By Anthony Howell.
THE WORLD OF ARGENTINE tango has lost one of its brightest proponents. Andrea Missé, who reintroduced traditional close-embrace tango to the world, was known for her fluidity, her beautiful adornments and her perfectly musical technique.
Slim, trim, impeccably groomed, with the neatest footwork in the business, Andrea was a member of a veritable clan of tango dancers – with her siblings Sebastian, Gabriel and Stella Missé – all professional dancers, well known on the international festival circuit.
She developed her tango with Carlos Rivarola, one of the stars of the stage show, Tango Argentino, which took North America and Europe by storm in the ’90s. She then studied for several years with Miguel Angel Zotto, known in London as the star of the show, Tango por Dos, and, significantly, she worked with Antonio Todaro, one of the greatest teachers of tango choreography. Other influences that British dancers recall her mentioning include Milena Plebs, El Turco Jose, Toto and many others. In the late ’90s she created a company called Tango Danza with her partner, Leandro Palou, and her brother, Gabriel. Their shows earned them rave reviews in the U.S. and Europe.
ANDREA STARTED DANCING AT the age of 11 and began her professional career in the Argentine National Ballet in 1991, receiving a diploma in Argentine Folkdance and Tango in 1992, and then a further diploma, in dance and choreography, from the Buenos Aires Theatre Academy in 1995. Her interests extended beyond dancing however, and she studied simultaneous translation at the University del Salvador in Buenos Aires as well as Italian language, history, literature and art history at the Dante Alighieri Institute also in Buenos Aires.
She and Leandro came to live in London in 2001. In those days, the UK tango scene was comparatively small. Because of our differences with Argentina over las Malvinas (or as we call them, the Falklands) and the ‘Guerra del Atlántico Sur’, Britain missed out on the first European tour of another stage show Tango Passion – so tango fever hit us a decade later than it hit the rest of Europe. Andrea spoke English excellently, albeit with an American bias. She was the first person I met to refer to something as ‘Awesome!’
Leandro and Andrea’s regular classes at The Factory gym and dance centre in Hornsey Road revolutionised the dance in London, and the couple also had a big impact in Europe and wherever else they happened to tour, giving demonstrations that inspired rapturous applause. I attended many of the classes at The Factory. Exercises in technique were always a key part of these. Delightful figures were taught that could easily be used when dancing socially. In workshops, Andrea emphasised the importance of the frame, and precisely delineated the muscles involved in its maintenance. I took private lessons with her. She was hugely instructive while never belittling my dance (although at the time I was no more than an ‘improver’). She also danced with me at milongas – as dances in the community are called. She never gave me the impression that this was a chore. The school she and Leandro founded here, Tango in Action, is still operating today.
Later, she partnered Javier Rodriguez, and with him she achieved international renown, pioneering a return to classical Villa Urquiza style, which had fallen out of fashion as the tango nuevo introduced by Astor Piazzolla came to dominate the salons, with the music of Gotan Project and Otros Aires making electronic tango beat popular in nightclubs all over the world and inspiring open soltadas (where the conventional embrace is broken). For many this heralded a dissolution of the authentic form into pyrotechnics owing as much to contemporary dance as to tango. With Villa Urquiza, the typical style of the Sunderland milonga in Argentina, the two bodies are always in contact, the embrace is never broken, the axis is shared while a feeling of togetherness and unity with the music is projected. Andrea and Javier were responsible for a revival of this tradition which both preserved the roots of the dance and re-emphasised the music of the ‘golden age’ and the tango as the ‘walking dance’.
Andrea Missé died in a car accident in La Pampa, Argentina, on 2 January 2012. Her husband, Diego Hernan Ginex, and Guadalupe, her two-year-old daughter, were also involved in the accident but are now out of danger.
Andrea Missé. Born 10 August 1976. Died 2 January 2012.
A former dancer with the Royal Ballet, Anthony Howell was founder of The Theatre of Mistakes and performed solo at the Hayward Gallery and at the Sydney Biennale. His articles on visual art, dance, performance, and poetry have appeared in many publications including Art Monthly, The London Magazine, Harpers & Queen, The Times Literary Supplement, and he is a frequent contributor to The Fortnightly Review. In 2001 he received a LADA bursary to study the tango in Buenos Aires and now teaches the dance at his studio/gallery The Room in Tottenham Hale. He is the author of a seminal textbook, The Analysis of Performance Art: A Guide to Its Theory and Practice.