OSAKA — Yoshiko Nishibayashi first got interested in Argentine tango after watching the movie “Evita” in 1997. Three years later, she returned from Buenos Aires as a professional tango dancer — the first in the Kansai region with an Argentine partner.
Without any dance experience or knowledge of Spanish, Nishibayashi flew to Argentina’s capital in December 1997 because she “fell in love with every aspect of tango, including the music, songs, dance and history.”
“When I first watched tango in the movie, I was very attracted to it, wondering what it was. Soon I wanted do it myself,” said Nishibayashi, 31, who was looking for an aim in life before she turned 30 years old.
“I could have learned tango at culture schools in Osaka, but that was not what I was looking for,” she said.
In her first year in Buenos Aires, she spent all her time studying tango. Every evening, she went to a dance school and afterward practiced until dawn at a “milonga,” or dance bar.
Thanks to her outgoing character, Nishibayashi mixed well with the locals and learned the language in the course of her daily routine.
For financial reasons, after a year she took up part-time jobs, such as a photographer’s assistant and tourist guide.
“Still, I wanted to do nothing but dance the tango. So I started teaching tango.” At the same time, she began receiving offers to exhibit her dancing at bars.
Nishibayashi said that anybody who earns money through tango can be called a professional. In this sense, she became a professional about a year ago.
And that was when she met Daniel Nacucchio, 21, a practice partner at a milonga. One week later, they were dancing at an exhibition.
“Daniel is the best partner for me,” she said, referring to four criteria that she thinks a male partner should meet.
“A good male dancer has to listen to the music, look around to find dancing space, lead his female counterpart and organize the dance,” she said, adding that the female has to listen or feel the music and follow her partner’s lead.
Gradually, offers for exhibition dancing increased, and Nishibayashi and Daniel became known among local dance fans, especially after Buenos Aires Tango, a magazine specializing in professional tango dancing, wrote about them.
But life as a professional tango dancer is not easy. Few make a living only by dancing, she said. So they decided to fly to Osaka.
“If we teach tango and dance in exhibitions in Japan, we can make more money than in Buenos Aires,” she said. “And we want more people to know about real Argentine tango.”
They arrived in Osaka in March, and after some exhibition shows in Nagoya and Kumamoto, started giving regular lessons in Osaka this month.
“Tango is dance for expressing your heart and feeling. And it is for anybody from little children to old people. I know a 93-year-old woman in Buenos Aires who dances well in public.”
Nishibayashi likes to dance in small spaces, such as restaurants or small theaters, so that she can feel the reaction of the audience. “I want to exhibit my dancing to those who really like tango. And I hope many people fall in love with tango just like I did,” she said.