I am an avid Tango dancer. For years I danced in Milonga at least 3~4 nights a week. When I first started, the total number of Tango dancers in the entire New York City was less than a thousand. By the time I retreated from the scene nearly 4 years later, there were about two thousand dancers in the City. Now there must be way over five thousand.
I was definitely one of the Tango junkies (before the list got so long), going to most of the guest instructors’ workshops, knowing all the frequent dancers’ faces, buying seven pairs of Tango shoes during our trip to Buenos Aires… But Tango had another effect on me. It taught me the philosophy of Life and Love.
Interesting enough, learning Tango technique enlightened my ways of connecting with my partners, on the dance floor, as well as in life. Gavito made Tango into a very simple matter: Tango is an elegant walk. It is a three minute commitment. “You lead, and at the same time, you follow.” — On dance floor, this is applicable mostly for the leaders. As for the followers, we suppose to focus on only following. But good following was not one bit easier than leading. We used to spend hours to learn how to be good followers, not too strong, not too weak, not too fast, not too slow. And of course, be at the spot the leader intended us to be by sensing the lead, not by being dragged there. Boy! A follower was basically trained into a mind reader. But once you got it, dancing Tango with anyone became a walk in the moonlit garden — magical!
It sounds simple. Yet it took hours and hours to work the sense into one’s intuition. And then, you simply became good. He taught us to work our sensuality into the dance, and never forget the elegance one must have, as well as the playfulness while submitting to the lead. He taught us how a dancer should caress the dance floor with her feet, instead of stepping all over it. He taught us the true meaning of partnership, and how to be a true compliment to any leader.
Everytime when I feel lost in life, when I don’t know how to react to life’s event, I think of what I would do on the dance floor that made me one of the top dancers in the city. Every so often, it would bring me back to the night when I danced with Gavito, when he said: “You made my night” at the end. That was long time ago. It was at 92nd street Y, 1998.
Well, almost everyone knew that Gavito did not usually dance in Milonga, except for requested showcase, or, on rare occasion, danced with his stage partner, if she ever came with him. Most of the time, he just sat there chatting with his friends and watch everyone else dance. But, I didn’t know that until it was too late, until He had danced with me and one other girl in a Milonga that night.
It was towards the end of the night, when the floor cleared up a little. Though I had always wished for it, it was still shocking when he got up, walked up to me and lend me his hand!
The whole time I was so nervous I felt dizzy. So I moved rather slow, but stayed with the music. He taught me well. Afterwards, he thanked me and said, “You made my night.” I murmured “Thank you!” and didn’t know what else to say. I was still nervous after he returned me to my seat. My friend Ellen said something like “how interesting that He actually danced with his students!” That’s when I found out that he usually did NOT dance in Milonga. The host of the party, Daniel, a well respected Tango instructor also came over, pat me on the shoulder and said “Very good! You did very nicely.” I almost felt embarrassed.
No one would remember this event any more, except me. Gavito would remember me as a good student. Yet even Him, wouldn’t remember that he had danced with me, because that could not possibly be the only night that he danced in the Milonga with a student. Plus, He is dead, He died in July 1, 2005, of cancer.
I don’t need to Tango any more. I’m Tangoing all the time. It is the best addiction one can ever have.
I love him. He taught me Tango. He taught me to use the philosophy of life in dancing Tango. He taught me to use Tango philosophy to connect with people in life.
I don’t need to Tango any more, because I am afraid of ruining that very fond memory. Plus, I am always dancing, in my mind. But I know I will. I am a true Tanguera.
Every time I watch Him dance, my heart in flame, my body motionless…
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Though the following video was recorded by an armature, I guess, and the sound quality wasn’t perfect, this video remains my favorite recording of His dance, ever, on stage or off stage. I want to thank my fellow Tango dancer for capturing such rare moment of true spirited movement of His flaming steps and passion. And I hope you get a sense of what Tango truly is, a connection, and a conversation with love, in peace and harmony.
And someone posted an interview of Carlos Gavito that I find very interesting: “TANGO IS A SHARED MOMENT“. (http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~tango/Articles/Gavito.pdf) Yep, that’s his teaching… I remember it as “Tango is 3 min of total commitment.”
And here is another video released not long ago:
For more authentic Tango experience, it is not the high flying legs that signifies the skill. (I can’t watch those without my intestines twitching with anxiety) It’s the connection, like in this couple. And it is indeed NOT impossible for You either. Just hold on to your partner with your attention, because you want to be with each other, and let the body swing with elegance.