By the time I was fifteen, I was already dancing in the salons. I remember the afternoon dances and later the evening tango dances. It was about 1944-45 that I became aware of the feeling that tango produced in me. Then I began to go into the city to the big and small places where people danced. Later in the provinces I realized without any doubt that there were some very great dancers, their style so different and individual, and they always walked with elegance and style. There were no dance academies at that time, only practicas for men which existed in all the neighborhoods.
That’s how I pass through the great milongas in the city center, like Confiteria Sans Souci, which used to open at 3 o’clock in the afternoon until 4 o’clock the next day. Dancing these hours we used to call “vermouth and night,” meaning afternoon and night. About two or three thousand people would dance at Sans Souci every day and night. At the same hour of the night at Confiteria Piccadilly, Desiree, La Cigalle, La Nobel, Mi Club and several more and at the cabarets like Novelty, Chantecler, Tibidabo, Tabaris, and many others, large numbers danced nightly. In the 40s and 50s in the city center and the suburbs there were more than a thousand places to dance during the week.
In Buenos Aires which has dozens of neighborhoods, there used to be in each of them social clubs, sports clubs, cultural clubs, and all of them with Tango dance halls. In Greater Buenos Aires, you could count the clubs in hundreds where people danced, so it was very difficult deciding where to go because in all of them there used to be a very high quality of dancing.
Today, in the sunset of my life in the memory of the good moments I have lived in almost 60 years of dancing, I have tried to give the best of myself, not only with steps, but through the feeling of the sensation of dancing with rhythm and cadence, chest to chest and cheek to cheek, the close embrace. It was marvelous. That’s why trying to preserve this, the tango, is my biggest desire. Let’s preserve the tango…let’s dance for ourselves.
Today…now, without a doubt, there is a new tendency in dancing tango. But not all these young men and women should think only in choreography, which is good only for those that dance in theater, but the real and true place to dance is in the salon, I mean, the milonga. Practicing in the milonga will give them a better security and style, will develop their own personal feeling to understand this passion which is tango.
Feeling and dancing without thinking in steps, the feeling that each one of us will give to his own body in order that it can be expressed through the dance. Improving in a small place where the leader has to find the way in the middle of a crowd of dancers on the floor, taking care that no one bumps his partners, with both dancers in the beat and rhythm, embraced inside a vibration which cannot be compared to anything else. This is the therapy which liberates the soul.
Tango is a choice of a moment for all your life. When the obsession is finished, you realize tango will be inside you for all your life, like a feeling that never dies.
To Be A Milonguero
To explain what is a milonguero is really very difficult because the feeling of this beautiful sensation is something new in each person — almost impossible to put into words, but I shall try without meaning to offend or hurt anybody’s susceptibility.
To be a milonguero, first, you have the feeling of the music, rhythm, cadence and your own style to dance; and when you do it, the music invades your body and mind and it begins the chemistry that makes you transmit to your partner as if both bodies were talking, whispering, sliding on the floor with sacadas, corridas, turns…dancing only one for the other, not for the people. In that moment that both are listening, the magic of the music, the skin of one in the skin of the other, the smell, the touch, produces the miracle of something like a mantra, and the yin and yang is there! We are dancing tango!
The priority of a milonguero is the feeling and the woman. The codes are like commandments that have been born with the tango, and we define the music in three parts: 1. a question, 2. a pause or prologue, and 3. the answer. All this is in our feeling, and that’s why we always improvise, having the pleasure of being yourself, with your own style, the rhythm and cadence.
Today, people teach methodic ways and tango, the real one, does not have a method because it is a feeling. Technique and choreography? It’s only for performance. It is a tango that has been learned for hours and hours for show business. There are hundreds of couples in the world doing the same thing, and only four or five of them are very good because they are different. And that is another thing.
My advice is to walk. Walk with your toe first and inside the music, and practice always to have your own style — be yourself.
Published December 2003 in El Once Tango News (London) and republished here with the permission of Paul Lange and Michiko Okazaki, Joint Editors.