Born in Argentina, Pablo Pugliese teaches, choreographs, and performs internationally alongside his wife and dance partner, Noel Strazza. Based in Montreal, they founded the Extempore Company, incorporating the Argentine tango and other contemporary dance forms. Pablo’s work honors the legacy of his parents, the legendary Argentine tango masters Esther and Mingo Pugliese. He began performing professionally at 10 years old. He trained at the Alvin Ailey School in New York City, later studying choreography at the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance. His studies of varied movement disciplines have informed his artistic vision and teaching methodology.
Nancy Ancowitz is the author of Self-Promotion for Introverts®. A presentation and career coach, she helps introverts and extroverts with career-building and leadership skills. She career advancement courses at New York University. Nancy served as a marketing vice president at JP Morgan Chase & Co. A blogger for Psychology Today, Nancy’s work has been covered by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. A staged reading of a play she wrote inspired by tango played to sellout audiences at the West Side Center of the 92nd Street Y in NYC and was featured in New York magazine.
In this interview, Pablo and Nancy talk about Tango for leaders.
Geetesh: Tell us how you got started with Argentine tango.
Pablo: I come from a family of tango dancers in Argentina. My parents – Esther and the late Mingo Pugliese – are renowned teachers. I started learning at age and began helping them teach at age 12. I first taught in the United States with my mother when I was 16. So I have been dancing and teaching Argentine tango for most of my life. It is a complex dance in which the leader and follower are constantly negotiating with one another inside the ever-changing environment of the dance floor.
Nancy: Starting with ballet as a child, I have casually studied many dances – from many Latin forms to West Coast Swing – over the years. I am especially fascinated by the intricate nonverbal language of Argentine tango, a hauntingly beautiful dance, and what it can teach us beyond the dance floor.
Geetesh: How did you discover similarities between this dance form and leadership skill-building?
Pablo: Many of my students who are successful in the world shared how learning tango surprisingly improved their communication and leadership skills, specifically their self-confidence and adaptability.
Michele Wucker, a celebrated author and leadership expert who was one of my tango students when I lived in New York, introduced me to Nancy – and we’ve all enjoyed collaborating.
Nancy: Yes, this was Michele’s brainchild, and the three of us put our heads together, each bringing our different areas of expertise – from dance to communication skills to leadership skills – to create Tango for Leaders. All of the work starts with heightening one’s awareness of your body as well as whoever and whatever is around you.
Pablo: And working with the body is a visceral experience.
Nancy: Yes, and it has been exciting to discover how we can help leaders communicate more clearly and become more adept at reading nonverbal signals, all informed by the tango.
Geetesh: Would you share more about your Tango for Leaders workshops?
Pablo: Tango for Leaders is a leadership and communication class based on the core concepts of Argentine tango.
Geetesh: Do participants need to know how to dance? Will they learn dance skills or leadership skills, or both?
Pablo: No prior dance experience is necessary. Our aim is to create a playful environment where participants can work with their bodies and build on their knowledge of communication, adaptability, and leadership.
Nancy: Yes, it is more of a leadership and communication workshop through the colorful lens of Argentine tango than a dance class per se.
Pablo: Of course, participants will also get a taste of some basic dance concepts. So if they are interested, they can use that as a springboard for taking dance lessons too.
Geetesh: What are the roles of men and women in your Tango for Leaders workshops? Is it important to have a gender balance?
Pablo: One of the main Argentine tango traditions is to learn how to follow before becoming a leader. Dancers from my parents’ generation spent months following before learning to lead.
We designed our Tango for Leaders lessons for participants to experience both roles, regardless of their gender. We constantly change roles as well as partners.
Nancy: You get to learn a lot about yourself in that process. Some participants say they’re natural leaders and find it challenging to follow – and vice versa.
Pablo: I have found that there is a natural predisposition to either lead or to follow. So changing roles can be eye-opening in learning about yourself. The same goes for partnering with people at different skill levels.
Nancy: A strong leader meets their followers wherever they are, plays to their strengths, and helps scaffold their areas for development. We model all of that in our workshops.
Geetesh: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Nancy: Leadership, like tango, is a tricky dance. By raising your awareness of yourself and others around you, you will become more attuned to others and effective as a leader. You can improve your ability to lead by attentively listening to the cues around you.
Pablo: Yes, and through our workshops, you will learn to trust your own choices and become more attuned to others.
Nancy: And without a lot of fancy footwork!
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