TRICKS OF THE TRADE; 9: HOW TO LEARN TO DANCE THE TANGO FOR A MOVIE ROLE

Sally Potter

Director and star of 'The Tango Lesson' (PG), out on 28 Nov. She previously made 'Orlando' (1993)

In my new film, I play the part of a film director who falls in love with the tango and learns how to dance. I did do some dance training when I was in my early twenties, but then I returned to my first love, film. So I haven't been dancing for many, many years. I took up ballroom dancing for fun while I was making the film Orlando.

I started to learn to tango a couple of years before, really from scratch. I found an Argentinian tango teacher living in London, called Carlos Gavito; I took some lessons with him and he recommended that I learn with Pablo Veron in Paris, who is the star of the film (above, with Potter). It became an obsession, and I went to Buenos Aires.

First of all, it was the music; I was completely stunned by the beauty of the music. It was so complex, melancholic, joyful. It expressed so many levels of existence, and the dance when I saw it was not at all the cliche that most people associate with the word "tango". There's a basic vocabulary of moves which you learn in the first lesson or two, and which are very recognisable. And once you've learnt those, you can dance in any tango class.

What you really need to do is to learn how to walk; it's a walk for two, with one person walking backwards and one person walking forwards. You need the balance and skill so you can move in any direction. It takes a lot of practice, but it's like learning any dance; you have to love it and want to learn it.

It's overtly erotic, glamorous, maybe even a bit kitsch, but very much more; there's a rich interior for the dancer and between the dancers. I watched Tango Argentina and realised it wasn't about dancers who were young, thin and wearing Lycra; it was about people of any age, size or shape.

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