Mona Isabelle is, without a doubt, a diva of the Berlin tango scene. Any room she is in sparkles more because she is there. She is always elegant, always energetic, always delighted to be there. Her presence enlivens and illuminates the evening. She has been described as an “Artist of Welcome”. She ended her interview with this:
“I would also like to say that tango is the language of love. I feel very blessed to speak this language. Whenever I go tango dancing in other cities, for example when I was in Korea, I didn’t know much about the culture and I didn’t speak the language, and the people were so far away from me, but when I started to dance tango, we spoke the same language. This is very special. I think more people should dance tango.
I originally studied fashion design and worked as a fashion designer here in Berlin and in Barcelona. Henning and I were a couple for 7-8 years, starting about one year after he started TangoLoft. As I got in touch with Argentine Tango and Henning and TangoLoft, I not only fell in love with Henning, I also fell in love with tango and with TangoLoft. It was the greatest opportunity and challenge and luck and present from the universe I could ever had at that moment. I wanted to be a part of tango and TangoLoft and so I started to learn how to DJ and to decorate the room and to welcome the dancers.
I felt so touched and that it was exactly the thing I wanted to do in my life. So I quit my job as a fashion designer and I just wanted to live my life as a dancer and an artist and welcome artists, to make people happy.
I competed in a tango championship once, and we made it until the last round, which is very special. As we came back to Berlin I thought maybe I could start a career as a professional dancers. But I felt it’s not me. The performance on stage. I’m not the kind of girl who is good in teaching other people. I feel more comfortable being a DJ and spreading my power to the people and to the milonga, instead of correcting them or presenting myself on stage. The TangoLoft is my stage. Being behind the DJ desk is my stage. I feel much more comfortable there.
Four years ago I had some time and then I decided to start with a little bit of tango fashion again. So I have a little fashion store, Plumita, at TangoLoft and I order shoes from buenos aires for the girls. I think it’s fun to be in the milonga and go shopping a little. I do it more for fun. Only sold in the shop. The clothes are made here in Berlin and they’re only sold in the shop. I have shoes for men and women from NeoTango and TangoLuna.
At the moment Berlin has a very traditional tango scene, and TangoLoft is one of the places where we play contemporary and modern tango music, which is my music. I’m very proud to be a part of this, giving musicians the opportunity to play their music in my place.
I’m really really proud of how big TangoLoft got. In the beginning it was a very small milonga with only 30 or 40 people coming. Now on Sunday we sometimes have 300 people. When people say there is no tango to dance with composed after 1960, that there is no modern tango you can dance tango on, then I feel this is not true because there’s so many people coming at my place coming to hear and dance to the music I am playing, contemporary and modern tango music.
I really don’t understand why there are people who are so much against the contemporary tangos. Tango is not dead at all. The tango lives! There are still musicians who are writing tango music. Of course it’s not the same as back in the Golden Age. Of course times have changed. Of course there are different instruments and a different message, but it’s beautiful! It’s a child of the classical tango and it has a right to exist. You can’t cut it down. This is so ignorant. It makes me really upset that in Argentina the people don’t play contemporary tango music. I don’t understand it! I have so often musicians from Argentina in TangoLoft, such as Carla Pugliese, the grand-daughter of Pugliese. She composes such amazing beautiful music. I get goosepimples when I talk about it. She played three times in TangoLoft. She tells me that no one plays her music in Buenos Aries. I don’t understand it!
About two years ago I started a project, Solo una Vez. I picked different spots in Berlin where people have never danced tango before. Berlin has a big club culture. I picked clubs like KitKat Club, Badeschiff… And I organized big tango milongas there with 600 or 800 people.
The concept is always two dance floors one traditional and one with modern contemporary music and I think this is very special, that these two scenes can live together. That there is a place where everyone can dance on the music they desire, respectfully. I’m proud to be a part of it. I did almost 10 milongas in different spots here in Berlin. Once a year I do with Andreas Roccholl a milonga at Berlin Hauptbahnhopf. Once a month every Thursday I have an open-air milonga on a beach, because there is no such open air beach milonga in Berlin. And people like that.
And I’m also proud to do this as a woman. Back then when I started to DJ there was only one woman who was a tango DJ, and there was no female contemporary tango DJ. I think woman have a different power than guys. I think the contemporary tango has a very small voice still. There are still a lot of people who say you can’t dance tango on modern music. Which I think is not true.
I love to dance tango on hip hop, electro, swing music, on everything. It’s a lot of fun. When I have a dancing partner who has the same power like me, having fun dancing to different music, then it’s really nice to see what steps we both develop.”
Who inspires you?
“Everyone is an inspiration who has a free mind, who doesn’t have any prejudice, and everyone who is just open-minded and respectful. These people can be actors or freaks. You just be what you feel. You have a personality. A very great inspiration for me is my very best friend George Heinrich Lux. I studied with him fashion design. This sounds so cheesy, but he believes in his dreams, and he is warm-hearted, and he has such a great spirit. He’s very warm to people no matter what background they have.
In the tango world, Eugenia Parrilla. She’s so beautiful inside and outside. I love the way she dances, like a wild cat. She also dances contemporary tango music. And she’s not snobby at all like a lot of famous tango dancers. She’s a great soul and inspiration for me.
Andreas Rochholl is big encouragement in my work, to organize the contemporary tango festival together. I really have an opportunity to say something, even to the world, with this contemporary tango festival.
Of course I would like to see that there is more curiosity about contemporary tango. I would like to see that maybe there are more teachers who are also teaching how to dance on contemporary tango music. I like to see that there is lots of tango here. I also have to say that this is my dream, that it will remain like that.
And Henning was the greatest inspiration for me ever. Without our love, the TangoLoft wouldn’t exist. I entered his room TangoLoft, I would sneak to the dj desk and put the music I wanted to hear. And he gave me the freedom to do it. And he gave the great freedom to decorate the Loft. Maybe we should have more candles, more flowers, more pictures, can I paint this wall. And he said “Yes, please do. Do Mona what you like.” “Should I paint it red?” “Yes, red would be great. Blue is also good. Green is perfect, my dear.”
I play Mona Isabelle music. I think Berlin still is a place where everyone can interpret their way of tango, like me with my contemporary tango. I feel that everyone is treated respectful. So everyone can live here. I find that it’s very remarkable here in Berlin. When I go tango dancing in other cities, or people visit from abroad, they say “oh a place like TangoLoft could never happen in my city.” This is very great about Berlin that everyone has the freedom to interpret their way of tango, which is very colorful.”