Member Spotlight: Valetango
Valeria Solomonoff is deep in the world of Argentine Tango. She co-choreographed “Evita” at New York City Center, received awards from ACE and HOLA for work like “Tango por Ellos,” “Tango Fever” and “Doña Flor y Sus Dos Maridos.” She performed for the President of Argentina, created the first all-woman tango company (Tango Mujer), and has taught at NYU Tisch, Hunter College, Smith College, and Mount Holyoke College.
Based in Manhattan, she recently started Broadway Tango to make the physical vernacular of tango more accessible to students dancing remotely through a regular class schedule.
Argentine Tango is largely improvisational, which means that it requires trust, communication, and presence from its dancers. Through Valetango, Valeria Solomonoff has brought together artists and performers with a variety of backgrounds to create new works based on the principles of Argentine Tango, but expanding beyond its traditional confines. Valetango “strips Argentine Tango to its bare bones to explore relationships of power, collaboration, and dynamics of gender, resulting in a new aesthetic that highlights non-traditional stories.”
Valeria shares the origins of Valetango, their most current work “Trust Me. Trust Me Not,” and why Argentine Tango’s insistence on trust, communication, and interdependence feels more important than ever.
Tell us about your work or project. What inspired it and how do you hope it will impact people?
The project sprung up from the conviction that the improvisational nature of Argentine Tango has a profound and radical way to connect people. My desire was to make that essence available and independent of the style, so it can be appreciated [by] itself and can be used in different contexts. I gathered a group of artists with expertise [in] tango, theater, ballet, contact improvisation and modern dance, and while working on the underlying concepts of tango improvisation, we developed strategies to increase “listening” or “receptive” skills. The process was transformative as it revealed the joy of trusting one another and the obstacles on the way of staying fully present and available.
In order to share our findings with others, we decided to do what artists do: create a show. “Trust Me. Trust Me Not” centers onto the importance and the fragility of trust, incorporating the experience of distrust and the longing of profound togetherness. It didn’t escape us that the theme became increasingly relevant during the pandemic, the isolation experience, as well as a tumultuous, divisive election and [its] aftermath.
Describe the process you've taken to bring your project to life. What's been involved?
The project required finding money and space so we could rehearse together. We received four dance residencies and we did a fundraiser through Fractured Atlas. The fact that we work in complete collaboration with one another, where everyone has a say in the shape of the final product, makes for a commitment that overcomes financial strains. We developed a movement vocabulary that is exciting and eloquent in the sense that it retains an instrumentality of tango but changes its style. We have been explicit about letting the meaning of the work come from the process itself instead of assigning it a priori. However, we are still in need for funds to finalize the production. We have begun a close collaboration with a music composer and a designer to help crystalize into a cohesive piece. Finally, we need an agent that can put the word out for “Trust Me. Trust Me Not” to be shown.
What have been your biggest challenges with this project or with your work?
Wearing too many hats, as I don’t have the budget to hire specialists.
The need for subsidized space.
Finding a producer.
For you, what is the relationship between art and social change? How does your work fit into that relationship?
Art is born from the personal and the personal is beset by the socio-political. I invite those concerns into the work at the same time that I believe in staying truthful to the work and resist posturing. This way the work allows me to continue “working out” my place in the world and my capacity to be changed by what happens. I can’t tell anyone what to think or do, but I can immerse myself deeper into my core beliefs by questioning, by experiencing and by sharing. I believe the microcosm of our lives is permeated by the macrocosm of society and it is possible to practice what you preach and to only preach through your practice.
What has been most useful to you about your Fractured Atlas membership? Which tools, resources, or services have you taken advantage of?
Besides providing [some benefits of] non for-profit status, I have benefited from the resources and advice given periodically through newsletters and through the site. In addition, Fractured Atlas staff has been great at answering questions quickly and accurately. I learned great tips through the examples made available to me as a member.
What was your first big win with Fractured Atlas?
Raising about $5,000 for my project.
What advice do you have for other artists or organizations using Fractured Atlas services. How can they get the most out of it?
Read the newsletters thoroughly and visit the website to see other people’s projects.
Any upcoming events that people should know about? What's next for you that we should be keeping an eye out for?
I will be putting together a 15-minute special video for YouTube about the research on the elements of tango improvisation that dance at large can borrow in order to increase connection among partners.
About Nina Berman
Nina Berman is an arts industry worker and ceramicist based in New York City, currently working as Associate Director, Communications and Content at Fractured Atlas. She holds an MA in English from Loyola University Chicago. At Fractured Atlas, she shares tips and strategies for navigating the art world, interviews artists, and writes about creating a more equitable arts ecosystem. Before joining Fractured Atlas, she covered the book publishing industry for an audience of publishers at NetGalley. When she's not writing, she's making ceramics at Centerpoint Ceramics in Brooklyn.