Oct 282011

Autumn 2011
Vermont Life Magazine
Profile: Q & A


Every Vermonter Has a Story

Ana Araguas-DiTursi: tango teacher, empanada entrepreneur


Though Ana Araguas-DiTursi left Argentina 16 years ago, the culture of her native country continues to shape her life in Vermont.

A former professional ballerina, Araguas-DiTursi works as a dance instructor, teaching traditional Argentine tango and other dances to any Vermonter who has “the spirit and the soul” to learn. Araguas-DiTursi and her husband, Robert DiTursi, the parents of two small boys, also operate Ana’s Empanadas, a takeout food business built on her recipes for the traditional Spanish pastries. Araguas-DiTursi began selling her empanadas four years ago from a table at the Rutland Farmers Market, and the couple has since opened a winter snack bar at the base of the Needle’s Eye chairlift at Killington resort and a commercial kitchen and storefront in Rutland.

VL: What made you leave Buenos Aires and move to New York?

AA-D: The ballet was run by the government … and one day the government says, ‘Why are we paying all these dancers? No more ballet.’ That was in 1994, one year before I came here [to the U.S.].

VL: Why did you and your husband decide to move to Vermont?

AA-D: Robert knew Vermont, his uncle owned a house in Lake Bomoseen, and growing up, he loved Vermont. And then after 9/11, we were scared. We had a house in Brooklyn, and all the papers from the towers came into our backyard. … There was too much going on, and Robert says, ‘Let’s move to Vermont,’ and I said, ‘Sure,’ and we moved up here, and it is a wonderful, wonderful state. I just love it.

VL: So, no regrets?

AA-D: No. It is a little cold sometimes.

VL: What is your earliest memory of dancing tango?

AA-D: I danced tango when I was 4 with my dad, every weekend. It was like a family dance. Every time I return to Argentina, we dance tango. It is so normal for us. My dad puts the radio on and everybody in the family dances tango.

VL: How long have you taught tango in Vermont?

AA-D: For seven years, at schools, Castleton College, in Brandon, and I’ve done a lot of private lessons. They come to my house, actually. I have a little place in the basement, and the couples come and I teach private classes.

VL: What is the secret to dancing a good tango?

AA-D: My dad used to say, ‘You can dance a good tango, even if you do a simple movement, if you have it in your heart.’

VL: Is there a different style of tango that you teach in Vermont compared to the tango of Buenos Aires?

AA-D: No. Actually, I find that here in Vermont it is more like Argentine tango than when you go to Texas or other states. Tango is taught different all over the place, and the other tango they have here in America is American tango.

VL: How is it different from Argentine tango?

AA-D: American tango is more artistic, let’s say, like a waltz, like ballroom dancing. They do not do steps like Argentine tango. Argentine tango is more close and little steps.

VL: What spurred you to start selling empanadas at the farmers market?

AA-D: It is very difficult to be a ballet instructor and tango dancer in Vermont, and I am a very energetic person. I have to do something all the time. So, I called my husband and said, ‘I don’t know what you are thinking, but I am selling empanadas at the farmers market.’ And that’s it, I put my baby in my backpack, he was six months, and I went and sold my 50 empanadas. They ate them cold.

VL: When did you realize you had a viable business?

AA-D: That started gradually. I spent $100 to make my first market. After my third market, I said ‘Wait a minute, everyone has a tent, and I don’t have a tent.’ I don’t think I really realized it [was viable] until I got the business at the mountain.

VL: Where do you get your recipes?

AA-D: I do a lot of original Argentinean (recipes). The Humita is a family recipe. My mom taught me how to make it. I called my cousin in Argentina for the La Bomba, a three-cheese empanada. What I like to do is go to a city in Argentina and stop and talk to the owner of an empanada business, and they are very nice and just give me the recipes.

VL: Since you brought tango and empanadas to Vermont, is there anything about Vermont that you’ve brought back to Argentina?

AA-D: It is funny. I actually think that when I go back to Argentina, what I bring is the peace that is in this state.

VL: Peace?

AA-D: Yeah, peace. It is more relaxing. Buenos Aires is a little bit similar to Manhattan. Living in the city is very stressful. Here, Vermont is peace. The people are amazing.

I’ve met the best people in the world in Vermont. The farmers are very intelligent people and just down [to] earth. Vermont people are so kind. It is different. They are different.