JUAN CARLOS COPES
Dancer and Choreographer
( May 31,1931 - January 16, 2021)
Place of birth: Buenos Aires Argentina
The tango dancer of the 20th century
Tango representative for UNESCO worldwide.
In the year 1931 Argentina regained democracy after the first de facto government. This same year the metro line B opened 5 new stations. The Argentine Academy of Letters was established in the capital. “City Lights” Chaplin´s first sound film was released in cinemas around the country. And on top of that in the neighborhood of Mataderos, the best tango dancer from the 20th century was born: Juan Carlos Copes. In this manner, the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires distinguished Copes 69 years after his birth in the Autumn day of May 31. After embracing tango so fiercely, it was tango that finally rewarded and pampered him.
When he was young, Copes had different plans, he idealized himself in a more scientific and methodic way as a mechanical engineer, that was his plan. But as time went by, his senses evolved and he discovered a great taste for dance, that rapidly made him a true tango engineer. His successful path started soon after. Barely 20 years old, and with more desire than experience on his behalf, he won a dancing contest alongside Maria Nieves in the emblematic Luna Park, today´s home for the World Tango Championship. It was a defining moment for the young Copes, and from that moment, he set himself a new goal: to become a “milonguero”. Nieves accompanied him in his steps and in his heart for a very long time.
It was then that the term, invented by him, “tango engineer” was born. A term that taught us, through Copes artistic career, that it was more than just a word game. Copes was actually a true technique constructor of milonga dance. He was a successful producer of Argentina´s most valuable intangible matter. And this is one of the reasons why UNESCO named him Tango Ambassador Worldwide.
As a result of his interventions, like the fusion between Ballroom Tango and Tango Orillero as a new way to dance milonga, markets like Europe, Asia and North America, opened their doors to the marvelous spectacles they found in Tango. If we dare to make a romantic metaphor, we could say that Copes was Tango´s lost master key that opened the great of international show business. Furthermore, it was Copes who invented the “Tango Show” concept.
And in 1983 he was a dancer and a counselor in the origins of Claudio Segovia´s and Héctor Orezzoli´s “Tango Argentino” . A dance show that would quickly escalate to become a worldwide phenomenon as well as acting as a rebirth symbol for tango. Its premier in Paris turned out to be a resounding success, so much indeed that it was extended to New York City to be exhibited in Broadway where it would stay running for over a decade.
“The full pack audience has turned “Tango Argentino” into the season´s improvable hit in New York” was the “Times” magazine appreciation of the time.
Declared a Heritage for Mankind, as a representative of tango, he was also awarded for his work both as a teacher and a dancer, in Toronto, New York and back home in Buenos Aires. The fans often ask themselves “ how does one become a great dancer?”: our leading teacher answers “In tango what you can accomplish with your feet is a consequence of what is happening first in your head and then in your heart”. The answer may tell us a little bit about tango, but it is more representative of Copes as a human being and a dancer, a rational being, as well as passionate and finally, a talented one. An extremely talented one.
A man filled with different aptitudes, who was also capable to distinguish himself in the movie industry, participating since 1958 in various films. As a teacher he served as a guide for Robert Duvall and Liza Minelli.
Copes, Copes, Copes; tango, tango, tango. It doesn´t matter how you name it; you would be talking about the same thing.