, you’re worried about stage seven, well you’re in stage two, that’s fine, it’s ok to be in that stage and see that I’m actually in stage two now, not stage one. You know, like the things actually take a lot more time than you think and that six months is a short time. Two years now, it’s so short, you know, if I had to say goodbye to someone and I was like, I won’t see you for two years. I’d be like, that’s gonna, you know, you’ve got time and you’ve got time to do things slowly and really well. Just one thing, just one, don’t try and do it all at once.
David: With your back injury, was that tango related?
David: So tango caused the fracture?
Liz: Yeah, I’d say the tip of the iceberg, back up a bit, let’s just start down here of what started the iceberg. It may have been a little defect in my spine from birth. I think it has something to do with being born just got a hip, everything was a little bit out of whack anyway. People probably disagree with me on this but my right leg always been a bit shorter. Anyway, you get to your 20s and your body eventually is like, oh I’ve been dealing with all this stuff now and now I’m just gonna not deal with it anymore. So there’s that. There’s also I did a lot of, I’m particularly flexible and I always win limbo competitions so I did a lot of hyperextension which is the back bending stuff and apparently, that can put a lot of stress on your spine. In particular for me, it was like you got your vertebrae and you’ve got those two bits that kind of come out, they called it pars reticularis, it was just that big so it wasn’t the actual vertebrae anyway so that would have contributed to it, maybe a bit of stress there. Then, beginning in 2010, I think that’s when I bought my new red car that was manual and I had been driving an auto so I was trying to use this left leg which where all the problems started going. Then I started doing ballroom and I was doing it three times a week, too much all at once. Then I started doing tango, add that on to the board, too much all at once. I also played with Deep Blue and we did a lot of traveling, all the crazy stuff. I used to wear heels on stage for two hours playing the violin, doing a lot of choreography. And I had done a lot of shows at the World Expo leading up to the point that I collapsed and couldn’t walk. So then, I ran out the Great Wall and I just had a mentality of like, I’ve got a little bit of stiffness in my spine, especially after the night I was dancing but I’ll be alright. Eventually my body was like, so tip of the iceberg.
David: How do you continue to grow as a dancer now?
Liz: Not at all because I haven’t been around.
David: When you are dancing consistently, do you practice?
Liz: No. I used to practice often, but at the moment, I haven’t actually had it in my radar except for yesterday. You know what, I was standing there during I know it was church and I was singing some hymns and I was, I had bare feet, I take my shoes off. And I just start doing those like foot raises you know, you just kind of sending your tippy toes and slowly back down again. Like I need to, that’s right, Rene said I need to kind of make sure that I’m working on the strength of my feet. Tango always gonna kind of key in various forms but I haven’t gone, I’m gonna set aside an hour a day to practice. But also on that note, starting to play tango music, which was about two years ago really took over for me so it became like this is the thing I do, I’m gonna strive to play tango violin really well and dancing tango is gonna be like here now. And that’s what’s been happening recently. Playing tango music has absolutely helped my dancing. A reappreciation of just the music and even listening, I think I’ve started to listen even more as a dancer. I have yet been growing but not in a way that I’ve been like, I’m practicing all the time.
David: What’s the one thing that has given you the biggest buzz in tango so far?
Liz: Does this entail as a musician and a dancer?
Liz: You know, I’d have to say that the New Zealand Tango Festival, the first one that I went to, which would have been, I don’t know, 2012, something like that, 13 or 14. I remember it was like, boom! In terms of my, oh there’s other people outside of Brisbane that I can dance to, dance with. And this tango thing is big and it’s really fun and yes I wanna dance, that’s who I am. That was my first festival ever, I don’t think I’d ever been to a bash. So yeah, that was that festival opening my eyes to just like tango all the time is great, yay! And after that festival I started like booking flights down to Melbourne and just for a whole lot of milonga, you know, oh, I’m gonna be in Sydney. And I travelled a bit more after that. So that big moment was pivotal, joining Mendoza and playing at bash for the first time, there was a first official gig together and people were actually liking it after kind of me worrying so much that many people wouldn’t. That was so good. And in fact, any time that I play with Mendoza is, I love it.
David: You are younger than most people who dance tango in Brisbane. What do you think is the key to getting more younger people dancing tango?
Liz: How do we get more young people. I think one of the things that we think potentially scares people away is the music because it’s kind of like old and whatever. Maybe hacing live music playing. Young people are into live music. Young people are really into live music. So Mendoza played it, would fit and it would fit, you just play and people rock up. They happen to be walking past and there’s a thing and unless you’ve told people prior. Basically so many people would say, I’m not in it for the band, they’re just there for the vibe and for just well, where am I gonna go to next, I don’t know, I don’t really have a goal. And then, oh look, there’s a cool band and I’ll start watching that. So this whole thing of just like live music seems to be a big thing for young people, for all people, for everyone actually. That could be a draw card but it shouldn’t be because it’s about dancing. Ultimately that we want them to actually be dancing, but maybe they should be like this, they shouldn’t be separated. Yeah, it’s people busy doing nothing on their phones and they can’t get off the couch, maybe that’s the problem.
David: Where’s the best place that tango has taken you to date?
Liz: Literally, as in like I didn’t pay for the flights?
David: Whether you paid or not .
Liz: Yeah well good I think the New Zealand Tango Festival was really pivotal in life. Now I can travel but it was the first time that I did so I reckon that would, that’s probably sticks in my mind as the one.
David: Is there anywhere in the world that you would love to play?
Liz: Yes, just on that other note, Mendoza did go to Portland Oregon last year to do a tango for musicians conference that just a week long thing of visiting Buenos Aires. You know teachers just to kind of help us play tango music better and it was great. It was so good. In terms of growth, incredible but also encouragement that we’re doing that. That were on the right track. One of the teachers was like, wow d’Arienzo, tick you got it. Next, whereas I’m like, no I think we should keep improving. The place that I would love to go to play tango, well I mean that’s a cliché, Buenos Aires. I saw a friend, seriously I just like to go there to dance 12 hours a day and play violin for the other 12 hours and never sleep for six months and see how I go.\
David: Who are your favorite tango musicians?
Liz: If we’re talking composers of tango music who are musicians who are dead now or do you mean people who are alive now.
David: Let’s say, people who are alive now.
Liz: There’s a couple of bands that embarrassingly I don’t know the names of that I think play tango really well. I think Orchestra Romantica is awesome and is it Color Tango an actual band. So I go to orchestra’s that just have a really good sound that obviously are new but still have that in fact on the way over here, I was listening to Color Tango’s Pugliese version of A Evaristo Carriego, the one that goes (harmonizes) at the beginning of it and it’s just like amazing. I listen to a lot of old recordings though, so the first thing I would have said would be d’Arienzo, it’s like the stuff I listen to and that would be the musician, the orchestra of back then because nothing is like that. But Mendoza would be the one to ask, he’s got the list of all the amazing new orchestras and everytime we’re on tour as Mendoza, that’s what we’re listening to. Well that sounds great, I don’t know what this band is called but it’s great. I love the violin player in fact, anything with that violin player in it. So the violin player that plays that solo in the beginning of Orchestra Romantica’s new version of Poema (harmonizes violin part). That’s really kind of like dirty, I really love the way that he plays the violin. It’s just like pretty. Don’t know what his name is but great guy, good vibrato.
David: Is there anything that you dislike about tango?
Liz: When I first started dancing tango, my teachers I remember were quite adamant to teach us about the rules. One of which is the Mirada Con Cabeceo. For those that aren’t tango dancers essentially what happens is there’s a room full of people, men and women, leaders and followers. And let’s say the leader is a man and the follower is a woman, the man has to somehow indicate to the woman that he wants to dance with her. And instead of the embarrassment of just coming straight up to her and asking her, hey dance with me and her saying no, there’s a special thing called the Cabeceo Mirada where he might try and get her attention by just looking at her with the eyebrows raised and she will respond with yeah, that sounds good then you’ll come over and then ask and they’ll come dance together. That was really ingrained in me when I first started and I really like it, I love it because it, what is hard is when you get asked and you just don’t wanna dance. It just makes it really awkward saying no, but the Cabeceo, it’s like if the person is not even looking at you then that means they probably don’t wanna dance with you. So that is one thing that I think I find it hard in tango because I love everyone and I wanna play violin for everyone and I wanna talk to everyone but I don’t wanna dance with everyone. And I feel bad about that but I don’t necessarily, it’s part of the fact that you got a certain amount of time a little longer. And so yeah, I just don’t like who I become at tango sometimes. I’m like, ah now I become this kind of selfish Liz who just wants to dance you know. Tango is so much more than that, you know you’ll go to the certain amount of time the day you know suppose doing it five times a week that would be different but these days I guess I’m dancing you know once every two weeks and maybe that’s the problem is that I’m not dancing often enough to kind of be like, oh yeah sure he’ll come down. So yeah, it’s that I know I can’t.
David: Now, being musical yourself, how do you go dancing with people that are not so musical?
Liz: Back to the prior question, usually I don’t dance with them. Can I tell a funny story? It was one guy years ago, I haven’t seen him for a while so hopefully this will be okay. He kept wanting to dance with me, I think we had one dance and it didn’t go so well and he kept asking after that. I was like, nah it’s fine, we really shouldn’t dance. And he was like why is it that I can dance with everyone else and it kind of feels like it’s working out but not with you. And I was like, well, I don’t know. Anyway, finally there was a second time I think that we had a dance and I chose to do something in my head which I’ll tell you in a second, and at the end of the dance it kind of, it worked. And at the end of the dance he said to me, ah, that was amazing, I was like, oh yeah. He said, why did that work out so well? And I said, I chose not to listen to the music. And he was devastated and never came back. But I think that’s the thing, it’s like this is why I’m at tango is because the music is actually and dancers are listening to that. I’m kind of you know, it’s up or is it the people that are up there. Should we be looking after each other and making people feel good for who they are. That is actually what I mostly do like as a musician and a teacher and whatever. And there’s got to be a compromise at some point you go actually it’s probably good for you to know and to learn that you’re not dancing in time with the music and so you should practice that.
David: I think it’s a difficult thing. We don’t want to discourage people from dancing, now on the other hand, you know, enjoy your time that limited time you have at a milonga.
Liz: Yeah, it is really, really hard but do you know David, I have a lot of dances with men who say. You’re a musician and I’m a bit scared and they’re all amazing. They’re all so good. Remember one guy who was actually saying, but he was a beginner you know years ago and he was always in time and I’m just talking, just walking and that’s great, I would prefer to walk in time than to do a thousand steps that aren’t. In saying that, I love lots of steps so it can be lots of steps and in time. That’d be great but the fact is that I would say the majority of guys, leaders are trying really hard. And to be honest, I’m not trying very hard as a follower at the moment to be the best that I can so I can’t blame anyone. But it gets awkward.
David: Do you generally find tango to be therapeutic for you?
Liz: Oh, you know maybe in a festival because by the end of the weekend at least you’ve had within you know 15 or 20 hours of dancing. At least you’ve had some good dancers whereas if it’s like one Sunday afternoon and you’ve got two hours you might get in one good dance maybe. Things get a little bit stressful sometimes. It’s that guy just want that good dance so you’re going to rethink the reasons why are you there. Sometimes it’s going with the flow and just going, you know what, whatever. It’s far better, it’s just like it’s all worth it. It’s not worth thinking about that amazing dance. Dance with those people that are there and have fun is the moral of life just dance with those people.
David: How do you think tango can change someone’s perceptions or change them in any way.
Liz: You know, I reckon it’s self-awareness. So in lots of people it works. But tango is something that okay, so when I teach violin, often, I will film students because they’ll play something, look, look at what I can do, and I’m great, cool, just play it again, I’m gonna film it this time. And then they watch themselves and they listen to themselves. They’re like, that is the worst thing ever and you know, and I think, tick, good. That is actually almost all we need for this lesson is for you to realize that you’re actually not any good. So I mean, great like here’s all the good things but here are all the things that we can work on. Now me sitting here and telling you that probably wouldn’t get through but you realizing it in yourself that there are things that I need to work on is the best gift of all. So I think that tango is definitely that because it’s so intimate but it’s using your body and there are so many thing going on that it can be quiet like, yeah, it really helps with your self-awareness. Too much potentially if you’re on the side of like, oh, I’m always wrong. You’ve got to keep remembering the good things too. It’s really helpful in tango to have people say: this is really looking good with your dancing but you could be doing this too. Otherwise we don’t grow, do we?
David: What would you say tango reveals about your private self that you don’t ordinarily reveal?
Liz: That I don’t ordinarily reveal. What does tango reveal about myself. I wouldn’t be normally doing heroes around someone in the street, flicking my legs up in the air. I still feel like when I dance tango I’m kind of still almost performing in a way for myself and for people watching and it’s like I just don’t wanna lose myself too much here.
David: Is it a protective thing for you?
David: You know letting not wanting to let your guard down.
Liz: Yes so it’s the I’m just gonna do something wrong thing and look really bad.
David: So because of that do you find that you’re not present within the dance?
Liz: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I’d say that and at times I impress on couldn’t care less what anyone thinks and it’s great. It’s great so (sings) let it go, let it go (laughs).
David: Okay, we’re nearing the end now. These are just a few quick fire questions. The answers don’t need to be quick but we see how we go.
What is an indulgence for you?
Liz: For a while, tango was because I was doing it so much, you’d think that wouldn’t be but I think just cause I was so like immersed in it. It was like, oh, this is probably bad for me to be doing it so much so therefore it’s indulgent. But at the moment, is indulgent like you know, oh, chocolate.
David: It could be anything from chocolate to buying a special thing or spending your time doing something.
Liz: Yeah, last year was a year of indulgence for me. I went to Alaska and Canada with my violin. So me, traveling with my violin and playing for people is really what I wanna be doing and that was really indulgent for me. I spent a lot of money doing that, too much and this year I’m like now I need to make money (laughs).
David: Your favorite tango composer.
Liz: I’m just gonna say d’Arienzo.
David: How many violins do you own?
Liz: That’s a long story. People give me violins and they lend me them when they’re like well I’m not playing it and I bought it for my girlfriend and we split up and now you have it until I have kids or something. That was just amazing.
David: How many?
Liz: I don’t know. And I’ve got little ones and big ones. Oh, and then another person gave me one 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 maybe including the sixteenth sizes that I bought my nieces and nephews which officially theirs but I did buy it.
David: What music do you listen to when not tango?
Liz: Other music that I need to learn for other people or I have a track but not track, a Spotify playlist then I actually made for someone who there was a party that I went to and I ended up playing the violin because that’s what happens. And this guy messaged me afterward who’s like can you just send me some songs that you, that have strings and stuff in them and I figured he probably want the stuff that I’d played. So well I currently need to find any of that but I know the sort of stuff that I like and you know it forced me to make this playlist of about 30 things and I entitled the playlist beautiful things because a lot of the music quite tense and slow but just beautiful. So things like Ludovico Einaudi, he’s a piano player that does a lot of piano stuff and I play a lot of stuff like along with him when I perform. It’s like here’s a piano track but I’m gonna play along with it. I love an orchestra called New Tide Orquesta which is actually tango orchestra but they only do modern stuff. So I tend to listen to slow, sad, depressive things or movie soundtracks that are also sad.
David: What does that say about you?
Liz: I’m so and depressive. No slow though I am in some ways but not physically.
David: How many pairs of tango shoes do you have?
Liz: Ah, usable ones or non-usable? I’ve got dirty, dirty, dirty old ones that I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. But there’s 1 and 2 that I never really wore because whatever, 3, 4 I don’t know, 6 maybe 7.
David: And finally, what is the almost memorable memory of an early Christmas?
Liz: An early Christmas…
David: As a child, what’s a fond early memory of a Christmas as a child.
Liz: Not on a Christmas that was like, hey, let’s have Christmas on the 20th of December instead of the 21st so it’s 25th. As a kid, you know what, I think my earliest memories actually when I was given a half-sized violin for Christmas, and I was, would have been 8 to the end of that year. I remember actually opening it up and being excited and smelling it. You smell the rosin, that’s the stuff that you put on the bow and it’s you know, I’ve got to remember moments like that. Because when I start teaching students, especially young ones like, 3 and4 and 5, there is no time wasted in just spending a lesson opening up the violin case, what’s inside. Smelling, feeling and what’s that, that’s wood, what’s that, that’s horse tail, like yeah. Spend time in the things that they’re gonna like, they’re gonna be holding this thing for another few years so they gotta know it. So that’s my earliest memory.
David: Very good, very nice.
David: Thanks for your time, Liz.
Liz: Thank you, thanks for all those questions that have made me think about my life.