Winnie aspires to be a complete musician. Not only does she prefer to play her instrument and understand the style of music well, she has the need to connect and inspire. Argentine tango fits like a glove as Winnie’s prime medium of expression.
Tango has everything Winnie needs: theatricals, dance, music, exotic poetry based on everyday themes for and by everyday people, and the universality of the experience. Winnie has most things that could be of service to tango: classically-trained pair of piano hands, European-contemporary-classical composer’s brain, multi-lingual tongue, untrained but functional pair of dancer’s legs, and most importantly, a passionate Southerner’s temperament and a wide-open mind. All that was needed to put Tango with Winnie was a little serendipity.
“It was the summer of 2014. As my husband and I were taking a breath from the busy life of raising two young children, we found ourselves at our first tango dance lesson in a small yoga studio down the street. We have never danced before; nor have we heard tango. As we clumsily looked for our knees and ankles, we were completely taken by surprise by the power of connection in this simple walk of a dance. Two days later, again with a little luck, we found ourselves in a 150-person strong milonga, a tango dance party. That night, there was a live tango band.
It did not take more skills than what we had as beginner dancers to be mesmerized by what we witnessed: 150 dancers, hugging in pairs, moving together as one organism, responding intimately to the vibration of the music sent directly from a live group of musicians. The young was dancing with the old; the tall with the short; the poor with the rich; the European with the Asian; the woman with another woman. There were no words between them.”
It was a mind-blowing experience for Winnie, mostly as a musician but as a dancer, too. She will never forget how the dance helped her find the music; how the music drove the dance; and how neither discriminates.
That night signaled the end of Winnie’s musical hibernation and the beginning of her life as a dancer. The busy mom (that is still Winnie) has since reorganized her life, and has put tango squarely in balance with all else important to her life: family, community, music and dance.
Winnie went on stage for the first time as a tango pianist in 2015 with the Tanguero Workshop, organized by Cuarteto Tanguero, and joined Cuarteto Tanguero in 2016 as the pianist. That same year, the band was invited to perform at the Kuan Du International Arts Festival and Taiwan’s National University of the Arts, and on stages in Macau and Hong Kong. In the US, Cuarteto Tanguero is the featured band yearly at the Louisville Tango Festival, and has appeared at numerous concerts, milongas, seminars and workshops across the states. The band premiered Indiana University composition professor Aaron Travers’ Elementos at the 2018 Tanguero Workshop. That same year Cuarteto Tanguero’s CD Guapeando was released, coming in at #8 on Billboard’s World Music Chart. Cuarteto Tanguero is Ben Bogart, bandoneón; Daniel Stein, violin; Matt McConahay, bass; Winnie Cheung, piano.
Also in 2015, Winnie formed the duo Tamango with violinist Julia Shannon, later expanded with guitarist Maximiliano Larrea, violinist Jennie Gubner and Julia Shannon, and singer Tomás Lozano. Tamango has also taken stage on numerous concerts, milongas, workshops and various outreach programs, including Purdue University’s tango club La Milonguera, the Mathers Museum, Jacob School of Music’s Auer Hall and Indiana University’s University Club, Bloomington Montessori School, Meadowood Retirement Home, the Better Day Dementia Care Home, the Player’s Pub, among others.
Both Tamanguitos and Dúo Tanguero were formed in 2018 to enhance the missions of its respective parent band. Winnie also performs as a soloist.
Winnie earned her Masters and Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in Music Composition from the Eastman School of Music, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago. She participated in all three tango workshops in the United States: Tanguero Workshop (2015-2018), Stowe Music Festival (2016), and Tango for Musicians at Reed College (2018).
Winnie travels often to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and studies piano with the most inspiring maestros of tango: Julián Peralta, Nicolás Ledesma, Adrián Enríquez, Juan Pablo Gallardo, Exequiel Mantega and Pablo Estigarribia. She had the privilege to share the stage with Pablo Aslan and many others.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Winnie is a well-traveled global individual. Currently, she is based in Bloomington, Indiana, United States, with her husband and two young children, Rowan and Linden, who are proud members of Tamanguitos. She cooks and tangos everywhere in the world she goes, including Antarctica.